Nice Hotels vs. Cheap Hotels

I travel often and stay in hotels all the time. I recently took a trip to the Bahamas with my son and some of his friends. We stayed at the Atlantis Resort, a very expensive, very nice resort, somewhat like Disneyland only with an ocean and marine life theme. For business reasons, I sandwiched the six-day stay in the Bahamas with two days in Miami on the way out, and one day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the way back.

On my brief stay in Fort Lauderdale, I stayed in a Motel 6. That means I went directly from a five-star resort, to a one-star hotel, all in less than 24 hours.

The difference was shocking.

What was shocking was how much better it was at Motel 6.

Now don’t get me wrong. The Atlantis Resort is very nice, and the folks there treated me very well. At one point, the toilet in my room stopped working, and they fixed it very fast, apologized, and even gave me a $50 credit later in the day for my troubles. I wasn’t expecting that and was impressed. So I’m not saying the Atlantis Resort is bad. I’m just saying from the standpoint of a smooth customer service experience, Motel 6 kicked their butt.

I have found this to be true more times than not; supposedly “cheap” hotels offering a fantastic customer experience over very expensive, swanky hotels. I shall explain.

When I checked into Atlantis, I had to give them a credit card, ID, passport, birth certificate, and a note from my fifth-grade teacher. Even though I had pre-paid my entire stay, they still had to check and double check and triple check that I was who I said I was. It was a pain.

When I checked into Motel 6, I had to give them…nothing. That’s right. Nothing. Not even a credit card or a driver’s license. I had pre-paid the room just like with Atlantis. I just gave my name to the nice Indian lady, she looked up my reservation, smiled, and handed me my room key. The entire process took about 25 seconds. I was floored. In a good way.

At Atlantis, I was shocked one day to find they had charged $750 dollars to my debit card. $750. Can you say pissed? I can. Remember, I had already pre-paid the entire room. So why were they charging me all this extra money? Even worse, at no point did they ever tell me they were going to do this. They just did it. This overdrafted my checking account and caused me some minor chaos in my financial life.

I figured it was some kind of mistake. Yet when I went down to the front desk and complained, they told me that they had indeed done it on purpose, giving me a bunch of robot corporate speak about how they must pre-charge x dollars per day of stay to “cover incidentals” blah blah blah. I screamed and they eventually reversed the charge, but the damage was done.

When I stayed at an independent hotel in Miami they also charged me $150 for “incidentals”. Good lord. At least this time they warned me they were going to do it, but it would have been nicer if they had told me that several months prior when I had first booked the room. It took them an entire week after I left to clear the charge. Nice.

I mean, c’mon guys. If you’re going to assume I’m a criminal and I’m going to rip you off and you need to charge me money for “incidentals”, then okay, I’ll pay it, but couldn’t you at least tell me when I book the room that I’ll have to do this so I can budget accordingly?

Motel 6? No extra charges on my debit card, ever, for any reason. Again, I was shocked, in a good way.

At Atlantis I wanted to get on the internet. Like most fancy hotels, they wanted to charge me for it. $20 a day to be exact. I was staying six days. That’s $120. For internet. Uh…no thanks. I asked them if I could bring my laptop down to the lobby to use their internet there for free. No. There was one tiny room way across the resort where they allowed you to use their internet for free for 15 minutes a day. Insane. It was a ripoff and a hassle. For no reason.

At Motel 6 the internet was 100% free. Moreover, I connected to their internet faster and easier than I did at Atlantis. The download speeds were way faster too.

I figured a nice place like the Atlantis would have an airport shuttle. No. You have to pay a taxi $35 to drive you there from the Nassau airport. Both ways. That’s $70.

At Motel 6 I asked if they had an airport shuttle and then cringed for the answer. “Why yes,” said the nice Indian lady, “It’s complimentary. When would you like to leave for the airport?” I told her 6am and asked if that was too early. “Not at all,” she said, “The shuttle will be ready right out in front for you at 6am”.

The morning I needed it, sure enough, it was right there, ready for me at 6am. And it was free. (Though I happily tipped the guy heavily.)

Want more? There were more towels in the room at Motel 6 than in Atlantis or the Miami hotel. There was more soap in the bathroom too. The room was also surprisingly large, semi-separated like a suite. The bed, although it didn’t look like much, was every bit as comfortable as the beds in the more expensive hotels. The decor in the room wasn’t nearly as nice, but I was so impressed with my experience after the other hotels I didn’t care.

And of course the granddaddy of them all, Motel 6 was a fraction of the price of both the other hotels.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have officially become a huge Motel 6 fan. Every time I travel from now on, I’m going to be checking availability and pricing on Motel 6 in addition to my usual hotels. I’m serious. Since Motel 6 is a franchise, it’s possible that I just happened to stay at one that was very well managed, but I don’t think so. Either way, I’ll find out, because I’m definitely staying at Motel 6 again.

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