Oh, Grand Hyatt Seoul–Do You Need Some Help, Dear?

I was contacted last week by someone working with the Grand Hyatt Seoul. They said that we were on the short list of preferred businesses to be promoted to high end guests in their concierge program.

I had around 60 emails to go through that morning, so I didn’t read it thoroughly. We’d been wanting to get in front of the eyes of Seoul’s concierges for a while, so I quickly sent a message that I’d like to speak with them on phone.

Then I realized something was fishy about it.

A week later, I received this. I’m interspersing my snarky comments in between.

Hyatt Seoul
Click for full view


Dear Joe,

It was really good to speak with you and I would like to thank you for taking the time to look at this opportunity.


Um, we never did speak with you. You never called.


I have spoken with the management team at length about your fabulous tour services and the high level of service that you can provide to the guests who are staying at the hotel.


I hope you discussed with them longer than you discussed with me, which [again] was ZERO.


After my discussion with the team, we are certain that Dark Side of Seoul will make excellent partners for the wonderful Grand Hyatt Seoul luxury destination guide and will of no doubt be of great interest to the high net worth, affluent guests that the hotel will cater for that are looking for a professional tour service. Whether it be a short tour of the dark side of the city or an extended tour including a food tour, we know that the guests will enjoy your unique tour packages, particularly as you offer a late tour and we have every confidence that you will provide them with the highest level of customer service. We would therefore like to invite you to be a ‘Close contact’ partner.  Usually ‘Close contact’ partners are reserved for those who already supply or work closely with the hotel, however as we feel that you are perfect alignment with the Grand Hyatt guests we would like to offer you a close contact partnership which will give you a 50% discount on the cost of partnership we only have four of these discounted partnerships available (see discounted costs below in green)


I knew I smelled something. Never trust anyone who “invites” you to be anything. It means they want money.


We would therefore like to invite you to be a ‘Close contact’ partner.  Usually ‘Close contact’ partners are reserved for those who already supply or work closely with the hotel, however as we feel that you have perfect alignment with the Grand Hyatt guests we would like to offer you a close contact partnership which will give you a 50% discount on the cost of partnership (see discounted costs below in green)


You already cut and pasted that before. But I get it. You want money.


The publication contains information about the hotel’s facilities, local attractions together with a beautiful map of Seoul. We then feature approximately 15 local luxury partners whose business will be of interest to the guests and whose services they are most likely to need during their stay. With over 163,000 guests per year, it is important that we source the right partners who can provide a high quality service to the guests so that the guests will return to the hotel.


I reach that many in less than a month paying $150 to Facebook. But please, go on.


The luxury guide will be a constant reference point for the guests throughout their stay and will showcase key services and contact details which will allow guests to contact the business directly or through the concierge.


I’m guessing that the Grand Hyatt’s concierge won’t recommend us unless we pay this payola, huh?


How much is the damage?


We can offer the following:

Type & Size of


Standard Cost for

12 month



Total Sponsorship Fee

with Close Contact discount  



Half Panel$1,995Reduced by 50% Close Contact Discount$998 50% deposit of $499 followed by 2 equal monthly instalments of $249Only position available
(91mm wide x 96mm high)or
5% discount for payment in full total sponsorship fee $948
Full Panel$2,995 Reduced by 50% Close Contact Discount$1,49850% deposit of $749 followed by 2 equal monthly instalments of $374Only position available
(91mm wide x 196mm high)  or 
5% discount for payment in full total sponsorship fee $1423




I think I’ll have to pass.

Hello Hyatt!

May I address you directly and respectfully?

You could do much better than this. At least I have above second grade grammar in my communications. Your high end English-speaking clientele will appreciate that.

Do you need me to put together a guide of places for your concierge?

You know, valuable services that your customers would appreciate rather than services that just paid the highest bid?

If so, contact me.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Because of No-shows, we have to change our policy


One way we are unique in the Korean tour industry is we are one of the few tour companies that accept cash payments with reservations. It’s risky. Because if the booked guests don’t show up, we don’t get paid.

We’ve been flexible and understanding with this. I mean, come on. People are on vacation. It’s a time to relax and not worry about obligations. I’d like people to also keep this in mind when they book, promise to pay cash when they show, and don’t show up.

Your booking affects others

Especially during peak season, our tours get full bookings quickly. We try to open extra tours to meet demand. Sometimes we max out completely and have to cut off bookings. So imagine if we have a waiting list of people wanting to join a tour and some douchebags don’t show up without informing ahead of time. Those people on the waiting list lose out. They could have taken those spaces. If you’re not able to show up, we give all our guests multiple avenues to inform us about it ahead of time. In fact, that’s why we ask for email addresses and phone numbers. It’s so we can contact you to make sure we don’t leave you behind if you’re running late. If you book a specialized tour and just not show without informing anyone, it reveals a lot about your character and level of maturity.

Our guides are paid per booking

In order to attract high quality guides, we offer them a profit sharing agreement. When they get large groups, they make a decent fee for their time and effort. When people don’t show up, they don’t get paid.

We are professionals with bills to pay

The tour industry is a service industry. We do it for the passion, not the money. But we do have expenses to pay. Bills, taxes, rent. If people book with cash and don’t show, it’s harder to pay those. We’re not some large corporation with money to burn. We’re a small business trying to make it against the odds against much larger dominant players. Every little bit counts for little guys like us.

Don’t steal people’s time

We are also one of the only specialized tour groups that accepts single bookings. On many of our tours, if only one person signs up, we still do the tour. Most of the other tour companies don’t. There have been a few times where I have journeyed out to the meeting spot for a tour, waited and waited, and no one showed up. For me or any of my tour guides, that time could have been used for other things–like getting some work done, spending time with family, meeting with a friend. Instead, I just took the trip into Seoul (I live outside the city proper) and waited for nothing. That’s inconsiderate and rude in itself, especially if the person didn’t prepay and promised to pay in cash upon arrival. It’s also rude when other guests are there waiting for someone who never shows up. I mean, I can usually handle the inconvenience of a single no-show, but I really honestly get annoyed when our other guests have to work around someone else’s rudeness. Just this weekend, we were doing a Dark Side tour. During one of our refreshment breaks, one party just up and disappeared. Didn’t tell anybody. So we wasted twenty minutes looking for them.

If you’re not going to show, or if you don’t want to continue with a tour, do the adult thing and tell someone first.

New Policies

Recently, as our popularity has grown, we’ve been having a good many no-shows. In many cases, it’s just inconvenienced the group as a whole. But in others, we have had large groups book out an entire tour, promise to pay in cash, and not show up. They not only blocked out others from signing up, but it also caused a huge financial loss for our small business. It gets even worse when we make reservations at restaurants to prepare for these large groups who don’t show, and we have to deal with the restaurant owners who also have lost business. Again, these actions do affect others. We have been flexible, but too many people have taken advantage of our lenient policies. As a result, our policies are changing.

Tours will leave on time

Our guides will wait a maximum of fifteen minutes after the designated start time of a tour. Recently, one of our guides missed her last subway train because of a late tour start from a late arriving group. I personally hate making others wait because some people can’t anticipate that traveling across the vast city of Seoul takes time. I’ve lived here over twelve years, and no matter where I go, I always plan that transport will take between one and two hours. NEVER use taxis, as they will get stuck in traffic. Buses from Songtan take two hours at least. We get a lot of latecomers from that area who were surprised at how long it takes to go from Songtan to Seoul. If a guest does miss the time but still wants to join the tour, we give contact numbers and email addresses. Feel free to join us after we’ve started. If it’s just one person who has booked that evening, I’m not going to ask any of my guides to wait. I’m giving them instructions to just go home and not wait.

Large groups can pay in cash but must leave a deposit

This is our most significant policy change. Groups of five our more need to find some way to leave a deposit if they want to pay in cash. Or just prepay. I understand that if you’re getting your friends and co-workers together for a Dark Side tour or something that it’s hard to anticipate who might drop out at the last minute. This is my recommendation, and it works. Collect money from them ahead of time

No-show Wall of Shame

This is our most controversial policy change. I’ve talked about it a long time, and I think it’s about time we implement it. You know, the tourism and service industry lives and dies these days on the whims of reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor. Uber started the model where customers themselves can be reviewed. I recently had to battle Trip Advisor to remove a negative review from a person who DIDN’T EVEN TAKE OUR TOURS!! One of the great thing about our tours, and the guides have discussed this, is that we RARELY have assholes on our tours. Everyone is so cool! We’ve even become lifelong friends with many of our guests. So here are the VERY FEW people who have booked and didn’t show up without informing anyone. This list will be continually updated.

If you find your name on this list, it’s easy to remove it. Just contact us to settle your outstanding account.

DateNameTour# SpacesCost (W)Comments
5-5-2017Bairbre Dunne WardDark Side3120,000Signed up with cash payment. Didn’t show. Guests waited 20 minutes. Didn’t respond to any emails after.
12-11-2016Creede WilliamsChicken5380,000Set up a special tour by request. Didn’t show or reply to emails.
10-21-2016HakeemDark Side290,000No show. No payment.
10-16-2016Bhargav BharadwajBBQ7629,000No show. No reply to email. No payment.
9-30-2016Toree CardinaliDark Side140,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.
9-17-2016Antonio ChiaravallotiDark Side140,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.
9-17-2016Kristen CooperDark Side280,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.
8-12-2016AkashDark Side280,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.
6-9-2016Caroline GeigerBBQ199,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.
6-5-2016Joseph LillieDark Side140,000No show. Guests waited. No payment.

We won an award!

Well, that was a nice thing to wake up to. Trip Advisor has given us a 2015 Certificate of Excellence because of all the great reviews from all of our great guests. (Really, only cool people sign up for our tours.)