(The following is a missive I sent to The Alloy Hotel, supposedly a Doubletree, after they did everything they could to wreck our event.
The Alloy has claimed it did nothing wrong. To my shock, it seems their management company won’t take action.
If you’re in the industry – feel free to get in touch with me for my thoughts on why you should NEVER work with a Hilton property again
Dear Michael and Jenn,
Our communications have been delayed because we were trying to give everyone on staff, our vendors, programming, and our attendees time to get us their feedback.
It is with regret that I inform you that, due to the damages done to our company by the direct actions and inactions of your hotel, we are seeking compensation, not payment terms. We are requesting a full and immediate refund of our deposit, and assistance from Concord Hospitality in recovering from the harm done to our company, our event, our guests, and our other stakeholders.
We have been collating responses both from inside our team and the event participants, detailing some problems, errors, misrepresentations, mishandlings, and generally damaging situations. It’s the second half of this letter.
The first half is from my own direct experience. It would have consisted of four parts, had I not received a fairly disturbing report which brings my own list of challenges to five.
I’ll begin with that:
1. I have it on reliable authority that the Alloy management claimed that one of the company’s coordinators thanked the hotel for a great event and gave positive feedback.
This is untrue. It is a false claim, and that is of extreme concern to us.
First, we have specifically sent no feedback because we have been trying to gather data from those who attended.
Secondly: We have two coordinators, myself and Sabryna. Neither of us have made any such communication. For myself, as you are aware, my last communication with you was in response to your request for a meeting before I left the hotel. I declined to meet. When you reiterated the request, asking if there was any time that worked for me that day, I gave the reply below:
There will not be a time today when I’m not far too angry to have a productive conversation. I asked, early in the weekend, how you expected us to work productively on this situation under these circumstances. That would have been the time to begin looking for an answer.
The Alloy has been made aware of our actual position by our actual coordinators. Even if an unknown person misrepresented themselves to you about their position and our opinion, which I frankly find highly unlikely, the Alloy was in a position to know that this position is opposite to the one held by your actual points of contact within the company.
I don’t know the details of this matter, and am eager to hear an explanation, but it would unfortunately be characteristic of my experience if this situation was a deliberate falsification or misrepresentation in order to benefit the Alloy management.
I’d like to hope that I’m wrong. But I’ll get to the meat of my issues now.
In overview, they are:
1. Your fatal contractual breach, from day one, of your obligation to provide us with a working booking link and its surrounding basic infrastructure.
2. Your still-unexplained attempt to change one of the critical clauses of our contract, which was a deciding point in choosing your hotel–namely, the security clause–and, moreover, the manner in which your attempt to make this unacceptable change through what I can only describe as bullying and intimidation.
3. Prolonged nonresponse to issues until they were potentially irreparable.
4. The consequences of food and beverage issues, with the added complication of unexpectedly high ‘incidentals’ charges.
Let me sketch out each of these items.
I. Nonperformance, despite numerous contacts and frankly pleas on my part, of the key contractual requirement that your hotel provide us with a functional ability for our guests to book rooms into our block.
By contract, this obligation was to have been fulfilled by providing us with a reservation link; it’s inarguable that this link needed to be fully functional and be backed by reasonable infrastructure. What we received – namely, a broken link backed by an actively harmful infrastructure – is a fatal contractual breech.
The nonperformance, simply as a legal problem, is massive in and of itself, and if that were the only issue we had, it would be sufficient for us to seek remedy.
But it was also disastrous for us as a practical matter. Attendees of events such as ours will very frequently decide not to go if they can’t reserve at the host hotel; in fact, our business model relies most heavily on people who reserve their rooms early in preparation for attendance.
We also invested over a hundred hours, and over $10,000 in Facebook ads, advertising the link; that includes a desperate and expensive attempt to get people the difficult and counterintuitive information that they needed to ignore following the directions on the page, and instead take specific other actions, which were not at all discussed on the page, in order to make that reservation. It involved advertising the phone number and directions eventually given to us by our former sales manager, which, as you have admitted in email, were wrong.
All of that time and effort were much worse than a total loss, since the result was not simply a failure to gain reservations; it did widespread and active damage, as the people we directed towards that link were convinced, by both the initial page errors and the surrounding reservation infrastructure, that the hotel was wholly unavailable.
Michael, as you are aware, this is just a thumbnail sketch of a series of problems with the reservation system which I documented many times, and in detail, beginning with the frankly incredible fact that the dates in our custom link were incorrect–and (as I touched on above)–unless people literally ignored the directions on the page, and manually changed the dates (a process which was not at all intuitive)–they were told the hotel was full.
I reported this problem very soon after the contract was finalized on January 27th, and the problem went unfixed from early February until just before the beginning of May! Your website contains three phone numbers and a chat line, and any attendees who were confused and called any of those three numbers, even the ‘local’ number, were all transferred to National Reservations and told the hotel was unavailable. Anyone who followed the directions on your link and received that error notice were told, by the site, that the hotel was unavailable, and immediately given a toll-free number and a chat line to get help (as well as recommendations for other local Hilton hotels.) Both the phone number and the chat line, again, led to national reservations, which told the prospective attendee that the hotel was unavailable.
IN SUMMATION OF POINT ONE: From day one, there was a significant contractual breech, one which went unremedied for months, and which, in and of itself, was crippling to the event.
II. Contractual bait-and switch, and sustained attempts to breech the contract regarding our security provision.
As an initial point: After 25 years in this industry, I’m aware that many hotels have standard clauses requiring that the event pay for outside security, usually off-duty police. It has been my policy of two decades to never work with a hotel that has this requirement; it’s a major expense which has been proven, over the course of literal decades, to be unnecessary, as we have our own security force.
Our contract was explicit in acknowledging that we did not need to have (much less pay for!) any outside security, because of that security force. Again, I would never have chosen the Alloy had the security requirement been part of our deal.
I’m going to make a brief aside, partly because it’s not an insignificant matter, and partly because it provides context both for how we felt about that situation, and leads into my third point.
As you are aware, we not only put our faith in the hotel for the one event, but, intending a longterm and mutually-beneficial relationship, we scheduled a second event with you. Based on multiple confirmations from the hotel, in writing, that we had that date and would do that event, we did significant advertising and planning. I was promised that a contract was coming “in a few days” or “next week” for months. When I did receive a contract, I reviewed it, signed it, and returned it the same day.
The hotel then, suddenly and without warning, refused to countersign the contract it had sent me hours before. (This breech of written agreement also did us damage, and it’s significant, but it’s unfortunately a comparatively minor point in the larger picture. It certainly resulted in our giving out refunds, as we were forced to change the date and the venue; it certainly cost us time, energy, and money in terms of advertising and planning. But that’s not the key issue here. I will note that this has the dubious distinction of being the first and only time, in the 25 years I have worked with venues, that a venue sent me a contract for signature, then rejected their own contract.)
I was summoned into a phone call with Michael and, if my notes are correct, Jenn and our (then) sales manager, Kristen.
During this phone call, Michael informed me that there had been ‘threats’ of ‘picketing’, and the hotel was therefore changing the contract to reflect the addition of $10,000 in police presence, with a cost to be shared between us and the hotel.
I attempted to ask for details; Michael cut me off. I attempted to explain that we had received some anonymous threats of picketing three years ago, and had three years of event experience with why the picketing never materialized; Michael cut me off. I attempted to point out that this was not in our contract; Michael cut me off. I asked for proof, documentation, information, and/or details; Michael ended the call. In both my notes and my memory, Michael actually hung up on me.
I sent my sales manager a long email, the heart of which was pointing out that I would never have signed the contract with this provision; that it was a bait-and-switch; that I felt personally betrayed and did not know how to trust the hotel again, and that this had done grave harm to literally hundreds of people.
The hotel’s response was wholly unprecedented in my experience: I was forbidden from ever speaking to Kristen again in any way, and given a new sales manager, Jenn. I was also told that Jenn would be fully informed about our situation; this was not true, as shown in several months of later correspondence. (Again, see point III.)
While this was deeply unpleasant, particularly as my first contact with Michael, the central point is this:
Our contract is explicit that contractual changes can only be made with mutual consent in writing. I noted this multiple times (in writing). The Alloy consistently ignored this point, and treated this absolutely as a done deal which would not be discussed, including eventually sending a contract revision which I was pressured to sign.
I don’t know whether the Alloy’s management assumed I was ignorant of the workings and details of our contract, or if they simply felt I could be intimidated and bulldozed into agreeing to something they had absolutely no right to demand. Certainly, the hotel never even attempted to answer any of my questions about what the security concerns in question might have been, beyond that mention, in our phone call, of ‘picketing’.
I was given every reason to expect that this would be a fight at some point—that the police would be hired and I would be billed for them, regardless of our contract.
The Alloy’s attempt to make a game-changing, expensive, never-explained alteration which was explicitly the opposite of our written agreement, compounded by its absolute refusal to follow (or even acknowledge) its clear contractual obligation of obtaining and of mutual written consent, absolutely destroyed my trust in the hotel. When, later, the hotel’s pressure to make a mutual change included a removal of that clause, Michael and Jennifer acted as if this was a sweetener and a favor, rather than simply the cessation of a wholly inappropriate attempt to bulldoze us into an action contrary to our interests, our pre-contractual negotiations, and our policies.
The absolute and utter disregard for the terms of our contract left me with the impression that the hotel might go back on absolutely anything it told us, at any time; if the hotel did not think it needed to be bound by our contract, nor to address any of our concerns on that subject, nor even to explain its reasoning, there was no way for me to have trust that the hotel would respect any agreement, explain any action, or respond to any concern. And unfortunately, this turned out to be utterly true.
I also could no longer even rely on the idea that the hotel prioritized the profits it would gain from my event(s). The rejected contract was even larger than the existing contract, and I had (and still have) no way of knowing if the hotel simply no longer wanted my business, or somehow did not recognize, despite my saying so explicitly, that their treatment made it inconceivable that I’d sign the new contract.
Outside of anything else, this created incredible stress within our company, as well as taking up a lot of our resources in attempting to anticipate and reduce potential harm from this situation. Unfortunately, that harm happened on a scale beyond anything we would have anticipated, and resulted in the incredible level of mutual loss detailed in Section IV.
III. Nonaddressal of issues.
This segment is short, partly because the others are long, and partly because the actions in Point II would be symptomatic of my experiences from that point on. I could supply a list of issues, requests, queries, and concerns which were not addressed, but I don’t think that is necessary.
I’ll give a few key points which became major issues, though:
-My largest and most important vendor is a winery; given the hotel’s contractual food and beverage exclusive (but also, the repeated verbal assurance by Kristen that this was a mandated clause, but would have flexibility once there was a catering manager), we addressed that point specifically and in writing and obtained written agreement for their appearance and vending in April.
Actual terms were, finally, after repeated and consistent requests, worked out the week before the event.
The day before the event, the Alloy changed those terms completely, wrecking that vendor’s plans. Had the Alloy’s management not, in the course of long interaction, made that winery feel that there was (in that vendor’s opinion, and their wording, “gross incompetence”) on the part of the Hotel, I would have lost that important vendor; the band they sponsored; and the upcoming business deals I have with them. This could have been fixed had the issues been addressed in or near April, when the hotel gave its agreement. It also need not have happened at all had the hotel not given the winery a clear and specific deal, then changed it with neither notice nor reason given.
(And again: As a Pennsylvania winery extremely familiar with Pennsylvania liquor laws and working with establishments which have liquor licenses, this vendor had the advantage of being very knowledgeable about the laws and rules of these circumstances, as well as having extensive experience vending at other Pennsylvania locations with liquor licenses, and firsthand experience in creating high mutual profit.)
-Because Covid clearly effected the event industry and the hospitality industry, I mentioned, several times, that outside circumstances meant we would need to alter our payment structure, our room agreements, attendee expectations, and multiple other points. In general, I received no reply at all, although sometimes, I simply received rejections.
-For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply say: if needed, I can document having sent detailed concerns about many anticipated problems, many of which were predictively accurate and became the 50+ issues which follow this email.
One of those anticipated problems was eventually addressed when, as the event drew close, I was offered a deal which cut our room commitment. It was never referenced as a response to the intense barriers my attendees faced in attempting to book, although our ticketing data alone shows that, under circumstances with functional booking infrastructure, we almost certainly would have sold out the hotel. Based both on our measurable data, and on our experiences with the Alloy’s management, as well as how the Alloy eventually used that deal, I don’t think the offer was ultimately beneficial for us.
The aforementioned deal was represented entirely as a favor to the event, one which might help the Alloy salvage a few sales. We don’t begrudge the hotel its sales (and the ability to open sales to the general public at a certain date was certainly in our contract.) But we would likely feel more positively towards the situation had we not encountered a number of on-site problems affecting our room block.
As we found out on the Friday of our event, the hotel somehow ‘lost’ several of our attendee rooms, as well as several parts of our Master List. In addition, not only did the hotel not honor our request to put additional number of rooms on the Master List, it also went from representing itself as deeply undersold, to selling out without informing us. I acknowledge the hotel’s contractual right, at that time, to sell those rooms however it chose. But even the smallest courtesy of letting us know the hotel was filling up fast, or at least informing us before our actual arrival that the hotel was sold out, would have allowed us to make provisions. Instead, we had many attendees who showed up for the weekend in the hope that (as is more normal) there would be some rooms available due to drops. The hotel had the right to sell our drops outside of our block, but usually hotels recognize that even if convention guests pay a lower rate, having those attendees on site is of benefit to the client’s bottom line, and of benefit to the hotel’s outlets and reputation. Failing this, had we been kept in the loop, we could at least have created an active plan to retain those attendees and get them to and from an overflow hotel.
In addition, I have spoken to at least a few of our attendees who booked ‘outside’ of our block. That’s not surprising; before the hotel opened itself to “outside” guests, it was almost impossible for our people to book the hotel, and literally almost every possible method they tried was blocked. As soon as the hotel opened, our attendees could book easily on the hotel’s website or the Hilton site, or by using the aforementioned phone numbers, or via various online travel sites. And, in fact, they would have been able to book some of the rooms, not just with vastly greater ease, but at a lower price, another point that I documented to Jenn.
The Alloy has stated that they cannot give us the names of anyone who booked outside our block for reasons of privacy. And I do respect privacy concerns. But it leaves us with the uncomfortable knowledge that at least some of those rooms were booked by our attendees, and that there was clearly demand for our room block, which was disabled by the barriers to booking.
ON A NOTE OF RESPONSIBILITY : When we neared the event, our team needed more time than expected, and missed some minor contractual deadlines, in areas of catering and rooming lists. However, our rooming list situation was made incredibly difficult by the extreme confusion surrounding reservations.
(Some of our guests even thought they had to go through the reservation link and not through us, which made it difficult to track them down–and it turned out to be correct, since, in fact, the front desk was unaware that they were on the Master List I submitted, and had they not self-reserved rooms, they would not have had rooms at all, since, again, unexpectedly, there was not a single room available on Friday).
Likewise, catering was slowed by the fact that we didn’t have a catering contact for most of the event; that we were forcibly removed from the person with whom we had discussed our catering; that catering managers changed a few weeks before the event; and that we were forced to make extremely difficult scheduling arrangements, because the Alloy is the first hotel in all of my experience which insisted that it could not put our food-related events in any part of the restaurant space.
I found it unusual that the hotel, with an abundance of restaurant seating, at least one semi-private dining area, and with a staff shortage, would choose to spend the time, staffing, and money on completely resetting a room, serving food in it, then cleaning it and resetting it; but we scheduled our Tea events in the event space, despite the fact that this made our scheduling extremely difficult.
(And then, when this situation changed at the last minute, it actually hindered us–because we were left with a large, visibly empty, uninviting hole in one of our two main programming areas. This left nothing in it to create draw to the vendors in the area, a problem which persisted for an uncomfortably long period, due to the large chunks of time we allotted to allow for what we believed would be a major setup/takedown. Our vendors experienced increased distress and decreased traffic [as part of our vending had been planned to make sure our tea attendees, traditionally good spenders for our vending, would be brought into close contact with that area’s merchants]–and it greatly increased attendee confusion about the printed schedules, which now had major errors in them.) We actually experienced a vendor exodus from that area, leaving the vendor room somewhat depopulated, and at least some of our vendors believe it was triggered directly by people going past the vendor area into what they thought would be the Tea, and finding nothing. This is anecdotal; but it’s certainly symptomatic of the effects of disrupting our flow of entertainment and activities at the last minute.
Mr. Sechrist, who was brought on at the very last moment and who has been the only executive staff member to inspire confidence in myself and my team, seems to have done his own best; he may very well have even made that move happen because I had requested it so strongly. But he was made our point of contact at the last minute, and by then, I don’t think anyone could have turned the situation around.
IV. Finally, our event suffered extreme damage from the food and beverage situation.
And, to make matters worse, this hit us from an incredibly unexpected direction, because it took a large source of guaranteed hotel revenue, one which the hotel, by demanding an exclusive, clearly valued very deeply; and transformed it into a huge mutual negative.
I am always leery of contracts which give a hotel food exclusivity; but given that, at the time of signing, the hotel had no food and beverage manager, and did not have any kind of restaurant, I was given assurances that we would be able to work out good plans for mutual benefit once the restaurant re-opened.
Hotels demand F&B exclusives for the express purpose of driving maximal traffic to their outlets; with or without exclusives, I’m used to seeing our attendees fill even large outlets to capacity through the day and night. Had the hotel made food and beverage even reasonably available, its income from F&B would clearly have been extremely substantial; I’ve watched it happen for decades, and even attendees with no background in hospitality whatsoever are aware of this phenomenon.
(I’m not claiming to know the restaurant’s profitability or its back-of-house situation. I’m simply saying that even if we had predicted that the hotel would be hostile, we would never have predicted this disaster.)
We all expected the restaurant to be a hub of activity; we were not permitted to put a jazz band in the lobby, our Meadery prepped for the level of sales it normally makes at an event of this size; as I mentioned, we were told that the Restaurant wasn’t even available for catered events because it would be serving patrons.
Instead, it was the worst possible scenario. While many of the servers were extraordinary and praiseworthy, they were visibly understaffed beyond belief. I recognize that there are staffing difficulties during the pandemic; but if the hotel was truly wholly unable to meet even minimal staffing needs for food service with months and months of notice, we absolutely needed the food and beverage clause rescinded, we needed to be notified, and we needed to make emergency plans. Even if we’d had to make emergency plans on Thursday night, which would have been unacceptable, it might at least have salvaged some of our attendee retention.
At an event with long days and over a thousand people in attendance, the kitchen was closed for substantial (and apparently wholly unpredictable) portions of time. As far as I can tell, the restaurant was actually closed; it certainly did not have any visible presence of someone front-of-house except during breakfast. The only staffed area for the majority of the event was the bar itself. At no point did I see more than three people working at the bar. It wasn’t unusual for there to be only one person.
Despite the fact, acknowledged before the event, that the hotel’s regular menu was not suited in price point, convenience, portability, or (on the restaurant end) speed of delivery, only the regular menu was even partially available. Room service was not available, of course, so patrons could not call to get fed; their only option was to attempt to make it to the bar, get the attention of the beleaguered staff, and wait on food which was clearly never intended for mass service, or even large-scale service. Attendees could see row after row of tables, but were forbidden from using them for eating the only food readily available, ie, delivery; we were, of course, contractually obligated to attempt to stop people from ordering outside food, and not permit it to be eaten in our spaces if possible.
The hotel ran out of food. It ran out of pork. It ran out of eggs. It ran out of several types of alcohol.
And the result was visible, most especially on Saturday night. Hungry attendees at least made some attempt to stay within the hotel and order food on Friday; but they received (contractually-obligated) discouragement on multiple fronts. Many left for the night, dining out and then going to bed, in an assumption that things would be better on Saturday.
Things were much worse. We achieved our full crowd, and not only were they told the kitchen was closed for much of the day (with no posted hours)–but by then, they were hungry, upset and frustrated.
By this time, many of them had noticed that, in addition to the full up-front charge for their stay, of which they were informed, that the nebulous ‘incidentals’ were frequently $150 or more. In essence, they realized their pockets were bare, that their spending cushion wasn’t present. The hotel was not technically required to tell them the amount of the incidentals hold, but I think we’re all well-aware of how important it is to help manage peoples’ expectations about incidentals.
Perhaps there was a goal of driving them to the restaurant, where they could have used that hold for food charged to their rooms. This, clearly, was sabotaged by the hotel’s failure to provide food, supplies, services, and (on at least one night) a head chef.
The response was visible and obvious: my attendees left the event in massive numbers, going elsewhere to eat. Hungry, visibly agitated, angry at the hotel and (sometimes) the convention, and having spent months preparing to have a big, festive Saturday evening, most of them stayed out for effectively the entire night, many of them showering local eateries with extravagant spending. I can’t blame them; I would have done the same. But they were gone, and they came broke. It wrecked my audience; it wrecked my investment in sound and light and entertainment for Saturday; and it absolutely wrecked our vendor profitability and our attendee happiness.
Some of this is conjecture, but it’s based on discussions with a huge number of vendors, performers, and attendees.
A FURTHER NOTE ON INCIDENTALS:
I’d like to note that the incidentals charge was clearly vastly above industry standard, and our contracted stated that any incidentals charge was to be “the anticipated use of the Alloy, a DoubleTree by Hilton ancillary services”. I sincerely consider this to be a fraud perpetrated upon our attendees and our event. I use this strong language because the hotel utterly failed to offer ‘ancillary services’, and unless someone was essentially a major event player (myself; the woman who ran our tea parties; and, really, nobody else)—it was literally impossible to access the largely-unavailable, unstaffed, unready ‘services’; even the Starbucks’ payment processing was broken, necessitating a trip to the (again, understaffed) front desk to permit even the starvation-level protein boost of a Kind bar. The number is damagingly unreasonable; the lack of warning to both us and attendees is unconscionable and precisely the opposite of the incidentals policies of the dozens of hotels with whom we did business before the Alloy made us false and insincere offers.
(Candidly, if I’d had an idea that a full up-front payment for rooms would be followed by the highest incidentals hold I have ever seen at one of my events, I would have objected, in strenuous terms, that this was bad on all sides. But I was not made aware of this, despite the fact that your front desk’s incompetence and/or malice meant that I spent all of Friday going to the front desk and fighting for our attendees to be able to check into the rooms they had reserved.)
After ceaseless obstruction, incompetence, and a shocking lack of interest in situations with serious legal consequences (I do not believe that a hotel whose “ADA-compliant” bathroom has doors which stick if opened, such that a disabled veteran was flung from his wheelchair, and slammed into the floor with great force, has any actual right to claim that it is able to host any event whatsoever; and the hotel’s total unconcern in the lack of our documented complaint shows a grossly ableist attitude, as well as noncompliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and disrespect to a veteran.
Candidly, if I’d had an idea that a full up-front payment for rooms would be followed by the highest incidentals hold I have ever seen at one of my events, I would have objected, in strenuous terms, that this was bad on all sides. But I was not made aware of this, despite the fat that your front desk’s incompetence and/or malice meant that I spent all of Friday going to the front desk and fighting for our attendees to be able to check into the rooms they had reserved.
(In at least one case, our staff photographer drove 3 hours, found there was no room in his name, was given a new room, and found the room was double-booked and thus unusable.
It’s hypothetically possible that my attendees left on mass because they hated my event; but given that this contradicts the written feedback received, and the fact that my next event is already seeing high room pickup from those same attendees, it’s unlikely, to say the least.
Going back to another fatal error, I’ll stress again: with regards to the food situation, it seems unlikely to me that Mr Sechrist was at fault, despite his position as catering manager. However, it’s clear that there was serious fault here, and it has jeopardized our vendor relations, our attendee good will, and our staff’s hope of writing anything other that furious one-star reviews, which will be an accurate expression about how we feel. As one attendee put it, “Why do they hate us and screw us at every turn?”
I have not had an experience this negative with a venue since 2006.
I recognize that Covid has been a difficult time. And, in fact, as mentioned, I sent many missives saying that we should reconsider parts of our contract to deal with the complications of the pandemic. By the time I began receiving regular responses from the hotel (and even then, the responses were to immediate and approaching issues; I fully expect my beard to reach my knees before anyone considered contacting us with any sort of facts; and I would be shocked if anyone attempted to convince us that the hotel was in any way prepared, or that the hotel was not making a clear, concerted effort to drive us away permanently.
Having addressed two concrete contractual issues, one issue of apparent intentional deception from the Alloy about its conduct, several issues of nonresponse which I can document in as much detail as is desired, and, finally, two major issues which, by every possible indication and feedback we’ve received, I can and will say that the hotel caused massive and irreparable damage to the event, and clearly did so intentionally.
Let’s now discuss just a small percentage of the suffering and misery endured by my guests, team, vendors, and other stakeholders.
1. The hotel was well-informed that JME Staff would be showing up Thursday 7-29-2021. I’ll admit that, early on, the Alloy management team not only expressed surprise at our desire to begin setup on Thursday, but seemed literally unaware of the existence (much less the desirability!) of shoulder nights. (As a sidenote, this also means that no part of the hotel’s registration was able to accept stays longer than two nights. That problem was so unexpected that it remained undiagnosed until, very close to the end, I started to receive multiple vendor complaints about it.) At any rate, I eventually sent over some substantial explanations of why our setting up on Thursday would save dozens of man hours and other costs to the hotel. And when we and the Alloy ratified the “room opening” clause on July 12th, the contract addendum was explicit in showing that our space rental began Thursday at noon. Yet despite having this knowledge in writing, and despite it being in our contract—when we arrived on that Thursday, the hotel denied us space for which we had both contracted and prepaid. The hotel was not ready for our arrival even several hours into our contracted time; and the hotel presented us with dirty, unready rooms. Even the maintenance / cleaning crew were openly annoyed at our staff when we asked for several of the ballrooms to be cleaned so JME staff could begin layout of vendors and other event space. Multiple ballrooms weren’t simply unvacuumed, or lacking in small areas; they were literally filthy, with trash and detritus on the floors. This was clearly unacceptable—and it was another clear, outright breech of contract.
2. The downstairs double doors that lead to the parking deck — the card key reader did not work, the doors did not lock, and these doors did not have any mechanism to keep them open for load in or load out. Vendors and stage staff had to use stanchions provided by JME as doorstops.
3. Vendors were told at check-in with the hotel that they were disallowed from using the hotel loading dock for load-in, despite it having been actively offered in previous discussions; by the time this situation was rectified, the vendors who had needed the loading dock had already loaded in via the side doors.
4. The downstairs room and ballroom doors did not open flat against the walls, impeding flow and sight down the lower hallway. This also darkened the middle area of the hallway and may impede sightlines for any CCTV system in the hotel.
4. The downstairs hallway ceiling repair patch between the Copper and Nickel doors continued to leak on and off as the weekend progressed. This made the carpeting in the general area extremely wet and gave off a musty smell. Buckets placed by hotel staff to catch the leak were not placed in a way in which the hallways would continue to be ADA accessible.
5. The downstairs electronic board that is adjacent to the Fusion room was not operating when JME Staff arrived on Thursday 7-29-2021. It was off Saturday 7-31-2021, when it was turned on (by hotel staff), whom advised ONE exhibitor in the Fusion room of the issue, but it was not brought to JME staff. It was discovered to show fractured, split images, fractured text and continued flashing by JME staff members later in the day Saturday 7/31/2021, until it was eventually turned off.
6. In the Palladium boardroom, the only electric outlet was along the left wall as you enter the room, hidden behind a large, heavy credenza. JME Staff had to move the credenza away from the wall in order to use it; this left a large gap behind the credenza. JME crew had to temporarily tape an extension plug bar along the wall side to stop anything from falling behind the credenza.
7. The Starbucks / Sundry was only open daily from 6:30 am to 11:00 am on the days of the event. This needed to be open all day to accommodate the large number of patrons at the show. This forced patrons to leave the hotel to acquire snacks, drinks, and / or toiletries at other establishments.
8. The Kiosk till for the Sundry was broken and inoperable for most of the weekend; the front desk of the hotel could only take card payments.
9. The restaurant needed to be open all day to accommodate the large number of patrons at the show. Not doing so was forcing patrons to leave the hotel to acquire food from other establishments.
10. There was not anywhere near adequate staff at the restaurant (when it was open) to accommodate the amount of show patrons.
11. Food at the restaurant, though good, was a very limited menu and many guests went elsewhere due to the limited menu and the expense of what was offered, plus, obviously, the dislike, discourtesy, and general nastiness of hotel employees towards attendees.
> Addendum from Sabryna: The food allergy-safe options were extremely limited and weren’t guaranteed to have not come in contact or even had common allergens in/on/near them.
> Vegetarian and vegan options were extremely limited
12. Food orders at the restaurant were at most times not correct, extremely delayed or sent back because of being cold.
> The avocado Benedict ordered for our meat-allergic company manager came a) with unadvertised Canadian bacon on it and b) ice cold
> Eggs came brown on the outside but raw on the inside
> Food orders at the bar had similar issues
13. Lighting in most of the ballrooms ( especially Alloy C ) could not be controlled properly.
14. Several areas of the hotel were visibly in disrepair and / or damaged prior to JME arrival. JME Staff documented many of these areas prior to set up and relayed these conditions to hotel staff. Further disrepair was discovered by JME staff as the event went on, such as Summit 6-15 being in the midst of remodel and the 3rd floor having 2-3 inches of drywall missing from the bottom of all of its hallways, which led our staff to be concerned of prior flooding of the hotel that was not mentioned to us.
15. Ice machines, soda machines and snack machines were extremely limited and non-existent on most floors of the hotel. Most of the ice machines were not operational.
16. Most hotel guests were not informed at check in that the rooms would not be cleaned and / or changed unless maid service was explicitly requested.
17. Maid service viewed by JME Staff was non-existent between Thursday 7-29-2021 and Sunday 8-1-2021.
18. JME Staff needed to repeatedly ask at the hotel front desk about opening up the parking deck for show patrons to park.
19. There was a severe lack of blackout curtains and / or operating shades in most of the rooms on the Summit level.
20. By midday Saturday, the few and far between garbage cans that were placed for the shows were overflowing, spilling trash onto the floors and forcing patrons to leave trash on adjacent tables, ottomans, or the floor.
21. Water stations were not placed until late Friday 7-30-2021. This was after JME Staff made several requests.
22. The water stations were not kept clean or refilled unless someone from JME Staff repeatedly reminded the hotel staff.
23. There was never a water station deployed to the Summit level, despite requests from our staff and dangerous attendee dehydration.)
24. The hotel repeatedly lied about room availability, forcing guests to not attend or find rooms elsewhere. We lost our room credits, we hurt our credibility, we lost guests, and we were forcibly prevented from fulfilling our attendance obligations.
25. As noted, the hotel put extravagant hold amounts on attendees’ credit cards upon check in, destroying attendee spending. This also limited what attendees could spend at vendors and other hotel amenities, and further damaged our vendors and attendees.
> addendum from Sabryna: “I was personally charged the agreed upon $150 hold (7/30/21), then my credit card bounced a $305 charge at 4:05am 7/31/2021, then was hit for another $116 and $111 charge on 7/31/21. This effectively knocked out that card for the whole event, as none of this money was freed from these holds until 8/2/2021.”
26. The hotel overbooked our Guest of Honor’s room. Someone else was booked for the room and walked in on the GOH while they were in the room. That is unacceptable and, obviously illegal; a hotel room rental is sacrosanct. Double booking rooms a predatory practice, and illegal in most states.
27. Upon arrival on Thursday 7-29-2021, there was only one hotel elevator working. By Friday, 2 hotel elevators were working somewhat. By early Saturday, all 3 were finally working reliably, at which point, they were then disabled again.
28. JME Staff discovered from other hotel staff that the restaurant head chef was not properly informed there would be an event on these dates; food wasn’t ordered, food wasn’t prepped, our request for a special menu was denied; and the chef wasn’t present, seeing no need, though multiple staff were hired for this purpose.
29. The restaurant only had one wait staffer on Sunday 8-1-2021. A cursory look at our guest list meant this was impractical altogether.
30. The restaurant ran out of fresh eggs and even bag-mix eggs on Sunday 8-1-2021.
31. On Thursday 7-29-2021 the lobby bar closed at 10:00 pm while there were still patrons at the bar and others were walking up to the bar for service.
32. By Saturday 7-31-2021 evening, the lobby bar was severely running out of various brands of alcohol.
33. The lobby bar staff did not have any information about the 2nd Speakeasy scheduled in Alloy C at 6:00 pm Saturday 7-30-2021. JME Staff had to remind the hotel bar staff of the time of the event. This prolonged the event to start 40 minuets late.
34. The hotel ATM ran out of cash sometime mid day Saturday 7-31-2021. No one contacted the ATM company to reload the machine, even though it is well-known that this is the majority of our banking.
35. There was no event space temperature control. Temperatures in most of these rooms varied from freezing to stifling.
36. The hotel’s 5th floor had a communal microwave. This was not present on any other floors.
37. Some hotel staff harassed several show attendees whose costumes and / or garb they were wearing was at least bathing suit appropriate.
> Addendum from Sabryna: I wore the exact same length shorts/skirts and dresses as these patrons and was *not* accosted or asked to “cover up”, leading us to believe this was specifically targeted towards certain body types.
38. The handicapped accessible door at the top of the curved ramp was an issue. The door did not stay open long enough for proper wheelchair access. In general, our handicapped attendees found their rooms to be illegally ADA-noncompliant.
39. The curved ramp at wheelchair access door was extremely narrow and not to code.
40. At the top of the curved wheelchair ramp, there was not proper room for the wheelchair-user or their attendant to safely access the automated button for the door. The wheelchair had to remain on the ramp portion to allow the door to swing outward, making for an extremely dangerous situation.
41. ADA (American Disability Act) rooms were not to code for proper wheelchair access. JME Staff and the hotel front desk staff were informed of a wheelchair bound patron that was ejected from his wheelchair at the bathroom door as he was being moved into their hotel room bathroom. The door was not wide enough to accommodate the wheelchair.
( JME can only suspect that there will be a separate lawsuit from the patron against the hotel )
42. Several contract stipulations with the Mead vendor were changed drastically by the hotel after the contract was accepted and signed.
43. The hotel demanded pre-approval and control of JME show vendors. This was outside the contract negotiations.
44. The hotel demanded pre-approval of JME show performers. This was outside the contract negotiations.
45. The hotel demanded insurance coverage well in advance of show dates. This was outside the contract negotiations.
46. The Link to hotel registration that was provided to JME was not operational.
47. The phone number for hotel registration given to JME was directed to national registration and not the hotel directly.
48. National registration had little to no information about the Evil Expo event, the show dates and / or the negotiated room rates. Most patrons that called were told that rooms were either not available or the rates were different then contracted. Several of these patrons contacted JME directly to question what JME was posting online about availability of rooms and the rates.
49. After JME’s Producer and JME Staff complained to the hotel about problems with room bookings and not meeting the room sales goals, the hotel arbitrarily modified the contract without complete JME cooperation and / or JME input.
50. The hotel staff that JME initially started negotiations with was apparently fired in the interim. The new hotel staff was not properly informed as to the dates of the event, the event , or what the event entailed; nor did they treat us with any sort of assistance.
51. At one point of the negotiations, event space was removed from use and partially returned only as the event dates moved closer.
52. JME was charged pre-cleaning, food service, bar, and other incidental charges not negotiated, discussed, or otherwise planned.
53. Several event patrons found that when they arrived at the hotel that their reservations were canceled without their knowledge.
54. At the last minute, the hotel requested moving the 2 Tea Parties to the restaurant. This made the setting a better choice, but since this change happened at the beginning of the event — even though JME had been asking about this for several months wherein the hotel continued to say no — altering the printed schedule for the event where possible, and having no contractual protection otherwise. This was highly detrimental for vending, for scheduling, for attendees finding the correct events and just bad for everyone.
55. The hotel did not hold any spare rooms for us at all; aside from the fact that there was obvious demand and it was likewise obvious that if no rooms were held, we would lose attendees and you would damage your reputation; but also, as happened so frequently that it’s essentially normative despite being unacceptable, I made a clear and specific request that the hotel hold ten more rooms in the Master Block, and the hotel did not even hold up the pretense of granting a single additional room to said block; they also failed to notify me in any way that my written needs would be wholly ignored. I found out in the worst possible way, as I learned, to my horror, that there weren’t enough rooms for many of our registered guests. For their part, the hotel did not even offer to hold the rooms at the new rates; so there isn’t even a visible profit motive for creating a situation where my guests felt wronged both by myself and by the Alloy. If a good friend of JME had not had 4 rooms reserved in his name that he was able to give up to the event. JME would have had even more of a situation where show patrons would have had no rooms.
56. JME’s Producer was quite specific in negotiations with the hotel about the hotel needing a convention style menu and convention style food / drink access on an all day basis. As detailed above, none of this was available the dates of the show.
57. Likewise, the hotel insisted on food exclusivity, which was disastrous given that the hotel misrepresented itself as having some ability to handle the rush, combined with the aforementioned lack of staffing, menu, and hours. This basically emptied the entire event out in the evenings, which did irreparable harm. This especially happened Saturday night. This was detrimental for vendors, for the bands, for the attendees and for having attendees return to the hotel. Especially if the attendees did not have a room reservation at the Alloy Hotel. ( JME has received complaints from several vendors as to lack of sales and patrons disappearing from the show floor at meal times. )
58. The hotel was adamant and would not allow any entertainment in the Hotel Lobby, Pool area or Dining Room areas, even though these areas would have idle and, to the blunt, almost utterly unused
59. There was a massive difference between the Master Room List and the At the Door Room List, causing Jeff literally 30 hours of sleep.
60. JME is at a loss to know how many other guests walked out because the hotel had dropped their rooms and / or sold those rooms to new non-show patron people at the higher rates, and / or double-booked their rooms. They were quite numerous.
Michael, what we really want is what is fair, namely, we want our investment back. We want a return of the advertising dollars we spent on attempting to get people to make reservations which, as it turns out, were essentially impossible. I want the goodwill of my attendees back; I want them to know that I would never chose to lead them into starvation, and if I did, I would solve their food problems unless I was contractually obligated to avoid doing so. I want back thousands of dollars spent on sound and light for a crowd which could not reasonably be expected to watch performances when it had been denied basic human comfort. I want compensation for the expense of having my lawyer do a close reading of our contract to see if your actions had any legal justification. We contracted to pay for conference space, rooms, hospitality, clean facilities, reasonable consideration for our guests, and at least a good-faith effort to keep our contract.
No, we certainly will not pay you $24,000 for failing to provide what you promised in our contract, breaking our contract, and turning a festival weekend into an endurance contest for myself, my staff, and my guests. And we insist on a full return of our $11,000 as being the absolute minimum you could provide to us. Even without sixty or more documentable serious complaints, you have broken our contract repeatedly, then forced us into what you knew was financial hardship based on a combination of the pandemic and a preventable, inexcusable, lethally ruinous failure in the core of our contract and our business relations—that is, the simple ability for our guests to book rooms.
Michael: You knew our guests couldn’t book; I’ve written so many specific and detailed examples of it, including several that I witnessed personally, that there is absolutely no chance you were unaware of the problem. You knew that our event (like any association event) would lose literally thousands of dollars if guests thought the hotel was full.
Michael: You knew you had absolutely no right to change our contract without our consent, and especially no right to reverse one of its most critical and specific point. The repeated attempts by you and your staff to simply accomplish this by fiat are either some of the most blatantly deceptive, bullying, and inappropriate actions I have seen in 25 years of hospitality—or you were utterly unfamiliar with our contract, which means the hotel’s actions were in complete bad faith from the very start, and you had no intention of observing our contract because you were unable to do so.
In both cases, you took our money fraudulently and under false pretenses—that is, even if the consequences of your actions hadn’t lead to an utterly miserable, completely ruinous weekend, the context of your actions alone makes it abundantly clear that you never had the right to demand money in exchange for services you both could and would not provide.
In case it’s a question: No, there is nothing the hotel itself can do to make this better, not as long as you are in any sort of management position. You could offer to comp me a $50,000 master bill; but I still would not do business with you; you would not honor the contract, you would not provide us with what we needed, and I would not want a guest of mine to have to go through the ordeal of being at any property where there is any chance their health, safety, happiness, or well-being might rely on you in even the smallest of ways.
Michael, you have violated our contracts, you have caused my entire company almost half a year of stress and overwork, you have damaged my relationships with my most critical stakeholders, you have hurt my company’s reputation, you have had an active role in putting some of my vendors in dire financial danger, you have consumed a year’s worth of my advertising budget in situations which your hotel’s staff made into pure loss for me, and you have not simply been uncommunicative; you and your staff actively blocked the person with institutional knowledge about my event, you were unrelentingly hostile to us, you left months of critical correspondence completely without response, and, in the last month, the real crunchtime, you took a 3 week vacation which ended the day before we got to the hotel. I find it difficult to believe that your total inaccessibility, during the time when we most needed communication, is coincidental. I find it hard to believe you took a vacation with your hotel in its current state and a sellout crowd arriving the day after you returned; and then, having been conspicuously absent during the entire event, you asked I would meet with you, as if nothing had happened.
Even then, you took the inconvenient refusal of our coordinators to speak to you, and somehow managed to turn it into a report to your parent company that our coordinators were happy with you.
Michael, you were paid, as per our contract, and with an obligation to fulfill our contract. You have visibly, provably broken our contract multiple times, and done so to the detriment of all involved – my team, my guests, my vendors and, from everything I can see, your own team, your staff, and your parent company.
Michael, we require the immediate return of our $11,000.
Your actions are not in accord with the responsibilities of a Hilton franchise. They are not in accord with the stated principle of Concorde Hospitality.
I regret that our introduction happens under these circumstances, and I regret calling upon your time with an email of this size; but by the same token, I would not ask you to take me seriously if I could not document our problems. I’d like to note that my points are serious, and for the reasons stated above, they are essentially final; I can hypothesize some other compensation we would accept, but I’m not sure what it would be.
But I’m not seeking to achieve the nullification of the final bill, nor the return of our deposit, through any sort of coercion or force. I just experienced months of that circumstance myself, and would not willingly inflict it on a stranger.
I’m seeking it because Concorde has a sterling reputation; and Hilton is a household name for good reason. It’s my sincere belief that Concorde believes in hospitality, and in upholding the standards of (in this case) the Hilton brand, whose flag the hotel bears. I am open to, and would welcome, any investigation you would care to make, and any further evidentiary materials you might require. It’s my very honest thought that, once you have done whatever you find necessary to verify the truth of the statements and experience I have detailed above, we will be, not opponents, but two organizations of one mind: This is not acceptable, and recompense is necessary, not simply for the reputation of both of our organizations, but because I assume we share a common belief:
We are hosts, by choice and by profession. We never want our guests to come to harm, much less serious harm, through willful and deliberate failure to provide the hospitality we promised them.
I don’t seek extravagant financial compensation, though the harms to my company and attendees were vastly beyond the $35,000 at question here.
I simply want you to return to me the resources I paid in good faith, because that good faith was not returned, and now I need the resources to attempt to make my own guests whole.
Jeff Mach Events (dba JM Events, LLC)