There’s No Such Thing as a Corporate Courtesy
by Mary Sojourner
“You can’t put a price on sensory experiences. They are so invaluable and so total.” — Hyatt Regency Scottsdale spokeswoman, Arizona Republic, Business, May 31, 2007
Totally. The wordsmith read the article on Hyatt’s plan to use soundtracks in their lobby, bars, restaurants, and spas. Five compilations are available on their website for download. One can download fifteen songs for $22. The first artist named was Thievery Corporation. I did not make that up.
The article pointed out that some properties were also “dabbling in branding tools….” Bend over and pull down your pants, tourist. We gotcha.
I read further. The branding tools were not red-hot iron. They were “signature” scents and candy. I remembered being put up in a chain hotel in Long Beach, California by an environmental writing conference. Okay, it was a Westin. The organizers had meant well.
My road buddy and I were starving. We had driven from Quartzite to Long Beach non-stop. They barreled in the door of their room, heading for a quick clean-up and beta on local restaurants.
Road Buddy spotted a basket of treats on the foyer table. “Cool,” he said, “free food.” Once a real hippie always a real hippie. He ripped open a pack of peanuts, make that an ounce of peanuts, and tossed me a bag of Reese’s mini-cups.
A paper slip lay under the basket, maybe an eighth inch of paper showing. I pulled it out. “Stop,” I said. Road Buddy kept eating. Once a real hippie always a real hippie. “Those peanuts,” I said, “cost $6.65. We will be courtesy billed at the end of our stay — for our convenience.”
Road Buddy set the bag carefully on the table. Five peanuts were left. “This is our evidence,” he said. His eyes held not guilt, but a canny gleam. “This is our evidence that I did not eat all of them.”
He checked out the courtesy bottled water on the night-stand. “Four dollars and fifty cents — for a pint. So, we got genuine Emeril truffle-enhanced gourmet peanuts here at $106.40 a pound, and genuine filtered-through-the-veils-of-virgins water at $72 a gallon?” He picked up the peanut bag. “Nope, I’m wrong. These are Planter’s and the water is Aquafina.”
We cleaned up and found a little Spanish restaurant in which a full meal for two people cost less proportionately than the hotel peanuts. We walked down to the harbor. That was free.
Later I found a brochure in the nightstand drawer. You could buy damn near everything except the furniture in the room: The Heavenly Bath Robe would set me back $90; the Heavenly Bath Towel a mere $40; AND, there was a Heavenly Dog Bed, lavishly branded with the Westin logo for $225. It had a silver zipper closure for easy cleaning, thank Dog!
Neither I nor Road Buddy let ourselves get branded. The last morning of our stay we grabbed bad Courtesy Coffee in the Elegant Reception Area done in the style of Old Spain. Then we marched up to the concierge with the not empty peanut bag. The concierge was a bright young woman with an already furrowed brow, probably a consequence of working at damn near minimum wage. Her worry deepened, perhaps best been explained by Road Buddy’s Ruckus Society t-shirt and my open notebook and pen. I explained nicely that the price list had been accidentally tucked out of sight under the goodies basket. I told the concierge that we had believed the treats were free, a gracious gesture of a hotel chain that knew how to deal with a classy clientele.
Twenty-five minutes later, the concierge had checked with her boss, who checked with the Head of Guest Services and it was agreed that the $6.65 would be removed from the bill. Road Buddy put the peanuts on the counter. “Will you want these?” he asked.
“Oh yes,” the concierge said, “we have to prove that you didn’t eat them all.”
Mary Sojourner is the author of the novel Going Through Ghosts (University of Nevada Press, 2010) and the memoir She Bets Her Life (Seal Press, 2009), among her many books, and is the author of numerous essays, columns, and op-eds for dozens of publications. Sojourner is also a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision, where her columns appear on the third Friday of every month.