Thursday, May 03, 2007

Expensive hotels: R-I-P-O-F-F

In my last two business trips (Jordan & Bahrain) I had the privilege of staying in some pretty nice 5-star hotels. Not something that I'm used to doing. I didn't have a lot of cash in my younger days so whenever I went somewhere 'affordable' was the key word, which meant 2 & 3-star accomodation.

Thanks to recent stays at top hotels I can tell you two things:

1) they are not worth the extra $100+ a night
2) considering you're already paying so much for a room it's surprising how much they'll nickel-&-dime you to squeeze more money out of you.

Case in point: internet service. In both of my recent stays I needed to log on to the internet to check my work email. Now in 2 & 3-star hotels, if they have any kind of business centre or internet computer at all, the price ranges from free to something nominal like $2 an hour. I've been in motels in nowheresville Ontario that provided free internet access. So what happens in hotel #1 (Jordan)? I can buy a half-hour internet access card for US$7, or an hour for $10. $7 for 30 minutes!?! I looked at the front desk clerk like he just robbed me at gunpoint. Even though it was the company that was paying, still, $7?

I needed it to check email for four days so I purchased the $10 'deal', spent ten minutes checking my email, then left.

The next day I go back to the business centre and my card isn't working. I go back to the front desk and tell them. What do I get:

"Sorry sir, but the cards are one-use only. Once you log off you can't use them to log back in again."

ONE USE! I paid $10 for an internet card that you can only use once!! WTF! Nice that they told me that ahead of time.

Let's move on to Hotel #2 (Bahrain). I go to the business centre. Sure enough I have to buy an access card. What's the price? US$14 for 2 hours!

Now I'm only there for one night so I ask "do you have cards with less time on them?"

Nope. 2-hours minimum.

So having learned my lesson from Hotel #1 I ask "Is the card only one use or can I use it multiple times?". The guy tells me I can use it multiple times, which is nice, but then says . . .

"but the card expires after 24 hours."

WTF! The minimum card is two hours but it all has to be used within 24 hours? For US$14!?! Jeebuz H. Kee-rist! This is what you get for paying $200 a night for a room?

The way I see it these swank hotels figure that since you're already paying through the nose you must be rich - and you aren't going to care about a few more bucks here and there. Drives me nuts. And don't get me started about the price for everything else there like food etc. I'm stunned that I wasn't charged to use the pool, buncha gangsters.

And no, the rooms are not so special that it is worth the money. A room at a cheaper hotel is just as good it just may lack a couple of minor perks like having a wider array of free toiletries or a robe. The perks aren't worth the money.

I'm going to be travelling in London and probably Paris this summer and I can tell you that I'm going to be staying in 2 or 3 star whenever possible. These swank hotels are not worth it.

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