Hotels, Trains, and more Hotels03.06.11
So I'm in Boston right now for the last day of back to back conferences in New York and Boston -- which meant that I ended up having quite a number of hotel (and travel) experiences.
When I'm in New York, I typically stay at Club Quarters -- at pretty solid business-type hotel. It's not amazing and the rooms are a bit small (though typical for New York) but I've had a good experience all around. This time around, I needed to be on a conference call and was planning on calling from my cell phone in my room. For some reason, my cell phone konked out (I had to later do a hard reset on it.) I only had a few seconds to sort though it (and it wasn't clear to me if I could ask another attendee to call me back because it was a dial-in number), so I used the hotel phone. Obviously this is a bad idea but before I called out, I checked the little brochure there and it said that for local calls (212, 917, 718 area codes, etc.) that it was $1.00 for the first 5 minutes and $0.10/minute after that. Pretty reasonable. For long distance calls, it said that AT&T rates applied and to call an 800 number to find out. I didn't have a lot of time so I chanced it. BIG MISTAKE.
I get off the 1 hour+ call and immediately go downstairs and ask how much my call was. While waiting the brief seconds as the woman checked on it, I kept saying to myself, "Please be $10. Please be $20." Total price? $138 (or something like that.) Yes, I know I'm an idiot for using the hotel phone for anything - but seriously? How is this good business for either AT&T or the hotel? It's so outrageous and outside the bounds of what's normal (especially nowadays when everyone has a cell phone) that all it does is it significantly colors and corrodes my experience and brand impression of both companies. Is it ever really worth it to gouge a customer?
Club Quarters was gracious enough to immediately offer me a 35% discount (the maximum that she could offer me) and then she followed up with her manager who later bumped it to 50%. So ultimately I paid something like $69 or so for the call -- which stinks, but better than $138.
Separately, I tried checking out at around 12:40pm or so? I go to the elevator and my key doesn't work. Weird. I go to my room, and my key doesn't work. Could it possibly be that they DEACTIVATED my key if I'm not out by 12pm? Yes it is! They had to make me a new key and then told me there was a $35 late checkout fee. As a courtesy, they waived that fee but seriously, is this what a good hotel does? Even if there are people that abuse it, is that worth it for the few times that you absolutely need to clean that room starting at 12pm? I find it baffling.
So then I took the train from New York to Boston. I love the actual riding of trains but I've been on so many trains that have suffered massive delays -- I'm talking hours. This ride was no different. Outside of Providence, our train stops. For 30 minutes. An hour. An hour and a half later we find out what happend. Our train struck a boulder at 125 mph and bent the plow of the train so that it was touching the track rendering the train unusable. They brought up a rescue train alongside (basically the next train to Boston) and we got on. I don't know if it was possible that we might have derailed (I actually didn't feel anything -- I was in the 2nd to last car on the train) -- but seriously, rolling a boulder onto a track? Apparently this is common, one of the conductors says it's usually shopping carts, debris, or other things -- but this is pretty serious. I can't imagine they'll be able to find these people -- but I think this warrants significant jail time.
So I finally get to Boston and try checking in at the Westin Boston Waterfront. Spectacular hotel. Oops - they overbooked! However, they're not automatically bumping me, they make me an offer. A free night at a nearby hotel (literally 3 minutes walking distance) and cab rides there now and back in the morning. My only question: do they have Internet? Yes. How bad could this hotel be? I get there and this hotel is fantastic. Probably 3 / 3.5 stars -- everything is terrific and they don't nickel and dime you on anything (no charging of Internet in your room, etc.) I actually was sad to leave and return to the Westin. The Westin was quite nice (and it's physically connected to the convention center) but they do things like charge for Internet ($12.95 in your room OR $18.95 for higher speed Internet which they annoyingly constantly promote in your browser.) It's like they got 95% of the experience right and screwed up 5%. Oh, the other hotel's name is the Boston Seaport -- I'll be checking them out next time I'm in town.