Pay More, Expect Less

Can you imagine any business advertising that its paradigm is the title of this post? Yet, that is how “business class” hotels operate.

I recently went on a rare overnight (two nights) business trip.  Normally, I stay at a mid-priced “tourist” hotel such as La Quinta on these trips. But this was not a normal business trip….

I was traveling with 10 other co-workers for our annual implementation workshop to provide an overview of program policies to some 40 small local governments that had been awarded grants from our annual funding cycle. Normally, these workshops are held locally to save on staff travel costs.  But this was not a normal workshop year…

By an unfortunate coincidence, the workshop was scheduled for one week after the legislative session was scheduled to end.  Since it’s not unusual for the session to be extended, prudence dictated that the workshop held be held out of town.  That way, there’d be no possibility of hotel room snafus if the session went into overtime and the legislators, staffers and lobbyists had to keep their hotel rooms.

So the workshop was held in downtown Jacksonville, at the Hyatt on the Riverwalk. The “group” rate was $99.  No complimentary breakfast. Parking was $10 daily. I decided I could do better for the taxpayers…and me.

I thought I was in luck when I found a Hampton Inn on the other side of the river. Adjacent to a Skyway station which would leave me a few blocks from the Hyatt. Complimentary breakfast. Hotel points and airline miles. But even the government rate was over $100, and it isn’t even on the river.

Then, I sniffed out a “Florida resident” special for the Wyndham, just two blocks from the Hampton. On the river.  Two blocks from the Skyway. Complimentary breakfast. A Southwest Airlines partner, so I’d at least get airline miles. At $92, I’d save the taxpayers $7 (plus tax) a night and reduce the federal deficit by about $15. I’m in!

Upon arrival, the reality of a “business class” hotel dashed my initial delusions.  You’d think that a hotel with a rack rate of $100+ nightly would have sharp front desk staff.  Yes, they wear uniforms which resemble what flight attendants wore back in the days when most folks dressed up for a flight.  But behind the uniform was the “Welcome to McDonald’s” expertise.

First, the clerk had trouble entering my Southwest number.  Apparently, the Wyndham doesn’t do much business with the rabble that flies Southwest and so staff is unfamiliar with entering Southwest account numbers.  After a good half dozen attempts, she got it right. Welcome to Wyndham!

When I asked about how the complimentary breakfast worked, she advised there was none.  I showed her the print out of my rate details. She mumbled something about how she should read the reservation notes in her computer and then handed me some “complimentary breakfast” cards.  Welcome to Wyndham!

In the room, I began fantasizing how I could make big money with a La Quinta franchise in this area.  No refrigerator or microwave, which is standard in every mid-priced hotel I’ve been in.  The TV was a 19-inch CRT, not a 32-inch flat panel which many mid-priced hotels have.  All of 22 channels.  Thank goodness I’m being reimbursed for the hotel stay….I’m paying more for much less than a La Quinta. Welcome to Wyndham!

But wait, there’s more!  No ice bucket in the room. I thought maybe it was just me, but when I headed to the ice machine with a 44-ounce drink cup I encountered a guest using a room wastebasket for an ice bucket. The coffee machine in my room didn’t work. When my key card acted up the second day and I couldn‘t get into the room, I went to the foyer in the elevator area of the floor to call the front desk. The phone didn’t work. Welcome to Wyndham!

Plus, I had to pay $10 daily parking and the parking situation on that side of the river is not a problem. It’s just another “profit center” for the hotel. The complimentary breakfast did not include coffee or juice; those would be another $2. Another “profit center” for the hotel. Welcome to Wyndham!

I don’t understand how these “business” hotels stay open. Especially in this economy, businesses are looking to cut expenses and travel costs are an easy place to cut.  Why spend $100+ a night, pay for parking and breakfast when your employee can stay at a La Quinta for less and get free breakfast and parking? And probably enjoy more room amenities, including a 32-inch  flat panel TV with much more than 22 channels. The employee is happy and the employer easily saves $30 or more per night. Isn’t that what’s called a “win-win” situation?

The business hotel model will be a target unless it begins to act like Target:  “Pay less, expect more.”

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8 responses to “Pay More, Expect Less

  1. When it comes to hotel and air travel I take the War Games approach that WOPR arrived at re Globothermonuclear War…………”.the only way to win is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

    The only consistent superior customer service I received while traveling was at the Ritz Carlton. Problem there is the cost. At the top of the more affordable chart was the Marriott. So I used them for business travel and bit the bullet on cost (my stake holders rather). For personal travel I will stay at the Dew Drop Inn with no expectation of anything resembling customer service. I bring my cooler, wife and pet and sleep and shower and move on. $50 a nite.

    Mostly I stay with family anyway. Like today in Tallahassee waiting for the first pitch. Jesus it gets hot here, Tampa is cooler.

    • > Ritz Carlton

      For that price, you better get good service! But that is beyond “business class.” It is “snooty class”…lol!

      > Tallahassee…. it gets hot here

      How quickly you forget our summers….Actually, it’s cooled down a bit.

  2. These hotel people did not know who they were dealing with lol. It appears the only advantage you got over the Hyatt was the miles on Southwest, which was probably worth it. And we are not to complain about fees for parking 🙂 Most hotels have at least the option to park your own car at a cheaper rate, or use valet, but I’ve stayed in hotels where valet is the only option.

    • > fees for parking

      They’re in the hotel business, not the parking lot business. Like the airlines, they want to keep their rates looking low by tacking on “fees.”

      > I’ve stayed in hotels where valet is the only option.

      I’ve never and will never knowingly. There oughta be a law…lol!

      > “side” business going on, if you catch my drift.

      At a Holiday Inn? can you imagine the “quality” of the….providers? LOL!

      Off topic….the Food Truck Fest was held Friday because we heard the music while coming out of Publix . But, I didn’t see anything about it in the Limelight. Well, it was too damn hot to go anyway.

  3. I stayed in a Wyndam once in Atlanta, and it was quite nice. Perhaps they’ve gone downhill. I’ve never really had a terrible experience at any hotel, except one time. I stayed in a Holiday Inn, also in the Atlanta area. You know how they lock the lobby doors at a certain point and to get in you use your keycard at a side door? The side doors were propped open and there was a tremendous amount of coming and going late at night. I think the desk clerks had a thriving “side” business going on, if you catch my drift.

  4. Drat about the food trucks. Do you suppose it’s an every Friday thing now and Limelight just failed to mention it?
    As for that Holiday Inn, it brought new meaning to the term “paying guest”. I guess when you have all those empty rooms…the American spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well there.

    • Probably not every Friday. Maybe once a month. I think I have the phone for the Filipino food truck guy and may give him a call to see if there’s a set schedule now. But I think July and August will be too hot, even in the evenings. Now, Fall….

  5. I joke now, but I was afraid. I wrote the company but can’t recall if I ever heard back from them. If so, it was probably of the “We are so sorry we failed to meet your expectations. Our goal is provide the best possible experience to the most important people in the world–our guests” variety. That of course was the problem. Some people were probably having a lot better experience than I did 🙂

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