This past weekend, I had the delightful opportunity to run away with the Divine Though Blogless Elizabeth to play at the Stitches Market. Even better, we were gifted with a hotel room for the night before, thus allowing us to hit the Market bright and early (cough) at 10:00 a.m. well rested, instead of dragging in from the three hour drive.
When choosing our hotel, we scanned the options available through Travelocity, and opted for a DoubleTree Hotel that was within a short drive from the convention. I've always liked DoubleTree. The lobbies are always pleasant, clean, and welcoming (and they give you warm cookies!). There's always a decent if not downright good restaurant on site. The rooms are always clean, with nice sparkly, well appointed bathrooms stocked with stuff you might need. The beds are always comfortable. And they always have plenty of pillows.
At least that had been my experience.
After our recent stay in Schaumburg, I'll think twice before choosing a DoubleTree hotel. Now, I'll admit, part of my issue is one that could have been handled by Travelocity (who neglected to warn us that the hotel in question was undergoing renovation)-- and I may whine to them about it, but the real issues are all on DoubleTree.
First, when we arrived, there were big signs at the edges of the parking lot directing us to the Lobby and Restaurant. Seems reasonable. We followed the signs to a parking lot in the back of the hotel where, at first, second, and even third glance, we could not discern a clear entrance. There was a small tent-like thing near the building, but no sign where we could see it to alert us to the fact that it actually represented an awning over the temporary entrance. (We eventually saw the sign, which was posted at about the level of the second story windows, and thus not in line of sight of anyone driving around the lot looking for the Reception/Lobby entrance). It so clearly did NOT look like the entrance that we pulled into a parking space and called the hotel for guidance to that door!
When we then walked up to the door, there was not an accessible ramp near the door. Those in wheelchairs needed to roll over to the other end of the building, and then roll back again on a narrow sidewalk to get to the entrance. For us, it was a minor inconvenience, inhibiting our rolly suitcases. For someone less able-bodied, it would have been very frustrating.
We entered through a door clearly labeled "Emergency Exit", and peered around the corner. Again, the sign telling us that the room they were using for the reception area was not in line of site. It was like a wee flag at the top corner of the doorway, sticking out into the hallway. Understated certainly fits the DoubleTree image, but this was so understated that we didn't see it until we had a full length of hallway to look at it -- so that the angle of our line of site would include it.
So, in the registration room (a converted hotel room (or maybe it was once a conference room), we found one young woman in what appeared to be the Casual Friday version of a DoubleTree uniform sitting behind a desk that was covered with stuff (no pretty counter, but we'll forgive that). There was another woman with her, who was wearing jeans. The one in uniform deferred repeatedly to the one in jeans. The only thing about the transaction that felt like checking into a real DoubleTree was that we walked out the door with keys and slightly warm cookies. Otherwise, it felt more like checking into a cheap hotel -- the kind you see in movies but are unlikely to actually want to stay in.
We tried to forgive this. We were tired. It was after 8:00 p.m., and we'd just gotten off the highway after a 3 or 3 1/2 hour drive. And we were hungry.
So, we popped upstairs, dumped our suitcases, and checked out the information in the room about the restaurant. Our receptionist/desk clerk person had assured us that the restaurant was open ... and "just down the hall" from the room they were using to register guests. We tried not to let the fact that we hadn't actually noticed anything that looked like a restaurant as we passed down the hallway deter us. We also checked our phones for nearby restaurant information (yay smart phones). While my research on the Tilted Kilt's menu almost got us to walk across the parking lot to try it out, The Divine Elizabeth's Yelp research warned us off. (One of the reviews starts thusly, "Being told this place is like a loud Hooters but the waitresses dress like they're extras from the Britney Spears, "Hit me One More Time" video is exactly right."). So, we looked at the menu for the DoubleTree's restaurant, and decided it would be okay.
Again, the wee sign identifying the conference room as the current restaurant was poorly placed. You kind of had to know where to look to find it. Of course, the fact that the room didn't look like a restaurant didn't help. For reasons I can't quite imagine, they didn't use any of the furniture from their old restaurant. They had it set up like a conference ... with conference chairs etc. But the table service was the familiar good-hotel heavy silverware,
and there were standard tablecloths and napkins. So, that was okay. But ...
It went down hill from there.
First up... we asked for water, and our waitress brought us two waters. One came in a glass like this:
And the other in a glass that looked like this:
Yeah, this was a clue. We were too tired to catch it.
So, we placed our order from the menu that looks very promising, despite the very make-shift set up in the "dining" room. After a while, my salad arrived.
It's a pretty reasonable Caesar Salad (but then again, it's hard to really mess up a Caesar Salad), but notice the fork. This fork does not come close to matching the fork already in our place settings.
The difference is obvious. This fork, in fact, looks and feels like it came from a cheap diner.
Denny's wouldn't use this fork.
The Divine Though Blogless Elizabeth's soup had also arrived. It looked like French Onion soup should look. It even smelled mostly like French Onion soup should smell. But the Swiss cheese just didn't work. I got a sub par fork, she got sub par soup.
Alas, when the food arrived, it was.... well.... sub sub par. While it is true that it bore some passing resemblance to the descriptions in the menu, the food did not at all live up to the promise. We might even have asked that the burger be sent back to get us one that wasn't quite well-done instead of medium had the waitress managed to stop back by the table before we had eaten all we could stomach.
When she finally did arrive and asked how our meal was, we acknowledged that we were disappointed. She sort of apologized, but not really. We then asked that she just split the check down the middle and gave her our credit cards. She returned with two tabs that differed by about $1.50. She couldn't figure out which card went with which charge... because she couldn't figure out how to split a check in half. She came close to the split (of course, our orders were similarly priced), but not a 50/50 split. We gave up, paid and retreated to our room.
There was more fun waiting....
While the bathroom was clean, we did note one minor problem.
Something is missing here....
Oh yes! Most sinks have stoppers in them. These stoppers not only serve to close the drain entirely, should you want to fill it, but also serve to prevent things from falling down the drain should your slippery wet hands lose their grip. Things like......
Luckily, this particular room was being inhabited by knitters. Knitters tend to travel with extra tools in their kits -- tools like crochet hooks. Crochet hooks are pretty good for fishing things out of drains.
In the morning, as we packed up our belongings to leave, I searched the room for a comment card. There were none.
Then, as we were leaving, we encountered a person in the elevator. There was nothing discernible about him that would have clued us in to the fact that he was, in fact, a hotel employee. He was wearing jeans and a button down shirt. There was some sort of swipe tag hanging around his neck, but we couldn't see the front. In theory, it could have been a name tag... but who knows. His hair style was very... shall we say... progressive. Edgy, even. And that two day beard growth did not meet what I've come to recognize as the professional look of hotel employees in most DoubleTrees. We were thus rather surprised when he asked how our stay had been.
We were more surprised when we told him it had been somewhat disappointing and he said something that resembled an "I'm sorry to hear that," but didn't quite make it. When we told him about the missing stopper, he agreed that it wasn't right, and said he'd fix it. That, at least, was encouraging.
I stopped in at the "office/reception desk" on our way out and asked for a comment card. The person behind the desk (again, not in a recognizable hotel uniform), offered only the card they have on which one is supposed to praise some employee for going above and beyond the call of duty. I refrained from telling her that the employees I'd encountered so far hadn't met the hotel's usual standards. She said that the hotel is trying to get people to take online surveys instead of filling out cards. She stuck with what I assume is the new standard -- she didn't even ask whether we'd enjoyed our stay. (I guess that means the guy in the elevator went above and beyond then).
Now... I dont' believe that all hotels should provide five star service. And I dont' automatically assume that because someone has an edgy hair style and wears jeans he's not good enough to represent his hotel. But I do think that when you're a chain as big as DoubleTree, and when you tend to charge the rates DoubleTree tends to charge, that there ought to be a standard level of service and quality across the chain, and that every hotel in that chain ought to meet minimum standards. This one did not come close.
I'll be sharing these thoughts with the folks at DoubleTree. If they DO decide to do something about it, I will, of course, let you all know. But for now, I'll be much more careful about making a reservation at another DoubleTree for a while.
Stitches, on the other hand, was every bit as overwhelming in a good way as it ever was.
Added: I tried to contact DoubleTree about our experience. The web site offers a couple of ways to send them information. The general contact email option gives you 500 characters, which doesn't exactly give me room to explain the whole thing... The recent stay survey thing gives you a few more characters, but no where near enough... and they limit you to one of three specific issues, thus excluding some of the above mentioned problems. So, I tried to send them a link to this post. I can't tell from their page whether the message I tried to send to guest relations actually went. That may or may not be another issue.