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Friday, February 6, 2015

You Don't Ask, You Don't Get!

I have often thought about publishing a book with the title You Don't Ask, You Don't Get! I have learned a lot in my 15 years of traveling, and I always like to share my ideas and experiences. Asking for an upgrade or something extra is often a necessary first step to receiving it, although I think there are many aspects to obtaining an upgrade or extra perks.

Today, I am sharing an often overlooked detail, which many may consider unimportant. I think that every piece of information is just as important as taking the initiative to ask.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. Here are a few examples of experiences I have had, and things I learned by paying attention.

Around the year 2000 – Traverse City, Michigan

I was waiting to check-in behind another guest who had walked in without a reservation. It was dinner/evening time, and I observed the guest doing some quiet negotiating. I easily overheard the guestroom rate he was given, which was about $10 - $15 less than the rate I had booked. When I got to the counter, I said, “I heard he just got his room for $XX. Can I get that rate, too?” The front desk agent looked up my reservation, and then lowered my rate to match what I had overheard.

Lesson learned: Be aware of your surroundings, and do not be afraid to ask!

Around the year 2001 – Watertown, North Dakota

I had an experience when I almost lost my reserved room to a guest who was not afraid to ask! My flight had been delayed, and it was after 10 p.m. as I stood in the lobby to wait behind a guest at the front desk before me. He did not have a reservation, and he was hoping to get a king, non-smoking room for the evening. The agent told him that there were not any rooms of that type available, and she provided him with the room types available. I had a king, non-smoking room reserved, so my ears perked up, when I heard him prod her further for the room type he had requested, and she then told him that maybe she did have one for him after all. As she clicked more buttons on her computer, she told him that she could probably work something out.

My room was reserved and guaranteed with a credit card; however, my intuition told me it was time to speak up. I politely said, “That’s not my room you’re giving away, is it?” Turns out, it was! If I had not been paying attention, the guest before me would have gotten what he wanted, just because he asked. I began to wonder if many guests approach hotel staff at the last minute to negotiate room rates and availability.

Lessons learned: Be aware of your surroundings, and do not be afraid to speak up. Do not be afraid to ask questions about what you are told, if the answer does not meet your needs. Apparently, a double-bed or smoking guestroom did not meet the needs or desires of the guest before me.

April 2013  airport

I observed a passenger who was traveling with two children talking with the gate agent. She had only purchased a seat for one of the children, and the second child was going to be riding in her lap. She asked the agent if there were three open seats together that she could be moved to, and the agent gave her new seat assignments. When we boarded, all three passengers got their own seat, even though the passengers had only purchased two seats.

This outcome had a much higher value than the hotel negotiations I had observed. It reinforced my thinking that I do not need to be shy about asking for something, that it often depends on the situation and how much the employee likes the person he or she is dealing with, and that some employees have more authority to make changes than one would think.

I continued to observe and learn many more things over the years, and these are only a few of the incidents I have witnessed. I have been onboard aircrafts for flights that ended up being cancelled, and I have been able to get on other flights before passengers with higher status than me because I was paying attention, and I called the airline right away.

Sometimes I pay for an upgrade; at the full rate or a reduced rate. It depends on the situation, which leads to another important piece of the process, and possible future blog post – Become familiar with the options available, and consider all of the options.

I hope that this post provides some helpful information for travelers who are not already experienced in this area. I am thankful that I am observant by nature, and that I listen to my intuition. These traits have served me well over the years.