Visiting Grandma and catching up on a year’s worth of Consumer Reports, I uncovered in the July 2007 issue a useful section on hotel ratings. Traveling on my own, I generally eschew hotels in favor of free accommodation with Hospitality Club or with friends, so I am usually on someone else’s dime if bedding in a hotel. That’s not to say I was surprised by what I read: top budget brands meet or exceed the ratings of a number of higher-priced hotel chains.
Consumer Reports lists six points for comparison: price, reader satisfaction score, value, service, upkeep, and problems. The most expensive hotel in the test, the Ritz-Carlton, was also the highest rated in all categories. It garnered the highest reader satisfaction score at 89/100. Homewood Suites, at half the price of the Ritz, scored highest ratings in three categories. Highest value scores were additionally given to Springhill Suites by Marriott, Harrah’s, Drury Inn and Suites, and Wingate Inn.
The highest-rated budget hotel, Microtel, scored nearly identically to a large number of higher-priced chains: Hilton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza, Amerisuites, Wyndham, AmericInn, Sleep Inn, La Quinta, and Baymont. It scored higher than all of the following hotels: Radisson, Comfort Inn and Suites, Best Western, Red Lion Hotels and Inns, Quality Inn and Suites, Clarion, Ramada and Howard Johnson.
The accompanying article mentions but does not note in the ratings that higher-end hotels
dole out fewer freebies than the rest. According to survey respondents, they were also more likely to charge excessive fees for phone calls. Sixty percent of high-end hotels charged for an internet connection, compared with about 10% of budget hotels.
So while higher-end hotels catering to business clientele may provide “oversize work desks and ergonomic office chairs” and “upgraded bedding and linens,” they are also more likely to overcharge you for anything seemingly business-related: telephone, fax, internet, laundry, breakfast. They may also add a fee for each additional person in a room and are less likely to accommodate pets. Budget and moderately-priced hotels are more likely to add amenities (microwaves, refrigerators, hot breakfast buffet, wireless internet and even long-distance calling) inclusively.
Here are the fees you need to look out for at higher-end hotels:
+ minibar restocking charges (in addition to the item fee) or incorrect billing for touch-sensitive minibars
+ luggage storage
+ internet surcharges
+ telephone surcharges
+ in-room safe
+ fax fee
+ package delivery
+ room service
+ energy surcharge
+ resort fees and mandatory tips
At all hotels, look out for fees for:
+ early arrival or departure
+ cancellation (especially if booking special internet rates)
If you don’t agree with any of the fees on your bill, simply request that they be removed.
No matter which hotel you’re considering staying at, do yourself a favor and join the hotel’s guest club. It may not garner you any perks, but you may also receive free late checkout, drinks, newspapers, room upgrades or other benefits, giving you significant savings and improving your stay. Often all it takes is having the guest club number available at reservation or check-in. Becoming a member takes just a few minutes at each hotel’s website.