Is the Customer Still King?

Speaking of kings…I mean, customer service, whatever happened to the saying championed by Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) in the early 1900’s, “The customer is always right.”? Innumerable business self-help books and gurus say that it costs X times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer. Corollary: Take care of your customers and they’ll keep coming back.

I used to be a top-tier rewards customer at Marriott International. I planned my travels, as much as possible, around availability of Marriott hotels. I was a completely loyal customer, and I was the best kind of promotion for Marriott because I used to tell others how great the company is: how it takes terrific care of its employees, who in turn take terrific care of its customers. Little by little over the last few years, however, I’ve found that, while Marriott hotels are still clean and comfortable, the customer service at times just doesn’t warrant the premium one pays to stay at a Marriott. If I can find a reasonably less expensive option with equal comfort and cleanliness, I’m likely to stray.

I dropped down from top-tier, to middle tier, and then to the bottom tier rewards level. Last year I actually fell below the minimum number of nights’ stayed to maintain the bottom tier, but Marriott graciously awarded me bottom tier again for 2015. I was touched. Honestly.  I thought, “That’s good customer service, and smart business.” It made me feel good again about Marriott.

I’ll earn my bottom tier status for 2016, but my most recent Marriott experience has again thrown into doubt my loyalty. Why? I booked a reservation for a single night in Woodbridge, Virginia. That Marriott is ten miles from where I want to be the following morning. There are Hiltons, Hyatts, and a number of other chain and independent hotels available within one mile of my destination, but I figured I’d brave the extra nine miles of morning traffic in order to express my gratitude to Mr. Marriott.

But a peculiar thing happened…well, read it for yourself. My brief exchange with Marriott Customer Care follows:



The most peculiar thing happened. I received notification for cancellation of a reservation. The problem is…I didn’t cancel the reservation. Here is the information from the email:


Reservation Cancellation: 5xxxxxx0

I will attempt to rebook but I am bringing this to your attention because it is very strange and also worrying. There are times when losing a reservation, particularly this close to the date of stay, would be devastating.


Claudia L.


Hello Claudia L.

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to Marriott Customer Care today. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Based on your inquiry, I have researched the history of your cancelled reservation. I did locate that you cancelled the booking on on July 28, 2015.

Safe travels,

Kara P.

Marriott Customer Care


Hi Kara P.,

Thanks for your reply informing me that I cancelled the reservation about which I wrote to you to say I hadn’t cancelled. Thanks too for apologize for the inconvenience I caused when I cancelled the reservation.

I will go immediately to my doctor and ask for treatment for sleepwalking. While I’m there, I’ll ask for a referral to a psychiatrist so I can find out why I seem to have developed an aversion to Woodbridge, Virginia, a place I’ve never been before.

I sure hope this aversion doesn’t spread to Kalapaki Beach, Kauai.

Yours truly,

Claudia L.



I’ve never been to Kalapaki Beach either, but I’m hoping to go. I’ve been saving reward points for decades and pretty soon I’m going to blow them out. I’ve always believed that Marriott’s customer service would be as accommodating to members who pay with points as they are to customers who pay with cash. Now I’m not sure about either.

3 thoughts on “Is the Customer Still King?

  1. Perry

    GrrrrrRRRRRRrrrr. Pathetic. I seriously doubt though they they’ll understand sarcasm when they can’t understand that YOU DIDN’T CANCEL THE RESERVATION. Keep using Social Media to spread the word and wake ’em up!

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