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Staying at a Marriott, I was promised free internet – a benefit that you get with Platinum level loyalty.  A small event turned into a major pain with multiple points of failure.  As customers, we can see the waste and it is frustrating when things go wrong . . . but it is costly to the service organizations in future revenue and the cost of dealing with it.

The inability to connect started with an Ibahn menu that did not allow me to connect for free.  This prompted me to call the front desk.  The front desk said just to go ahead and charge it to my room.  I hung up, but soon learned that the Ibahn menu did not have an option to charge to my room, only a credit card number.

The next phone call was back to the front desk where I was told that they would connect me to Ibahn because they had just updated the Ibahn service the day before.  The IVR menu for Ibahn requested the hotel’s phone number and the number on the hotel label did not work.  This led to the next front desk call to get the correct number and reconnect to Ibahn.  Getting worn out?

My next call to Ibahn allowed me to successfully navigate the IVR menu and reach Victor.  I am sure this wasn’t his real name and that by the accent I was calling India.  Victor told me that there should be two wireless networks – one for the room and one for public areas.  I had somehow connected from my room to the public area network, but after searching could not find the room wireless network that apparently held a potential victory for me to connect.

Victor asked that I walk around the room with my laptop to see if it could be picked up.  I accommodated this request.  The next request I did not.  He wanted me to walk out into the hall.  Shouldn’t this have been done by one of the Marriott staff or Ibahn people, why did I need to become the tester?  Worn out yet?

Victor and I exchanged some terse words where he finally agreed to allow me to connect for free through the magic of technology (blahhhh!).  By Sunday night (next day), my free internet expired and instead of using the “helpful” Marriott staff or dealing with Ibahn, I used my credit card.  It did not work, because American Express flagged it as fraud and called my house and sent me an email.  After 20 minutes navigating the American Express IVR and finally speaking to someone . . . I had my connection.

Think it is over?  Not so fast.  Monday morning I spoke to the front desk asking that they resolve the issue and the promise was they would.  When I returned from my client, the internet still wouldn’t connect.  Calling the front desk, I asked what had happened and the response was the Ibahn people hadn’t shown that day.

I continued to use my credit card and set up a meeting with the sales director as I was told the general manager was “tied up” that day.  I shared the story with the sales director and she promised to make this right.  Later that day her solution to reimburse the internet charges was to credit my account, but expenses were paid by the client that didn’t help.  So I left with matters unresolved, but promises to rectify.  We will see what happens from here.

My message to Marriott . . . this is the new millennium and free internet service would make business life a lot easier.  Business travelers go through enough without having the hassle of failed service.  But more importantly, internet is crucial to tying back to both work and family when you are traveling.  Most customers would walk away and never come back, not me, I love the hope of better accommodations as they are all lacking.

Service organizations fail to see the real costs from trying to get revenue.  A little bit of revenue for Marriott is a huge pain for customers in services that they need to get things done.  They see the revenue they get, back not the carnage and inconvenience to customers.  These costs aren’t as easy to see, but they are there.

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Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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