What Makes a Hotel ‘High End’ When You Get Less?

As I alluded in a prior post, I’m not pleased with the “high end” hotel experience.  I grew up in a family that tended more toward the tent-and-National-Forest form of over-night accommodation.  A La Quinta was high end.

But job travel, especially to conferences and seminars, usually means staying in the hotel where the event is taking place and that usually means a “high-end” location.  The first time I got sent on one of these trips, I thought, “Oh, wow!  Even if the conference sucks, at least I can spend the evenings relaxing in a luxury room.”

Yeah.  That was  a let down.

The sheets are a little nicer, and I’ll admit that the pillows are usually quite schnazzy, and sometimes you even get a great view out the window (not always) but the lack of extras generally leaves me wishing they’d just put me up in the regular old Holiday Inn.  Oh, sure, the extras are THERE, but they cost you.  It’s all about ways to nickel and dime you, which kind of blows knowing what my company is paying per night.  Other than the lack of paying for a rental car or taxi to get me too and from another hotel to the conference location, what you get for the price is almost insulting, especially when you know what you could get somewhere else!

The biggest pet peeve?  Internet access.  It’s a total racket.  They know they get high end business folks who have to have internet, so, of course, they charge $10 a day extra for it and it’s generally only wired access.  The fact that I’m in a room with a luscious king-sized bed and yet I have to sit in a craptastic chair to check my e-mail?  That makes me grumpy.  Meanwhile, the Holiday Inn two blocks down might have one layer less on the pillows, but the internet is wireless and it’s free.  Hell, even the Motel 6 and the Super 8 can manage to swing wifi, so what the hell is going on at the Marriott with the waterfront view.  Oh, and while the Wall Street Journal had a story about the lack of wifi in many high end hotels and SAID that all the Hyatts had wifi?  Bull.  I have yet to be in a Hyatt that didn’t limit me to that $10 wired internet crap, including the one I was stuck in when I read the story in the WSJ.

Another peeve?  Continental breakfast.  The higher end the hotel, the more likely that the only way to get breakfast is in the equally high-end and dramatically over-priced restaurant.  While the La Quinta down the street a few blocks has the waffle-maker and the mini boxes of Captain Crunch free for the taking, my $200 a night hotel with no wifi wants me to pay $6.89 for a bowl of plain oatmeal.  A number of the hotels I’ve stayed in like to “bundle” internet access along with breakfast in a “business upgrade package” for extra bucks.  I applaud them for the supply/demand capitalist behavior, but as someone filling out an expense report, I loathe and despise these bastards.

TV also sucks.  Now, it’s kind of nice to walk in and see a huge flat-panel larger than my home TV sitting there, waiting, but, inevitably, the channel selection blows goats, and you always have to go through their stupid-ass menu every time you turn it on–or worse, navigate away from the 24/7 tourism suggestion channel.  The only 24/7 tourism channel I could ever tolerate was the one so many hotels in Williamsburg, Virginia use where they play Story of a Patriot on continuous loop.  Because, well, it’s Story of a Patriot!  What’s not to love?  And, really, would it kill them to have a DVD player?  I don’t want their pay per view crap, I just want to watch the Psych DVDs I shoved in my carry on, and if I can do it on the TV rather than my laptop, I’d be less inclined to write critical blog posts.

Location.  Outside of the hotels in the East Coast cities (DC, downtown Baltimore, New York), they like to put these hotels off away from other things–like reasonably priced eating establishments.  Without a rental car, I either prepare to answer to the boss on travel spending with my meal price when I get back to the office, or I put on my walking shoes and brave the strange streets to find food–so far I’ve been lucky on this, but as a woman traveling alone, I’m not always going to have this option.  Taxis cost money and frankly, I’ve been in a few where I wondered if I would make it back alive.  And even if I do manage to finagle a rental car, the parking at high end places sucks.  Several have limited you to valet parking, and others charge you every time you enter and leave.

Crappy coffee.  Kristy’s right.  The in-room coffee at the high end places is really not that good.  And worse, I’ll admit that I’m afraid to use it half the time.  After all, the bottles of water they leave in the room will add $5 to your room bill if you take them.  Why should I believe they would actually let me drink the coffee for free?  That goes for other things as well.  In one hotel, I was almost afraid to set the alarm clock for fear of what the charge would be.  Everything in that place came at a price over and above the $200 odd a night charge for the privilege of letting me sleep there.

Add to this that a lot of these luxury places have had crappy decor (in my opinion), wear and tear equal to or exceeding many of the low to mid-price hotels I’d stay in on my own dime, and at times, I’ve had reason to be completely grossed out by the housekeeping (bad vacuuming–I could have grown a garden in the dust and dirt left in the carpet behind a door–chewing gum under the desk….) which, I dunno, I guess I just expected better than that for the cost of the room.

I’ve got one last really big boon-doggle next week and then I think I get a reasonable amount of time off.  But the next round?  Screw the conference location.  I’m going to find a way to stay somewhere reasonable.  Somewhere with my free muffin and orange juice, free wifi and in-room coffee I’m not afraid to drink.

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