There is no such thing as a free rate

A few months ago, I stayed at the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing.  I had been a Club Carlson cardholder for some time and received an unsolicited free night certificate –which I decided to use at this hotel.  I had to make two reservations: 1 for the free night and 1 for the remaining stay at the hotel.

Problems at Check-In

During check-in, the front desk clerk jotted down a rate of $9xx CNY on the “free” night.  Confused, I explained that the first night should be free and that it’s paid for with the certificate.  Despite the communication gap, I thought we could still resolve the issue.  To help, I handed her my confirmation printout.  She looked at it dubiously, and then pointed to the rate she jotted down. She insisted, “No, this is the price.”  Again, I said that it’s not correct and tried to explain again.

Shockingly, she rolled her eyes at me and muttered in Mandarin, “There is no such thing as a free rate.”  While I’m not a native speaker, she probably didn’t realize that I understood what she said. I was flabbergasted as I had been polite the entire time. I finally asked if there is a manager who can speak English who can help sort this out.  She walked away without a word and came back with someone whom I presumed to be her manager.

Escalating to Manager

The manager politely greeted me and then listened to the problem.  The clerk explained righteously, “The guest is saying she has a room at a $0 room rate”.  Hearing that, I corrected it and said that I used a free night certificate.  The manager didn’t say anything but began to look at the reservation on the screen.  After some tapping and scrolling, she pointed at something and explained to the clerk that she need to scroll down to the bottom of the reservation.  I assumed that the clerk finally saw what I had trying to say all along.


The clerk sheepishly smiled at me and apologized.  I decided to let it go and chalked it up to a misunderstanding.  The clerk continued to process our check-in, and  I inquired if our room is a standard room with 2 double-beds.  The clerk confirmed it, though we later found ourselves staring at a standard room with a King bed.  We made our way to the front desk again.

Thankfully, we got her colleague who was more pleasant and competent.  Apparently, all rooms with double beds were sold out for that night but she offered us a paid upgrade option to a different room type. We opted to pay for the upgrade for the full duration of our stay (it was worth it).

Despite the major letdown with the check-in process, the hotel is actually quite solid.  I just hope the clerk learned not to accuse guests anymore with a “There is no such a thing as a free rate.”  I know it can be hard to believe, but yes, there is.


Have you ever run into using a certificate? Were you able to resolve at check in or did you discover that problem after check-out?

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