NOTE: THIS POST IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION OR RECONSTRUCTION. READ AT OWN RISK OR WAIT FOR A NEW, MORE CONCISE VERSION. . . IF I WRITE IT.
There’s an interesting thread on Flyertalk entitled “Do point bloggers ever stay at a bad hotel?’ The posts run the gamut, from questioning over-loyalty on bloggers’ parts to outright accusations that bloggers are on the books either from the hotels or from the banks who issue credit cards in the name of the hotel chains. I don’t doubt that there might be a basis for some of these statements, as well as for many of the responses in the Flyertalk thread.
Reading this got me thinking of how I review hotels. I do stay at many upscale chain hotels, but I also really enjoy the personality of the smaller kitschy hotels. As for the chain hotels, I will either review the hotel and the fitness center or only the fitness center. If I feel that something stands out about the room or the hotel, I will write about it. I stay at plenty of Hyatt Places and Hampton Inns – but I do not necessarily write about them because they are basically the same. I know there is a lot to be said for consistency, but if they are all the same, is it necessary for me to write about each hotel? See, Help I’ve been Placified (by Hyatt Places). Even if I skip reviewing the room, I would probably review the fitness center, as I’ve found that they are all different.
Maybe it’s the mixed personal/public aspect of staying in a hotel as a blogger. Sure, I walk in a hotel room and take photos, but I also stay in the room, sleep in the bed, and use the shower and the toilet. Do I do this for the readers or for myself? At least half of the time that I stay in a hotel, I delete the photos and never even write about the hotel room. If there’s no story to be told, and posting pictures of the room would bore me, I skip it. I am sure of one thing: if it bores me, it will most certainly bore the reader.
Do I give bad reviews? Yes. Do I do it often? No. As a general rule, I admit that I am a bit of a Pollyanna – I do prefer to accentuate the positive instead of the negative. That is just how I am. I see people (and some bloggers) who only have negative things to say, and it just irks me. If you can only see bad or good, where is the depth? Moreover, if I disliked the hotel so much, it might be that I want to just forget about it and not write about it!
Why do I receive good treatment so often by hotels? I do have status with a number of hotel chains (including Hilton, Hyatt, SPG, Kimpton and Club Carlson) and I also enjoy tweeting with Twitter social media about my upcoming stay or related questions. They are incredibly helpful! Do I get better treatment because I’m a blogger? Maybe, yes, maybe no. But honestly I don’t think I’m that influential. I think the good treatment, in my case, comes from a combination of being a good customer and being a nice person. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.
So, have I stayed at any bad hotels? You betcha! Before I started blogging, and I was running a marathon in every state, I stayed at some doozies! They seriously sucked. That includes two Super 8s, one in Iowa and one in West Virginia, and a Norman Bates motel in Idaho that gave me such heeby-jeebies that I almost slept in the car. And, I’m still trying to get the thought of that hotel in Newark, NJ, of all places, with a bathtub in the bedroom out of my mind.
Whether I blog about a negative hotel experience or not is a case-by-case decision, and it’s hard to delineate a litmus test for when to write and when not to. When hotel management goes out of their way to quickly fix a problem, and, if appropriate, offers some compensation (such as points or reduction of bill or even breakfast or a glass of wine…), they are extending courtesies to the private persona not the public persona. Do they really expect me to go publicly blabbing about snagging 10,000 points out of a situation? It’s a hard line to draw sometimes, but it is worthwhile for me to stop and think about who I am and why I’m here. The fact is – I might get a lot more views by publishing a scathing review! But if the hotel went out of its way to fix it, why should I embarrass management solely to get some more website views? If I can’t look at myself in the mirror, I don’t care if I could be laughing all the way to the bank. The mirror wins.
Just recently, I encountered a comedy of errors culminating in a pretty horrific situation at a hotel. It was a very good hotel, but I think the stars were misaligned and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Ultimately, management moved me to another room and didn’t charge for the stay, but I still felt the situation was not handled adequately. I did not tweet. I did not blog. Instead, I contacted the corporate office, and explained the circumstances. In my letter, I expressly stated that, regardless of whether the matter worked out to my satisfaction, I would not write about it. I was dealing with a hotel chain that I consider honorable – I wanted the matter resolved fairly based on the situation, not based on a threat that I’d go yammering all over about it. Again: this was based on my own sense of what I believe is wrong and right for me. The matter was privately resolved to my satisfaction.
When I feel it is appropriate, I do blog or tweet about problems. A year or two ago, I was at a Crowne Plaza where the security lock had been ripped off the door. Even though the hotel fixed this lock when I complained, the incident was so disconcerting, that I wrote about it. I mean, how secure would you feel walking into a room where the lock was ripped off the door?
I should note that my approach to reviews of hotel fitness centers is totally different. I prefer to emphasize the fitness center reviews as this is something that is not traditionally done by other blogs. As such, I hope these reviews add something unique to the realm of hotel reviews. Here, the analysis is much more detailed, and I do not hesitate to mention if I think the gym is deficient in any respect or could use improvement. But I also will not hesitate to compliment facilities I think are good or great.
I am not sure where to end this, so I’ll stop here!