cars parked cars on a street

Not many people get to travel with any regularity. It’s for that reason I try to very carefully select places, airlines, seats, and experiences I think that I will enjoy, so I can be happy about it. No one wants to hear someone who gets to travel all the time constantly complain. My luck finally ran out this week, with a stay at Clift Hotel in San Francisco. The hotel, while hip and vibrant, is run with the same precision of a broken watch that never kept accurate time. How would you like it if you took your wife on vacation, paid for your room and then had the hotel charge both you and her, ruining the surprise and telling her just how much you paid! A colossal **** up….

cars parked cars on a street


Sometimes it all starts at the door. After a twelve hour international flight, toting three pieces of large luggage and two carry on rollers, hey it was Christmas, we arrived at the door of Clift. Some hotels don’t have doormen and that’s fine, this one happened to, although they might as well not have been there. Despite there being numerous door men on duty and around, not one opened the door or helped us with our luggage. I dismissed it and moved on as I watched my wife struggle to hold a door while rolling luggage…

a desk and chair in a dark room

Check In

Checking in should have been very simple and I thought it was. I wanted to close out the room charge with the card I had supplied at booking, paying in full, the way most hotels work in advance. Clean and easy. I said lets close the room out, and I’ll give you a new, separate card for any incidentals we may incur, which would be zero. Simple enough. With my rate, I was due a space available upgrade, which I know for a fact to have been available, but that didn’t happen. No worries. 

a woman lying on a bed

The Room

The rooms are dated but nice. They were probably at top shape ten years ago, but have since gone untouched, with older model flat screens showing their age and fixtures and amenities which clearly haven’t seen a refresh. For the rate and the size of the room, it was charming and more than adequate, with excellent wifi. Though the design needs an update, it’s inspiration was clean and modern and could be easily made modern with a renovation. No real problems here. In fact, we liked the place. Great Malin+Goetz products, nice shower pressure, all good.

Clift San Francisco Hotel Room. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The Problems Continue

Day two, we’ve had a nice breakfast with excellent service, found our room to be perfectly acceptable and were having a good day until mystery charges started appearing on my wife’s account, the card I used for incidentals only, after already having paid for the room with my card. We didn’t so much as grab a drink, or anything to trigger a single incidental charge. Before long a random $70 charge turned into a separate $286 charge. Completely bewildered, because we had already paid, and been charged the standard $150 per night for incidentals, we appealed to management for explanation, no answer. Just a suggestion to check out the local Cheesecake Factory, a real staple of culture, not. Later in the day we were fed up, had lost confidence in the hotel and we sought out manager, Charles. Charles proved entirely useless. More so, he was completely uninterested, unapologetic and in fact, mentioned it would be a waste of his time to bother figuring out why random amounts were being charged to one of his guests, or what they represented. Problem? Yes, including room and incidentals there should’ve been around $800 in charges to all our cards. Needless to say it was surprising when roughly $1600 was charged, it was alarming. Trust me, it’s not my first rodeo either and I’m very well versed in these matters, this was unusual. 

a stuffed animal on a chair

Charles promised to contact our banks to begin removing the incorrect charges, he said it would be a waste of his time to figure out what or why, but I insisted that he do so. He said one thing he was certain of, was that they had accidentally charged my wife’s card, left for incidentals only, the entire room rate. Not only had my card already been charged the full amount for the room, she now knew the rate and was simultaneously paying for it. Thanks. Charles, the J Crew cast off, who almost appeared to be a character from a movie playing the role of “indifferent manager” begrudgingly promised me an answer and a follow up the same day. It never came, next day, he was conveniently “sick from work”, looked fine to me! Today, two days after we departed, the hotel has yet to reach out, offer any explanation or remove a single incorrect charge. Laura has been charged the entire stay, still has other random amounts floating around as pending, still with no explanation and still no follow up. During the whole ordeal the manager never offered so much as a drink. Actually that’s not true, Heather at the front desk, who was extremely competent and willing to help, seemed appalled by Charles’ behavior and went out of her way to send wine up to our room, from her. Smart and thoughtful. Why she or the lady who runs the breakfast is not a manager of the hotel eludes me…

a room with a chair and a table


Charles has neglected to show up for work on the day of our departure, he’s “sick”. I was expecting a large mea culpa upon departure, possibly to the tune of a comp’d night or more for the extreme inconvenience and embarrassment from charging my wife for a room I had already paid for and then charging other fantom amounts without explanation. No mea culpa, and in fact Charles hadn’t even left any notes on the situation for the check in staff, who said they were assured we had a “wonderful stay”, to which I replied “hardly”. Of course the doormen couldn’t be bothered to open the door for my wife and I again, simply watching as we kicked and pushed our way with five pieces of luggage to our awaiting Uber. Assholes.

a building with arched windows


Based on room, location and amenities I would likely have recommended Clift. It represents great value in an expensive hotel city, has a wonderful breakfast buffet, which was included in our room rate and the rooms are above average in size. It’s dated, needs money poured into it, but other than that it was going to be an adequate stay. I couldn’t help but hear many guests each time I approached the desk inquiring about billing issues, customer service issues and other troubling comments, which leave me with the opinion that despite having potential, because of terrible management from both managers I encountered, who were literally incompetent, the hotel is a colossal ^^^^ up. Never going back.

As Always, Especially YOU Charles, Get In Touch: 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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1 Comment

  1. Next time go to the Mark Hopkins at xmas time. You will be treated like kings. The holiday brunch at the “top of the Mark” is fabulus!

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