A car pulls up to a hotel, the owner gets out as a doorman removes the bags and a valet takes the keys and drives away. Inside the lobby a well dressed person at the reception desk goes through the check in process while describing all the amenities the hotel has to offer. Being able to stay at a luxury hotel where employees bend over backwards to do everything for you is portrayed as a symbol of pampering and wealth.
But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
My wife and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Chicago with a group of people, staying two nights in a Hyatt Regency downtown and two nights at a Courtyard by Marriott in the suburbs. The experiences were very different, but you may be surprised which hotel I preferred.
The High Life
We rolled up to the Hyatt, where we were greeted by the doorman who informed us that valet parking to the tune of $59 a day was required if parking at the hotel was desired. Since we were a party of six in a mini-van, we had to utilize every available space in the van for our luggage including the under foot compartments. I assisted the doorman in opening up the compartments and retrieving all the luggage. While this was occurring, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m expected to tip this guy to help do a job that I’d rather do myself.”
I felt uncomfortable in my shorts and t-shirt approaching the formally dressed receptionists. We were checked in, and given vague directions to our room. Once in our room we eagerly waited 20 minutes for our bags to arrive so we could unpack and start our vacation. The bags were eventually placed in our room, another tip required of course.
One of the first things I do when I check into a hotel is fire up my laptop and connect to wifi. I noticed a card on the desk that listed the directions to connect to the wireless network, including the final instruction, “select your payment option.”
That night, we went out for Chicago style pizza. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we ended up with leftovers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take it with us because the only refrigerator in the room was the minibar stocked with $4 cans of pop, and $10 beers.
Checking out meant calling for the bellman, since their policy requires that they handle the bags. Another 20 minute wait, more tips. We were then told that the $59 a night valet parking meant that we had to leave our bags with the doorman to be watched with 50 other carts, go down a level to the parking garage, and wait their for the valet to retrieve our vehicle. Only then could we drive the vehicle back to the front door. Of course a tip is expected for such exceptional service.
The Commoner’s Life
I parked outside the Courtyard by Marriott, and was greeted by a friendly, yet causally dressed receptionist who checked us in. She then showed us on a map exactly where to go, and where the best place would be to park.
I drove to a different entrance to the hotel, loaded my belongings on a cart and brought them to my room. I was completely unpacked within 10 minutes of checking in, including being connected to their complementary wifi service.
Shockingly, I was able to do all of that without having to handout any of my hard earned cash on assistance I didn’t want or need.
That night we went to a steakhouse and again had leftovers. This time, however, I was able to bring them back to the hotel and place them in the refrigerator which is standard in all their rooms.
Checkout was a breeze as well. I brought all my things to my car which was conveniently parked right outside the nearby entrance. I called the front desk to tell them I was checking out, left the key cards inside the room and was driving away within minutes. No wait for the convenience of a bellman to get my bags, no wait for the convenience of the valet to retrieve my vehicle, and no tipping needed.
The cost difference:
Hyatt Regency: $169.99 per night + $59 parking = $228.99 per night
Courtyard by Marriott: $100 per night + $0 parking = $100 per night
The Hyatt was over twice as expensive, and all those “conveniences” weren’t very convenient at all.
If that’s the life of affluence, no thanks. I’ll stick to being a commoner.