Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Difference of $10

Ten Dollars.

That was the cost difference between two hotel rooms and yet the gap between the quality of the rooms was vast.

Did I say vast? I'm sorry, that's a complete understatement of the difference. The only similarities the two shared was the they both had bed-like objects, toilets and sinks.

While in Wisconsin, we stayed in the Grandstay Suites, as I previously mentioned. It was comfortable, reasonably priced, very clean, conveniently located and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend.

On our way south toward home, we decided to stay at your typical highway box hotel, a Comfort Suites in Springfield, Illinois. We were looking for convenient and moderate pricing since it was merely a place to crash for the night. While I admit I can be a bit on the picky side when it comes to hotels, I can barely begin to compare the two, they were that different.

Both were intended to be suites, but the one in Sheboygan was more of an extended stay hotel with the modern day rendition of a kitchenette. It also had several basic elements going for it, beginning with cleanliness. The first room in Springfield we walked into had a very strong, odd odor to it, probably generated by the ozone machine still sitting in the middle of the living area. An ozone machine says one thing: we had been given a non-smoking room that had very recently been the abode for someone who decided the hotel's smoking ban didn't apply to them. I might have tolerated that but when I spotted hair on the bedsheets and it wasn't either mine or my husband's, that changed things. We were moved to a different room, and for the first time in years, I flat refused to use the shower due to critters I could not identify having already taken up residence in the tub. Going back to the front desk to complain again didn't appeal to me in the least, as while the desk clerk was nice enough, it was obvious the hotel was woefully understaffed and booked to near capacity. So we toughed out the night and were more than glad to get back on the road to home the next morning.

Remember, this room was a mere $10 a night less than where I'd previously spent a week. And that week had been in a vacation destination area within an easy walk of Lake Michigan. This next hotel was a generic beige building alongside an interstate within eyesight of 10 other competing beige boxes.

Since that trip I stayed in a new (open less than 6 months) Comfort Suites in Little Rock. It was nothing like the one in Springfield, and I paid the least for this one of the three rooms. It was clean, well cared for and had employees who sincerely seemed to care and enjoy their work. So while I know the ubiquitous "they" say loyalty to a brand will reap you rewards, some of the big brands need to work on consistency of quality. My theory when traveling is to look up the specific hotel on a site or two that has proven to be reasonably accurate over time. My experience has led me to, as rarely do I find the reviews on hotels to be way out of line. There may be the occasional whiny comment, but mostly they've not led me down the wrong path.

It's amazing what $10 will buy. It can equal the difference in a comfortably appointed, clean hotel suite and a place so bad I'd never, ever go back.