Andaz 5th Ave: Redemption

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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.

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