It would depend entirely on the hotel.
A Hampton Inn would probably comp the room, but Hampton Inn's “100% satisfaction guarantee” policy is their choice, and it's not binding on other hotels. Every hotel has its own policies on the matter.
Absent some state or local law on the matter, requiring compensation in a situation like that (and stipulating precisely how much would have to be done to put things right with the guests), it would have to be negotiated with the hotel's management.
Because in a situation like that, each guest would be affected differently, we would plan on negotiating it individually guest by guest. On the one hand we can't be responsible for consequential damages, because we never can never foresee or control what those might be for any one person. On the other hand, while we may have to plan on making a few adjustments and even comping some rooms, and we'll want to do the right thing as much as possible, by as many people as we can; some guests might not have even noticed it was a problem, and not look into making any claim at all.
Doing it that way involves applying a little more triage than it's polite to notice, or than we would like to admit that we apply; but that's about the size of it.
- If it's not a problem for someone, then don't break the bank making it into a problem for someone: we have a bottom line and investors to think about.
- On the other hand if somebody's mad, and no matter what you do they're going to go away unhappy and never again come back anyway, and they're threatening to sue, and they're threatening to say mean nasty ugly things about us on TripAdvisor, and they're threatening to have their entire company boycott our hotel; then we've already taken as bad a hit as we're likely to take, things are going to get no better no matter what we do, and accordingly there's a limit to what we want to do.
- We want as many people as we can, with whom we can put things right, to give us another chance and come back on a night when the water system is working properly; and those are the ones that we focus our efforts upon a bit more.
That's why when you call the customer relations people at the 800 number to complain, they always offer you coupons (sometimes for not just one, but several, nights) instead of a refund check if they can get that to work for you. We'd rather do it that way too. If you're likely to come back to town again, and we are going to take the hit on the price of the room anyway, we'd rather give you a prepaid reservation for an upgraded room (and maybe a little something off the one you had) than to fully refund the one you had. At least there you have an incentive to give us another chance.
So if you have a happy ending in mind for everyone involved, on both sides, hold that thought. You could perhaps leverage quite a bit more with it in your negotiation.
Lots of the training given customer-facing employees by large chains is all about how, if you've got a customer complaining, you can come out of it looking like a hero to that customer by solving his problem for him. To calm, intelligent,rational people like you and I, that makes perfect sense. But a ten-dollar-an-hour hotel clerk, or a middle management person who's concerned about how his actions might be second-guessed by his own bosses, and who's working under the pressure of a crisis; is only going to have so much confidence in his training. His negotiating skills may be limited to begin with, and that training -- which is skimpy and by no means confidence-inspiring, even on a good day -- is not going to be sufficient in itself to turn that around for him, and he knows it. He's seen too many times when his customer service “training” doesn't work that way in real life.
Large hotel chain training (or large chain training in any customer service business, for that matter), tends too often to be happy-valley-puppy-farm, positive thinking bullshit written and delivered by starry-eyed dreamers; whose own careers have been insulated from actual experience in dealing with such crises, and who know only to get mad if the customer interaction doesn't work like magic as they expect. You'd be amazed, and disgusted, at how much of it is “role-play training”, like every little customer interaction is something that can be micromanaged. And role-play training works great, as long as the real-life customer sticks to the role anticipated in the not-so-real-life training, and doesn't show up with a real-life problem that goes outside that role. (We try to reassure our people who may find themselves thrust into situations where they have to make such decisions, that “we want your decision to be correct, or at least respectable”, and stick to that standard, even when the outcome isn't quite what we would have liked; but we're only one hotel company.)
So the happy ending promised by the training isn't assured, and the employee or manager, expecting very little from it, thus tries for very little from it, and his day is already ruined anyway; and at this point he's looking only to cover his own backside and come out of it still having a job. If he perceives a threat to his livelihood, the last thing he's going to be concerned with is that you had to endure one cold shower. As the customer, that shouldn't be your problem, but that's what you're dealing with.
Keep the possibility of actually having that happy ending work that way in real life in front of him, where everyone involved in the negotiation comes out looking like a hero, and we all live together happily ever after, and you might achieve much better results.
Originally appeared on Quora