Hotels Showing Wear And Tear

For the past 18 months or so I’ve been observing, in a clinical way, the effect of the severe recession on hotels.

We’re staying right now in an upscale hotel in downtown San Diego. Our room is very clean and nicely furnished, but when we arrived a lamp bulb was hanging loose in its socket. The bathroom door is very thoroughly scuffed and scratched on the inside. The mini-bar had been removed.

It’s not just this room. The windows throughout the hotel are dirty enough, on the outside, to impair the view. There is no service or attendant at the pool. The concierge desk is understaffed and was vacant when we were looking for help.

I’m observing this but I’m not complaining, to the hotel management or to the world in general. The room and the common areas are very clean and, all told, the amenities are far more luxurious than what I’m used to at home. I put the bulb back in its socket and shrugged at the scrapes on the door. We’re very comfortable.

What I’m seeing, and no doubt you are, too, (unless you’re staying in the most high-end, expensive hotels) is the result of a sensible compromise that hotel managers are making about maintenance. Unable to keep rates high enough to support the highest standards, they have cut back where they believe guests will least resent it.

That’s how the real world works. Efficiency can be improved only so much. The insistence that you can do more with less and that diminished resources don’t reduce standards is just so much corporate propaganda. Less is not more. Less is less. 

That’s why we are paying a much lower rate than this hotel would have charged two years ago and it’s why we’re getting less for it. That’s the state of the economy today.

So I won’t expect the hotel to apologize for cutting corners. And I won’t expect it to apologize when improved demand permits it to raise its rates. Nor will I apologize for taking the lowest rate I can get. It’s all just business.

But I am concerned about one area where hotels seem to be cutting back — security. On this trip, we’ve seen rambunctious teens attending a prom commandeer elevators and refuse to let other guests on. And last night someone came down the hall, knocking on guest room doors. I was startled and disoriented enough to wake up with a girly shriek (not my usual mode of expression) that woke up my husband and perhaps a few of our neighbors.

These events weren’t very harmful in themselves. But if hotel security wasn’t able to prevent them, what else could get past them? Safety is one amenity that most of us are not willing to compromise.

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