Philly Hotels: Stop Whining About W and Element and Clean Up Your Act

7 ways our hotels can improve for business travelers.

Woman at business hotel

Photo | Veer

In the news this week: Another Philly hotel battle.

A bunch of hotels are ganging up on one of their own. A group that calls itself the “Concerned Hotel Owners of Philadelphia,” along with the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, are  upset that the city is offering tax breaks to a developer who’s looking to construct a 700-room W and Element Hotel on Chestnut Street. Part of their argument is “the sorry state of Center City’s hotel industry. It just can’t support another hotel, especially one this size.”

Guys, please:  Stop fighting each other. You’ve got other things to worry about than getting involved in these petty squabbles. There’s plenty of opportunity to grow in Philadelphia. There’s plenty of room for you all. Instead of wasting your time with this nonsense, how about if you consider addressing some of the problems in your own backyard?  Like maybe taking a few simple steps to make your hotels better for the business traveller.  That’s me.  I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms over the past few years.  And special announcement:  You all still have some work to do.  What kind of work?  Here are 7 suggestions.

1.  Just offer free Internet already!

Why is it the more you pay for a room the more you pay for the Internet?  I stay at a Hampton Inn for $99, and Internet is free.  I stay at the JW Marriott in New York for $599 and I have to pay.  What is up with that?  Isn’t it all the same Internet?  And what is this new fee I’m now seeing for a “faster” Internet?  I’ve tried this at a few different hotels and it’s not faster, at least not in my experience.  Why is it that the Internet is so slow in the morning and evening? Oh, that’s right, more people are using it then!  Please fix this.  And why do some rooms get better Internet than others?  Yes, I understand the concept of the router location… so fix it!  Install more routers.  Test them more frequently.  Upgrade your service.  Internet access is critical for every business traveller.  The faster and more reliable your service, the better chance I’ll stay at your place.  Thank you.

2.  Install more outlets in your rooms!

There are never enough of them.  Business travellers have laptops, phones and tablets nowadays.  I go to too many hotel rooms where I have to unplug lights and clock radios and get on my hands and knees to find a free plug for my phone next to the bed or under the desk (if there is a desk).  I’m not sure if hoteliers have figured out that most people are now relying on their smart phones to wake them up rather than the 16-year-old kids who are manning the front desk at 6 a.m.  Wonder why?  And God forbid I need to iron a shirt.  Where do I plug in the iron?  Oh, I see… in the bathroom.  Thank you.

3.  Help us with our boarding passes!

For some inexplicable reason, I have no fear of flying or even entrusting my life to that Nigerian taxi driver with the bloodshot eyes.  Go figure.  However, I admit that I am truly terrified of one thing when on the road:  whether my boarding pass will print on the hotel printer. Every business traveller I know prints boarding passes at the hotel except for that one smarty-pants guy who thinks he’s so cool using his boarding pass from his smartphone until he realizes that the airline’s QR code readers are terrible and he’s holding up all the other passengers while the gate attendant struggles to check him in.  But what if the printer doesn’t work?  We are screwed.  That’s because whenever there’s a technical glitch, no employee at the hotel seems to know how to fix it.  Please add a quick technical module to your new employee training – like how to change the paper in the boarding-pass printer.  Oh, and where to FIND the paper when it runs out.  Thank you.

4.  Thaw!

Why are the temperatures in hotel rooms in Orlando set at 47 degrees?  Why do I suffer through conference after conference where attendees have to wear down parkas and huddle together around bonfires to keep themselves warm during a session on individual taxes?  I think humans are pretty good at… oh, say 72 degrees.  Everywhere. Anchorage. Orlando. Vegas. Philly. Let’s have a standard setting there and empower your guests to be able to easily change the temperature if really necessary. Just stop setting it back to 47 degrees when I leave the room, OK?  And raise it up a notch in the lobby, too.  Thank you.

5.  Don’t you ever dare charge me for a bottle of water… again!

True story:  Like many couples with children, my wife and I a few years ago took advantage of a weekend getaway to escape from such children to a downtown Philly hotel for the night.  I won’t reveal the name of the hotel, but suffice it to say that it was located on the Parkway and embraces Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  We got a deal on the room and loved the ambiance.  During the night, I awoke thirsty and took advantage of one of the bottled waters provided by the hotel in my room.  And the next day on checkout I was charged six bucks for the bottle!  Hoteliers:  It’s water, for God’s sake.  How about a couple of free bottles in the room?  Please don’t make us drink from the tap using those glasses half-cleaned with Windex by your exhausted and underpaid housekeeping staff.  Thank you.

6.  Make coffee!

There should be free coffee in the hotel lobby all day and all night.  It’s not a big expense.  Do I have to pay $4 for a cup of Starbucks?  And why is that cup of Starbucks twice the price in the hotel lobby as compared to my local Starbucks in Bala Cynwyd?  Does it cost more to ship the coffee to my hotel in Denver?  Is that it?  Or could it be that both Starbucks and the hotelier are taking a wee bit of advantage of their unsuspecting guests.  And if I pay with my room or credit card and I get the slip, should I be adding a tip or instead suffer that withering look from the teenager who served me because I’m clearly not one of the 99 percent.  Why do I have to even consider this?  Just give us free coffee in the lobby all day.  And no, the in-room coffee machines don’t count.  My wife is convinced people pee in those things and now I’m all freaked out.  Thank you.

7.  Get Mobile!

I’m still struggling with why the hotel industry is so far behind with mobile apps.  I’ve tried a few and found them unhelpful, unless I want to book a room at a hotel.  What would be helpful is a quick way to check in and check out from my smartphone.  Do I have to wait behind those knuckleheads wearing Hawaiian shirts and already downing tall colorful drinks while they wait in line in front of me to check in at our Vegas hotel before going out and thinking they’re going to reenact a scene from The Hangover?  Can’t I just check-in from my mobile device and pick up my key card from a separate place.  Need ID?  My iPhone is collecting fingerprints.  My financial planning company requires 10 personal security questions.  You can figure it out.  Let’s move into this century please.

So guys, stop fighting each other.  You’ve got better things to do.  Like focusing more energy on your business customers.  That’s the best way for you to grow in the future.