Dear Hilton Hotel Corp,
Recently, my family stayed at one of your hotels in the Orlando area. When I booked my trip, I had no idea that Hilton owned this particular chain, and, truthfully, I wouldn’t have cared one bit. Our stay was quite nice, the room large enough for the four of us, the staff pleasant and helpful. The rate was more than fair. The pool was clean, and heated, and towels were abundant. I was impressed with the courtyard, and I appreciated the fact that a person was assigned to keep that area sparkling clean. If I had to bitch about something, it would be your bell hops, they were unfriendly, and unhelpful. I decided to schlep my own bags upstairs, mostly so I didn’t need to tip them. Their loss, when I vacation, I’m a generous tipper. That said, I would stay with you again, and coming from me that is high praise. I made my living in the Service and sales business, and so I am indeed critical and sometimes unfairly so.
Here’s what has me shaking my head:
You have a concierge desk in the lobby, which is actually just a recruiting station for a Hilton owned timeshare resort. When I went there to find out about shuttles, the nice woman asked me qualifying questions, then gently nudged me to take a tour. I declined, even after a promise of a limo ride there, a free breakfast, and $100.00 cash just to show up. Now, our family enjoys hotels, but we often look at alternatives, and before we had children, my wife and I took a timeshare tour that was very nice, though we did not purchase. By day 4 of our stay, we decided to take you up on your offer, just to see this exciting new property and everything it entailed. I paid my 20 dollar deposit, and at 8:30 the next morning, sure enough, there was a shiny new limo ready to take us to your resort. The ride lasted about 15 minutes or so, the place was out past SeaWorld, on the far end of International Drive. When we pulled up, two guys opened the limo doors, and directed us inside. We joined a group already having breakfast, then registered and waited for our tour. I was shocked that so far, no one had asked me to produce a driver’s license, or credit card. Before long, a pleasant young woman introduced herself, and explained that it was now time to see a “brief movie” before our tour. Ok. I should note that that they had promised a “state of the art” gameroom that the kids could use while the grown-ups toured the property. We dropped them off there, and settled in to watch the film. Within minutes, my kids were back, explaining in great detail how outdated the handful of free standing video games were, and how filthy the gameroom was. So, they elected to go with us. The room darkened, and the movie started. Three or four minutes in, I was shaking with laughter. Not only didn’t the movie even mention the property where we were, it was so cheesy that even my children were covering their mouths so they wouldn’t cackle out loud. Shot after shot of beautiful people, lounging on an empty beach, or dining, alone, in some well appointed gazebo by the pool or ocean. This was interspersed with live testimonials about Hilton Resorts from “actual members.” Hearing these was apparently not enough, key phrases scrolled across the screen, like “best decision we ever made”, “unsurpassed luxury”, “deal of a lifetime.” The graphics were amatuerish, the segways clumsy. Well, I thought, perhaps they feel that the property speaks for itself. Time for our tour. I’m pretty sure our guide was new to the place, because she routed us the wrong way towards the pool, and our first glimpse of the place was the dumpsters and grease traps. Eventually, she found the crown jewel of the property, the pool. It was ok. Large enough, but nothing about it was remotely exceptional. And it was deserted, the snack bar boarded up and no towel bins anywhere in sight. The pool furniture was obviously purchased at Dollar General. Perhaps Big Lots. We headed toward the rooms, which had outside corridor type hallways. We boarded the elevator, which had broken tiles on the floor, and smelled slightly of urine. Our guide explained that the annual maintenance fees would run between 700 and 1200 dollars. On our way to the room, I could hear the heavy metal doors slamming up and down the hallway as other tours entered or exited the rooms. I mean loud. Once inside the room, I almost gagged from the smell. It was a brutal combination of pou pouri, scented candles, and what I can only guess was Hai Karate cologne. Our guide sort of went through the motions of pointing out the obvious, there were very nice appliances in each room, but telling us that the dishwasher is large capacity didn’t invoke images of romantic romps on lonely beaches in our minds. After 3 minutes, or so, we were whisked back down to the main lobby, and seated at a round table, where our young guide gave a whirlwind presentation of the Hilton Resorts new approach to timeshares. It’s a point system, see, and you can use your points at ANY Hilton property, see, and sure there’s a small “conversion fee” if you do not elect to stay at this property (179.00) and yes, of course there are black-out dates, (virtually all summer) but if you act today, and only today, they will deposit extra points in our account. She then, I swear I’m not making this up, slid a piece of paper with the following terms on it: Price $31,890 Down payment, $7,600 Monthly investment, $581. Interest Rate, 16.9 percent. “Now, Mr. Mack, how would you like to handle the down payment?” Ballsy, to be sure. I asked her if I could take the tour 70 more times so I could earn the required down payment. She smiled, and excused herself. In seconds, another woman appeared, and explained that the down payment was “negotiable”, so perhaps we might opt for their “mini-plan? I politely declined, and explained that we didn’t find the property or the deal to our liking. I don’t think she understood, because she kept trying to convince us that in order to take advantage of this incredible offer, she was willing to forgo the required down payment. How could we lose? Still, I declined, and she went away, explaining that a Hilton Representative would be along to make sure we were treated well. Well, sure enough, a pissed off looking lady sat down and basically wondered, out loud, how I could be so stupid and selfish that I would deny my family this golden opportunity? Didn’t I “get” that the down payment was being waived? Then she made her biggest mistake. She glared at my wife, who had just sat there through the entire closing. (She lets me handle this part, because she abhors confrontation, and she knows I won’t sign up for anything without her consent.) My wife informed her that we didn’t find the property all that nice. The woman snarled back, “are you aware that this is a Hilton property, the top of the line?” My wife slid her chair back, gripped the edge of the table and screamed back ” YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE A PROPERTY? GO TO THE BELLAGIO, OR THE WYNN, OR HELL, EVEN THE GOLDEN GODDAM NUGGET, LADY. THOSE ARE PROPERTIES!”
Within minutes of that final exchange, we were ushered into a waiting van (apparently, the limo is only your ride back if you buy) and taken back to our hotel. I had $100 of their money, which we gave to the kids and said go buy all the junk you wanted that we said no to all week.
My question, Hilton Hotel Corp, is how you can lend your name to this shoddy outfit? You must have spent $200.00 dollars to get me there, feed me, and pay me to go. Why on Earth would you hand me over to a weak, almost disinterested salesperson? Why wouldn’t you make sure the staff had smiles on their faces, or that the elevators were clean, or at least make your pitch more professional? To be fair, you are building phase four, so clearly it must be me that doesn’t “get it.” Anyway, my son says thanks for the Spiderman beach towel…