Andaz 5th Ave: Redemption

The other day, I wrote a post about doing enough manufactured spending to earn the points necessary to live in New York City for a month (see: The cost to MS a month in New York City). I noted in that post that the plan was hatched while staring out at the skyscrapers from a room at the Andaz 5th Ave. Some readers may remember that I had a less-than-stellar stay there earlier this year that forced me to ask, “Is the Andaz 5th Ave overrated?“. Earlier this month, I made a return to the property. I found a renovated room and a much better stay that turned out to be even more memorable – in a much better way. It’s still not my favorite hotel and won’t become my go-to New York hotel, but I’ll be back next year.

Andaz 5th Ave review

The living room felt half like a conference room and half like a living room – but it was palatial by New York standards.

There had been room for improvement

Back in the spring, I posted my review of the hotel (linked above) and the gross condition on the room. The curtains were dirty, the floor not fully swept, and there were gross stains and leftover food in the pull-out couch.

Andaz 5th Ave review

This time, I debated whether or not to contact hotel management proactively about my stay. I debated the two sides of the coin: Should I just show up and see if I get the same disappointing experience, confirming that the hotel was overrated? Or should I reach out and give the hotel a chance to redeem itself?

I went back and forth on that quite a bit. I certainly knew that if I made the hotel aware of my previous blog post, they would probably go out of their way to make sure I had something positive to say this time. That seemed to defeat the purpose of trying to figure out whether or not my previous stay was an anomaly. On the other hand, I tried to imagine what I would have done last December — a time otherwise known as “before I was a blogger”. I know I probably would have reached out in an attempt to get a better experience the second time — one that matched the price being paid for the stay (25K points per night isn’t insignificant). I’ve further always maintained the philosophy that a business needs to know why the customer is unhappy if they are to be able to solve the problem. And if I reached out and still got a dirty room / disappointing stay, I’d know to cross it off my list for the foreseeable future.

In the end, I decided to reach out to the hotel manager. However, I didn’t make up my mind until the last minute. I wrote the day before my stay, on Friday morning — I was checking into the Park Hyatt Friday evening and coming to the Andaz the next night. I let the manager at the Andaz know when I would be arriving on Saturday afternoon from the Park Hyatt and explained that I wasn’t very happy with my previous stay despite my high hopes for the property. As I wrote previously, a huge part of the disappointment for me was the perfection of the location of the Andaz. My wife and I got engaged on the steps of the New York Public Library (directly across the street from the Andaz) and we go to the Shops at Bryant Park every year around the holidays (directly behind the Public Library). I wanted to love the Andaz and have this be the place we stay every year. I explained that to the manager, Dena Roady, in the hopes that this stay would merely be clean and comfortable.

My requests

The Andaz was showing as sold out for Saturday night when I emailed Dena on Friday.  In addition to letting her know about my disappointment with the previous stay, I made a couple of requests. I usually email my hotel ahead of my stay with a few small requests under the assumption that having a human touch my reservation increases the chances that I’ll get assigned a slightly better room than if the computer assigned it. I asked Dena for three things: extra towels, extra pillows (my wife was 8 months pregnant) and if it was available at check-in, I’d be very appreciative of a slight upgrade to a “Large King” room. I had only booked a standard Andaz King. The Large King is the next level up — just a slightly bigger room. The website shows this image of the room:

Andaz 5th Ave review

I asked for this small upgrade because of the chaise-type sofa. These past few weeks, in the home stretch of pregnancy, my wife has been having some difficulty sleeping through the night. I thought that having the chaise as a second place to lie down might help (at the time she was ending up on the couch almost nightly at home). I didn’t know if this would be possible, but I asked because it would be helpful.

Park Hyatt management went above and beyond

Just before I sent the email to Dena Roady at the Andaz, I replied to the usual welcome email from the general manager at the Park Hyatt New York. Park Hyatt hotels usually reach out in the days before a stay to ask if there is anything they can do to prepare for arrival. I had been meaning to request extra pillows and towels (though I had used a suite upgrade for the Park Hyatt, so I wasn’t making those requests in the hopes of an upgrade). In my email to general manager Alton Chun, I mentioned that I would be switching to the Andaz the next night and that I wished I could stay two nights at the Park Hyatt since our last stay at the Andaz had been disappointing. That was all I said — I neither explained nor linked to the blog. After responding to my requests for pillows and towels, Alton wrote that the Park Hyatt would be happy to arrange their house car for transfer to the Andaz (unnecessary as I drove) and that he had spoken to the team at the Andaz 5th Ave and they ensure that my stay would be a positive memory this time around. That impressed me. When I mentioned being disappointed that I couldn’t stay for two nights at the Park Hyatt, I meant it — I was using a suite upgrade at one of the nicest hotels in New York. Who wouldn’t be disappointed not to stay longer? I certainly had zero expectation that he would reach out to the Andaz about my previous stay.

This was my suite at the Park Hyatt New York, which was luxurious beyond the image.

In the end, I don’t know for sure whether it was my email to Dena or Alton’s that changed the course of my return to the Andaz 5th Ave, but something definitely had an effect.

Andaz 5th Ave management response

Later that afternoon, I received an email response from Dena, the manager at the Andaz 5th Ave. In that email, she said something that was music to my ears:

Some great news is we have replaced all of the upholstered furniture in our guest rooms, we are still waiting on a handful of items but the majority of the building is new!  The old furniture had outlived its life…

I was thrilled to hear that the old furniture has been / is being replaced. I would certainly agree that it was overdue. Furthermore, Dena went on to explain that the chaise lounge in the Large King rooms had been replaced with a chair and ottoman. As that didn’t sound like it would serve the same purpose for me (my wife), she had blocked off an Andaz Suite.

After my previous stay, some commenters suggested that I had let the hotel off too easily and should have asked for my suite upgrade back. As a Hyatt Globalist, I would normally be entitled to an upgrade to a standard suite if available at check in, but the Andaz Suite is a higher level suite than the standard balcony suite. It was a generous upgrade. I took that to be the olive branch and between that and new furniture, we were squared away from my previous stay.

The room

As noted above, the living room was a bit strange. It had a long conference table and a small loveseat. I couldn’t figure out if it was a meeting or relaxing space…but there was a lot of space.

Andaz 5th Ave review

The minibar area actually had a small sink, dishware, and a dishwasher. There was a full size refrigerator to the right.

Andaz 5th Ave review

Andaz 5th Ave review

Andaz 5th Ave review Andaz 5th Ave review

The bedroom was also spacious, and there was plenty of storage space this time (including a shelf and drawer space around the corner from the TV in this pic).

Andaz 5th Ave review

The view from the room was pretty cool, as the living room was a corner room with skyscrapers surrounding us.

Andaz 5th Ave review

And the furniture looked as new as promised.

Andaz 5th Ave review

No crumbs or stains here.

The one big oddity was the design of the bathroom. For starters, I’m not a fan of the half shower door design. I know it must be faster to clean and it’s becoming more and more common in hotels. The problem here is that the shower is open to the rest of the room. There is no bathroom door. So the shower just opens into the room. Excuse the unmade bed, but this gives you an idea:

Andaz 5th Ave review

That glass door doesn’t slide or anything — you’re just in the shower with an entire open wall to the room. As you can imagine, that makes for an awfully drafty shower….not to mention an awkward situation if you’re traveling with a friend/non-spouse family member. Maybe this is a sign that I’m getting old, but this seemed a bit too modern for my taste. There wasn’t a door to the bedroom, so someone standing in the living room would also have a view into the shower. Just weird.

But that wasn’t the only oddity. The toilet was in its own closet-type space opposite the shower. And it had the worst door design I’ve ever seen. Check out this video:

Our solution turned out to be that one of us would have to barricade the other in with the trash can.

Andaz 5th Ave review

Was that the end of the world? No. But is it unreasonable to expect the toilet door to close in a room that often sells for north of $800 per night? I just wondered if whoever designed it had even bothered to sit on the toilet for a second. With the way the door is designed, that problem can’t be unique to this room.

I certainly appreciated the generous upgrade to a room that is very spacious by New York standards — my confusion here is with the designer and the person who signed off on such an odd design.

But the staff went above and beyond

Bathroom oddities aside, the staff went above and beyond this time around to make up for the last trip. Shortly after arrival, the manager on duty called up to make sure the room was OK (and I hadn’t yet noticed the bathroom eccentricities, though I don’t think I would have complained as there wasn’t much that could be done about the design). We left to go out to dinner. Upon our return, there were chocolate-covered strawberries and apple cider on our coffee table. I thought that was a nice gesture — more than making up for the amenity that was promised but never came on our previous trip.

Andaz 5th Ave review

Furthermore, at some point during the stay, there was a knock on our door. A housekeeping manager named Amy introduced herself and said that she heard we were expecting. She brought us a New York-themed children’s book for our coming addition and this small gift — presumably a gesture in response to our last stay.

Andaz 5th Ave review

Now that was awesome. It might be hard to see, but it’s an ornament with an image of Le Carrousel from Bryant Park on the side you see there. On the other sides were the Bryant Park Christmas Tree and the New York Public Library. To me, this is where the Andaz 5th Ave knocked it out of the park. The suite upgrade and chocolate-covered strawberries were both generous and unnecessary, but made sense — that’s what a hotel does to satisfy an unhappy customer. Giving me an ornament that represented the reasons why the location and hotel mattered to me was something that probably didn’t cost the hotel much, but showed that they listened and cared about what I had said. Mistakes happen. This response was personal, meaningful, and memorable. When I hang this ornament on the tree year after year, I’m going to think of the Andaz. I’m probably going to chuckle at barricading ourselves in the bathroom and wondering if the person who designed the shower has ever taken one — but I’m going to remember the thoughtful gesture they made with this gift and I’m going to look forward to hitting up the shops again each holiday season.

Bottom line

The Andaz 5th Ave is much improved with the new furniture. The design doesn’t fit my preferences, but the new furniture looks….well, new. Although my previous stay wasn’t perfect, the Andaz staff went above and beyond to improve upon my last experience in a way that was personal and memorable. The Andaz 5th Ave probably won’t be my go-to New York hotel, but it’s a hotel I will now go to each holiday season with the much more positive memory that Alton promised. And for that, I’m very thankful.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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12 Comments on "Andaz 5th Ave: Redemption"

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VirtuosoEric
Guest

Could the room quirks be attributed to this being an accessible room? Haven’t experienced any of these issues in any of the Andaz suites I’ve stayed in (splash suite, 2 bdrm suite).

singerbabe
Guest

That looks like the same “upgrade” I received in October…horrible design. Indeed it looks like the exact same room on the 13th floor. I just can’t imagine what they were thinking with that bathroom layout.

Mbh
Guest

I TOTALLY agree regarding the entire bathroom and shower set up. Has this designer ever TAKEN a shower or is he all about “the look” (the designer is male–see next sentence)?
My other complaints about the basic suite were the tiny square, glass closet which holds about 8 hangers and leaves your clothes on display to the suite and the total lack of surfaces or drawers. In the suite I had, there was no desk, no dresser, no place to PUT anything. Only a man would put clean, sleek lines above practical usefulness.

I was there with a non-romantic friend, for several days. We had to live from our suitcases (which I hate-I always unpack) and I can’t begin to describe how awkward (and drafty/chilly) the whole bathroom issue was!

The view of the library and the hotel location were fabulous, and while I don’t share another well known bloggers’ passion for the lemon pancakes, I did think the restaurant breakfast was quite good. But, I used my last suite upgrade for this hotel and have regretted it ever since I walked into that room.

Jay
Guest

Nick, while I’m usually a fan of your writings I must admit you mostly come off as a pompous snob in much of this post. There’s really no reason for you to start venting about your previous poor experience at a completely different hotel to PH management. Perhaps you should contact Andaz Wall Street too and let them know you weren’t happy with your stay at 5th Ave. Better yet, I’m sure there is a distribution list of all New York Hyatts you could reach out to next time.

Biggie F
Guest

Going up to both PH NY and Andaz 5th shortly, so really enjoyed this post. Although we do enjoy staying at ritzy hotels, I confess that I usually don’t make much of the concierge contact angle, but this post got me thinking about the advantages of doing so. So that was helpful.

On the Andaz 5th Avenue… Agree that the location is fantastic. I would add the Maison Kayser boulangerie on the south side of Bryant Park as an attraction. Also agree that a lot of the rooms have absolutely bizarre (and often unappealing) designs — to the point where I’m not sure I would risk these kinds of rooms when I wasn’t getting a lowball price on the place. But then if I weren’t getting a lowball price on the place, I wouldn’t be sniffing over the rooms. In fact, my reading of blogs and reviews suggests that some of the aspirational rooms are cruddier than the non-aspirational rooms. The one time I was able to use a DSU for a splash suite, I was underwhelmed. Whereas we have gotten some nice rooms off the beaten track. I guess it matters how much views matter to you.

AJK
Guest

Nick, candidly, while I usually appreciate your stuff, this post turned me off completely after I read “In the end, I decided to reach out to the hotel manager.”

What sort of honest assessment of a hotel’s improvement (or lack thereof) from one stay to the next can be accomplished or even expected when a blogger, who previously (and rightfully, I might add) castigated such establishment for well-documented service flaws, cleanliness issues, and a sub par stay, reaches out to the hotel to let them know ahead of time, that his previous stay was wide of the mark and and that you expected this upcoming stay to be “clean and comfortable?”

It’s nearly 2018, and every GM worth his or her salt should be and probably is googling his or her guests. Writing that e-mail was nothing short of getting an air horn, walking in front of the hotel (or maybe the GM’s office) and sternly announcing, “I’m a blogger who had a reaaaaally crappy stay here last time. Not only that, I documented it on my blog for the world to see. I hope you can do better this time so I can write a favorable review.”

Sorry, but this review smacked of special treatment, and rightfully so–the GM did what he or she should have done: bought a favorable review for very little out of pocket–a room upgrade, some strawberries, a children’s book, and a whatever that thing is. Good move, GM. GM = 1, FM = 0.

Like I began, I like your stuff, but this “Andaz 5 Rebirth and Redemption” tale is a cheap substitute for the real deal.

Artie
Guest

Say it ain’t so Nick….you have gone GLEFF on us.

mark
Guest

As a blogger, you can’t reach out to a hotel prior to the stay if you want to have a “pure” review. Period.

Anastasia
Guest

To everybody who is complaining about Nick reaching out to the manager:

He’s making a special, annual stay with his 8 month pregnant wife. He very understandably wanted the experience not to suck; he had the choice of not reaching out to provide a ‘pure’ review for his (apparently ungrateful) readers, or reaching out to make this annual trip with his partner a good experience. He chose the latter, and frankly, I don’t fault him for it. Nick has contributed so many fantastic posts to FM, and he and his wife absolutely deserve a good stay in New York!

I’m not a huge Hyatt loyalist – in fact, I’ve never stayed at a Hyatt, as far as I know – and after reading your previous blog post, I’m so glad I’m not. That’s the experience you get at one of their flagship New York properties? That retails for $750/night? Oh my GOD. That’s atrocious. The amount of dirt and stains and outright disgusting, well, everything for that price point? I would be livid and making a scene, and I’m not a person who makes scenes. Reminds me of a certain very badly managed Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

I’m glad this stay was an improvement, though I gotta agree with you on the design. Hotel rooms ideally blend functionality with design – sure, we want to get away and experience something new, possibly the kind of interior design we don’t have in our homes, but we also want to not live out of our suitcases and be able to close the bathroom door. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and I don’t know why designers think they are. Terrible design leads to unhappy guests; additionally, that kind of shower without a door has always, when I’ve used it, caused a huge puddle on the floor of the bathroom. That seems like a falling hazard (and a potential lawsuit there), not to mention it’s unpleasant, potentially has to be cleaned by housekeeping, and can’t actually be that good for the floor. Who are these people who design hotel rooms and why are they so out of touch with what guests actually want?

Jay
Guest

“(apparently ungrateful) readers”???

This isn’t a charity that he’s volunteering for. This is a paid gig, and we the readers fund this gig by clicking on FM’s credit card sign up links. Readers have no responsibility to be “grateful” to any travel blog writer. It is, in fact, the other way around. I’m grateful to the Dalai Lama, to Mother Theresa, to Gandhi, to MLK, Jr., to Nelson Mandela, to the lady at the street corner who took the hand of a blind man and helped him cross the street. Not to the effing FM blog writers. It’s a job. If he’s not doing his job right, he should be called out. That said, I love FM and that’s why I’m here. But this review is bogus.

afterbang
Guest

“Do not call the airline” is Mistake Fare 101. “Do not contact the GM” should blogger Hotel Review 101. You can save “do not whine about one hotel to another chain related hotel when staying at both on a trip you will be reviewing” for Hotel Review 102.

Basil
Guest

Hi Nick – I was at PH with my daughter for a father daughter trip the same week as you. A bad experience at Andaz last December convinced me to stay at PH with my free Globalist certs and they did not disappoint. BTW, some members of the PH staff used to work at Andaz 5th Ave so they have an interesting perspective on the hotel and its issues. Management and staff make all the difference, and the staff at PH were to a person phenomenal. And now, award stays count towards status – WOW! Christmas came late this year by a couple of days!