Posts tagged “hotel”

Richmond riches

I’m here in Richmond, VA for another few days of fieldwork. I haven’t quite processed the time in Seattle (and let alone the photos from KC) and here I am on the road again, turn the page. Our hotel is in a combination of industrial and motel strip, directly across from the economy lot for the airport. The main floor of the hotel smells like humid flatulence.

And here’s a closed 7-11, as I pulled in, the local cops were there flashing lights and getting out to talk to someone in another car. There are two Waffle Houses within sight of each other. Interesting area.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a free day tomorrow, so I’ll be off to explore the city. I am entirely unprepared for that, of course, since I planned to be busy minute by minute. We’ll see how it goes.

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Dan and I have already mentioned (here and here) our stay at Chateau Avalon (an “Experience Hotel” – quick and easy ways to see times and past and locations distant, all without leaving Kansas City). Now a bit more about what was horribly wrong with my room. Let’s assume that most people who stay there fall within their intended demographic (couples, local, looking for a quick getaway), and let’s set aside issues of personal taste.

I was in the Colorado Frontier room.
The bed is in the back, which is sort of another room.
That room is extremely tight around the bed; one can barely get by, and I found the best way to open and close the drapes was to stand on the bed itself. No dresser, but a fairly big closet. Confusing light switches, with no light source that was reachable from the bed itself. And a massive TV that loomed above the bed rather threateningly. The literature promised satellite TV so I looked to see how to get beyond the usual hotel 15 channels, eventually calling the front desk. Those are the channels, it seemed. HBO was the satellite channel. I expressed some confusion and they explained that it’s a satellite channel “around here.” Okay.

The room had completely useless workspace. I didn’t want a thematic chair to sit on for editing PowerPoint decks, transferring video, managing cameras and media and chargers and so on. I wanted something comfortable, and I wanted a big enough table to get my stuff on. The only other flat surface for wallet, keys, etc. was the bedside table (already covered with hotel crap and rather difficult to reach unless you throw yourself on the bed like a beached whale).

The bathing facilities were smack in the middle of the main part of the room, and quite far from the water closet portion of things. Do you want to invite a colleague into your room when your tub (and inevitable tubby paraphernalia) is front stage?

The whirlpool spa was also a shower. But it was quite deep, so to get out meant tentatively raising a foot rather high and over the edge. What’s on the outside? Narrow stone steps. Umm, right? I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck getting out of that thing. There was no place to put a towel and no safe way to get out. Very irksome. Part of the stone stairs went down only to the level of the porch floor while others went a few inches further to the level of the main floor.

My (least) favorite design failure. The bathroom was as wide as the door. The sink was to the right and the toilet was to the left. To reach the toilet, one must step into the bathroom and to the right, then inhale and push the door past. A person of girth would absolutely not be able to do it. I could not do it without the edge of the door dragging across me roughly.

There was a lot of energy put into the design choices, but it’s the most shallow form of appearance versus usable I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps the owner of the hotel should be forced to stay in each room and try getting things done, other than savoring luxuriant chocolate (or cranium-filling cinnamon rolls) and heavenly rose petals. Say, going to bed, getting up, washing, using the toilet, etc. Activities of daily living type of stuff…

Radisson doesn’t quite get basic tech

Like the phone.

Last weekend I needed to set a wake-up call, and either introversion or bitter experience leads me to trust an automated service more than a human being, but even so, I always look on the phone for instructions on how to arrange for one.

Right. Press the button and you’ll either end up in the automated system or you’ll be speaking to someone who can handle it. I press the button, but nothing. Press again, nothing. I try the other buttons and they all simply click. The phone has special function buttons but they are unprogrammed.

Okay, all is not lost. The room has another phone in it.

But this phone has a different interface. Here we’re told to touch 77 (why is touch the verb, anyway?). Doing so brings me to the voice mail interface, which does not have any wake-up options.

Two phones, two different interfaces, both screwed up. I called 0 (or touched 0, if you prefer) and spoke to someone (shudder!) and it was handled.

It’s just a weird failure of attention-to-detail.

A celebrity or personalized wake-up call for your next Hyatt stay

The Hyatt Wake-Up Call service provides Hyatt guests with the opportunity to wake up to personalized greetings from loved ones back home. For a limited time, you can also receive a celebrity greeting from Christie Brinkley. From the press release the service is designed to help frequent business travelers maintain connection with others while on the road and personalize their stay with the sound of a familiar voice in the morning.

To celebrate the launch, supermodel Christie Brinkley, well known for balancing a hectic travel schedule and life as a mom, recorded two limited-edition wake-up greetings available for download.

The direct mail piece I received today comes with 4 perforated cards that I can give to others so they can record messages for me. I can see this being a hit with families with young children, but it’s going right into the recycling for me.

The mail piece:
Family and friends can easily record wake-up calls for you
By using the enclosed cards, family members and friends can create and schedule personalized Hyatt Wake-Up Calls for your stays. The process is simple.
1. Hand out the attached Hyatt Wake-Up Call cards with unique access codes
2. Remind them when you will be at Hyatt
3. Have them call the phone number or visit the website listed on the card and follow the instructions.
4. Look forward to special wake-up messages via your cell phone

Cell phone? They can’t even integrate this into their wake-up service at the hotel? You actually don’t need this to be tied to your hotel stay to use it? You could prank call a bunch of friends, or have Christie call them. It’s masquerading as a “wake-up call” but in fact, it’s just a recorded message delivery, outside of any hotel interaction.

Lame, lame, lame.

Any Palomar is a pal o’ mine?

I blogged about my UXWeek hotel before I headed to DC and again after I arrived (when they have my reservation – expecting me to arrive one day later). Here’s some thoughts about the rest of the experience there.

The elevator had lovely but deadly ceiling lighting. There was no place you could stand (regardless of height or headwear) that would prevent these lights from shining uncomfortably into your eyes. You had to bob and weave to see the buttons for choosing a floor, and then shift around the space inside during your ride in order to minimize the just-outside-awareness annoyance (like when a bug flits near your skin and although you don’t consciously realize what it is you are still annoyed by it).

This sink in my bathroom drove me nuts. Only one control, to the right of the very large and prominent faucet. The control swivels between its current position, let’s call that 6 o’clock, and 90 degrees to the right – say, 3 o’clock. I never managed to get Hot or Cold out of the tap, though, so I never really figured it out. For the first set of uses, I just tilted the control back and got warm enough/cold enough water to do my washing. Then I saw it rotated right, only.

Meanwhile, every time I’d go to wash my hands I’d “miss” because I’d be aiming for the hot tap on the left of the faucet and then I’d get sort of confused with my eyes and my hands when crossing under that huge faucet. It sounds dumb when explained logically, but in terms of instinct, I could just not manage to use this sink easily.

One night I got up to get a drink directly from the faucet and smacked myself pretty hard in the forehead with the giant metal faucet. That’ll make going back to sleep fun.

I hated this sink, but only once I tried to use it.

Looking at the clock radio, I saw that familiar connector and realized hey, that’s for an iPod. I liked the visual branding of the connector; slightly obscure but not entirely so. It semi-subtlely announces what it’s capable of by showing those pins (and connectors are often relegated to the back of the house)

It was really nice to be able to listen to my own music while I was in my room; I made good use of this feature. Sort of a weird interface; I had to keep pressing buttons to get it to play but it was also simple enough I didn’t really mind. I probably blamed myself for not really trying to figure it out – if I had taken 3 minutes to study and learn that would have explained the use model well enough that each action would confidently produce a desired result. But meanwhile, I was getting music and that was good.

Otherwise, the hell just seemed like good ideas that no one really thought through. Lots of half measures that reminded you of the flavor of good service but not the actual experience of it. Every lunch buffet seemed to be missing some implement – gorgeous chunks of chocolate but nothing to cut them with (although maybe it was simply display chocolate we weren’t meant to eat – what a concept) or cold cuts and bread where the bread was rolls with raisins or chunks of baguette that weren’t sliced lengthwise.

The main restroom near the conference was staffed by a guy with bright yellow rubber gloves on. Was he a men’s room attendant? Or was he always in there cleaning? It was pretty unclear and it was of course uncomfortable – how were we supposed to be interacting? No script for that one.

Other people reported the bar and restaurant had lovely tables that seemed at the wrong height for the chairs (or the chairs being the wrong height for the tables). That seemed the theme here – nice looking stuff that was just hard enough to use to make you feel wrong or awkward.

Let’s hope they get this stuff sorted out; I fear they are so far off the mark, though, putting up layers of surfaces without trying them out, that it may never resolve.

Artsy Hotel Raises the Barre

The Washington Post profiles the goofy-ass training at a new the hotel where I’ll be for Adaptive Path’s UX Week

And so the sleek marble lobby bobbed with the compact frame and overflowing personality of Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre, who commandeered a troupe of lavender-shirted bellhops in a lesson of classical ballet.

“Fluid movements, one two three, one two three,” Webre chanted, extending his arm toward the lobby’s textured wallpaper. “Tuck in your [backside]. No booties out in Maryland, please. It’s 202, not 301.”

Greenbelt resident and Palomar bellboy-in-training Alvin Green tucked in. “This is extensive training,” he said. “It’s a . . . uh . . . different experience.” Sighing at Green’s port de bras, Septime said only, “Very, very good” before swanning away to adjust the shoulders of a future concierge.

The Palomar hopes to tell its story to gallery-hopping guests who would get excited about chocolates hand-painted by an “artist chocolatier” and nightly “art of wine” tastings at which local artists mingle with the crowd. The Dupont Circle hotel will have its grand opening in September, but is currently accepting guests on a limited basis. It is Kimpton Hotels’ seventh location in the District; others include Hotel Monaco and the Hotel Madera, just two blocks away.

By a carved column of dark ebony, comedians Amy Saidman and Natasha Rothwell theatrically complained yesterday, throwing up their hands like prima donnas, while bellhops improvised ways to calm them.

As she ran her finger over her chest flirtatiously, Rothwell stage-whispered in a low, breathy drawl, “I could stay longer than three nights.”

Amid the hoots and whistles of the watching employees, bellhop Wendell Williams said, in absolute deadpan, “That won’t be possible, ma’am.”

Or, as Orlando described it: “We’re as minimalistic as possible to allow the guests to experience art. So our lobby is discreet and philosophical.”

Looking around the lobby, ballet master Webre explained what he saw to his students: “The theatrical experience is going to have a beginning . . . when the curtain goes up and the lights go on. This is that beginning.”

Orlando agreed with Webre’s vision: “Art starts at the curb when the bellman opens the door.”

Sigh. I’ve stayed at other Kimpton Hotels before (the Allegro in Chicago, the Monaco in Chicago, the Argonaut in San Francisco) and I just find the experience to be silly and unrelated to what I’m there for. I don’t need art, ballet, music, guys in silly pith helmets, or whatever in the foreground. I’m not asking the hotel to be purely functional, but I don’t think the hotel needs to demand that I participate in its concept, to ram that concept down my throat. If I want a specifically-art experience, I’ll go to a museum. If I want to sleep, eat, check-in/check-out, and hide from the busy world, I’ll go to a hotel. There are ways to differentiate, and enhance the experience with a bit of “isn’t that cool!” but I feel like Kimpton just takes it too far, creating parodic experiences with no authenticity at all.

And this article further takes the wind out of their self-inflated sails; their approach to corporate training just seems ludicrous.

I’ll report back in late August on our experience!

Telling customers buh-bye!

A follow-up to a previous entry (in which planned to remove my inventory from their system if I didn’t make a purchase, etc.), now Hilton is going to drop me from their loyalty program if I don’t stay there soon

As a member of Hilton HHonors, you are very important to us. That’s why we want to give you an opportunity to reactivate your HHonors account before it is closed and the HHonors points you’ve already earned are forfeited.

[pitch to sell me a credit card]

You may also keep your HHonors account open beyond September 01, 2006, by taking advantage of one of the following options:

[stay with them, buy something etc.]

If you do not take one of the actions above by September 01, 2006, your HHonors account will be closed and all accumulated points will be forfeited. Prior to your account closing, you may redeem your HHonors points for any eligible reward. After the points are redeemed, your account will be closed by the date above and all remaining points will be forfeited.

Forfeited? I think I stayed at a Hilton in December, and previously in October (I could be wrong, frankly I don’t differentiate between hotel brands too clearly, there’s other things to take up space in my brain), but now I’m to be forfeited? I wonder what trend in loyalty (as a business construct) is leading to this shedding of non-profitable customers, or even this threatening-with-expulsion mentality. I’m not sure what I’m costing Hilton. If I’m not an active customer, don’t target any promotions to me. But why dump me? Or, why threaten to dump me as a way to motivate me to become a better customer? There’s no carrot, only a stick.

At least, as I wrote in the previous entry, they are warning me. Starwood just dumped me without notice and caused all sorts of usability hassles when I tried to make a reservation using what I thought was an active membership number.

Nice freebie

Our Courtyard by Marriott in Houston had a nice little freebie – they would take a business card and laminate it into a luggage tag, while you waited. I appreciated the free thing and I got a kick out of the fact that it was travel-related; it reinforced the experience you were having with them. Just a clever customer service thing that someone decided to do.


After my recent challenges booking with Marriott, I encountered a similar level of weirdness with Starwood. I was trying to book a room (for a conference, using their conference-rate link) and couldn’t seem to log into my account. I haven’t used it for a while and naturally don’t have a clue as to my username and password (more specifically – I can’t remember what format they require my username and password to be in; if I knew that I could probably reconstruct them both). I went through the various helpful links (Forgot your password? Forgot your username?) to try and resolve it. When asked for my membership number I pulled out my Starwood Preferred Guest card and entered the number, only to be told that something to the effect that I needed to enter a number in the proper format. I’m looking at the screeen, I’m looking at my card – the numbers are exact. But no, not valid. Okay, I try something else – I give ’em my email address and they email me a new password and remind me of my username. I go back and try to log in using the newly issued/reset password. Nope, it doesn’t know who I am.

What the hell?

I finally contact them for help, after screwing around for way too long with this.

The website was not accepting your above Starwood Preferred Guest account number because your account had reached an expired status as of March 31, 2004, resulting in any remaining Starpoints being forfeited.

Starpoints do not expire for active accounts. Accounts are considered active as long as you have earned Starpoints as a result of activities at participating Starwood Properties or as a result of use of the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express during the previous twelve months.

I am pleased to tell you that your account has been reactivated to enable you to view your above Starwood Preferred Guest number online.

Whoah. First of all, their technology is absolutely complete broken. If the account is suspended, then the error message should say something like that, not simply reject the account number as not being valid. Or the failure-to-logon info should provide some information that suggests they know who I am but won’t let me on for some reason. And they shouldn’t reset my password and then refuse to let me log on with it.

But really, WTF? Why would they de-activate my online login for inactivity?

And beyond that, it gets really punitive! I have forfeited my Starpoints? The language is just so wrong, so haughty. This is not service, and this is not going to encourage loyalty. Did I have any Starpoints? I have no clue, I don’t care. I’ve held onto their damn card for years, but that isn’t enough of a committment to Starwood, I’m not active, so I’ve been forfeited and also deactivated.

The net effect here is not to motivate me to toe the line and be a good Starwood customer, but rather to vote with my feet. They’ve got my money this time (and it’s actually the conference money but whatever) but next time, I will look for someone else.

Oh, and even though my profile indicated I don’t want to receive marketing email from them, by making a reservation with them they reset that and bury a line about opting-out in the confirmation email.

This is a bad company.

Marriott needs some UI and customer-centric help

Just went through an annoying hotel booking process.

I was hoping to get a corporate rate, for which I would have to call and ask for it. I finally gave up sitting on hold, figuring that the cost of me on hold (wasted time) was probably close to the discount I might eventually receive.

Went online, and see the the Marriott hotel we’ve been recommended have two different room styles for almost the same price (one has the word “spa” in the name) but there is nowhere easily found on the site with information about what these rooms actually contain, or hey, what they look like.

I pull the trigger on the fancier rooms. I fill out all the online forms to book the reservation. The UI has a little spot to send in comments. It’s nice and wide and is about three lines long. There is text that says “45 characters maximum, including spaces” but I see the box not the warning, and I put in a whole message about our arrival. Nope, they send me back several times until I get it down to 45 characters, which is less than 1/3 of the available space.

My confirmation arrives and buried in all the visual jargon is a little notification:
Promotional email unsubscribe
Periodically, Marriott Rewards sends email about your account balance and membership status, member exclusive specials, and other program information that may be of interest to you. If you prefer not to receive these promotional emails, you may unsubscribe here.

I click on that, and it takes two steps (including specifying which of all the possible newsletters they generate do I want to unsub from), and then they tell me Please allow 10 business days for processing.


Market pricing

click to enlarge

Wow – what the market will bear is clearly the rule with hotels.

It was hard to find a place to stay in Houston that was within 30 minutes of our meetings. Turns out the Rodeo was in town that week and so rooms were scarce. We stayed at a really crappy La Quinta Inn in a depressing part of nowhere suburbia.

And here’s what the room cost

2/28: $41.45 per night
3/1: $243.58 per night
3/2: $22.16 per night

One night is worth more than ten times what the other night was worth?

Unbelievable. It was crappy every single night.


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