I’m on vacation at the moment, in Chicago, and my experience of staying in a hotel here has caused a fairly predictable reaction in me. It has made me realize: I am not the customer here. Or, to be more precise, I do not represent the primary demographic this hotel considers its customers to come from.
First, a few observations:
- In-room wifi is not free. (This is really the big one.)
- The hotel maintains a few restaurants/bars which sell really over-priced and under-alcoholed drinks.
- The hotel maintains a convention space. It’s been hosting things most nights I’ve been here.
From this I conclude that the hotel has geared its offerings to appeal to people who aren’t paying for their own room. People with an expense account. If my employer was covering my travel costs here, I’d be fine with charging wifi to my room, and adding on meals/drinks regardless of whether they’re reasonably priced.
The customer is a business that can afford to send employees out to travel for some reason. Thus the purchasing decision will be made based on factors that I don’t care about, like whether there’s meeting spaces, or how close it is to some convention. In particular, the customer isn’t the person who’ll be staying at the hotel, or even who’ll be directly paying for anything involved with the hotel.
Interestingly, if I go to an objectively worse hotel, say a Motel 6, I am the customer. I’m a probably cost-conscious consumer who is picking between similar options, and since I’m also the person who’ll be using the service they have an incentive to directly appeal to my own irritations. Free wifi, free breakfasts, etc.
Note: it’s not really the money that matters to me, it’s the sensation of being nickel-and-dimed. I bought a room, and you’re not giving me an amenity that the cheapest motel will throw in for free? Really? That’s why I don’t think the explanation is that the hotel expects its visitors to be people well off enough to not care about the extra fees. Even if the money’s no object, the attitude is a pain.