Here Nothing Is Free

January 5th, 2007

I recently had the mixed pleasure of spending a few nights in the Argent Hotel (recently bought by the Westin), a rather nice edifice located in downtown San Francisco. In the month of December, the hotel had really attractive rates – I guess in the big scheme of things, it makes sense that not many people travel to San Francisco for the holidays. It’s sort of a “while you’re young” kind of town, and I imagine most people rush off back to their family homelands when the holiday season arrives.

But being from the bay area, I found myself back in San Francisco for a few days and needing accommodation. Right next to the BART, clean rooms, courteous staff, what more could I ask for?

Not being reamed left and right with nickel-and-dime bullshit.

Honor-bar fridge: No personal use.
Each local telephone call: $1.
One two minute domestic long-distance call: $9. (!!!)
Wall-tethered internet access: $15/day.
Reminding oneself to finally remember to call ahead and check on this bullshit: slight comfort, at best.

I will not rent rooms from nickel-and-diming bastard hotels.
I will not rent rooms from nickel-and-diming bastard hotels.
I will not rent rooms from nickel-and-diming bastard hotels.

Oh yeah, The Westin. They ripped me off in Chicago, too. Hopefully I’ll be more careful next time.

“I drank from a faucet, and I kept my receipt
For when they weigh me on the way out, here nothing is free.”

Death Cab For CutieWhy You’d Want To Live Here

The best (i.e. worst) part about the Argent was the sign on the honor-bar fridge. They meant to say “We can’t let you use this refrigerator for personal items, because we don’t make any money off of that.” Instead, they insulted my intelligence (and all 666 other guests – no joke), with the statement: Please do not place your personal items in the Refreshment Center, as they may spoil. They might as well shut off access to the bath and bed, as my skin might melt off in a freak chemical accident, too.

No way to to treat a customer. We pay the big sum of money up front, so we don’t have to pay the bullshit money as we go.

12 Responses to “Here Nothing Is Free”

  1. alexr Says:

    Shoot, if you were in town you should have pinged me.

  2. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    D000d I should have, but it was kind of a drive-by-visit, anyway. Still, I will have to get in touch next time we swing through.

  3. Chris Says:

    You should try the Kimpton Hotel chain next time. We’ve always had good luck finding cheap rates ($100-$150) around the holidays. Pet friendly (they’ll even loan you a goldfish if you didn’t bring a pet), fresh baked cookies at reception, nice rooms, usually a good restaurant attached as well.

  4. Peter Hosey Says:

    A no-prize to anybody who gets the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference in those Death Cab for Cutie lyrics.

  5. brad Says:

    I stayed at the Argent back in 1999 or so. I’d heard great things about the ANA, as it was called under its original management, plus their website promised high-speed internet in every room. It turns out that they were actually using their website to describe their hopes and dreams for some rosy future, rather than reality. When I asked at the front desk, they acted like I was crazy to believe anything from their website, saying “we have no control over that.” Great. After haggling a bit, they very reluctantly knocked $20/day off my bill. Not even enough to pay for their overpriced parking. I haven’t been back.

  6. PGM Says:

    Well, you could have known; after all, “argent” is French for money…..

  7. Jonathan Wight Says:

    I stayed at the Argent once during WWDC (back when it was in San Jose). Wasn’t overly impressed.

    But almost all hotels are going to nickel and dime you. Seems to be the norm these days.

  8. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    PGM: I had fun telling my friends that I was staying at “The Money” …

    Jonathan: a lot of hotels are like that, but not all. What’s infuriating is that the nickel-and-diming is almost unheard of in the mid-range hotels. If you stay at a Holiday Inn or something, chances are internet access will be free. It’s the richer hotels who, I suppose naturally, think they can ream you out of a bit more money.

  9. Sean Harding Says:

    I hate the nickel-and-dime thing too, though I deal with it almost everywhere I say. I guess I’ve gotten a bit numb to it, but $30/day parking fees and exorbitant “resort charges” still bug me.

    If the “refreshment center” was anything like the minibars I’ve used, it’s quite likely that your food would spoil. I think I’ve given in to the allure of the minibar for a drink about four times in my life, and every single time the beverage was barely below room temperature…

  10. Micheal J Says:

    FWIW, the Airport Express was just screaming to be used in such occurrences. I used one when in SF for WWDC.

  11. Mark Glossop Says:

    A colleague and I stayed in the Argent for WWDC ’03; didn’t mind it at all at the time. Having been back to SF a few times since then (I’m from Perth .au, so “a few”=3), and staying in other hotels/chains, some comments on hotel stays:
    * I’ve found it a lot easier to simply request a “room fridge”…I like having a stash of coke and ice-cream around (since I love my coke and well, the US has ice cream flavours that we just don’t get in Australia, and I just duck down to one of the local mini-marts rather than buying it through the hotel – helps me find my way around whereever I’m staying at the time.) Most hotels have some sort of provision for a room-fridge – you just need to ask for it. I’ve never been charged (well, except for the tip to the housekeeping staff – being Australian, I’m not sure I’ll ever grok the whole “tip” system.)
    * Internet access – yeah, wasn’t wireless back then, but work was paying, we just shared it wirelessly and to a few new friends we met who also were at WWDC :-)
    * The parking fees – I’ve seen overnight rates in SF of $45 at much less prestigious establisments, so $30 seems cheap. Still, the BART station is about 5 minutes walk away – about 5 months ago was the first time I drove in the US, and that wasn’t in SF (SF driving scares me!)
    * Phone calls – grab a calling card instead. The hotel can’t nickel-and-dime you for using those (IIRC nothing even shows up on the bill when you use them – but as always, check with the hotel.)
    * And I could be mistaken, but I think “Argent” is actually Latin (and French) for “silver”. Hence in chemistry, Ag=silver, from the latin “argentium”…I would imagine it’s a result of the Argent hotel actually looking like it’s made of silver…

    This whole post has made me wonder if some of the Mac tech community could negotiate better WWDC hotel rates than what Apple manages each year…some of the discounts aren’t even $10 off the going rack rates. Something to think about I suppose…

  12. forrest Says:

    Over at Wesabe, Marc Hedlund wrote up a description of a recent economics paper that explains why this happens, and why hoteliers and their holding companies have no incentive to change this. The weird thing I’ve noticed is that people who get used to this bullshit when traveling for work also seem unperturbed by it when they’re paying for everything themselves, too. Man, screw that. Life’s too short to reward that kind of cynical nonsense.

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