Reader questions – how I request an upgrade for a hotel stay? + Sony Noise Canceling Headphones

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One of DeltaPoints.com readers asks:

1) Exactly who do I call or e-mail? The hotel directly? or the dedicated Gold [elite] reservation line?

2) What wording should I use when asking for the upgrade? I assume that I won’t need to do some song and dance about how it is a special occasion that merits a Room Upgrade. What if I want a Deluxe Room or Suite with a view? Any special way to schmooze the hotel for that?

3) What if the hotel says they don’t have any Upgrade Rooms available? Should I expect any compensation other than an apology? Should I complain nicely?

Wow great questions. Now I am not a “hotel blogger” and freely admit there are other BoardingArea.com writers so much better than me. So take this as what I do and maybe try some of the ideas that seem to work for me.

Q1) In the past I always faxed my request. You can do that by using FaxZero for free. But sometimes the right person does not get the request and it is just one way communication. So, for my last few stays I e-mail and that has worked. You get two way conversation and can print out what you were promised. I do not work with the elite line as most of the time it is up to the hotel to grant the upgrades.

Q2) I would NOT cut-n-paste this, but here is basically what I say:

“My wife and I are very much looking forward to our stay at your location 01JAN2012 confirmations # 007. As a loyal [insert elite level here] member I would very much appreciate a suite upgrade if one can be extended to us. Thank you for your time and we will see you soon. Sincerely [your name].

So now you get the idea. I never ask about special events so I have no idea if that even helps. It may or may not. Perhaps some readers can give some feedback if they have tried that route. If you want more that what you are given (do get something for free first btw), then ask what the up-charge would be to the presidential suite or whatever you want. If it is outside your budget respectfully decline and thank them for the promised upgrade.

Q3) With some chains you are guaranteed upgrades. With Priority Club you are not when using points but I have found I almost always get them when I do the above. If they say sold out or no dice, you can always try twittering the hotel and saying as an elite you were really hoping for an upgrade but the location does not seem to be very helpful. Is there anything they can do. Many times you get a quick answer back that all of a sudden a room has opened up. Try it! – René

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Now I want to help this reader out. So, how about this – I want you to tell me what you have done (other than fax and e-mail or tweeting) that has WORKED to get you an upgrade for a chance to win these NEW SONY headphones!

Just a comment will not qualify – you need to help the reader out to win!

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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55 comments

  1. I stayed at a small-but-upcoming brand of chain hotels in Paris last summer for a week and got to actually meet and know the owner who loves online ratings. I discovered the hotel actually from online reviews and they had a really good ratings from a good amount of past guests. I asked about suite upgrades to the owner and he mentioned that while they don’t have established rewards system, he extended me an offer to give me suite upgrades on my next stay if I posted reviews on Tripadvisor and Facebook. I did, and sent him the links and he promised me via email that if I ever come back, he’d give me upgrades to the suite with a free bottle of champagne. 🙂 I am actually booked for another week in the hotel in the Spring and have made arrangements for the suite upgrade with the hotel!

  2. I always say $5 or $10 at check in and saying “This is for you in making sure we get the best possible room available” works 70-80 percent of the time. Also, don’t be afraid to ask. A few weeks back while checking in to the Ritz Carlton Philadelphia, the clerk said, “How can we make your stay enjoyable here in Philadelphia”? and I said “By giving us a nice big suite upgrade to enjoy”. Bingo.

  3. I normally request the upgrade at the time of reservation when calling the Elite Reservation Line… However that again depends on the hotel, if they have availability and they are willing to upgrade you… Lot of times despite room availability they do not upgrade saying they are already sold out… It is always nice to request one at the time of Check-In… Mostly based on your status, they will upgrade you…Good Luck !!!

  4. I always email and call the sales manager directly. I always use a combination of google and linkedin to find this persons name and the direct line/number. Showing enthusiasm for how excited you are to visit their hotel and city/country always help. Tell them you’ve heard wonderful things aboutthe location, etc. If you have status or if it is a special rent make sure to mention that.

  5. I quick call to the front desk of the hotel and you can easily find out the name of the front desk manager and GM of the property. Then send an email to the front desk manager, cc’ing the GM, when asking for the upgrade….it works really well!

  6. If its a hotel I have stayed in many times I always tell the front desk how many stays I have been at this hotel and it is one of my favorite hotels. Works most of the time.

  7. I have been able to get suite upgrades about 75% of the time by mentioning (both in advance and at the front desk) that I am visiting with my wife for a special occasion ( anniversary, etc). I obviously only do this if I am indeed visiting for a special occasion.

  8. Learn the name of and contact information for the front-desk manager or hotel manager, either by calling the hotel or from TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews. (These persons often respond to reviews on TripAdvisor and include their contact information.) Then, approximately a week before your stay, contact the manager and explain that you’ve read much about the hotel on the hotel-review sites and are hoping for an upgrade. (Mention hotel-club status if you have it.) Referencing the review sites will signal that, after you stay, you may write a review after your stay. Be extremely courteous — do not imply that you are entitled to an upgrade but rather, through compliments and your apparent knowledge of the hotel, make the manager want to treat you well.

  9. I have emailed the hotel concierge directly to request an upgrade. Not only did I get an upgrade but also cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine thanking us for our stay. I left a 20 tip at the end of our stay to express our gratitude.

  10. One trick which others have used (I’ve not myself though I intend on doing so on my next trip) is to try and book dummy reservations for the length of your stay the morning of your arrival so you have a firm idea of what types of suites are still available on-site. It’s easier to request and upgrade in-person when you know there are still suites they are selling for the length of your stay.

  11. I contact the managers and ask for upgrade. Sometimes, i just call after making my reservation and tell them that i would really love to stay in the suites because suites are SWEET!

  12. I either call the front desk and talk to one of them (if you’re nice, they usually do it for me) or, if I am at a hotel for multiple weeks, I make friends with the Checking person (which works ~60% of the time). I also find asking about the next week when you check out of a hotel has gotten me an upgrade about 80% of the time.

  13. I was told in advance that there were no upgrades available. I was told the same when I checked in. I often find that persistence is key. On the second day I asked again at the front desk and was denied (for a third time), but I was always very polite and friendly. Later that day I was informed they had an upgrade for me and would be happy to move my things over. The rest of the trip was upgraded to a huge suite.

  14. It sounds like a bad idea, but when I’m really desperate, I put some cash with my credit card when I hand it over and ask if there are any free upgrades available. The amount depends on the duration of stay and hotel type, but honestly I don’t see $50 for a week hotel stay being too expensive – less than $10 per night tax free, and it works out to a good tip for the front desk!

  15. Often times the name of the general manager can be found by reading reviews of the hotel on tripadvisor. Nowadays it seems hotels actively monitor the reviews and respond to them. So I will just take the manager’s e-mail address I find on tripadvisor and e-mail them directly requesting an upgrade.

  16. I’ve had an almost 100% success ratio on the following. A few weeks before my stay I contact the manager of the reservation to confirm my reservation. When they confirm it, I usually explain it is my first time visiting this region/country/state and your hotel had exceptional reviews and I’m really looking forward to spending time at your table.

    This has gotten me a free upgrade or welcome gifts in Puerto Rico, Cancun and the Dominican Republic. Simply being very nice and complimenting them is the way to go!

  17. I find return visits to the same hotels and having some type of status work well in automatic upgrades. I use Twitter to give the hotel some positive press during my stay. I also make sure I thank the front desk again for the upgrade during checkout. If it is a first time at a hotel, I send an email to the general manager to politely request an upgrade if available.

  18. I’ve used the special-occasion card a few times. The Four Seasons gave my wife and I a wonderful upgrade for our honeymoon and a Sofitel gave us a good upgrade with champagne for our anniversary. You really just need to not be shy. Asking for upgrades from multiple sources is fine. Being persistent and unafraid to hear no is helpful to get the best room you can get without hemorrhaging cash.

  19. My tip is that if you are returning to a property that you have gotten an upgrade at in the past, include that in the email. Mention how much you enjoyed being upgraded during your last stay (provide date) and hopefully it will happen again!

  20. The first step is to get status in the hotel chain program, then to ask. I find that most hotel employees want to be helpful if they can. The last coast trip, by asking at check-in got us moved to an ocean front room.

  21. Often I just talk to the front desk when I arrive. Your status doesn’t guarantee an upgrade, but more often than not I find that actually talking to someone after you’re there does the trick.

    Discussing with the manager (if you can find their email) before your arrival could work, but they will probably just say that “it shouldn’t be a problem” but it’s always based on availability (their way to cover themselves, just in case).

  22. We use the $20 tip and ask them if they have any complimentary upgrades to a room with a better view, bigger room. I try to be specific. This has worked for us about 15-20 times in vegas on 4+ nights. Definitely worth the money. We have tried it on other hotels as well and it has worked out nicely.

  23. I’ve:
    1. Slipped the front-desk clerk a tip (Vegas, Trump Int’l)
    2. Called or emailed before booking so that they knew they were competing with other area hotels (which I explicitly listed) for my business (I’ve done this in STL with the downtown CP vs. the airport CP and have done it in DEL with the Westin Gurgaon vs. CP Gurgaon.)
    3. One time while traveling with my family, I asked the Crowne Plaza (I’m a Platinum Royal Ambassador with PC) clerk while checking in if she could upgrade my parents to the Presidential Suite. From her response, I’m pretty sure that scored points with her more than if I would have asked for the upgrade for myself. She upgraded my room to a standard suite and then upgraded my parents to the Presidential Suite, which was quite nice.
    4. Even though non-IC hotels technically don’t recognize Ambassador or RA status, I always include that in my requests and I’ve found it makes a psychological impact even if it doesn’t technically make a difference. (When I handed the CP STL clerk my IC Plat RA card, she gushed about how much she loves ICs and how she wishes there was an IC in STL.) I’ve even gotten upgraded to the Jacuzzi Suite at the SAN HIX (having mentioned IC status in addition to PC status).
    5. Mentioned that I’m a travel agent.
    6. Mentioned that I write reviews on TripAdvisor and on FlyerTalk.

  24. Similar to others, at check-in, before asking for an upgrade, I always mention I’m very active on Tripadvisor and on the Fodor’s forum (which I am) and was impressed by the hotel’s good reviews and am hoping to write a great review myself. Works for me!

  25. This is how it gets done…..

    Walk into the lobby/checkin with a big smile on your face. They will generally ask you how your doing etc. Switch the converstation back to them. Comment on how sharp they look, ask them how there day is going etc, any place they recommend to go to eat/things to do.

    Next, they will say I have you in a XXX size bed on ZZZ Floor. If it’s not a upgrade that’s when I ask. I don’t start attacking them the min I get to checkin. I’m VERY succesful with this approach.

  26. I usually e-mail the hotel when I am looking for a nice upgrade. When I travel alone I do not care as much, but when I am with my girlfriend it is nice to get the upgrade. Some hotel e-mail addresses are harder to find than others but I think in every high end hotel that I have e-mailed I have gotten some sort of an upgrade. My most recent one was a two bedroom suite, with a balcony down in Miami (I believe only 6 rooms in the hotel had a balcony). The Bose surround sound in the room was great as well. The time before that at The Cosmopolitan (LV) I also e-mailed and got upgraded to a better suite with a view of the Bellagio Fountains (I think they typically charge an extra 50-100 for this type of room).

  27. often times i use priceline and they will sometimes upgrade me out of a priceline room into a room in a diff price category just by asking nice. or else if ive been on the road for a while ill get to the hotel early and explain to them that im a loyal customer and see what they can do for me

  28. I’ve never tried the $20 trick or anything like that. When I’m checking in, I usually try to be very friendly and appreciative in a genuine way. I’m sure a lot of customer-facing workers get annoyed at how some people feel entitled to certain types of upgrades, so I’ll instead just be overly friendly even in frustrating circumstances, and mention by name how I appreciate their assistance. This especially works well if I get behind someone who was really agitated or mean to the clerk. It seems to work well, and it can sometimes brighten one’s day.

  29. Try looking up the GM of the hotel and email him to let him know you’re looking forward to the stay and hope he/she can make it special.

  30. There was this one time where we had a Junior Suite reservation at the DoubleTree Suites in Jersey City. I called in and asked to see if a better room could be extended to us (I was HHonors Gold). All the rooms were already suites, but the very nice front desk lady upgraded us all the way to the best room in the hotel, which was a 2-bedroom suite with city view of NYC. She kept stressing that she wanted the kids to have a wonderful time, etc. It was the best experience I’ve ever had with a hotel.

  31. I’ve contacted the concierge and front desk managers and had relatively good luck in securing some type of upgrade in advance.

  32. I tried to contact the Mystique hotel before my stay and got upgraded to a better suite (all rooms are suites). I didn’t have elite status with SPG at that time.

  33. Upon checking, I usually ask ” How much would it cost to upgrade to a suite?” Usually they will say something to the effect of “we don’t have a suite available at the moment but i’ve upgraded you to XXX type of room” or they’ll say “Because you’re a valued elite member I have upgraded you to a complimentary suite.”
    75% of the times I try, it works every time

    (bonus points for who guesses that reference)

  34. The honeymoon/anniversary card has worked for us multiple times. I know some people try it every time, but we’re honest and only request it when it is a special occasion. We also got free bottle of champagne and chocolates last time too!

  35. The “tip” works, but generally you need to be secretive. When handing over your credit card, have a $20 (or $50, or $100, all depends) folded up behind it. After the agent pockets the cash, ask if they have any upgrades they may be able to put you in. This has never NOT worked for me.

  36. My advice would be the following:

    1. Use e-mail directed to general manager
    2. Point out that “you are really looking forward” to your stay at this property.

    3. Mention Elite level…
    If it is a special occasion..Anniversary, Birthday etc…Tell them how you have chosen THAT hotel for your special stay..

    I have found that usually on special occasions my requests were honored…It also helps to mention that you are a repeat guest to that property

  37. I called the hotel two or three days before checkin, and had them put a request on my reservation. Always mentioned that I saw good reviews on the TripAdvisor or FT. Well, that’s acutally true. I wouldn’t stay there if too many negative reviews anyway.

  38. The biggest help I have experienced is to simply be nice. Folks working in customer service have so many headaches with unruly and unhappy people all the time, that someone being extra pleasant will get that niceness reciprocated.

  39. Call the hotel directly and make it known that you will be staying at the hotel and are celebrating a special occasion. Let them know that you have elite status and would appreciate all that could be done to make this happen. I have found that this works pretty well at most establishments.

  40. If they don’t tell me at the front desk I’ve been upgraded, I’ve asked about large meeting halls in the area and tell them I’m looking for a place to hold a regional meeting and need lodging also. They usually put me on a top floor after that, to bait me in. It’s all business expenses for me, so I’m not really out anything. It also lets me get a feel for the area, which is a better indicator than just calling places.

  41. The tipping trick has worked every time I’ve tried. I checked in late on one trip and succeeded simply just asking “What’s the sweetest room you can put us in.”

  42. I’ve had good luck folding a $100 bill with my credit card and giving it to the front desk agent. They will take it and give an upgrade 🙂

  43. I am brand new to DeltaPoints and am amazed at the collective amount of wisdom, knowledge, and experience you guys have. THANKS!

  44. The $20.00 tip at check-in always seems to work, but checking in early and being friendly & considerate at that time helps too.

  45. be nice, be in touch with hotel prior to arrival for why you want/need upgrade and make it genuine (special day, birthday, anniversary,fist time away after new baby etc) and hope for the best. I would also very polity ask clerk when checking in what we can do to surprise my spouse with a nicer room.
    Best of luck!

  46. First of all, when making the reservation from the Elite line, I ask them to make a note in the record that I would appreciate a suite, view, etc. Then, as insurance, very early on the day of check-in, I call the hotel directly, ask for “in-house reservations” and make my request again. Because suites often have guests with a late check-in, I offer to check in as late as necessary to get that room. The last time, they said it might take as late as 7pm, however, they called my cell by 3pm to tell me that the room was ready. It was a fantastic suite with a fireplace so large you could stand in it, and an expansive mountain view.

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