We would like to explain to fandom at-large what went on with our hotel last weekend during Readercon 9. We know that there were problems at the Westborough Marriott, and we're working with the hotel staff to try to prevent them from happening again.
We would like to get an accurate idea of the problem from the fan's point of view. The Marriott claims that only 7 confirmed reservations were turned away on Friday. Can anyone disprove this? Please don't tell us just "I have 3 friends that it happened to", we need names because otherwise there's no way to deal with overlapping groups of friends. If you or a friend had a problem and don't want to post your name, send us mail. If desk staff were rude to you, tell us about that too.
All hotels overbook. We hate it, but it's a fact of life. There's very little we can do to keep the Marriott (or any other hotel we decide to use) from overbooking. Even if we can convince the desk staff not to do it, there's the Marriott World-wide reservations system, and we can't affect that.
We have complained to the hotel staff about all the problems. We had several meetings with them. They were attempting to do everything possible. Someone suggested that a shuttle or taxi service would have been better compensation than the snack station they provided. That was a very good idea, but difficult to pull off, and would not have affected those who chose to double up with strangers at the Marriott rather than go to another hotel.
We have been told that part of the problem for the overbooking was that some folks unexpectedly stayed over an extra night on Friday. Legally, the hotel claims that they cannot kick someone out who decides to overstay a reservation. We are still trying to determine if they informed these people that the hotel was booked full for Friday night. As we all saw, there was also a group that arrived on Saturday, and the hotel may have added to the problem by anticipating their arrival on Friday and holding some rooms for them.
At Kirk Poland on Saturday night, we raffled off two coupons for a free weekend night at the hotel. The coupons were offered as a good-will gesture, not as compensation for those who had been forced out. We believe that all of those who were forced out received at least one night free at the other hotel, as well as a gift certificate. Please let me know if we're wrong about that. Adina spoke to one person who was offered a $50 gift certificate if he'd take a roommate, which would be additional compensation.
We also had another problem, in that the hotel refused to allow the Tor party to serve alcohol freely in the function space we offered to them. They were not forced out of the space, they were simply told that they could not give away alchoholic beverages there. We were told that some form of party continued in that space and was quite enjoyable, and that beverages and most of the party was moved to the con suite (at personal sacrifice from Amy West, Karl Wurst, and their son Nick!). The hotel staff was adamant on that point because the Westborough Marriott is on the verge of losing their liquor license due to other violations, a serious problem for them. The hotel's group sales manager forgot to tell us about this, and apparently forgot to tell the rest of the staff what was planned regarding liquor at the Tor party. Had she done so, we could have informed the Tor people that they would have to hire a bartender (who would check IDs as during the Meet the Pros(e) party) and have a cash bar in order to serve beer. But by the time the problem occurred, the Tor people had already bought a supply of beer, and the hotel's regulations do not allow them to have a bartender distribute beer bought by someone else.
We know that there are other hotels in Massachusetts. However, we have one more year remaining on our contract with the Westborough Marriott. We don't want to break that before knowing for sure that we have another, better hotel. One nice thing about our contract is that the $70/night room rate is locked in for next year. We have started investigating other hotels. We are very eager to find a place that will be accessible to those without cars and offer dining options outside the hotel within walking distance. If you have a location to suggest, please write to us with contact information.
We apologize for the problems at Readercon 9. We hope that this letter goes a long way towards explaining what happened and dispelling rumors. Please contact us if you have more questions or information.
Adina Adler, Merryl Gross, Ellen Brody
Readercon 9 (and 10) Con Sofa