About a month ago, I got an email from Marriott PR touting its brand new "Travel Brilliantly" campaign, which includes a rebranding of the popular hotel chain, a new logo, new mobile-check-in functionality for its mobile app, free Wi-Fi in hotel "Great Rooms"—oooohh, Great Rooms—and more.
I travel frequently, and I often stay at Marriott hotels, so the news immediately caught my eye. Marriott's mobile app isn't new, but in the past it was basically a glorified version of the company's mobile website, which lets you make reservations and check loyalty-account statistics. The mobile check-in feature is new, though, and it's designed to expedite the hotel check-in process, which can be a real pain in the ass, especially at popular hotels.
So I was anxious to give the mobile check-in feature a go last week during my stay at the New York Marriott Marquis in Manhattan's Times Square. The Marriott Marquis is the one of the busiest hotels I stay at in one of the busy areas of one of the busiest cities in America. So it was a great opportunity to try out mobile check-in.
Unfortunately, my experience wasn't as smooth as I—or Marriott—had hoped. Before I get into the details, here's some information on the new feature from Marriott:
"Marriott Rewards members can check-in after 4 pm the day before their arrival within 24 hours of their arrival and receive an automatic notification when their room is ready. Because credit card information is stored within their Marriott Reward profiles, guests simply walk up to the expedited check-in desk for members where their pre-programmed key card will be waiting for them."
If you've ever stood in line for half an hour (or more) after a cross-country flight waiting to check-in to your hotel room so you can take a shower or a much-needed nap, you're probably just as intrigued by "expedited check-in" as I am.
My experience with Marriott Mobile check-in went like this: The evening before I was set to check-in, I got a notification on my Android device from Marriott letting me know I could check-in whenever I was ready. I did so immediately, and when prompted, I set my estimated arrival time for 2 pm ET the next day—two hours before the official check-in time.
The following day, while I was on the train to New York, I got a notification at roughly 1 pm ET that told me my room was ready. So far, so good; the room was ready early. But things took a turn for the worse when I got to the hotel. I entered the Marriott Marquis, took an eight-story elevator ride to the lobby and made my way toward the check-in desk. I'm not usually happy when I see 20 or so people waiting to check-in, but this time I smiled; I was hoping there would be a line so I could walk past everyone else and use mobile check-in. I marched right to a Marriott representative who was directing people towards available front-desk staff, and I asked about the mobile check-in line.
I won't name the representative I spoke with, but I was told that the New York Marriott Marquis has a mobile check-in desk, but it is not in use because of "potential fraud in our market" and other security reasons. The woman pointed to the mobile check-in kiosk, to show me that they had one, but it was roped off and not in use. Then I was sent to the end of the line, where I waited for 15 minutes. Boo hoo.
When I finally reached the front of the line, the desk rep could see that I had used the mobile app to check in, and because I did my room was ready early. So that was a positive. But I still had to wait in line. No big deal, but not the experience I was looking for.
I wrote to Marriott PR for some clarification and got this response:
"We apologize for your recent experience at the New York Marriott Marquis regarding mobile check-in. Currently, 31 of our North American hotels offer mobile check-in as a pilot before we roll out the service to all 325 hotels in North America later this summer. One goal of the pilot is to identify areas in need of improvement to ensure the customer mobile check-in experience meets our objectives. Unfortunately, the service you received during your recent stay did not meet our high standards.
"The associate who greeted you misspoke. All our pilot hotels provide a check-in lane for guests who checked in on their mobile device, including the New York Marriott Marquis, where they receive an expedited arrival. You should have been directed there. Further, as part of the mobile check-in experience, guests do not need to have their credit card swiped since it is already on file.
"Because of your feedback, the hotel is working to ensure that its front desk associates are retrained about how program works and the correct customer experience for guests who have checked in using the app."
The mobile check-in functionality is brand new, and it's still in pilot stage, so minor issues can be expected. All things, considered I'm still excited about mobile check-in because it's definitely a step in the right direction. My experience this time around wasn't seamless, but my room was ready for me two hours before the official check-in time.
If you're a Marriott Rewards member or stay at Marriott hotels, I recommended downloading the app and giving it a whirl. The app is available for iOS and Android, and it can be downloaded via iTunes or the Google Play store.