Sunday, September 24, 2023

When Traveling in the U.S., Adjust Your Expectations

Now that the first thrill of travel in the post-Covid period has receded, some of us are noticing more and more examples of lower standards of service offered by hotels, restaurants, and – to a lesser extent – airlines.

An Australian frequent flyer friend of many years standing recently emailed us to ask our opinion of the Seattle Airport Doubletree. He’s locked into a non-refundable stay in October and was alarmed by some recent negative reviews. As it happens, we stayed there ourselves just the other week. Our best reassurance is that we haven’t found the property to be as bad as the image the negative reviews conveyed. 

Whether the shortfall is due to a lack of employees unwilling to take the first job available, greedy business owners trying to recoup the lost profits of the previous couple of years, or some combination of the two factors, the loser is ultimately the consumer who is paying  as much or more for an experience that has significantly diminished in quality since pre-pandemic days. 

We recently stayed a couple of nights at an Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. The soaring atrium typical of ES continues to impress.

Our two-room suite was clean but dark and dated. 

It contains probably the original furniture from its opening a number of years ago – the early 1990s perhaps? 

The showerhead in the tub was close to falling off, and only a small stream of water emerged. The toilet made a loud and unpleasant whining noise after being flushed, downright alarming until we got used to it.

Breakfast (which we skipped) was only available until 9:00AM, and we felt fortunate to extend this property’s standard 11:00AM checkout time to 1:00PM. Hilton markets ES as an “upscale experience.” Compared to what? 

Last year we were burned by a Hilton Tru hotel at DFW that advertised an airport shuttle. It was only after we landed late one night that we learned the shuttle doesn’t run on weekends. That reality cost us two expensive taxi rides. It would have been more cost-effective to stay at a more expensive property adjacent to the airport. Now we always make a phone call before booking an airport hotel to confirm the existence of an airport shuttle and its operating hours. 

Many of our recent dining experiences at home and away have been less than stellar. Just this past Friday evening we went out for dinner at a small local establishment.  We stood in the entry for 7 or 8 minutes before finally being seated. It took another 5 to 7 minutes to get our menus, and a few more minutes after that to get the glasses of water we’d requested. 

The order took a lot of time to be delivered, and nobody refilled our water despite our asking. The food itself was fine but the overall experience was subpar. Unfortunately, subpar seems to be par for the course these days.

We continue to enjoy decent service on airlines, but there’s no question flights are fewer in number and generally packed to capacity. Airports and airport lounges can be extremely crowded. Still we persevere. 

Our advice when traveling in North America is to be prepared to adjust your expectations to minimize your frustrations. We hope that someday things return to “normal,” but we just have to make the best of it in the meantime.


FS said...

Yikes! Reminds me of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville when I stayed in mid-2015. The decor of my suite was definitely early 1990s and shocked me they still managed to get paying folks in the door with such outdated rooms. Staff and property was mostly meh.

Kathy and Brian said...

We suspect travelers will demand better at some point. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I think we are starting to see the effects of the $15+ min wage in WA state. States with a lower min wage seem to be doing better with the “service” aspects.

Kathy and Brian said...

That could be.