It’s been a while since I stayed at a cheap hotel. When my wife and I take a vacation, we typically spend a little more money and stay at a very nice hotel. Especially in the best luxury hotels, everything from the exterior, the reception, lounge and all other public areas will have a beautiful and fancy design. It makes us feel like we are somewhere special from the moment we walk through the door. The service we receive is exceptional and the staff will often provide a great deal of personal care too.
This last Friday, I had to travel to West Plains Mo to speak at a banquet. West Plains is a five hour drive from Kansas City and the banquet didn’t end until almost 9:00pm, so I decided to stay the night in a hotel and drive back to Kansas City on Saturday morning. When booking my hotel room four weeks prior to this event, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn’t get to the hotel until pretty late at night and would also want to get up early Saturday morning to get started driving back home. I really only needed a room to sleep for seven hours and thought I should stay in a cheap hotel to save some money. The Days Inn was only $59 per night, was right off the highway, and looked like it was in a decent area, so I booked that room for Friday night.
When I got to the hotel around 10:00pm, the first thing I noticed was how badly the concrete was crumbling around the parking lot. Not only that, pretty much the entire exterior looked like it hadn’t been painted or maintained well either. As I parked the car and got my small suitcase out of the trunk, I thought to myself, “How bad can it be? I’m just sleeping here for the night and probably saving $100.”
As I grabbed the glass door to the lobby and opened it, a super strong smell of cigarettes hit my nose and made me sneeze. The lobby was filled with mismatched, broken down furniture you might find at a yard sale and the TV in the corner was blaring so loudly that the woman working the front desk didn’t hear me ringing the bell. After banging on that bell three or four times, then yelling, “Hello, anyone back there?” she finally came out of a small office. She looked like she’d had a rough day as she had bloodshot eyes and her hair was all deshuffled. In a gravely voice she said, “Yeah, what do you need?” I smiled and said, “I’d like to check in please.”
To be honest, I’m not sure this woman had been properly trained on how to use the computer because she struggled to find my reservation and finally gave up and said, “I can’t find it, I’m just going to put you in room 309.” That was fine with me as I really didn’t care at this point because I was getting pretty tired and just wanted to go to bed.
This was obviously a cheap motel, the kind where all the doors are on the outside of the building. Since I was on the third floor, I decided to take the elevator. The doors squeaked loudly when they opened and even louder when they closed, but as the elevator started to rise it made me nervous. The elevator jumped and shifted as it rose to the third floor. As the doors squeaked open and I got out, I decided I’d just take the stairs in the morning.
As I was walking to my room that faced the highway, I noticed there were large chunks of concrete missing from the walkway and they’d likely fallen onto the parking lot 3 floors below me at some point. I dared not get close to the iron railing either as it didn’t look completely secure in a few places. I decided to ignore it and again tell myself, “It’s only for one night.”
As I opened the door to my room, I have to confess that I was a bit surprised. The room didn’t smell, the furniture matched, and the room looked pretty clean. Actually the only negative thing was the walls looked pretty beat up and badly in need of fresh paint. As my head hit the pillow, I said a little prayer that the room heater would keep working and I fell asleep.
The next morning I debated on whether to take a chance on the shower or just get dressed and drive home. It’s probably a good thing my expectations were already low, since I decided to shower and the water temperature barely made it up to lukewarm. As I packed my bag and headed out the door, I needed to stop by the office and get a copy of my bill.
There was a different woman working the front desk and she was fairly pleasant, but when I told her my room number was 309, she barked at me, “No it’s not, you were in 319!” There was a huge piece of plexiglass that separated the lobby from where she was standing behind the counter and I thought, maybe she didn’t hear me correctly. I again said, “No, actually I was in 309. I’m positive.” She gave me a look and said, “It says right here in the computer you were in 319.” I calmly smiled and said, “Ok, then give me the print out for room 319.” Clearly the manager needs to do a better job of customer service training.
Apparently the sketchy woman that works the late shift on Friday night had given me room 319 in the computer, but then given me a card key that opened room 309. She even had 309 written on the little envelope with the wifi password. Thank goodness no one else was staying in room 309 that night as that would have been a little shocking when I opened their door.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, “Maybe next time I’ll pay for a nicer hotel.” Obviously you get what you pay for and I’m clearly not a cheap hotel guy.