Many months ago my wife and I took advantage of a discounted offer (like Groupon) that provided a below market rate for a Ritz Carlton room plus $150.00 in value from Restaurant.com. While we had not stayed at the Ritz Carlton during my daughter's wedding the previous year, we did stay in Half Moon Bay and were very familiar with the Ritz Carlton rates. This was a great rate even without the Restaurant.com component.
Because of the low rate I was concerned if we would be able to stay during the Thanksgiving holiday. I was assured by the provider that we could so we booked three nights beginning on Wednesday. We arrived early, about 2:00 pm, hopeful we could get into a room. The "lobby hostess" escorted us from our car to the reception desk where we were greeted by name and offered a glass of complimentary wine. During the course of registration my wife asks if they were going to be full during the holiday. We were told that they were only about 40% booked for this day but will be nearly full both Thursday night and Friday as people stay following their well known Thanksgiving buffet.
Although difficult to tell from a distance, the hotel is built somewhat on a hillside facing the ocean (it reportedly took 20 yeas to go through the approval process before this building was completed in 2000). So when you enter the elevator you become aware that the lobby is floor 3, the exercise room and spa is floor 2 and some lower ocean view rooms are actually floor 1. We were assigned to floor 4 which initially I thought sounded pretty good. But it turns out the room is essentially the second floor with our view being the roof underneath which people pull up in their cars and are greeted by the valets.
My immediate dilemma was to decide if this less than ideal room was a consequence of intent (you get what you pay for, Mr. Coupon man!) or purely luck of the draw on the Ritz Carlton least-expensive room roulette. As I stewed about what to do, my wife blithely unpacked her clothes. Then I decided it was worth the effort to go back downstairs and ask, "If you are only 40% occupied, is there not a better room somewhere in that price range? And if there is not, can I pay a little more and see some of that ocean that I came here for?"
The gal who checked us in was busy with another guest but the young man she had been training quickly asked if he could help. Once I explained my concern about the room he excused himself to go into the office to find someone, apparently, of greater authority than a trainee. A young lady appeared, listened to our story, then offered another room in the same category or, she said, for $100.00 more a night she could offer us a much better view.
I am not made of money but we already had the benefit of our bargain so we agreed to the $100.00 and a sixth floor (the top floor) room. They offered to move our things. I demurred saying we had inconvenienced them and we proceeded to the new room. It was wonderful. It was an end room meaning windows on two sides. It was a south facing view including the coastline running up to the 18th green of the Ocean Course. We could hear the crashing of the waves if we opened the window just a bit.
But this is not the happy ending you expect. After our trials and tribulations to get this room, of which we were satisfied with both the Ritz Carlton's response and their efforts to please us, we decided to go to the wine bar, Eno, to watch the sun set (it was about 4:30 pm). It was with every intention that we going to have a glass of wine and then go to The Conservatory Lounge for dinner but the young sommelier at the wine bar, Peter Estrada, was so delightful that we ordered dinner there.
During the course of our evening with Peter we mentioned the experience we had with checking in and upgrading to a better room. He was more than acutely interested even saying that "That's not right, they shouldn't have charged you for the upgrade" but we shrugged, said we loved the room, and thought no more about it.
A few moments later Peter's boss, Ian Cauble, appeared and after they both went into the glass enclosed wine cellar, Ian came out, introduced himself and said he was going to "take care of us." He then went on to say that Peter is right. The front desk should not have charged us for the upgrade given that we weren't happy with our first room and there was availability in the hotel. Furthermore, he said, he was the Manager On Duty that night and he would see what he could do to accommodate us.
What we didn't know is that Ian Cauble is pretty famous. Just two months earlier he had returned from Athens, Greece where he won the Best Young Sommelier in the World title. But we didn't hear anything about that. What Ian did was remove the $100.00 up-charge and apologize profusely for the "problems."
I thought we were done with the "problems" but it turns out we weren't. A short time later I see Ian in front of Eno (Ian is the head sommelier at the Ritz Carlton's famous Navio restaurant) pointing us out to a young lady. They proceed to walk toward us at which point Ian introduces us to Kerry, the front desk manager. She apparently had seen Ian's change on our reservation and had asked him what happened. This set off yet another round of "that's not the way it should have happened" and an apology.
This post is long enough. Suffice to say we were overwhelmed with the multiple members of the Ritz Carlton family of employees who not only took care of us, but continued to be concerned about our well being and our experience at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. Kudos to all of them. (Of course we left a big tip for Peter and Ian)