Full service hotels aren’t worth my money

As a visitor to your town, staying in one of your member properties, here is what I’m thinking these days….

Full-service hotels need to rethink what “service” means to the traveler.

My idea of a wallet-worthy full service hotel does NOT include:

  • Charges for WiFi, which invariably has a weak signal because you don’t have routers and boosters on every floor. I expect free WiFi like I expect the TV to work (and it’s a lot more important to me.)
  • Charges for parking – except for big urban hotels, where space is at a premium and parking fees are more acceptable.
  • Those tacky $6 bottles of water in the room.  See Chris Brogan’s Man on the Go open letter to the hotel industry about that….
  • No breakfast, not even a muffin and cup of coffee. No, I won’t pay $15 plus tip for your overpriced Continental delivered to my room. That’s not pampering; that’s highway robbery. No, I don’t have time nor interest in eating an equally overpriced plated breakfast in your cavernous-yet-always-empty restaurant downstairs.

No, your fancy sheets, 48 pillows and giant flat screen TV do not make up for the above. Making me join your loyalty program for such benefits seems pretty cheesy, especially if I don’t plan to stay at your properties much in the future.

I’m not that into you, and neither is my wallet.

The Hampton Inn and Suites down the road has you beat on all fronts, and I’ll join their loyalty program because I actually feel LOYAL to them for their high-value lodging experience.

Have you heard? There are some problems with the economy these days. Even expense account travelers, your favorite cash cow, are looking for value.

Get with the program.

In Houston recently, I was so peeved about being charged for parking that I took the time to add a Tip on Foursquare about how to find the free parking garage around the corner. Ironically, my check-in to add the Tip was enough to make me Mayor of the hotel.

If only I really was; the things I would change….

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15 Responses to Full service hotels aren’t worth my money

  1. Excellent post. I feels like a number of the middle-tier hotels are trying harder to earn my business compared to the bigger, fancier hotels. It’s hard for me to swallow a $15 or $20/day internet fee on top off a $350 room. I like your idea of adding a tip to Foursquare for those who take advantage of the numerous fees.
    Brett Nordquist´s last [post] ..Running To Stand Still

    • Thanks, Brett. I feel the same way; the mid-sized guys are trying harder.

      Also, many of the big-name chain hotels are, frankly, just one more nice Hyatt or Fairmont or Hilton or whatever in a big city. They all have ambient music, burbling lobby fountains, bars and restaurants without any locals in them, etc. etc.

      If you run a hotel with some actual history and pedigree (say, the Algonquin in New York or Raffles in Singapore or the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island) then maybe you’re worth ponying up those fees, but even then probably not.

  2. John Soares says:

    Sheila, when I travel I usually stay in three-star hotels. They have the best combination of comfort and free amenities, and the latter includes wireless and free breakfast.

    Best Western is usually a good bet.
    John Soares´s last [post] ..USDA Forest Service Climate Change Plan Will Affect Hiking Trails

  3. WanderMom says:

    Hear, hear, Sheila.
    I couldn’t agree more!

  4. Hi Sheila,
    As a lodging editor and travel writer, I agree with you about what service means to the traveler. However, I do think joining the Loyalty Programs are worthwhile if it gets me free internet during my stay.

    I always ask the high-end properties that I review why they charge for internet access when the hostels, one and two star hotels provide WiFi for free. They usually mumble something about expenses. More often than not, they don’t have a valid answer to this question.
    Nancy D. Brown´s last [post] ..Things to See and Do in Sunriver- Oregon

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  6. Oh, YES! Nothing is as offputting as that water bottle with a price tag attached. What? You can’t make ends meet when charging $300 a night for a pill box sized room in Manhattan? You have to ding me for the water? And you didn’t mention the business center charges. When one is not using the WiFi and one needs to use the hotel computer in the busines center–what’s with the $15 for ten minutes?? Quality Inn gives you a computer in the lobby for free. I blame it on expense account travelers who never challenge those expenses for fear of looking cheap. Do us a favor, buds, Look Cheap!
    Vera Marie Badertscher´s last [post] ..Rushed Road Trip- Part II

  7. Donna Hull says:

    Sheila, I so agree with you. Like Vera Marie, I have to wonder if high-end hotels are used to clients who don’t pay attention to small charges like $6 water or $15 for ten minutes to use the business center. I certainly do. The mid-tier hotels are working hard to earn my business. I recently stayed in the Hyatt Place, Plano, Texas where I found fast, free wireless internet in my room and customer service to rival anything that I’ve experienced in a high-end hotel.
    Donna Hull´s last [post] ..Hiking on Montana’s Stillwater Trail

  8. Thanks John, WanderMom and company! Looks like I’m not totally out to lunch on this. 🙂

  9. Andy Hayes | Travel Online Partners says:

    Couldn’t agree more here. I never understood why the more you pay for your hotel equals the more you pay for add on fees. While I understand pricing according to your target market, who exactly are these high end hotels trying to market to? Nobody that I know, anyway. Time for a reality check folks!

  10. crow4321 says:

    If free internet and free continental breakfasts with coffee mean so much to you, then by all means, stay at the Howard Johnsons and the Holiday Inns. Those chains NEEDS to offer those services for free, otherwise, there would be no real attractiveness to those brands, is there? If they didn’t, you would bitch and moan about those chains too and prefer to simply stay at a Motel 6 because they have just the essentials… a bed and a bathroom.

    Let me throw some numbers at you. A fair-sized, highend hotel with 300-500 rooms in a major city has about $500,000 to $1,000,000 a MONTH in BILLS! Electricity, cable, water, garbage, lease rent, taxes, food and beverage costs, franchise fees, management fees, laundry/dry cleaning, uniforms, broken dishes, stolen towels, shampoo, conditioner, etc. etc. Plus, payroll! They also have to save money for future capital expenditures, like new carpeting, painting, lighting, and upgrading internet equipment!!

    Let’s say with expenses at $500k/month, that’s $16,666 per day the hotel needs to earn to pay ONLY it’s expenses. If for a 300 room hotel running an average 50% occupancy (150 rooms); the room rate needs to be at least $111 to pay its expenses. It does not take anything into account about PROFIT, which all businesses are trying to make.

    Bigger hotels and higher end hotel chains usually have higher costs involved, because they simply use better goods and materials throughout. They usually pay better and attract and retain better talent, which generally should provide better service.

    Is that all you care about is some cheap continental breakfast, where the quality of the food is no better than some frozen Pillsbury product from the grocery store and the coffee, not Starbucks, but Folgers, and you can’t even tell the difference? If internet is so important to you, but you have no idea about the equipment or what kind of security standards these cheap hotels offer and you wonder where your credit card or internet account info was stolen? Then, by all means, please stay at those hotels.

    For some reason, this free continental breakfast and internet has become a target for all hotels around the world. Why?

    Gas prices have tripled, quadrupled, yet no one is complaining that we should get free car washes or bottles of soda with every fill up? Airlines have begun charging for EVERYTHING, including meals, pillows and blankets, and even USE OF BATHROOMS! Yet, I don’t see everyone flocking to Southwest Air or Virgin Air.

    The higher end hotels have listened to their most frequent guests by offering free internet to their Golds or Diamond members, so they’re not totally out of touch with the trend.

    If internet is SOOOO important, why don’t we focus our attention on our providers?? They only keep raising rates, yet offer no real speed boost or better service to justify their increases. Japan and Korea has 100mBps on ADSL at the same price as our broadband service. If internet is so prevalent and usage has increased, then by economics, the costs should go DOWN, not up, right? Well, those increases that you experience at home is the same or even higher for business users, like hotels. So costs like those have to be passed on to the consumers or the hotel risks their profit margin.

    So stop it about the complaints for free breakfast and internet already. If you want it, then stay at those hotels that provide them. Not everyone can afford to buy a Mercedes or a Coach bag and the service quality that comes with that purchase.

  11. Comolli says:

    Thanks, Brett. I feel the same way; the mid-sized guys are trying harder.

    Also, many of the big-name chain hotels are, frankly, just one more nice Hyatt or Fairmont or Hilton or whatever in a big city. They all have ambient music, burbling lobby fountains, bars and restaurants without any locals in them, etc. etc.

    If you run a hotel with some actual history and pedigree (say, the Algonquin in New York or Raffles in Singapore or the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island) then maybe you’re worth ponying up those fees, but even then probably not.

  12. Kisa says:

    Well you get such crappy service if you want to stay at a hotel smack in the middle of downtown or something. I mean my family and I travel a lot, and we pay about $80, get flat screens TV’s, full high speed internet, and by that I mean a router on each floor of the hotel. If your computer is crappy and stupid, you can even use the business center without paying a fee to get it. Breakfast is always free, and you have more than just cereal and bread. You can have yogurt, and bacon, and eggs, and waffles, and a lot more. I have no idea where you people are staying, but I stay at Best Westerns.

  13. Sheila says:

    Well, it’s interesting how much traffic this post continues to get.

    ** Kisa: The post is about “full service” hotels, which is a confusing industry term meaning that you’ll usually pay for WiFi access and while there is an in-house restaurant, you won’t get anything free there. The Best Westerns that you describe are not considered full service, but as discussed, they include more amenities in a lower room rate.

    ** crow4321: I seem to have touched a sore spot with you. The bottom line, though, is that mid-level hotels offer better value for the money. Yes, the services that the customer demands, like WiFi and breakfast, cost money, but the fact is that I can get a satisfactory level of them for less money at a place like Hampton Inn. Too many full-service hotels have an inflated sense of their own wonderfulness. I’m not impressed by ego and brand names that rest on their hotelier laurels, and I say that as someone who is well-traveled and has stayed at luxury properties.

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