I've stayed in you a lot. Over the last few years, I've traveled over a quarter million miles and stayed many, many nights away from home, sometimes feeling a bit like that rudderless and sad character in Up in the Air.
But, hotels, you can do little things to make me feel more comfortable, and with that, you're much likely to win more of my business in the future.
- Welcome me sweetly
Whether it's a piping hot chocolate chip cookie upon check-in (which I've heard at least one hotel chain offers) or a cup of wine or hot cider, or even a chocolate on my pillow, these little touches would cost you just a whee bit (probably less than a dollar out of my $xxx/night payment), but would make a wonderful first impression on me.
- Recognize that I don't just sneeze in the bathroom
Why on earth do I often find two TVs and three phones (well, I know the why on that one!), but just one measly box of kleenex? I either have to remember to bring my own, or lamely grab a handful from the box in the bathroom to put next to my bed or my desk. Would it kill you to add an extra box of tissues to my room, or -- if you must -- quit literally locking up the box in the bathroom so I can move it where I happen to be at the moment?
- I want to step into neither the heated bowels of hell, nor an iglooI can't tell you how many times I've walked into my room to find the heater or air conditioner on high. That's one way to make a powerful initial impression, but it isn't the right way.
- If you're going to nickel and dime me, at least post the prices clearly
I suppose it's a losing battle asking you to cut it out with the obnoxious phone and internet surcharges and obscene honor-bar charges (A 800% markup on a Kit Kat? Really?!). I realize that you feel compelled to claim a lower nightly rate so you show up higher in online travel searches, yet also want to afford the million dollar salaries for your execs. But at the very least, could you make sure prices are prominently and clearly posted? For example... during a recent hotel stay, my cell phone was out of juice, so I contemplated using the room phone... but couldn't find any rates listed. I called the front desk, and got back this gem: "Um... phone? Er... long distance? To California? I think it's $6 for the first minute, not sure how much for the next minutes." After that, I wish I had avoided asking, and instead rung up my folks in California for an hour and refused to pay the bill due to the non-disclosure of rates.
- Provide either outstandingly delicious food for your high prices, or offer mediocre food on the cheap
There's nothing more grating than eating in the hotel restaurant or ordering room service, paying through the nose for it ($23 for a hamburger and fries?!), and getting food that's barely a step up from a bad high school cafeteria. Look, yeah, a bunch of us are on expense accounts, but it still hurts to feel ripped off, and we really do resent you when this happens. At the very least, make us feel better about the high prices: provide stellar service, maybe offer a surprise mini-dessert or a complimentary wine glass refill, and for heavens sake, prohibit your room service delivery people from accepting a tip if you've already factored in 18% gratuity but we were too jetlagged to notice. Seriously, customer-friendly stuff like that would get you blogged about and appreciated. And by the way, we really do hope you're giving that full mandatory gratuity (mandatory gratuity? sheesh!) to the guy who delivered the meal. But some of us doubt it :(.
- Make our workspace comfortable and reliable
We're traveling on business. Believe me, we'd rather be out on the town, but more often than not, we're cranking out e-mails sitting at -- or trying to sit at -- the room desk. I know I'm 2-3 inches shorter than the average guy, but I shouldn't have to put a phone book on my chair so I can type comfortably; please follow the illustrious path of offices, barbershops, and a zillion other places, and put adjustable chairs in your rooms. A pen that cost you $1 instead of 0.7 cents would also be a plus. So, too, would desk lamps that have electric outlets delivering juice even when the light is off and even after we leave the room.
- Entice and delight us by offering free samples
Provide [x] minutes of internet access for free each day (though frankly, internet access is such a commodity that you should just make it free all the time!). That way, if we need to just quickly check our e-mail or a web site urgently, we aren't cursing you when trying to navigate through your sign-up-and-pay system. Put a chocolate on our pillow with a note teasing, "Does this chocolate make you happy? Buy more for yourself or someone special, downstairs in our corner market." Provide 15 minutes of complimentary video gaming on the TV. Offer to iron or launder one shirt for free (chances are, if we take you up on that, we'll have you wash our slacks and other stuff, too).
- And lastly, a few miscellaneous requests
Offer us a compact map (even just a photocopy of a map showing the nearby area) upon sign-in. Publicize and enforce a "no tipping, your pleasure is our pleasure" policy throughout the entire hotel (hey, I can dream, right?). Have housekeeping specifically doublecheck that the alarmclock is not set for, say 5am. Alter TVs to limit their max volume. Offer a "Quiet floor," with enforced silence after 11pm (no parties, no screaming kids). Keep your hot tub open later (at least until midnight, please).
A collection of little frustrations or little pleasures can actually sway the balance in choosing between your hotel chain and another. I don't know about other businessfolk, but I'm not compelled to always select the cheapest hotel in a metropolitan area; I won't hesitate to pay even $42 more a night for a brand I've had more comfortable and reliable experiences with.
(And to my fine readers, what suggestions / kudos / pet peeves did I overlook?)