Let me start by saying that we made the mistake of booking this hotel as part of a six night get away. Apparently, according to the management of the hotel this was our mistake as they do not cater for leisure guests but instead cater for corporate customers who only stay 1-2 nights. That’s right! Our mistake! It’s a pitty they don’t tell you however when you make your reservation or at least mention it on their website.
We arrived at the hotel, dropped off by a driver as we were assured we wouldn’t need any transport given the hotel’s location. Upon arriving there were no porters or anyone to help with our bags. This wasn’t a problem, until (which was a common theme throughout the stay) we walk through the front doors and see them all crowded behind a computer at their desk. Obviously all pre-occupied. They were quick to offer assistance once they spotted us.
Check-in by Bella was great, seamless and genuine. She explained where our room was, how to get there and explained about the executive lounge that we had access to. Perhaps the only delightful staff member we encountered.
The room wasn’t bad. Dated with inappropriate art work and an outlook directly into the office building next door but certainly not bad. It was clean, reasonable size and a comfortable bed. The room itself however doesn’t have any power outlets by the beds and only one power point by the desk. This is perhaps because of their corporate clientele not requiring more but with two people it was difficult to make sure the phones and tablets were charged for the following day and usually requiring a midnight swap! We did request a power board from “Service Express” but we were delivered an extension lead, upon calling back we were told we could purchase a power board from the Coles around the corner (we did, it cost us $6).
The hotel is in a great location and we didn’t need a car. Only a couple of minutes down the road are train stations, mall, monorail station, Hyde Park, Circular Quay, etc. The hotel also has access to a pool and gym, held in an adjacent building. These however aren’t operated by the hotel and are part of a busy chain of gyms within the city. It was well appointed however busy and tedious to find. (Down one elevator, across the walkway, through a hall, up another elevator then down some steps). Their business centre is the same and held in the same building. Due to the lack of facilities in their business centre, we were unable to utilise it.
We obviously had some expectations going into the Westin. They boast themselves as one of the best hotels in Sydney given their location, brand and reputation. Unfortunately our expectations were let down especially around customer service and the general rudeness of staff at the hotel.
When we ordered drinks at their bar & lounge on a Saturday night we felt we were burdening the girl behind the bar. After waiting for some time, we felt we had to go to her at the other end of the bar where she was talking to the other staff. It wasn’t busy. The drinks were made and thankfully her sourness wasn’t infused in the drinks we ordered. We were able to take a hint however and quickly left the bar as they started packing up around us. We weren’t the only ones in the bar nor was it late. We didn’t know what time the bar closes (they tell you late) however felt we were being pushed out without so much as any words from the staff.
The Executive Lounge is another feature of the hotel, servicing guests who have either paid for an executive room (we chose to) or higher levels of the Starwood loyalty club. It offered daily breakfast, refreshments through the day and canapés of an evening. This was normally an interesting experience however. We were met our first morning by a very officious young man who without any greeting what-so-ever promptly asked “Remind me of your room number again?” We quickly told him our room number and then all of a sudden we appeared to be dismissed. Well good morning to you too! My partner was lucky (or unlucky?) enough to be offered coffee as we sat down. I wasn’t offered seemed to be continued to be ignored. The breakfast selection was good small variety of hot foods, muesli, cereals and pastries. They appeared however to be adverse to clearing plates once finished so you could read without them getting in the way of the newspapers. This was how it was run daily!
I don’t expect to have a conversation with every staff member I come across, I in fact dislike the feel of over servicing you can get from some hotels but I do expect to be acknowledged. A generic greeting when we’d arrive for breakfast, a warm smile from behind the bar. This is where the Westin failed. Even walking through the foyer one evening again being ignored by staff, we decided to wish to the staff behind the front desk a good evening, again all crowded around the one computer, appearing to share a joke (or perhaps a funny youtube video?) Only one of them felt the need to look up, mumble something before quickly looking back to the computer. Not even any eye contact. While these seem like something small to pick at but when you encounter the behaviour from the concierge, front desk (apart from Bella), the Lounge/Bar and the Executive Lounge you start to feel VERY unwelcome.
Not really feeling that any of the staff were approachable (they weren’t?) I made a post online to Starwood generalising how displeased we were. Their response? Go talk to the property manager on duty. So, I did!
It was around 8.30 and people were checking out, so there was an obvious line waiting for the front desk so I went to the concierge desk. There was no one else there. I spoke to Ron (a member of Les Clef’s d’Or) who again without making eye contact (or even looking up from the paper he was reading), quickly dismissed me with a wave of his hand telling me to “Speak to someone on front desk”. I’m not sure why they gave him a radio and a phone when he can’t use either. But regardless, I went and lined up and quickly got a chance to speak to Rachel who was the manager on duty.
She was quick to apologise that I didn’t feel like I was welcomed here and we talked about how they mainly cater for corporate guests. I explained how unwelcome we felt and that we were looking at leaving the hotel. She was quick to ask us not to do that and to stay on and that hopefully they could sort something out for us. I explained that our issue was that their staff were making us feel unwelcome and that I’m not sure what could be done other than us leave. We gave her the benefit of the doubt however and agreed to wait to see what solution could be offered.
Now, my partner and I are two guys, in our late twenties. Our main issue was that we felt unwelcome due to the rude, abrupt, dismissive staff as experienced in Front Office, Concierge, Executive Lounge and the Lounge/Bar. Rachel came back with two proposed offerings to “Try and make things right.” First was free high tea in their lounge/bar one afternoon and the second was free breakfast of the morning at their restaurant.
Perhaps this shows how disengaged staff here are from the top down with their customer’s needs.
While I’m sure high tea at the Westin is nice, perhaps it’s not something you do in your late twenties…without your grandmother out for mothers days. Especially not when you had specifically mentioned your recent bad experiences in the lounge bar.
Breakfast was also a seemingly nice gesture, aside from the fact that we were paying an extra $120 night for to have free breakfast every morning (as it was the only real benefit of the executive lounge).
Upon further negotiation, we agreed that my partner and I would leave & that the Westin would provide us with a full refund for the accommodation and we would pay our incidentals, more than fair!! I had Rachel confirm this in writing (I still have the email). So my partner and I scrambled to find another hotel, back our belongings and first thing next morning we left with assurances that we would be refunded again the full amount minus the incidentals as soon as we left.
Eight days later I received a partial refund. About a third of the money we paid to the Westin. They charged us the full amount for the room & also decided to take out a donation for Unicef, without authorisation. I again contacted the hotel and was met with a response basically telling me I’m lucky to get anything as they offered the high tea and free breakfast which apparently was quite generous.
In general the Westin has left a very bitter taste in our mouths. One we’re now willing to share with absolutely anyone who’s willing to listen. This is perhaps a bit of a rant and perhaps the issues may seem petty but hopefully goes to show how very wrong the Westin gets it.
This hotel is not suited to leisure guests, something they were quite quick to shove in your face the moment we explained we were unhappy. Something however they keep very well hidden on their website and something they don’t tell you when you’re making your reservation over the phone.
Unique Quality: Great location
Directions: Inner city