Mar 20th, 2004, 08:12 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 774
A couple of years ago, Hubby and I (Aussies from 100miles north of Sydney)stayed at the Intercontinental for two nights, purely to get the double mileage-plus points for United AirLines, which we needed to make a USA trip. We got a premium room, which was closer to $400 than $300,and gave more points, and found the reception for this was on one of the upper floors - they greeted us by name on our arrival. I liked it too because I was able to entertain nieces and nephews in the free cocktail bar upstairs before dinner and the position is excellent. Breakfast was included, and served in this room too, I think, from memory. Also spotted a sporting celebrity there.

Room was pleasant, but not really worth the money - $400 would allow me to travel for days somewhere else!! I would rather keep out of the way of staff, so I don't need them to run around after me.

By the way, I agree with Allan - Aussies are not big on "serving" others. But we are usually very easy to get on with. I have noticed though, that Americans in America are usually much more polite than we are!
Carrabella is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 05:09 AM
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I don't think for a second Margo is suggesting that one stays in an "old hotel with second class service" and what on earth is a "native" hotel? I think Margo is a bit like me, when she travels she possibly wants to meet the "real" people and not be swallowed up in a look-alike, albeit it luxurious hotel that could be anywhere on earth. I too have stayed at Sydney's Intercontinetal - and equivalent others throughout Australia, Indonesia, HK and US - in a previous corporate life and fortunately on company expenses. I can't even remember what these rooms were like - they all blend into a sameness. What I can remember is a 5 month trip to Europe and UK, where not not a hotel , pension or B&B was pre-booked and apart from a couple of disasters, ie a room in Paris on Blvd San Michel which was dirty and cold with horrible lumpy beds and somewhere else in Spain - the rest I remember clearly, met some wonderful locals and all in all had a fantastic time.
pat_woolford is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 09:24 AM
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Thanks, Pat...
In my corporate life, I've also stayed in lots of theses places - all equally unmemorable (except a foul room at the then ANA in Sydney), and all very expensive. In all the countries I'v been in, the more personal places are the ones I remember and recommend.

No-one said anything about second rate - IMO - these places were surely superior.
margo_oz is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 09:30 AM
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As a food aside, I only recommend places at which I have eaten , unless I make it quite clear I haven't but it has a good reputation.

I do eat out a bit, and have tried some brilliant restaurants in Sydney.
margo_oz is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 12:56 PM
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I found it very interesting to read all these posts since the "controversy" on this thread over "5-stars or 4-stars" first erupted (I'm afraid I may have started it ), and I envy people like pat_woolford and margo_oz their clarity of expression, because I think they said pretty much what I wanted to say, only I couldn't find the right way to say it without giving offence to poor PJKeay (who has, by now, deserted the argument, it seems, having given both myself and the Intercontinental a well-earned drubbing).

I hope there are at least a few people out there who can see this my way, even if I can't really express the idea clearly. There is something ugly and objectionable, I feel, about the attitude of a visitor to a country who is prepared to spend five times the going rate for a decent room in order to get an establishment where he/she can stand around and expect to be waited on and fawned over to some pre-determined level as reflected in a "star" system. Not only does this star system seem to have rules about the size of bathrooms and the appearance of the car park, but it almost always implies that other human beings will run around after you, reinforcing the idea that you are better than they are simply because you have paid this obscene amount of money, and, by God, they better make you feel that you're getting your money's worth! If this is what tourism is all about, then I've missed the boat, I'm afraid, on every single holiday I have ever been on.

The star system seems to encourage this kind of attitude. Who invented it, anyway? Obviously, it's not a very reliable indicator of anything, or we wouldn't get lists of complaints from people like PJKeay and the woman who didn't like the lighting and the colour scheme at the Russell( and was outraged when no one offered to carry her suitcase up a flight of steps). I don't think I have ever looked at the star rating of any place I ever stayed in -- or maybe they just weren't "up" to being awarded any stars -- but I seem to have been luckier than PJKeay, because, for all his expenditure in Sydney, he left the hotel with bitter memories and a litany of complaints, while I can only think of one hotel I have ever stayed at that gave me a bitter memory, and that was simply because they coldly and knowingly ripped us off (that was a Days Inn in Tucson, Arizona). But I don't remember the colour of the walls or the size of the bathroom or whether they even had a carpark.

Some of the least-salubrious places I have stayed -- such as a hotel in Montevideo where our room didn't have a window -- have given us reams of interesting stories with which to enthral the folks back home. My kids slept in that room with me, and they didn't complain once about the window -- and I would have been throroughly ashamed of them if they had. And if they ever had the temerity to order another human being in the hotel around, just because they had the status of "guest", I would never take them on another trip again.

PJKeay took me to task -- and rightly so -- because I mentioned New York when replying to him. Somehow I got the impression that he was from that part of the world. It's one of my three or four favourite cities, but one thing that did NOT amuse me there was watching the well-heeled guests stand around waiting to be "served", often by elderly negro gentlemen in uniform, old enough to be their father, for which service they would swiftly part with a five-dollar bill, offered almost surreptitiously (there seems to be actually a prescribed way to pass a tip so that you don't appear to be trying to be conspicuous doing it), and with not a shred of warmth. I mean, they are paying for the service, so why should they act like they're grateful for it? And aren't they doing that man a favour by allowing him to "serve" them ... otherwise he and his family would starve! Well, it stuck in my craw, and left a sour taste which surfaced , I am afraid, when I read PJKeay's litany of complaints, and his frequent use of the words "service" and "standards". His view -- that if he's willing to pay five star prices he has a right to expect that his stay will be hiccup-free and that everyone will be working like crazy behind the scenes to make sure that he never sees the seams show -- is probably shared by more than 50% of the people who write in to this forum with requests, but I can't tell you how far apart that attitude and mine are -- as I said, it was enough to spoil my day, and I fear that, to take revenge, I got personal when replying. PJKeay chided that it was a MANAGEMENT thing, that we all have an obligation to make sure that the hotel management gets a heap of abuse when their five-star service turns out to have a three-star underbelly; but one of the more recent replies said it more accurately: it's a CULTURAL thing. You either like feeling superior to the "natives" when you travel, or you don't. I don't; maybe I'm missing something.

The idea of service seesms to come easily to the US hotel chains, and, of course, all of these chains are heavily represented in a city like Sydney. But, the point here is that they are STAFFED by Sydneysiders, and I suspect that they are simply "aping" the American ethic and hoping that it will all come out right in the end. Our hotel staff are relatively well-paid; their family WON'T starve if you don't slip them a five, and when they scrape and fawn, my bet is that their hearts aren't in it. Ask them to do something, and they are all smiles and eagerness, just like they would be if the neighbours asked for some help carrying in a new bureau. But they haven't really been "Americanised", even if they are working in an Accor or a Mercure or a Hyatt; they're just a pale copy of what PJKeay and his ilk see every day in America, and it doesn't take much -- as PJKeay found to his cost -- for the veneer to peel off and the TRUE Aussie attitude to show through. Maybe that's a good reason to reject the star system, and a good reason to avoid all those overpriced hotels with the US bnames when you come to Sydney (hell, I even tried to avoid them when I went to America!)

Alan is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 04:04 PM
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All PJKeay wanted was value of money, which in itself isn't unreasonable. But I too have had my fill of staying at these bland establishments on someone else's money, and I endorse ALF's view. Paying $300 for a room in such a place, as against $150 in a more modest establishment, is a classic example of the law of diminishing returns. Generally, you only remember them if they screw up.

I don't think that American workers enjoy bowing and scraping any more than their Australian counterparts. They too can display resentment at being treated as a lackey by vain and arrogant customers, and only a masochist would enjoy being browbeaten. However, their revenge may take subtler forms, such as dumb obstinacy when asked to do something that's not in the corporate rulebook. In part this may be due to the harsh consequences of unemployment in America, in part the greater respect accorded to personal success and status in the United States.

I'm wary of exaggerating the cultural gap between Australians and Americans, which in most respects isn't very wide. However, visitors should be aware that Australians tend to be relatively unimpressed by wealth and status. Most Australian hospitality workers take pride in their work, and the concepts of efficiency and good service aren't entirely alien to them: but in return they expect to be treated at some level as equals, and with a degree of respect. And studies have found that that's how most Australian consumers prefer things. Browbeating and ostentatious displays of status are at best pointless, at worst counterproductive. Faced with such behaviour, the odds are that a boss will back his or her staff member.

PJKeay, at first I had some sympathy for you insofar as attending the Sydney Fashion Week seemed to be punishment enough - but I've now come to the view that the room service charge was the hotel's entirely justified retribution for the unspeakable crime of adding ice to a single malt.

Neil_Oz is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 06:04 PM
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Let me clarify what I meant by "native" hotels, in the context of this thread.
Native, as I used it, was intended to mean locally-owned (as opposed to international chains, which is what several posters here are railing against), usually in old buildings (you can interpret that as "historic buildings with character", if you wish).
It was not intended to be disparaging of any indiginous group, if that's what you were thinking.
As for what I remember from a trip, with respect to hotels, I generally remember fondly pleasant hotel stays (for whatever reason), and not so fondly unpleasant stays. While some hotels fit the cookie-cutter description, and blur together in my memory, the really special ones stand out and enhance my travel experience.
For example, my stay at the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai was in itself a high point of that visit, while my stay at the Hilton on a previous visit was not memorable. But neither affected my memories of the sights and people of the city. However, I can think of times when an unpleasant hotel stay taints my memories of a place.
Sorry, but when it comes to plumbing, heating, air conditioning, mattresses, etc., newer is almost always better than older. If I choose to feel luxurious by paying people to "serve" me, and those people choose to earn a living by doing that, where's the harm? Clearly, there are enough Aussies willing to set aside their "independent natures", presumably for acceptable compensation, to provide such service. There is nothing demeaning about that. It's done in good restaurants all the time (if I ever experience a waiter telling me to "go fetch my own coffee", as some here implied is likely, I would never frequent that establishment again, and I daresay, neither would anyone else posting here).
Les is offline  
Mar 21st, 2004, 06:43 PM
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"If I choose to feel luxurious by paying people to "serve" me, and those people choose to earn a living by doing that, where's the harm?"

The harm, Les, is that this attitude encourages the emergence of a class of people who believes that money talks, and that some of these people become belligerent and abusive when they find that, in some circumstancers, it doesn't. Thus we find the poster here, a few weeks ago, who was irate because hotel staff in her four-star hotel in Ho Chi Minh City didn't even speak "basic English"; we have PJKeay feeling short-changed because he was "squeezed" into the dining-room annexe when his money ought to have bought a top table in the number one room; and we have, as a result of such attitudes, replayed over and over all around the world (I encountered it in Italy when a customer in a tiny restaurant became loud and abusive when the waitress couldn't understand his order for a hamburger with ketchup), an emerging opinion that capitalism breeds arrogance and a contempt for anyone who can't "make it" on your terms, that is (to use your own words) "choosing to feel luxurious", which, in may countries in the world, is like spitting in the eye of the local population who are just scraping by keeping body and soul together. Okay, okay, Australia isn't quite like that, but I think many of us here are close enough to the rest of the world to know that a little bit of moderation -- in other words, even if you ARE as rich as Croesus, you don't have to flaunt it -- doesn't go astray when you're on someone else's turf. And moderation, perhaps, implies modesty, and, dare I use the word, humility, a word that seems to go out of vogue as the standard of living of a country goes up.
Alan is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2004, 02:04 AM
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Geez, I love a good argument.

Firstly, money talks, if it didn't no one would get a job.

Secondly, there is a difference between service and servile. It's not neccesary to bow and scrape, or surrender ones self respect in doing so, to provide good service. A good waiter, bellhop or chamber maid is as valuable to their business as a good employee in any other, at any level.
expatonthemove is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2004, 02:55 AM
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Expatonthemove, I couldn't agree more. And I have found fine waiters and great chamber maids in one-star and tw-star, or even no star, establishments all over the world. You don't have to go to the five-star places and spend a king's ransom to find them. I would say it's a question of your attitude towards them, not the amount of money you flash around -- how you react to a person brings out the best -- or the worst -- in them. And a good start, I would suggest, is not t take it as a personal affront if you don't get the best table in the dining room one morning (now, if you get a cockroach in your breakfast, well, that's different! Unless, of course, it's one of LizF's consummate cockroaches, in which case you should feel honoured).

P.S. What's a bellhop? I don't think they had such a thing at the Dong Xuan in Hanoi.
Alan is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2004, 09:55 AM
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The afternoon tea at the Intercontinental is quite good!
margo_oz is offline  
Apr 1st, 2004, 01:06 PM
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To hear Alan go on, anybody would have thought we rode into the hotel on an elephant barking orders at the staff!

But whilst there are people like Alan out there, I really have no fear. Little did I know there are people only too happy to sit at the worst table in the restaurant, and even more suprisingly there are people who are happy to have the room with no windows. Great, because you're welcome to them.

And whilst Alan frankly takes the p**s out of people for wanting their luggage taking to the room, people asking (Not Ordering) for room service to be delivered to the room, a decent size bathroom, a nice (not necessarilly the best) table in nice restaurant - his comments, i'm afraid, are rash and offensive.

One of my family, with whom I travel, is disabled, and therefore the following services, no matter distasteful to Alan, generally are quite useful -
Luggage service
Room service
Large bathrooms
In house restaurants
A nice view from the bedroom - because we spend longer in there.

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