The Fancier The Hotel, The Fewer The Freebies

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Why is it that an $80 a night hotel will feed you and a $280 a night hotel will not? I’ve wondered this for years now, ever since staying in a swank Boston establishment for an academic conference. (I took the elevator up with a mom who used the opportunity provided by the numbered buttons to quiz her young daughter: “What’s that floor times that floor? Right. And now divided by that floor? Good.”)

It was my first time out by myself at a hotel of some standing and repute and I was so excited to see what it offered me. The answer was: not much. There was no pool. Breakfast was available in their restaurant, for turn-your-wallet-over-and-shake-it prices. WiFi? No way. Only at wildly inflated cost.

I have since learned and adjusted my expectations accordingly, and I have never yet been surprised. Even when, for whatever reason, I do get to stay a splurgeworthy place, I resign myself to the fact that there won’t be any of the perks to the experience that come standard in cheaper hotels.

It would be less disorienting if those cheaper hotels didn’t offer so much. The Palm Springs Best Western where I stayed for a wedding had free WiFi, a pool, and a poolside breakfast buffet so plentiful you could eat it all day long. The Albuquerque Airport Ramada where my little family stayed earlier this fall also had free WiFi, a pool, and a breakfast buffet so abundant it could have fed a circus. Including the animals! Assuming they like Belgian waffles, and come on, who doesn’t?

Well, the rich, I guess. Because if the well heeled also wanted free Belgian waffles in the morning – and yogurt, and bananas, and cereal, and the hot mess of eggs I’m never sure whether to touch – wouldn’t they make a stink about it? They pay so much more for their accommodations and yet get only the opportunity to pay even more for add-ons. If they thought this was unfair, they would complain, right? They would demand complementary hot egg mess and access to their Netflix, just like the plebes get.

Right now I’m in a luxe room in a luxe hotel in Philadelphia, where I’m speaking at a Costs of Healthcare Conference. (I can only imagine what I’ll hear in elevators today.) Everything from the dog-shaped desk lamp to the polka dotted bedspread to the artfully contrasting kinds of wallpaper has been designed with attention to aesthetic detail. Instead of a worn-out Bible next to the bed, there’s a faux-vintage copy of Alice in Wonderland.

There’s no free breakfast here, no free WiFi. There is a water bottle on the desk, though. How nice, right? Water! The sticker on the cap of the bottle reads, “$8.”

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