As many of you have probably gathered, James and I are huge proponents of travel hacking. We like to save up our points and use them mostly for flights, but also hotels on special occasions. These points accumulate from using our hard earned money. Because of that, we treat these points as we would our own dollars. We want them to last so we try to make wise choices when booking travel. With ‘free’ points, you may be tempted to splurge a little. However, higher price does not always mean higher quality. Sometimes, mishaps arise and give us the perfect opportunity to learn from these experiences, and share those lessons with our readers.
Higher Price Does Not Always Mean Higher Quality
I want to talk about the special occasion of when we went to Atlanta for the Playing With FIRE documentary. We decided to book a fancy hotel, Twelve Midtown Autograph Collection. However, being the ‘frugalists’ that we are, we almost didn’t book this hotel for several reasons:
It cost us 15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book. That was double the price of some of the other close hotels. We ultimately decided that we would splurge and go with the “fancy” hotel. What’s the point of having these points if we don’t ever use them? Also, the biggest contributor was that it was the closest to the event. Which meant we could walk there and back.
No continental breakfast
I would have liked the option for free breakfast, but James didn’t really care since we don’t eat breakfast anyways. One thing I have noticed when I’m looking at hotels is the more expensive, “high class” hotels don’t offer free breakfast anyways. That should have been our first sign that things might not go right.
Outrageously expensive parking
This one we didn’t find out about until we pulled up to the hotel in our fancy ’97 Camry. The only parking available was $28 for overnight self parking, or $28 for valet parking. We should have looked at the hotel or the booking details, but that didn’t cross our mind. So, we begrudgingly paid for parking.
When thinking about fancy hotels, the automatic assumption is that the customer service will be impeccable and everything will go smoothly. Wrong, completely wrong. Everything went horribly for us from the beginning. It was one big learning experience for us from start to finish that reminded us that higher price does not always mean higher quality.
To start, because traffic was shit, we were over an hour late. The event started at 5 PM, and we didn’t roll up to the hotel until 4:30 PM. Since there was an altercation going on with the valet and a customer, we were not helped for at least 10 minutes. The customer was mad about where his Bentley was parked… There was no clear indication of where we should park, and the valets were understaffed and occupied with frustrated customers. By the time our car was taken and we started to check in, we discovered the hotel had no record of our reservation number.
After spending another 10 minutes at the check-in desk, we had to give our credit card to be able to complete check in and book our room. At that point, we should have high tailed it out of there, but for some unknown reason, we stayed. At this point, the fear was that our card would get charged the $199 room rate and we wouldn’t be able to use our points. We were in such a hurry to get to the theater for the screening that in the moment, we didn’t care what happened. We would just call Chase and/or Marriott to rectify the situation after the fact. The hotel attendant even had to let us into our room because it was taking so long and knew we were in a hurry.
While we were checking in, we were reminded that higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality. Yes, the hotel room itself was very nice, bu the parking was shit and the check-in experience left much to be desired. On top of only being in the hotel room for a total of maybe 9 hours. This definitely doesn’t justify the $235 (after taxes and fees) that we were forced to pay. I use the term ‘forced’ loosely. We could have politely refused to stay there. Went back to the valet to get our car. And hopped online to find another place to stay. But, as we were already running late for the event that the whole trip was for, we didn’t want to take up any more precious time than necessary.
This experience reminded me that many people think if you spend more on a product, it’s going to be better. Same thing with name brand items. I almost always choose the store brand items over the name brand because you can hardly tell a difference. This is also true on DIY projects. If you pay a professional to complete a task, you always notice any mistake because you are expecting perfection. With a project you complete yourself, you may notice those imperfections, but you are much happier with the results. You will not only save money, but you will probably save yourself time and headaches.
In the Future
From now on, we will be a little wiser when it comes to splurging on hotels. Plus, it’s not really our style anyways, so I don’t think you’ll ever see us in some fancy suite in a 5-star hotel…unless it’s in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The experience left a bad taste in my mouth and makes me never want to stay at that hotel brand, or other overpriced hotels like that. Had the same experience happened at a hotel down the road, we would’ve had to spend $100 of our own money, instead of double that. And, there’s a good chance that the service wouldn’t have been worse. The whole reason we picked this hotel was because we were using points. Once that went out the window, many of the experiences there were hard to overlook. Luckily, Chase refunded us our points, so we can be a little wiser about where we use those in the future.