Funny how little things can make or break an experience. At a recent stay I noticed that the hotel had gone from two bars of soap--one face and one bath--to one, apparently in a cost-cutting move that no one seems to have noticed. Sadly I also noticed that most of the associates seemed worried and a little off. I asked one who told me her hours were cut to the minimum, and with five kids at home, she was worried about her benefits package ending.
Sad how a downturn in the economy can be reflected in the big and the little things. I saw this start with airlines a few years back and hope that it's not a harbinger of things to come with hotels.
SteppingStones -- your experience seems to be more common. I recently spoke with a C-lounge attendant whose hours had also been reduced (along with the hours of operation of the lounge). Most must work a minimum per week to qualify under many benefit plans. As you pointed out, the soap is just an indicator of a more serious problem, which I, and possibly others as well, sometimes take for granted.
I noticed the absence of conditioner at Desert Springs Villas, an area of the country where the high temperatures and dry air require a rich conditioner especially after repeated exposure to sun and chlorinated pool water. This was most definitely a cost-cutting move not seen anywhere else.
In the New England area, I've noticed increased openness by Marriott franchises to participate in special discount offers through TravelCoupons.com and RoomSaver.com. In some markets that are overly-saturated with brands targeting the same demographic, you can find very agressive discounts at Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites and SpringHill Suites.
In New York City, Hilton is prominently listed on page 1 of 3 of RoomSaver.com. The click-through takes you to the Hilton reservation site where you can book a King suite for a remarkable $49 compared with $89 at the Fairfield Inn Liberty Newark International Airport which is in another state. You can't valet your car at the Marriott Marquis for $49 let alone get a room there. Although Hyatt and Sheraton are also listed at RoomSaver.com, I did not feel compelled to check their discount rates.
TravelCoupons and RoomSaver discount booklets are readily available at the Service Areas along most Interstates. The deep discounts are typically intended for walk-in reservations subject to availability. There's an upcharge for the weekend. BUT, calling the property directly has actually worked about 60% of the time to secure an advance reservation along with a comp Plat upgrade at the deep discount.
This openness and flexibility is just another indicator of the challenges the hotels face and the extent to which they will bend to capture business. The Global Rate Break or F5X promotion rate (which had to be booked by 9/24) is supposed to be 20% off, but the TravelCoupons and RoomSaver discounts approach 40-50% off.
As long as you present your Rewards # at check-in, you will receive points and other Elite benefits. If business travel doesn't require full-service rates + internet + breakfast + parking, then checking out the discount deals merits consideration.
Though my soap experience was not here at Palm Desert's Shadow Ridge, it bespeaks larger issues in lodging that bear watching:
At the MCVI Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert the hours have been cut for the Faldo restaurant, and gimmicks (my word not theirs) have replaced dining: the Monday night football night is hot dogs, not the fine dining as in years past. Breakfast is not served (it is off season but was open last year at this time). The rack of 50% off clothing at the golf shop is 15 feet in length. The course is virtually empty and reseeding has not yet begun.
Shadow Ridge maids are ever efficient but shampoo is the room amenity for us, nothing more (soap is here--two bars). On the positive side the whole place looks great, and the staff are as accomodating as ever. Occupancy rates have been very high, I was told, even in the broiling summer months, mostly folks coming over from the SoCal coast to escape the fog (we're doing that as well but from Monterey).
I fear that we might be seeing s sea change and hope that it is an illusion not reality that I am viewing.-- Edited by SteppingStones at 09/29/2009 3:26 PM PDT