My Own Hotel

On a recent trip downstate, I had a bit of a hotel adventure. I’d gone online to book the 4-night stay (how did we find hotel rooms before the internet?) It was as close as possible to the place I was visiting, and was also convenient to the highway and walking distance to several good restaurants (I didn’t have a car this trip.) And it was cheap; like about half the cost of the nearest place. Uh oh. I booked it anyway, because I’m always up for an adventure.

My neighbor, in whose car I’d caught a ride, dropped me off and continued on her way, leaving me to my fate. The parking lot had only a half-dozen cars in it, which wasn’t much for such a big place. When I got into the lobby a very competent and friendly clerk checked me in and gave me the room keys. My room was on the first floor adjacent to the pool, which was in a large room covered with a clear dome shaped thing. The room was fine, except it was the first tube-TV I’d seen in some years. The heat worked, the window opened out onto the highway, and it was pretty quiet. Maybe this will be ok, I thought to myself.

Wherever I looked, I saw evidence of a place doing things as cheaply as possible. The towels/washcloths in the bathroom were clean, but were the thinnest and scratchiest I’d ever seen. There were little tubes of shampoo, conditioner, and soap, but they were just sitting on the bathroom counter top, and not arranged as I’d seen in other hotels. The bathroom sink worked, except the hot and cold water were reversed, and the faucet was very loose. The toilet, likewise, was so loose I had to get on and off it carefully, or it would bang against my neighbor’s wall.

The place made a big point about its continental breakfast, which I was looking forward to. It was one of the most depressing continentals I’ve ever experienced. These folks had clearly shopped the used hotel equipment sites and found items on the verge of being thrown out. The toaster reminded me of the one we had when I was a youngster over 50 years ago. There was a display case that had slices of bread and bagels displayed next to the toaster. The crowning glory of the whole setup was a waffle maker complete with a batter dispenser and a water carafe full of syrup (covered with plastic wrap when I was there.) I’m pretty sure the waffle maker worked, because one of the mornings I saw someone in there actually eating a waffle. I did make myself a bagel a couple of mornings, but the little packs of creme cheese were so suspect to me that I quit after that, and the bagels were not the freshest.

As my stay developed, I became more interested in the place. It was really big with probably hundreds of rooms. I feel as though I had the whole place to myself for a night or two, although things picked up on the weekend, to the point there were a couple of dozen cars in the parking lot. So what happens to a place like this that was built at great expense, and did a good job for its customers for years. What causes places like this to fall on such hard times they are hard to keep heated and cause the owners to skimp on towels?

I thought of a couple of scenarios. Perhaps the previous owners felt entitled to a larger wage than the thing could support, and took so much money out of it that necessary maintenance was deferred. Perhaps the city I stayed in came onto some hard times during the recession such that only the strongest hotels could afford to keep themselves up, and this one was not among them. Perhaps it was just plain bad management that caused good people to shy away from employment there, while the employees that stayed helped themselves to the till.

There was also a restaurant attached to the facility, but it was closed. My Mom mentioned that we used to eat there years ago, and it was a nice place. I couldn’t remember it myself, but could imagine how hard it might be if they decided to reopen the restaurant. You’d have to win back the people who used to enjoy their meals there but had found other places to eat after it closed.

As I was in and out of the place for my stay, I found myself rooting for the owners. If they were careful with their expenses and could gradually increase their clientele, then perhaps they could bring the old place back up to snuff. Some luck would be involved of course. If the roof of this huge place needed to be replaced, it could doom the entire operation. I doubt they’d have the money, and I can’t imagine a bank loaning them the necessary cash.

I spend some time each year in hotels across the country, and find most of them to be fairly similar. This place had some character, and seemed on the cusp of a big change. It was neat to experience it first hand. In the future, when I drive by the place I’ll be interested to look that direction and determine which way the balance is tipping.

One Response to “My Own Hotel”

  1. Bill Davis says:

    this is the second weekend in a row I’ve stayed in a motel and they are complete contrasts. This weekend we at a Cambria Suites in Maple Grove, MN. It is a huge, beautiful room with 2 TVs (neither of which will probably get turned on) with all the amenities. Last weekend I was in an “old fashioned” motel with room doors directly to the outside and you parked right by your door. My guess is that it was at least 50 years old. It has been renovated with nice woodwork, etc. The room was quite small with a shower stall and it did not have breakfast. It did have good wifi. It was very clean. It was obvious that the owners took pride in the place. There were not a lot of rooms taken as it was in a small town and not prime tourist time for that area. Across the street from it was a motel of the same vintage that looked pretty tired. Although their open sign was on and the office was lit up there was no a single car there either night. It was quite a contrast.
    Of course I found hotels both weekends on the Internet. Used Tripadvisor to check them both out. I’ve found that to be pretty reliable.

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