Is the Andaz 5th Ave overrated?

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I recently spent a weekend at the Andaz 5th Ave in New York City. I was excited about this stay; not only had I read the many positive reviews of this hotel over the years, but the location of the hotel near Bryant Park and the New York Public Library hold a significance for me. I proposed to my wife on the steps of the library because it has long been a holiday tradition of ours (since years before we were married) to go down to the Shops at Bryant Park when Christmastime approaches. It was a spot I knew we would revisit in years to come. And so I was excited to check out the Andaz 5th Ave as I thought it might well become our go-to property in Manhattan for those holiday visits. However, I was pretty disappointed with the Andaz 5th Ave.

Booking

As a Category 6 property, the Andaz 5th Ave costs 25,000 points per night. That compared pretty favorably to room rates the weekend I was visiting:

As a Globalist member, I was able to use one of my DSU Tier Suite Upgrade Awards. I booked an Andaz King room on points at 25,000 points per night (50,000 points total for 2 nights) and was able to immediately call to confirm that reservation into a One Bedroom Balcony Suite. In the past, you needed to be on a paid rate (whether cash or cash + points), but Globalist members can now apply suite upgrades to award stays. That seemed like a good deal as the One Bedroom Balcony suite’s cash rate was just under $1500 for 2 nights with tax. It also seemed like a good deal because the room had a pull-out couch and we had a friend who might join us the first night.

One more note for Globalist members — when you apply a Suite Upgrade Award to an all-points booking, your reservation will not reflect the suite in the app or on the Hyatt website. You’ll just have to take the phone rep’s word for it that the suite upgrade award has been applied. If you upgrade a cash or cash + points booking, the new room type (suite) will show on your reservation, but this isn’t so for an all-points booking. This is apparently a computer system limitation (and the phone agents are just as frustrated with it as guests are — it sounds like people often call to ask why their reservation still shows a standard room).

Arrival

Arrival at the Andaz was pretty smooth. We were given a welcome glass of wine, our car was valet parked, and we were offered help with our luggage (which we declined as we didn’t need it). Helpful note for Globalists: valet parking is free at this property with Globalist status. You charge it to your room and it is waived at check out.

We got up to the room and it was spacious by Manhattan standards (though I’ll say that the standard rooms at the Conrad New York, an all-suite property in lower Manhattan, felt more spacious on my previous stay there).

That dark spot on the couch wasn’t my camera. It was just stained up.

The bathroom was nice. It has a couple of folding doors to close it off from the bedroom. The shower wasn’t as cavernous as the ones at the Conrad, but plenty big enough. One thing I don’t get: The trend towards this silly shower design that only has half a glass door. It must be easier to clean….but does any guest like this design?
Unfortunately, only got a blurry pic of the balcony, but you get the idea. I had requested something with a view of the library (explaining its significance to us). If you leaned over the edge, you could see the library to the right. Not exactly what I had in mind, but c’est la vie.

A room to share?

About 20 minutes after checking in, we were pretty startled when the door opened. We had been talking and laughing in the room, so I think the person who opened it was just as startled when he heard our voices, because he immediately closed it without walking in. I went straight to the door to find out what was going on, and I found the guy calling the elevator across the hall from the room. He was pretty embarrassed (he shouldn’t have been – not his fault). He showed me his key card holder — and sure enough, the desk agent had written our room number and programmed this guy’s keys for our room. He was apologetic and was heading back downstairs. I immediately thought of Matthew Klint from Live and Let’s Fly – maybe this is more common than you’d think?

I immediately called the front desk. They were apologetic and the manager and the desk agent checking in that evening both came upstairs to apologize face-to-face and take responsibility (and give me new keys). I thought the apology was perfectly heartfelt and we all make mistakes, so on the one hand I could certainly accept that. Still, I was more concerned with the fact that the computer system allows a room to be assigned to an entirely different guest. How would the system even know who to bill in that case? You’d think Hyatt’s computers would be set up to prevent that from ever happening. From a security standpoint, I imagine that there are people who pay $1500 for two nights in that room and probably have a few items of value. Of course, hotel security could always be an issue and hopefully everyone at least uses their hotel safes (even if they’re not so safe). I chalked this up to a rare one-off circumstance that wasn’t the end of the world.

But the room was….dirty

However, upon spending a few more minutes in the room, we started to notice just how dirty it was. Since everything is light-colored, the stains really stuck out.

A little tough to see in the pic, but those dark spots were just stains on the sofa.
We lowered the curtains and again…pretty stained up.

Those stains weren’t horrible, but unbecoming of a property often thought of as the flagship of the Andaz brand. However, it got worse. My wife and her friend went out for a bit that evening while I stayed in to get some work done. I was on the couch and the cushion kept sliding down. I got up to adjust it and noticed that the metal crossbar underneath it was broken, which is why the cushion was falling off. And I as I grabbed the cushion to adjust it, I saw this in the gap between the cushion and the back of the sofa.

Gross. Someone else’s half-eaten pistachio nuts and a stain….that looked like it could have been cleaned with some chemical spray. Now, I understand that I’m not the first guest to stay in a hotel room. And if I were staying at the Holland Motor Lodge across the river, I’d understand that I was getting what I paid for. But in a room that costs more than $700 a night with tax? I guess I just expect not to be grossed out like it was a cheap roadside motel.

Furthermore, those nuts fell as you tilted out the fold-up bed. That bed still had sheets and a blanket on it. If someone had opened the pull-out sofa to change those sheets and blanket after the previous guest, the nuts would have fallen out and ended up on the floor under or in front of the sofa. In other words, if the bed had been opened to change the sheets, those nuts wouldn’t be there. So goodness knows when the sheets and blanket on it were last changed — and to me, that’s just not acceptable in a hotel at this price point. At that point, I took pictures and headed downstairs to speak with the manager on duty.

The night manager was very apologetic and understanding and seemed as grossed-out as I was. He offered to send up an amenity, give me back 15,000 points, have the room thoroughly cleaned by housekeeping, and have the daytime manager follow up with me in the morning to discuss it further. He asked me what time would be good for me to speak with the daytime manager and I said between 9am-10am as we planned to get a relatively early start on the day.

As it turns out, we didn’t get such an early start….and none of the rest of the above happened, either. None of it. We were in the room until noon and had no call from the daytime manager. Housekeeping did come into the room and straighten it, but not only was the stain still there, they failed a small test. The night before, there had been a fly in the room. I killed it on the curtain and it fell down onto the sill of the balcony (inside the room). I left it there – initially out of laziness I guess but then to see whether or not it got swept up in the “thorough cleaning”. It didn’t. I sent this picture to the evening manager the next night showing the fly still on the sill with the business card he had given me the night before (I’ve cut his contact info out of the picture because I don’t think most of this was his fault):

Again, I can deal with the dirt and dust building up on the balcony threshold I suppose….but this just showed me that nobody bothered to clean even the entire floor area. And that stain on the pull-out couch? Still there and still visible — as you can see, the cushion was separating from the back of the sofa. I had left it that way when we left the room around noon to make sure the stain was clearly visible for housekeeping.

Breakfast

As unappetizing as those things were, we did order room service breakfast and it was decent. I ordered the Lemon Poppyseed Pancake that Gary Leff has raved about in the past, and it didn’t disappoint apart from it being only one pancake. I probably could have dealt with at least a double stack on that.

Forgot to take a picture before I started eating. It was pretty delish.

My wife got the Avocado Toast, which was fine….but let’s put it this way: we split breakfasts 50/50 after she tasted my Lemon Poppyseed pancake :-).

Hyatt’s Resolution

We had returned to the room late in the evening for night #2 when I discovered the room hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned as shown in pictures above. I wrote to the night manager and copied the general manager with my concerns at that point – the room was still dirty (stain still there, fly not swept), no phone call from the manager, no points had posted, and no amenity (which I neither wanted nor needed, but it was the point that none of what I was promised happened). I wrote late — nearly 1am — and I was leaving at about 5:30am, so I didn’t expect any response. However, when I got to the desk to check out in the morning and gave me key and room number, the agent said my name loudly enough to make sure the manager heard in the next room over. He came out and apologized profusely and offered an additional 10,000 points so I could come back and have a night on them at some point in the future (15K promised before + additional 10K). I told him that I appreciated that gesture, but that the bigger issue to me is the cleanliness of an expensive room and the lack of responsiveness from management in fixing that. He seemed to understand and I did receive the 25K points.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, I wasn’t impressed with the Andaz 5th Ave. Am I being petty or expecting too much? If I hadn’t stayed at any Manhattan hotels before, I might attribute the dirtiness to difficulties in keeping large Manhattan hotels clean — after all, they see a lot of traffic. But in the past six months alone, I’ve stayed at the Conrad New York, the Intercontinental Barclay, and the EVEN Hotel Times Square South (really cool IHG property!) and in years past I have stayed in countless others. And in my younger days, when I would visit the city with a group of friends and pack eight people into one room, I even spent a couple of nights across the river at the Holland Motor Lodge. The Andaz 5th Ave was the least clean of the bunch. That surprised me as it also has the highest average room rate of any of those hotels.

I’m disappointed for a number of reasons. First, it was obviously a decent chunk of points. While on the one hand, I could say that it didn’t cost me actual cash, so no harm. However, would I spend another 50,000 points on two more nights if I expected it to be the same? Certainly not. At a minimum, I could have kept those 50,000 points in Chase Ultimate Rewards and redeemed them as a statement credit worth $500 cash or for $750 in travel with my wife’s Sapphire Reserve. More realistically, I’d value the points around $1,000. In the end, I got half back — and it seemed like the property was on the right track with that as compensation. I did get something out of the deal — breakfast and free parking aren’t worthless in Manhattan. But would I earmark another 50,000 points for that property? Probably not…and that’s disappointing as I do have a reservation there for the holiday time that I made before our stay expecting to be excited about a return. I don’t see us using it. I think it’s more likely that we’ll try out the Grand Hyatt or Park Hyatt this winter as we’ll surely go to the city for a weekend and free parking is hard to pass up. The location of the Andaz is spot on with where we’d like to be – but the spots on the sofa and curtains make us less than thrilled about the prospect of going back. You win some and you lose some — and when it comes to loyalty programs and nice hotels, I’ve won a lot more than I’ve lost. But I think the Andaz 5th Ave likely lost my return business on this trip.

Have you stayed at the Andaz 5th Ave recently? Was your room cleaner than mine — or am I being too picky?

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