I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Streets of San Francisco

...look a lot like this one, right outside my hotel.

What this does not in the least resemble is Union Square, although the name of the hotel -- the Park 55 Union Square -- does imply a certain proximity. I know it's all marketing and location, location, location, but Fifth and Market is not Union Square. Not even close.

But I'm not here to shop at Macy's, and this is much closer to the Moscone Center than the authentic Union Square. What I do mind is the lack of amenities -- no minibar or refrigerator, no bathrobe, no tissues -- and the misplaced priorities of their customer service. Someone knocks on my door every hour or so to see if "everything's okay" but the breakfast order I dutifully hung on my doorknob was still there at 6:30 this morning so I had to spend 15 minutes on hold with room service to get coffee.

And I was reminded once again of how different my standards are when I'm traveling for pleasure. I do require more creature comforts than I did when I was younger but I'm really not all that fussy. When I'm on business, I'm already stressed out and I need my travel arrangements to alleviate that stress, not create more of it.

Last weekend I spent one night at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown. I had already arranged to spend the weekend there for the Rally to Restore Sanity (which I may post pictures of at some point though it already feels like old, old news) and my firm asked me to stay over Sunday night and do a presentation in the office there on Monday. So after two nights at a perfectly acceptable but by no means luxurious hotel on Capitol Hill, I traded up to the Ritz. And it was very nice, but oh so pretentious, and I was making fun of it all week. For instance, while I was checking in, a woman appeared with a silver tray of hot towels and a bottle of water. So while I was digging around for my wallet and signing the registration, I was also juggling a wet washcloth and I had to stick the water away so I could manage the elevators, which required a room key for operation. How much nicer, if less of a production, if the water had been waiting in the room and we ignored the hot towel altogether?

But I wouldn't mind a little of that silly pampering now. The fact that I have a vicious sinus infection and there's no Kleenex in these rooms reminds me of staying at the late, lamented Ritz Carlton in Hong Hong many years ago. I was sick -- I'm usually sick in Hong Kong -- with what later became pneumonia, probably because I continued to work sixteen hours a day. The wastebaskets in my hotel room were full of crumpled tissues, and when I came back to my room late one night, I found that there were boxes of tissues on every table and nightstand in the room. That's honestly the single best example of customer service I've ever experienced.

Not much resemblance to this place. I'd used up all my tissues on the plane but I forgot my toothbrush so I had to go out to find a drugstore last night anyway. The toothbrushes were inexplicably in a locked case (really? toothbrushes are that attractive to shoplifters?) By the time the customer service representative showed up to unlock the case I was so irritated I headed straight for the checkout, forgetting all about the Kleenex and I ended up sleeping with a roll of toilet paper.

Glamorous this isn't.

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