It was Parents Weekend in Amherst, MA where our son is going to school. We were late in finding a hotel and did not realize when we reserved for that the Quality Inn in Chicopee was over 30 minutes away on a dark, winding, back road. We arrived intact and politely told the desk clerk that we’d be checking out in the morning. He told us no, we’d reserved for two nights and we would be charged for two nights. And that’s how Choice Hotels loses a customer.
En route to Amherst the next morning, after paying for 2 nights but staying 1, I spent time on the phone with Choice customer service. They told me they this was an extremely unusual policy but because I had agreed to it–by initialing that document they give you when you arrive at 11 pm–the hotel was standing its ground. Meanwhile, my wife found a totally pleasant accommodation at Holiday Inn Express in Hadley, 2 miles from the campus.
The Chicopee Quality Inn was a little shabby, but not outright dangerous. The Holiday Inn Express was a definite step up and well worth paying $100 more. I have an upcoming business trip and have already joined the Holiday Inn loyalty program and identified their location near my client and will likely stay there. And will stay there again and again on future trips.
Now here’s the takeaway. I’ve probably stayed at Choice properties 50 times, usually for multiple nights, because they’re near a business meeting and I don’t care to pay for frills. They’re a franchise operation: independent owners who are members of a group. And this one particularly avaricious owner in Chicopee, MA has likely brought an end to my long association with the Choice brand.
This is how you lose a customer: not the only way, but certainly a very effective way. Let individual franchisees push customers away, since most folks won’t realize they are dealing with a jerk whose actions don’t extend across the company. Thus one bad apple spoils the entire brand. If you are interested in driving your business into the ground, I highly recommend this model.
If you care to short Choice hotels, their ticker is CHH. They’re currently rated 6.2 (a little above average) by Starmine but I predict that number is going down.