Pricey hotels… sometimes you DON’T get what you pay for

business and consumers, travel

A few weeks ago, I decided to splurge and book a night at a “four star” hotel via Priceline so I could get a good night’s rest before taking a long bus ride to Swing Out New Hampshire.

If this Hilton Hotel in Manhattan is four stars, I’d hate to see what a one star place is like.

Okay, so I got at least the ‘bare minimums’:
– A clean room
– A decent shower
– A relatively comfortable bed

But beyond that… I fail to see why anyone would pay an arm and a leg to enjoy the “four star’ness” of this hotel.

Here’s the skinny on my Hilton hotel stay:

  • The check-in folks were helpful but not all that friendly.
  • My room completely lacked any interesting d?cor or character. Worse yet, there were no blinds to keep out the sun, making a mid-day nap after a red-eye quite unpleasant.
  • I gritted my teeth everytime I went to and from my room due to the fricking elevator TV screen blaring CNN’s Katrina disaster coverage. I hope you’ll forgive me for digressing for a moment… but CNN is to a thoughtfully informed citizenry what spam is to one’s diet. We may think we want it, we may even think it nourishes us, but in the end it makes us feel bloated and sick. CNN is just a teensy tiny bit less evil than Fox, IMHO. Both are Infotainment and Shock Schlock masquerading as news and real debate, and having the former blared in the Hilton elevator made me want to shatter some glass and/or shout “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!
  • $1.50 to place a local call, $2.50 to call Directory Information, $5.25 for half a grapefruit, and $5.95 for hot oatmeal (no, I wasn’t stupid enough to actually rack up any such expenses).
  • $20 for one day of Internet access, despite being assured via their corporate number that Internet access was complementary. I successfully contested the charges.

Yes, I know that the sort of charges mentioned above are typical for “high end” / business hotels, but beyond the possible “because people on corporate expense accounts don’t flinch,” I fail to see WHY this situation exists. Usually when I pay substantially more for a particular level of service (e.g., Business Class on an airplane), I expect not only a higher level of amenities, but also more complementary perks, not fewer.

Contrast this Hilton experience with my evenings spent in a Best Western, which typically costs less than half what I paid:
– Free breakfast
– Friendly service
– Cheerful, if somewhat kitschy room d?cor (not to mention actual window shades)
– Free Internet access
– Affordable in-hotel dining

And mind you, it’s not just the Hilton that deserves slogging, IMHO. I stayed at the uber-trendy Hotel 71 in Chicago a while back on company business, and was thoroughly unimpressed with that place, too. Uncomfortable chairs, sterile styling (though I suppose that’s quite a matter of personal taste), no hot tub or swimming pool, and a concierge that was no more helpful than those I’ve dealt with at budget hotels (who often seem at least more eager to please).

I don’t care if I win the lotto tomorrow. Next hotel stay, I’m being a cheap-ass bastard… and I’m sure I’ll be rewarded for it in more ways than cost-savings.

* * *

Related links:
– New York Times: “If Parks Offer Free Internet, Why Can’t Pricey Hotels“?

5 comments… add one
  • Matt Hendrickson Oct 18, 2005

    When I went to Denver a couple of weeks ago, I had to choose between a 3-star hotel that was $120 a night and a one-and-a-half star Budget Host Inn that was $44 a night. I took the Budget Host room, and despite no “frills” (Swimming pool, bar, restaurant, etc.), it was a clean, comfortable room with a specacular view of the Denver Skyline. And with the money I was able to save, we were able to do more.

  • Laurie Nov 1, 2005

    Just read your recent experience at Hilton.  Had the same experience with a Ramada in New Mexico. I emailed corporate comments regarding condition of hotel and bad treatment and received monetary compensation.  Same trip -Days Inn & Comfort Inn were alot cheaper, nicer, cleaner, and safer.

  • Mcgill Jun 28, 2007

    *Sigh* You surely weren’t given with a good concierge to take care of essentials thing in a room. How could they be so careless about their customers?

  • JWilson Apr 1, 2008

    This is why when I travel, I find friends who live nearby and crash at their place. It’s cheaper and you don’t have to deal w/ hotels..

  • Jeffy Nov 12, 2008

    This is quite a sursprise. Espacially when we’re talking about a big luxury hotel chain like Hilton. They should have a notice and get themselves improve to the standard. They should realise that people expect something more than just staying over night.

What do you think?