Steve Madgwick ponders the question of just how much people will pay for convenience?
The first thing I did, completely accidentally, was theatrically mouth a swearword my mother would be ashamed of me for.
I managed to stifle the accompanying sound, thank God, because the bar adjacent to the hotel’s reception desk was packed with people but deadly quiet.
Even if I did go around swearing at hotel staff (which I don’t), the service at this particular airport hotel certainly did not warrant it; efficient, affable, exactly what you would expect from a respected brand.
But it was a simple answer to a simple question that provoked my silent bout of Tourette’s.
“Do you have wi-fi?,” I had asked.
“Yes, sir. That will be $9 per hour or $20 for the evening,” she had answered courteously but noticeably cautiously, noting my reaction, as though she had seen it before.
I declined relatively calmly and then left it at that, kicking myself afterwards for not writing a diatribe and stuffing it into the hotel’s suggestion box.
Sure, $20 doesn’t buy much these days: a round of drinks for three, 12 packets of chewing gum, 20 apps for your phone (and, of course, it buys you two copies of your favourite great-value magazine).
But it also happens to buy a fortnight’s internet access at home; so why the user-pays blow-out?
Up in my room, in a huff, I began to take stock of what exactly you get for around $250 at an airport hotel, mindful of the fact I had arrived late in the evening and was due to check out before breakfast, barely seven and a half hours in total.
All the usual good-hotel boxes were ticked here: friendly staff, clean room, instant hot water, quality fittings, fresh linen, lots of little bottles of lotions and the usual array of befuddling light switches.
But a similarly tariffed hotel closer to the city, in a pretty town or up the side of a ski slope would also offer these – with the added advantage of not being marooned next to an airport.
The principal commodity an airport hotel sells is convenience. Not views, not excursion options, and certainly not atmosphere. So they should compensate for geographical limitations with a built-in, all-inclusive convenience package, particularly because their market is predominately business focused.
In the US, airport hotels are the 7Eleven of the accommodation world; using their strategic positions for an inequitable advantage to leverage a hefty premiums with no tangible value. In Australia we are lucky enough to have a range of quality options that don’t take advantage of their tarmac proximity; hotels that can stand on their own foundations as quality accommodation. This is not a witch-hunt about all airport hotels, far from it, and that is why I found no need to name this one.
My only message is that $20 for one night’s wi-fi teeters on the top of the slippery slope of taking advantage of the customer.
I have stayed at many hotels in Europe that have offered complimentary internet. So why should it cost so much here?
Someone please explain…