Chain reaction: Hotel giant focuses on the small things

The last thing I expected from the Tampa Airport Marriott was hospitality, to tell the truth.

The ancient Greeks had high standards of hospitality, making sure a guest was comfortable and well fed, but this was modern-day Florida in July, after all. Also, we expect anonymity and practicality from chains.

If I were a hotel type, I would not be a Marriott room. I would be a seafront bungalow with charming wallpaper and a view of the waves. My patio would be included, enabling guests to dine al fresco in the ocean air. There would be no dust anywhere so that guests would know that they were far from home.

Hotels in the Marriott chain tend to have pools and fitness centers. I’ve stayed in my fair share of them over the years, with and without my family.

But the one in Tampa stands out because we were in a rush and had just gotten married. After visiting family, we had received gifts and had to buy an extra suitcase – and we still didn’t know how we were going to carry it all on the plane.

And yet, the Tampa Airport Marriott staff acted, well, hospitable.

We turned in our rental car and pulled up with our rolling suitcases and piles of totes and a couple of boxes knocking the ground.

Immediately, a bellhop met us with a trolley. I noticed upscale stores lining the aisle up to the hotel. It was late, however, and they were closed.

The lobby was brand new and polished, with glass walls showcasing the indoor pool. The bellhop, Alet, somehow got it out of us that our flight left mid-morning and that we had married three weeks ago.

He checked us in, escorted us up a few floors and helped us untangle our boxes, suitcases and totes. He asked about our wedding and congratulated us.

Within an hour, the head of catering knocked on our door and delivered flowers, berries with whipped cream and a magnum of very good champagne. We were pleasantly surprised and thanked him profusely.

Even the bed and breakfast where we had been staying had neglected to do as much.

As we munched on berries, my husband and I decided that we’d better send our extra stuff home to California ahead of us. He had seen the UPS store downstairs by the reception desk and went down with some items. I was skeptical.

But the day we returned home, we received a phone call from the UPS store reporting that our package would be delayed because they had to go to Macy’s to replace one of the wine glasses they had broken. We couldn’t believe it. Someone had given us a box of wine glasses in a Macy’s box and UPS had actually checked to see if they had broken one?

The general manager of the Courtyard Marriott in Old Town Pasadena wrote me an extensive email after our recent stay wondering if they had done everything possible to make us happy. We’ve come to expect little touches from boutique hotels, but if chains like Marriott want to keep my business, this kind of customer service is definitely the way to go.

Contributing editor Eren Göknar is a lifelong traveler. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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