Normally, my post-Christmas week involves travelling to wherever Georgia Tech is playing in a college football bowl game. Unfortunately, due to our disappointing season this fall, there was no bowl game. For the first time in a long time, my travel calendar was totally at my discretion. I checked to see if I could get any last-minute award flights but nothing really worked out, so my girlfriend and I decided to keep it simple and head to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC for a few days. I will have reviews of our trip up soon, but I wanted to specifically call out the Aloft at the Charleston airport.
I am a big believer that social media can do more to motivate a company to address shortcomings (as well as waste time on frivolous things as well) than most other methods of feedback. There is nothing quite like negative reviews to get the attention of management. I try not to be just let companies know when I am unhappy but also publicize good experiences. That was the case with my review earlier in the fall of an excellent stay at the Aloft Chicago O'Hare. I had another pleasant experience at the Aloft Miami Brickell just before Thanksgiving. Given these experiences, I had high hopes for the Charleston location. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. The issues that led to our dissatisfaction resulted not from the brand but operational issues at this particular property.
"Our Keyless server is down"
The first indication of trouble were problems with the SPG Keyless function in the SPG mobile app. SPG is offering 2,500 bonus points for using the Keyless feature on stays through the end of February 2016. Though I followed all the instructions for registering my iPhone and setting up my account for the feature, I was never assigned a room number or mobile key. Upon arrival at the hotel, I went to the front desk - something you get to skip if SPG Keyless works as advertised! - to inquire about the missing mobile key. I was told that the Keyless server was down but he could check us in himself. Generally, I would be fine with that but there were valuable bonus Starpoints on the line! I asked about that and he promised he would email SPG the next morning. (He did as promised and my request to be credited with the 2,500 Starpoints was fulfilled two days ago. Kudos to SPG customer service!) Though frustrated, all would have been well had that been the end of our issues. Unfortunately, our two days at the property were marred with several minor problems that, alone would have been of no concern. Taken together, these evidenced a glaring lack of attention to detail by property management.
One issue after another
I won't go into a full review of the hotel itself because it is very similar to the Chicago location I have already reviewed. Personally, I love the design of the brand but my girlfriend was not as enamored...let's say she felt she had walked into a prison cell thanks to the minimalist modern design. That's fine - different people have different tastes. If only it had been a matter of personal preference!
First, we noticed there was no hand soap in the bathroom. While the Aloft mounts body wash dispensers in the showers like many European hotels, having to step into the shower for soap every time you want to wash your hands is pretty inconvenient. Fortunately, an employee was able to quickly get a couple of bars of soap for us. Shortly thereafter, the guests in the room next door arrived. Our rooms happened to have an adjoining door. Despite the entry door - and presumably the adjoining door - being substantial, the walls were not. We could have had a cordial conversation with our neighbors through the partition. After heading to bed, we quickly noticed that the bed was quite hard and uncomfortable, something I had not experienced during either of my earlier Aloft stays.
Things did not improve the next day. We each got to start our first full day in Charleston with an invigorating warm shower. I suppose warm is better than cold. Also, my girlfriend's toe caught the edge of a poorly installed carpet tile though, fortunately, she did not trip. We headed out for the day between 930A and 1000A, removing the "Do Not Disturb" sign as we left. In my opinion, that is early enough - check out is noon - not to have to specifically request that housekeeping clean the room. Apparently, hotel management's opinion is different. When we returned that evening, our room was untouched. I can live with an unmade bed - I do that at home quite frequently - and I don't replace the towels in my house on a daily basis. However, had we known we would not be getting fresh towels, we would have made more judicious use of our towels in the morning. Also, we were now out of regular coffee for the in-room coffee maker. The front desk did arrange for fresh towels and new coffee packages but these are basics that should just be taken care of at a brand like Aloft. (In fact, when I twice went downstairs to get coffee that evening, the coffee dispenser was empty much of the evening!) Since we did not get housekeeping, I asked the front desk to give me the 250 Starpoints for "Make a Green Choice." That has yet to post but I will follow-up. (Starwood does not hand out points like candy like some chains!)
I will stay at Aloft again but probably not in Charleston
I still love the Aloft brand. I definitely plan to stay with the chain again - though perhaps without my girlfriend since she was not crazy about the design. However, I will be hesitant to return to the Aloft Charleston Airport. There were several options of similar brand quality in the immediate vicinity and many more in the greater Charleston area. This is a shame as Starwood tends to have fewer properties than its competitors to begin with. Hopefully, Starwood and the property management can work together to solve the issues so that Aloft Charleston Airport can live up the Aloft Hotels brand promise.