Saturday, October 31, 2009

Too Fanciful?

When traveling to give workshops, the hotel is always chosen by the host. Over many years, this has exposed me (and us, when Michael comes along) to a pretty wide variety of hotels, many of them places we would never on our own select because they’d be outside our financial comfort zone. Sometimes, it’s a wonderful treat and it feels like having entered another world by accident. Sometimes, it’s pretty dreadful. Mostly, one chain hotel room is a lot like every other one.

On this trip, we stayed at one magical place, one regular-old-chain-type hotel and one hotel where it feels like the corporation that runs it has taken leave of its ethical sense. The newspapers that have travel columnists have all written at length about the weirdness in the world of hotels: budget places that have free wifi and top-end places that charge for it, I guess because they can. The hotel that left us gasping was in the latter category. Connecting to the internet was a whopping $15.00/24 hours (we declined) and the bottle of water in the room was marked at $8. Hotel breakfasts are always expensive so I rarely eat them, but even by those standards, a $25 yogurt and fruit seems pretty excessive--oh yes, that also included coffee. Those prices are all in Canadian dollars, but still.

On this trip, I’ve been reading a book someone recommended to me for consideration as a text for my MBA leadership and ethics class, The Ethical Executive. It’s an interesting book, bringing to bear what we know about psychological pitfall and cognitive errors to help explain some of the ways we end up with mind-boggling business frauds. There’s much of value in it for those heading out into the world of work in business, but I haven’t yet figured out any good way to use it in my course; I’m still mulling. The book did make me think, though, about the hotel we stayed in that seemed so proud of its excessive charges. It’s like a secret club where everyone is making fun of the less fortunate, and the shared insider knowledge seems to be that it’s all fine, because the expense account is paying for it anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked for a public university, but I always treat traveling on someone else’s money like it’s my own and make decisions accordingly. If I wouldn’t spend my own money for something, I won’t buy it on someone else’s nickel, either. The experience made me wonder, if the corporation treats its paying clients with ill-disguised and contemptuous exploitation, how does it treat its employees? Out of curiosity, I think I’ll do a little digging to see what’s out there in the blogosphere about this company. I’m guessing the hotel we stayed in is operated under a franchise license, but I could be wrong. The whole thing left a bad taste in our mouths and gave me a creepy feeling, though the room was quiet, had good temperature control, nice bedding and a great soaking bathtub, which is a homerun in hotel terms otherwise.

Is this all too fanciful? Am I reading too much into a short experience at the end of a long day? Maybe. But I do mean to do some research about the company that owns that hotel, whatever it might be. It just didn’t feel right.

What with the hotel’s charge and us spending the afternoon touring the wine country, we were out of electronic contact for a longer period than I can recall in years. We’d both turned off our phones when we crossed the border due to ATT’s exorbitant international roaming rates and we were adapting to that, but being away from email for so long felt almost exotic. We survived and are now back in contact. Happy weekend to all.

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