When hotel information technology system goes bad

When hotel information technology system goes bad.

What happens when a company buys into the “Information Technologies don't matter” strategy?

A customer-relations disaster like what my family experienced this weekend.

The Sandman Suites (sandmanhotels.com) in downtown Vancouver had an IT system meltdown. Here's what happened.

We took my parents up to Vancouver. Crossing the border it looked
like we weren't going to be allowed to cross. My son was with me and we
didn't have any identification for him. So, we called the Sandman and
cancelled our room. They said “oh, our cancellation policy is that we
need 24-hour notice — and because there's no way we can sell your
rooms now we'll charge you for them.”

No problem, I expected that. Right after that call my son's mom
called us back. She helped us get him through customs. We called the
Sandman back immediately and uncancelled the rooms. No problem, we were
told, they hadn't been cancelled yet.

We arrived at the Sandman about 45 minutes later. “Uh, sorry, we
don't have rooms for you,” they said. “Huh? We just talked with you on
the phone.”

Much scurrying around ensued. They came back and said it'd be an hour but they “found” our two rooms.

OK, we'll hang.

An hour later they had our rooms ready, but that's where the fun really started.

They said “you have two rooms. 1802 and 1803. 1802 is setup, and 1803 will be ready shortly because it's still being cleaned.”

Up we went. Oh, I should add into this story how miserable their
elevator systems were. Very slow and one of their three elevators was
down for repair. That meant it was about 10 minutes before we got up to
our room in a very crowded elevator. IT could have helped here too —
have you seen those elevators in New York that tell you which elevator
to take? They have computers that optimize the use so that they don't
stop on every floor. But, let's get back to our story.

When we got up to 1802, our keys didn't work. So, we went to 1803
and went in. That key worked just fine. So, while everyone else relaxed
I went down to get new keys.

Turns out that in the few minutes between us getting our keys and us
getting up to our rooms they had given our room to someone else. Now,
this wasn't a staff issue. The computer system had done this.

Wacky. But the story gets worse. When I'm down there I meet two
other parties. One has been waiting for a room for a couple of hours.
Another had been given keys to a room, but when they went into the room
they found a couple in the shower. That's inexcuseable (and is a good
reminder to use the extra locks on your room while you're inside).

The computer had allowed that to happen.

I leaned over and looked. It was a DOS app. I didn't recognize it.
But, come on folks, DOS went out of vogue in 1995, if not earlier.

I know you probably can make a DOS app perform well, but it's clear
that this is not a “best of breed” hotel management application. It's
clear they haven't invested in IT and made sure the system ran

This is a shame. They lost three customers. Who knows how many more
they lost. All because they wouldn't invest in a best-of-breed
information technology system. That's just nuts.

Keep in mind we visit Vancouver about three times a year. That's
$100 a night (more this weekend because the entire city was sold out
due to an Indy car race). $300 a year. And I'm going to tell all my
friends never to go to the Sandman Suites.

By the way, I very specifically did NOT link to the Sandman Suites
hotel Web site. Why not? Because if I link to their site I'll be
helping their Google pageranking. This business does not deserve my

Another disclaimer? This is my personal weblog and my employer
probably does not agree with my opinion here (the Sandman Suites is a
Microsoft customer).

I will end up saying that if the Sandman Suites wants to invest in
their IT systems to make sure this never happens again, I'd be very
happy to work with them and report on the “makeover.”  [Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

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