Best time to ask for a hotel upgrade-- prior to check-in or during check-in?
December 1, 2012 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Best time to ask for a hotel upgrade-- prior to check-in or during check-in?

I'll be staying at a fairly respectable hotel (around 4.5 star average) tomorrow and am curious whether I should be in contact with the hotel before checking in to see if I can arrange for an upgrade (from a basic room). I know the hotel is not fully booked. In addition, I booked my reservation through Expedia-- not sure if that would have any affect on an upgrade.
posted by chloe.gelsomino to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would not hurt to ask in advance, but the best way to get a lot of value is to just slip the clerk a $20 at check in, and tell them that you would deeply appreciate anything they could do to help you make your stay an exceptional one. It will typically be the best $20 you will spend on your trip.
posted by jcworth at 8:21 PM on December 1, 2012

I'd suggest not slipping the clerk money with the expectation of an upgrade. It will put the clerk in a very awkward position and you will look like a major tool for attempting to bribe someone with 20 bucks. Just ask if it's possible given that the hotel is not completely booked.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:36 PM on December 1, 2012 [13 favorites]

Yes, just be friendly, direct & ask - even if you did go around the hotel and use Expedia. Maybe the $20 would work in a dive, but in a decent place it just seems sleazy.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:43 PM on December 1, 2012

Best answer: These threads generally divide between people for whom the slipping-a-$20 worked and those for whom it didn't or who consider it unseemly. They also divide between "Vegas", where the slipped $20 is anecdotally more likely to make a difference, given that tips are the city's lubricant and hotel rooms are often a loss-leader for the casinos, and "not Vegas", where that doesn't apply.

I'll draw from the anecdote pool: assuming "not Vegas", there's no harm in asking, as long as you're not a dick about it. Checking in late-ish can sometimes help here, if you're only booked in for one night, because that reduces the chance that someone will show up and ask for the Swanky Suite.
posted by holgate at 8:50 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: OP:

I speak from extensive experience - do not embarrass yourself by attempting to slip $20 to get an upgrade.

Even platinum/diamond/elite hotel travelers don't always get an upgrade, and they spend big bucks, repeatedly. Your best bet is low occupancy when you make your request at the front desk. One response could be they quote you an upgrade fee (usually slightly less than if you were to book such a room during your original booking).
posted by Kruger5 at 9:17 PM on December 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!

Yeah, the nonchalant money slip seems to be a Vegas-only thing that I've tried to veer away from, but I have friends who swear by it and have received decent upgrades in Vegas as a result.

I've been bumped to suites on several occasions in luxe hotels; this time around, I'd like to see whether a suite upgrade can happen either without cost or at an upgrade fee.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 9:46 PM on December 1, 2012

FYI - booking through Expedia might very likely have nuked any chance of an upgrade. Some hotel PMS systems don't allow room type changes that would result in a rate change with 3rd party bookings. There a specific rate codes for tracking purpose that mess with reports if they don't match. Source: I have worked at a Hilton, Hampton, La Quinta, Baymont, and Cross Country Inn.

Now, if you still want to try, these things help: checking in late, being courteous and humble to the clerk, treat them like a person, not a means to an end, be aware that what you are asking for is a favor and should be a pleasant surprise, not a foregone conclusion.

Just curious, what city and hotel is this?
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 3:42 AM on December 2, 2012

Not sure if it's appropriate to ask a follow-up so please pardon if it's not, but is it common to grease hotel clerks? I've traveled quite a bit and somehow never thought to do that. Maybe it's all the marble and mahogany they stand behind.
posted by Mertonian at 4:32 AM on December 2, 2012

Best answer: I never received any bribe in my 10 or so years in hotels. Tips, absolutely, but only after providing some kind of special service, never for just upgrading someone and never before the service was provided. Now, I've only worked in Midwest business traveler type hotels, so things might be different in big cities or resort towns.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:36 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ThaBombShelterSmith - San Francisco. Not the Mandarin Oriental or Four Seasons, but a notch below that grade.
posted by chloe.gelsomino at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2012

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