Because I’ve spent the last few years living between two cities (New York and New Orleans) people frequently visit, I’m often asked for recommendations on, among other things, hotels. And as someone who prides himself on making informed recommendations, this has always presented a problem for me — much more so than recommending things like restaurants or museums or brothels, etc. — since I’ve never really had the need for hotel rooms in NOLA or NYC due to the fact that I’ve lived there.
Sure, I can give great hotel recommendations based on location, the quality of the bars and/or restaurants that may be housed in them, etc., but it’s hard to truly give a good recommendation on a hotel without benefit of the experience of being a guest in one. Was the bed comfortable? Is street noise an issue when trying to sleep at night? How big are the tubs/showers? You simply have to stay there.
So, in an attempt to give more informed recommendations, I recently downloaded an app a friend tipped me to: Hotel Tonight, a service that gets “last-minute deals” on unsold rooms from hotels “with discounts up to 70%” that you can book “easily and securely on your smart phone.” Since then I’ve made a habit of checking Hotel Tonight almost daily in an effort to find ridiculous deals on hotels — and occasionally when I find one I will get a room for the night. Unintentionally, what began as a research project has become a fun little vacation-at-home occasional experience.
Now, typically, when I travel, I tend to avoid staying in hotels — I often will try to find an apartment or a house to sublet instead — so my recent occasional stays in hotel have been eye-opening experiences. My biggest gripes — which continue to absolutely astound me — are as follows, and they all involve technology. (SURPRISE!)
1) I can think of only a few things dumber than a hotel or hotel chain boasting of having fancy new HD televisions with no sort of digital converter box attached to them. What f*cking use is an HD TV if the signal its being fed is the straight cable line from the wall? Watching regular TV on an HD unit is HORRIBLE — the picture quality is the absolute worst. And why don’t hotels have DVR boxes? Is this too much to ask for in the 21st century?
2) By far the most infuriating thing I’ve experienced in dealing with hotels is that many — particularly the nicer, more expensive ones — continue to charge for internet service, often to the tune of $20-$30 per day. Why are there not demonstrations in the streets over this?
Internet service in 2012 should be an essential service built into the overall cost of a room, just like phone service, running water, electricity and cable TV. Would people stand for it if they were charged extra for wanting to take a shower each day they stayed at a hotel? No. How about if they wanted to turn on the lights or the television? Hell no. As evidenced by the pic above, you can get free internet just about ANYWHERE these days. Can you get it as a guest at the Waldorf Astoria? Nope.
Why do hotels continue to do this? Because they can, that’s why! And they’ll continue to do so until they start losing money over it. But most people who stay in hotels are business travelers, and business travelers usually don’t care about internet surcharges because the boss is paying the tab. We need to stop this — and we need to let it be known that it’s flat-out unacceptable.
Here’s how you should go about doing so: if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ll book your next hotel room via the internet. Before booking it, you should call the hotel you’re going to stay at and let them know that you’re about to book a room with them and that a big part of your doing so involves their offering free internet.
Conversely, if you don’t book a hotel room at a hotel you were thinking of staying at that doesn’t offer free internet, call them and let them know that you’re not staying there specifically because they charge for internet and it’s a matter of principle that you deny them your business. Also incorporate social media — use Twitter to communicate the same messages. I recently had an issue with a bank — A FREAKIN’ MONOLITH BANK — that I’m not even a customer of resolved via Twitter (Their ATM ate my debit card…they reimbursed me for expenses I incurred because of that after I reached out to them on Twitter).
But more than anything — STOP BOOKING ROOMS AT HOTELS THAT DON’T OFFER FREE INTERNET. Period. Just don’t do it.
3) Finally, and I know this is a more difficult one for older hotels to overcome, but not having enough power outlets in room, specifically near the bed, is a pain in the dick. Most people travel these days with a variety of gadgets, gadgets that we play with and charge from the bed. We also like to sleep with our phones on the pillow next to us. Would it be too much to ask to start loading the tops of headboards with electrical outlets?
Anyway, I’ll step off my white whiny soapbox now.