Sunday, July 04, 2010

The internet can be your best friend or hang you out to dry. This is because photos and descriptions posted on-line can be really confusing or better yet downright deceitful. Look, if you are reading this article there is a pretty good chance that you have either used the internet to search for lodging and/or make a reservation for travel or know someone who has. And lets be honest, the internet is one cool invention. But it does have its down side.

I needed to go to Los Angeles to attend a graduation but searching for reasonable accommodations in Southern California can be somewhat of a challenge. Not due to a lack of hotels or motels, there is certainly no shortage of lodging, it’s just where you choose to stay and lay your head. Some of the hotels/motels hire people to write about their establishments to make them sound great, they use words like luxury accommodations, newly refurbished, and minutes from popular attractions. What they often fail to mention are words like near a seedy neighborhood, we have a hooker stroll nearby, plenty of freeway noise or my favorite “you may have to check in through a nighttime, registration window”. Which brings me to my stay at the Willow Inn Motel in Rancho Dominquez, California, at least that’s what the Willow Inn used as its mailing address, although all the street signs read Compton. Now, when you view the pictures and read the reviews posted by lodgers it seemed like a fairly nice place, but when I arrived to the hotel, I’m sorry, I mean motel, around 9pm after a just completing 6-hour drive down from San Francisco I walk up to the lobby doors where there is a sign that says lobby closed use nighttime registration window ….WTH??? a registration window? What’s next a hooker stroll? Then after ringing the bell, a man appears at the window and asks me, “cash, check, or charge”? Really?? I can see the lobby and it looked just the photos on the website. I asked the man behind the glass if I could step into the lobby to complete the checking in process, His response was simply, “the lobby is closed”!

Now under normal conditions, I would be running and screaming away from this place and checking into someplace with a restaurant located in the lobby but now, I was just curious to see where this adventure would take me. The man behind the window, (excuse me), bullet-proof glass, asked me for my Identification and credit card. He actually seemed surprised that I had both. I was hit with the real surprise after swiping my credit card, I was presented with a receipt for the length of my stay and I was asked to sign the credit card receipt. Now, never in my entire career I have ever been asked to pay for my stay in advance. Typically, when I check into a hotel, a hold is placed on my credit card and when I check out of the hotel, they bill my credit card, that how it’s always been. When I inquired as to why I was being billed for my stay in advance, the man behind the window in a rather thick Indian accent, explained to me that he had merely placed a “hold” on my credit card and that I was not being charged for the entire stay. Now, I am a pretty sharp guy and I happen to know that you don’t sign for “holds” on your credit card, at least not as far as I can tell. I was given my room key with no instructions on how to find my room in the dark. So this hotel gets a low score for customer service.

The room appeared to be a standard motel room, but it was clear that the owners went through great lengths to give this motel just a little classier feel. The rooms were nicely appointed for a motel room with nice artwork on the walls and above average furnishings. The television was a 27- inch Magnavox with a generic remote. Actually, the room was a pleasant surprise, except for the fact that the online listing offered free WIFI, but the only signal I was able to obtain was from a Starbucks in the next building. I called the front desk, with a bit of annoyance in my voice and asked “Hey your website says free WIFI, I was told, “the WIFI was not working today but if you will come down to the front desk” ,I could get an internet cable. I arrive at the front desk which is really the registration window, the man behind the counter whom I had just spoken with, asked me,” cash check or charge”, Really!! The hotel offered a continental breakfast every morning and it was pretty good, the housekeeping services were very good and all in all it was a reasonable good experience outside of the two details that I mentioned.