Saturday, 10 February 2018

When hotel penny pinching ruins the the hospitality vibe

It's late at night at Melbourne Airport. All flights for Hobart have departed. I need somewhere to stay. The cheaper airport hotels are sold out; the others want $350 a night. 

So off to wotif.com I go and find the Four Points by Sheraton at the Docklands for $199 a night when most of the other big name hotels are wanting $400 and upwards. 


That should have rung alarm bells. In the hotel industry you usually get what you pay for. But this was a Sheraton, albeit a four-star Four Points version; surely excellence was assured. 

And all I needed was a comfortable bed and a few glasses of wine after two long flights. 

First bad sign. No doorman and no one to help with baggage. Not unusual in these days of cost cutting. 

Check-in was good and I was told the bar was open until midnight. All fine. It's a nice-looking modern hotel with a pool (which of course is useless, as its raining the next morning).

I came down to the bar to find empty glasses and detritus on most of the tables - and it wasn't moved for a good 45 minutes. The one barman on duty was engaged in conversation with a guest and clearly wasn't a designated cleaner-upper.  

I ordered a glass of wine (from an underwhelming list designed by someone with an overwhelming "big is best" mentality). 

I was then surprised, at 11.20pm, to be told when ordering my second drink that the bar was now closing. 

This despite a dozen or so guests drinking and it being a Saturday night in the big city. 

I asked for an explanation from a scruffy duty manager, who said the decision to close the bar had been made by the restaurant manager, a cocky fellow whose attempted explanation made no sense. 

Thoroughly annoyed by this stage (all I wanted was a couple of quiet glasses of wine) I was gifted another glass by the "manager on duty". The bar, meanwhile, miraculously stayed open until midnight after all following much arm waving and discussion between the three managers. 

The sensible manager among the three said both the check-in advice and early bar closures had been a result of "miscommunications".   

I went to my room for a tea and biscuit - no biscuits, unfortunately, as the cost cutters had struck again. And no mini bar either (you can call down for snacks and drinks, I was told). 

None of these issues are major; but they are symptomatic of a general malaise in hospitality standards. 

# I was rung at 10am, just prior to my departure, by another "duty manager" who, presumably having been alerted to my social media angst, offered me a "free breakfast". 

It was a nice gesture but I'd already placed the hotel on my "avoid" list. A bargain is not always a bargain. And this being The Docklands you have to wait several minutes for a taxi - not great if you are in a hurry. 

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