Brand standardization is anything but

Each hotel in the U.S. is different, no matter its brand name. Some hotel companies will lead you to believe that the experience at one of their branded hotels in Topeka, Kan., will be the same as a stay at another of their hotels, under the same flag, in Texarkana, Texas. It’s not true. Just like every bag of Lay’s has different shapes of potato chips, every hotel has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. I found this out all too well during a recent stay at a national branded hotel in Nashville, Tenn. I’ll go short of calling it the Music City Mishap, but even this jaded traveler has some grousing to do.

Now, said hotel was in fine condition physically. It really was. But when you have nice things, for Pete’s sake, take care that they look good. Which leads me to my first grumbling, Grumble No. 1. I get that hotels still have to have phones in guestrooms. Yes, no one uses them unless they are calling the front desk for a late check-out or to order a $20 club sandwich. That doesn’t mean housekeeping should overlook the phone, like it is some remnant left over from the Civil War. To my genuine horror—OK, surprise—the phone at the hotel had a film of dust covering it, almost as thick as the sauce at Jack’s Bar-B-Que in downtown Nashville (delicious, by the way).

Here’s the issue: If the phone, something that is so prominent in the room, looks like a prop from “Tales from the Crypt,” then imagine what other items in the guestroom—seen and unseen—are in this derelict state.

Second, Grumble No. 2—and easily my biggest gripe of the stay. Normally, particularly for people on business trips, which this trip was, the hours between midnight and 6 a.m. are usually known as sleep hours. So, when at 2:15 a.m. you are roused out of a nice slumber by a hotel staff member delivering roomservice to the room adjacent to yours, you tend to get a wee pissed off. Rapping loudly on a door at that hour, crying out “Roomservice!” just isn’t cool. Anywhere. Anyplace. Common sense should dictate here. It didn’t.

Third, the fact that I even got to sleep was a miracle. One of the problems with hotels—and something we all hope will change, and is, slowly—is that travelers have absolutely no clue what room they are getting upon check-in. This is Grumble No. 3. “Here you are Mr. Eisen, we have you in king room No. 1253, the elevators are to the left.” Wonderful-sounding room, thank you. Only then you realize once you step out of the elevator that, in fact, king room No. 1253 is situated right next to the elevator, which just so happens to cast light into your room as it makes its way up and down the length of the building. Now, that might not be a problem if the window curtain stretches all the way across the room. Well, of course, it didn’t, so my room, every few minutes or so, lit up like the Griswold’s Christmas tree.

Still think hotel brands are standard?

You’ve heard my complaints; here are my three solutions to remedy these types of encounters, in order of grumbling:

1) Make sure room objects, particularly prominent ones, like phones, are free of dust and grime. If your housekeepers don’t have a checklist, then have the head of the rooms division create one, so that they won’t have to think about it. Create an inventory of room items to clean. Your guests will thank you.

2) Please…please…explain to staff that being loud during early-morning hours is not acceptable. I understand that roomservice is a 24-hour operation, but how about this idea: between certain hours (midnight to 6 a.m., let’s say), roomservice orders will be brought up to rooms, and left outside the door for guests to open and retrieve their meal. This can either be achieved via a quick call to the guest telling him or her that the food is on the way up, or a note slipped under the door noting that the food has arrived. Again, this isn’t hard to implement. Your guests will thank you.

3) Rooms that are near either an elevator bank or other area emitting loud sounds or bright lights should be outfitted such that these conditions won’t be irksome. Think soundproofing and wall or window coverings that fit correctly. And if you have rooms in these areas, front-desk staff should let guests know, and try their best to accommodate them elsewhere if need be. A different, cheaper rate for these rooms should also be considered to offset any complaints. Your guests, and I, will thank you.