We all have that one friend that seems to get upgraded EVERY time they stay at a hotel or resort. Are they just that lucky or do they know something that we don’t know? Could there be an art or science to scoring that awesome upgrade gratis?
Whether it’s the suave slip of a $20 bill, overly flirtatious bombshell pouting or the brawny business man with the exclusive credit cards and impressive job title, when it comes to a free upgrade approach, the front desk staff have seen it all. And while many may grant your wish for a free upgrade, these stereotypical approaches are often times cringe worthy and borderline embarrassing.
Trying to score a free hotel upgrade is inherently a strange proposition. You are essentially saying “give me more than I am willing to pay for”. What’s even more bizarre about this phenomenon is that many times we ask for the upgrade before seeing the room that we CHOSE to book. Nowhere else in business does this strange encounter exist. Imagine ordering a small, black coffee and paying for it, and then before even receiving your coffee you tell the barista that what you actually wanted is a large frappuccino with all the fixins, but you’re not willing to pay for it…but you deserve it anyways…because you buy coffee a lot…and it’s your anniversary…and you have a blog? Weird. We’re going to save you the embarrassment, here are 8 ways to increase the probability of scoring a free hotel upgrade:
Hotel guests are essentially walking, talking advertising banners. They want affluent individuals in their hotel because it reflects positively on them. If you look like a scrub, you’re hurting their image. Something as simple as looking the part can be essential to getting you that free upgrade.
This is NOT Sparta. While hotel staff are trained to maximize the guest experience, they’re also trained to deal with cranky customers on a daily basis. Throwing tantrums, being rude or demanding upgrades will do little to help your cause. An air hostess once described travellers to us as “too much vinegar, not enough honey”. This simple metaphor couldn’t be more true. A smile, manners and courtesy can go a long way. You’d be amazed what a little “honey” could get you.
Let’s be honest, you’re not going to get the presidential suite if you booked the cheapest room in the hotel. What this says to a company is that your decision was likely based on price point alone. Booking a mid tier room or suite will greatly improve your chances of getting upgraded. We all want more for our dollars, but beer budgets and champagne taste won’t get you far.
Booking with the big online websites is convenient, but many times the profit margins are greatly reduced for the hotel after commissions are considered. Booking directly with the hotel leaves wiggle room and gives you the opportunity to build rapport and show your loyalty to them moreso than a discount site. Plus if you book by telephone you can use the honey approach(#2) to subtly mention that special occasion.
While an early check-in may be convenient for you, sometimes simply checking in late could be the biggest factor in getting you that free upgrade. By 5pm most hotels have had their check-in rush and have clearer picture regarding cancellations, customer service issues that required upgrades already and exactly what inventory is available. Check-in late, but not too late.
Inquiring about a loyalty program distinguishes you from “regular” guests. Loyalty programs are designed to reward patronage, and staff are often rewarded for preaching its benefits. By joining a loyalty program you’ve given the staff the opportunity to sing its praises, you’re building rapport, making the staff look good and earning rewards in the process. Win, win.
No they don’t care if David Spade is your neighbour. If you’re paying attention, you’ve likely already spoken to someone directly at the hotel before checking in. Ask for them by name, and mention that you booked with them. If not, address the attendant checking you in by name throughout the process. Once staff realizes that you have their name, they recognize that the probability of that name being in a review is much higher. They will generally go above and beyond to ensure that the interaction is favorable.
If there’s still no sign of that luxury suite even after the previous 7 steps, then simply ask. By now you have put yourself in the best possible position to score that free upgrade. Just remember to be subtle, if you ask in front of a group of customers, you’ll be forcing the staff’s hand as they can’t offer an upgrade to everyone. Be subtle.
What are your best strategies for scoring a free upgrade? Answer in the comments below: