2012-11-29 / View From Here

The View From Here . . .

BY BOB MORGAN, JR.

In the course of a year, between business and pleasure (including vacations), I usually spend maybe 30 nights a year in hotels, and this number may increase now that my son is away at college. As a bit of a change of pace, and inspired by a nonpolitical piece by conservative columnist Thomas Sowell in National Review Online, I offer some observations about hotel life.

In his piece, Mr. Sowell does land on a number of my pet peeves. For example, writing about the shower, he complains about a “dazzling array of knobs and levers, none of which provided any clue as to what they did”. Having spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to get a warm shower going, I certainly sympathize. He also alludes to the problem of trying to figure out how to turn on the lights. This is frequently my problem, as I’ve spent considerable time wandering around very dark rooms groping for the switch. And like Mr. Sowell, I occasionally have problems with the television remote control.

But I have my own set of issues. Let’s start with mandatory “resort fees” that supposedly allow guests to enjoy a few extra services (free local calls, etc.) but really are just an additional charge not clearly disclosed to purchasers. I would much prefer to be quoted the true room price and buy any extra services I need. Along these lines are the prominently displayed bottles of water that have exorbitant pricetags like $4. And, although this has become rarer, one of the worst situation is attempting to open the room door after check-in with an electronic key that just won’t function and then having to drag your bag back down to the lobby desk.

A recent trend is that hotels have become very green, graciously offering not to change sheets or wash towels to preserve the environment. Within reason, I guess this is acceptable, but hotels should spare guests the sanctimony about these obvious cost-saving measures.

Over the years, I’ve had some odd things happen. Years ago I arrived after midnight with a reservation at a motel in Massachusetts, but the night manager had somehow managed to lock himself out of the facility. Young Robert and I had to wait for about a half hour for the manager to summon help and let us get to our room. Another time on a business trip I was staying in a hotel and a message about dinner plans was sent to another guest named Bob Morgan and I managed to miss out.

Having done all this grousing, and to be fair, I should point out that American hotels on the whole actually offer good value. Most of them are at least clean and comfortable with better beds, plumbing and customer service than their comparably priced counterparts in other countries. And some are really good experiences. Two recent examples were a truly luxurious and well-priced suite at the Encore, adjacent to the Wynn in Las Vegas and staying at the beautiful Boca Raton Resort and Club in Florida. And most of the time my stays at more modest places work out just fine. I just wish that some of the glitches, like Mr. Sowell’s mystery showers and hard to find light switches, could get resolved in a customer-friendly way.

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