NYC’s Hotel Wolcott is a mediocre hotel with terrible management

By | July 16, 2019

I recently checked into the Hotel Wolcott, located at 4 West 31st Street in New York City. Because I booked the hotel on, they sent me an email asking me about my check-in experience and initial impressions of the hotel.

I expressed unhappiness about the check-in experience, specifically “Slow Check-in”. I expressed unhappiness with the room, specifically, “Dirty”, “Insecure WiFi”, “no tissues”, and “loud AC”.

The following morning, informed me that the hotel had responded as follows: “We have mediated this issue directly with Jonathan Kamens.”

This was an inaccurate statement, or more bluntly, a lie. No one from the hotel had spoken to me about my complaints before posting a reply to claiming that they had.

Here is how I responded in writing through

I would be happy to discuss my concerns with the staff of the hotel, but for the record, no one from the hotel has spoken with me, so their statement, “We have mediated this issue directly with Jonathan Kamens,” is false.

More details about my concerns:

(1) I waited in line for check-in for over 15 minutes. If there had been two people at the desk checking people in there would have been virtually no wait for anyone, but there was only one person working the desk for the entire time I was there. This isn’t acceptable at a busy time of day for check-ins, since it means that just one complicated check-in or large party causes everyone else an unacceptably long wait.

(2) The glass toiletries shelf above the sink in the bathroom in my room is gross and dirty. It clearly was not cleaned before I checked in.

(3) The hotel wifi has no encryption. This is incredibly insecure and completely unacceptable.

(4) There are no tissues anywhere in my room. It is reasonable to expect a box of tissues to be a standard amenity in a hotel room, especially in a room that costs more than $200 per night.

(5) The entire room is cooled by a tiny window air conditioner which doesn’t actually have enough capacity to cool the room to the desired temperature.

Three of these issues (check-in wait, dirty shelf, lack of tissues) are easily addressable by the hotel. The other two — the insecure wifi and the inadequate room air conditioning — are larger, structural issues which are harder to address and reflect an overall lack of quality.

Here is how the hotel responded, later in the day:

Hello Mr Kamens, There were two people working the FD yesterday but they do get to take a lunch break which is required by law. I am sorry you had to wait 15 minutes but that is still fast by any hotel standards. There is a Do Not Disturb sign on your door so I cannot speak for the glass shelf or tissues but i will state that this would be unusual as my ratings and reviews do not reflect this at all. If you would like to check out early, please contact Expedia and i will authorize the refund for unused days and only charge for the days stayed and they can refund your card the difference.

Regards, Paul McKenzie General Manager

My thoughts:

  • Note the lack of any acknowledgment or apology about their earlier claim that they had “mediated this issue” with me when they hadn’t. That lie suggests that they were dealing with me in bad faith from the start. They might have recovered from that if they had acknowledged the inaccuracy of that statement and apologized for it, but they did neither.
  • I checked in in the evening, not at lunch time.
  • I have stayed in many hotels, including six in New York City in the past five months, and I have never — not once in my entire life — had to wait more than 15 minutes to be checked in. Claiming that “15 minutes… is still fast by any hotel [sic] standards” is simply a lie. is relevant.
  • The apology about the wait which the general manager offered boils down to, “I am sorry you had to wait but your expectations are unreasonable and we didn’t do anything wrong,” and that isn’t really any sort of apology at all.
  • Similarly, the GM’s statement about being unable to verify my claims about the dirty shelf or lack of tissues, and that such claims “would be unusual,” is essentially an accusation that I am a liar. No competent hotel manager at a decent hotel would choose that approach when responding to a customer complaint, rather than simply apologizing and offering to rectify the situation at the guest’s convenience.
  • The GM’s offering a refund rather than a sincere apology for my experience is particularly indicative of his utter lack of an appropriate customer service mindset.

No, the customer isn’t always right, but in this case I was, and the Hotel Wolcott’s General Manager Paul McKenzie was a jerk about it.

I have some additional thoughts and nits to pick with this hotel that aren’t specifically related to my initial complaints and the GM’s terrible response to them.

Regarding my complaint about the air conditioning, I set up a digital thermometer in my hotel room one night before I went to sleep with the AC set to 65 degrees. Here’s what the thermometer showed in the morning:

In other words, the room temperature was at least ten degrees higher than what I wanted it to be for the entire night. I.e., my complaint about inadequate AC is objectively correct.

This is a relatively minor complaint which I wouldn’t bother to mention were I not already writing about the other problems…. The hotel’s “free breakfast” is just muffins and coffee, which really doesn’t deserve to be called “breakfast” (yes, I realize this isn’t the only hotel that does this; that doesn’t mean those that do it don’t deserve to be called out).

Another complaint which speaks to the hotel’s quality: the two treadmills in the hotel’s “fitness center” are the oldest, lowest-end treadmills I have ever seen in a commercial setting. Seriously, who builds a treadmill without any place to put a water bottle while you’re using it?

Also, the clock in the fitness center is 20 minutes off. One would expect the staff at a hotel that cares about quality and attention to detail to notice and fix things like that. The Hotel Wolcott is not such a hotel.

The elevators in this hotel are painfully slow, and it’s impossible to take the stairs up to your room: all the stairways are locked at the bottom, so they can only be used for going down, not for going up.

One good thing I can say about this hotel: they don’t charge a resort fee like so many other NYC hotels charge. Resort fees are a scam and they make it impossible to easily compare prices across hotels. The sooner they’re made illegal, the better. I have to give credit to the Wolcott for bucking this trend and not charging a resort fee.

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