Things we don’t understand

In re: hotels…

  1. Why no-frills business hotels invariably have free Internet, but nicer hotels insist on trying to charge?
  2. Similarly, why the quality and variety of the cable package in a given hotel room varies inversely with the hotel’s rack rate or “niceness” factor.

The case study for both of these ideas is pretty simple. We stay in a Holiday Inn Express during the week on the current consulting assignment. It is neither good nor bad. It’s one of those new style hotels with no restaurant or bar, but they do offer a continental breakfast for free in the mornings. There’s a cursory pool and workout area, but that’s it.

Contrast this with the Westin Embassy Row in DC, which is a fancy, high-dollar-ish hotel in the heart of Dupont Circle, which is where Mrs Heathen and I stayed this weekend. This hotel had a nice restaurant, a fancy bar, concierge service, valet parking, minibar, and a delightfully cushy bed.

HOWEVER: at the Holiday Inn, there’s a conventional cable package of some 60 or 70 channels, and free wi-fi; on the first floor, you even have the option of a wired ethernet connection. At the Westin, the TV had 12 to 15 channels, tops, and they wanted $12 a day for Internet connectivity — this on top of a rack rate 2 or 3 times that of the Holiday Inn.

We understand that those who stay at the Westin are necessarily less price-sensitive than those who stay at the business no-frills properties, but at the end of the day that’s really not an excuse. Starwood is opting to attempt to suck more cash from its guests by nickel-and-diming them on services like Internet and, of course, local phone calls ($1.50 each, natch; they’re also free at the Holiday Inn). We certainly liked the hotel amenities the Westin DID offer, but we left there feeling taken advantage of despite the fact that the room itself was paid for in Starwood points by Mrs Heathen’s mother. That’s probably not the kind of response they’re striving for.

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