This post is part 1 of 3 of a segment regarding recompense and freebies in a travel situation, how to leverage yourself in a travel setting, and making a powerful and ultimately successful Ask.


Image from

Image from

What is the premise of the Ask?

Hospitality, by definition, refers to the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests. Perhaps you’re like me, where you approach travel with a certain minimum level or standard of service and quality. However, not every stay, flight, or trip will meet or fulfill expectations. Some may fall short, and some may blow away your expectations (see my post on the Westin Philadelphia). In either case, there are steps that you can take to rectify the situation, or ensure that your next stay or trip is a more pleasant one.

It all starts with the principle of the Ask – leveraging real issues to obtain reasonable compensation. Don’t feel bad – you are helping them improve. If you don’t bring up your issues, they would never have known and never had an opportunity to fix it. In return, you should feel at liberty to ask for reasonable compensation (freebies). Sure, they may not offer you anything but if you ask the right way, you may be able to maximize the value of what you do receive, or steer them towards your preferences.


Courtesy of Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Courtesy of Markus Spiske, Unsplash

Courtesy of Damien Hutter, Unsplash

Courtesy of Damien Hutter, Unsplash


Freebies Strategies & Tactics

Hospitality workers are also human, just like yourself. Understanding what drives and motivates them from a service industry perspective is your key to success. For the most part, they enjoy making customers happy, but also value recognition, appreciation, and thoughtfulness. In order to achieve those items, they typically have leeway to fulfill customer requests or make your trip a bit more relaxing, special or fulfilling.

Logrolling is a term I learned in my master’s level negotiations course, also known as give and take, or quid pro quo.

Photo from Hotels Near Mount Rushmore Website

Photo from Hotels Near Mount Rushmore Website

Put simply, it involves finding what is valuable for the opposite party (in this case – recognition or appreciation), and trading it for what is valuable for yourself (upgrades, certificates, freebies, etc.). This both codified and refined my approach to hospitality and dealing with customer service in the travel industry.

The HOW of the ask is critical, and I have managed  to boil it down to a few key points:

  • Be vigilant

    My brain does not turn off, and automatically studies every hotel I step into. Note the major and minor things, within reason, such as poor internet quality, unpleasant smells, noise issues, etc. Keep in mind which items the hotel or airline may be responsible for (internet, delays, etc.) and which items may be out of their control (passengers with poor odor or stomach control, hotel guests making a ruckus after midnight). Hospitality workers pride themselves on a pleasant experience (both for pride and return business, I’m sure) so they may offer something, even something small, to make up for a poor experience they are not directly responsible for.

  • Be personable

    Smile, be cordial, friendly, and courteous. Again, they are human and want to be treated as you would be, too. Warm, pleasant conversation works wonders at the check-in desk or airline terminal in coaxing out cooperation. By aligning yourself with the employee you build a rapport, collaborating and working towards resolving the issue.

  • Be reasonable

    I have experienced a myriad of issues over the years (particularly in hotels), and typically ring up the ol’ “is there anything you can do for me regarding _______”. Similar to a job offer or salary negotiation, letting them make the first move typically has been most successful. The Ask should be commensurate to the issue, which should also be a real, fixable one. My philosophy is that hospitality should adhere to a certain level of service and quality, and make up for it when it falls short, but I do not go out to seek or create issues where there are none.

    • An example of an issue is if a hotel gave you the wrong room. Free drink coupon? Reasonable. Complimentary four-course dinner, drinks, Swedish massages for two? Unreasonable. If you have a preference, make it known (such as a voucher instead of an upgrade, or an appetizer instead of drinks, etc.) but again, keep it within reason.
  • Be understanding

    Similar to reasonableness, understand their situation or predicament. Managers want to know your issues to prevent similar experiences for you and other patrons in the future. Understand their limits and work with the principle that your time should be happily spent during your travels, but that employees may be limited in their options.

  • Be appreciative

    Thank them, even if they were unable to help, because they may remember you in the future. If they went above and beyond, make them aware of it. Make their manager aware of the spectacular service, and they will be motivated to keep helping you. If there is a customer service survey, mention that you will fill it out positively (and then actually do it!). Email the GM or supervisor, and CC the manager or associate if possible, praising their exemplary service. Better yet, if their supervisor is present, let them know right away – this improves the quality of your feedback and gives instant recognition. If speaking or emailing at a later date, be sure to provide specifics of the situation so they easily can recall you and note you down (for future benefit!).


Lastly, you may be thinking – what can I get out of this? What will this cost me? It sounds great, Hotelion, but what if I haven’t experienced any issues? Should I still ask?

The next post will further delve into these questions, detailing other possible Ask situations, and the benefits, costs, and ramifications of the Ask.

The last post in the Art of the Ask series will conclude with some behind-the-scenes analysis, and provide easy to understand activities to engage the hospitality employees, in pursuit of those benefits.


Featured Image from Starwood Hotel Website.

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