Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hotels in St. Louis that you should not stay in

I have started regular travel to St. Louis for work; I will be going every week starting in October. I had never been to the city before but I just came back from my third visit.

In each visit, I have stayed in three different hotels. I will discuss each hotel in reverse chronological order.

Adam's Mark St. Louis

This past Monday through Wednesday, I stayed in the Adam's Mark St. Louis. The architecture was fairly interesting, the lobby was large and fairly fancy-looking, it had an active bar that seemed to stay open late, and they gave me a high floor room with a view of, well, 40% of the Gateway Arch. However, this was the shittiest hotel in St. Louis in which I've stayed. Let me count the ways it sucked:

1) It was quite presumptuous to refer to their "high speed internet access". That shit was like 56k. It was free but I'd rather pay $10 for something usable.

2) They did a terrible job of cleaning the toilet and bathroom. There were actual pee stains on the toilet rim and some long black hairs on the floor. They even cleaned the inside the second day of my three-day stay but not the pee stains. I am a pretty mellow person and try not to think of myself as a fastidious, annoying New Yorker and didn't want some poor maid to lose her job, but seriously, that's fucking gross. And it's not like I'm some prima donna -- when I was in high school I actually cleaned an architect's office, including the toilets, as an after school job. So I can deal with piss on a toilet rim. But what does that say about a hotel that they don't clean it off two days in a row?

3) They did clean the bathroom by taking my soap and shampoo, replacing the shampoo, and not the soap. That's right. No soap. I washed with shampoo because it was like 8:10 and I had to shower, pack, and be at the client site at 8:30 and I didn't have time to wait for someone to come up with soap.

4) I asked for water with my room service breakfast and they made sure to say "water comes with it". Water did not come with it. Also, $25 for pancakes without even a side and coffee. I know, room service is expensive, I was just more annoyed that I didn't get the water.

5) Also on the room service, there was no way to pay for it with cash. The client pays my hotel bill directly and I don't want to stick them with room service charges, that's taken care of by some arrangement between my firm and the client. So the bill notes that I got some $25 pancakes so I look like some high class New York City $25-pancake-eating swell.

6) My room was right by the elevator. Literally as close to the elevator as you could be.

7) No coffee pot in the room. I basically need coffee within 20 minutes of getting up thanks to the influence of my wife (who practically needs coffee to leave the bed). So I have to order some $8 pot of room service coffee. I know, this is my problem that I should address at some point, but I just got spoiled by the last 200 hotel rooms I have been in.

8) No minibar. Again, I can't say I've been to every hotel in the world, but so far 80 of the 100 or so had minibars. Even in Cambodia they had bottled water in mini fridges that you would have to pay for if you used. Not so the Adam's Mark.

9) The clock radio didn't get any stations. And it was on playing low static and popping noises when I got in the room. It took 20 or 30 unsettling minutes before I figured out what it was.

10) With those last couple you know you're done.

Total cost: $105 per night on my client's discount rate

Radisson St. Louis Downtown

Last week, I stayed in the Radisson St. Louis Downtown. I stayed there because my wife was in town at the same time for her work, and I figured I would save my client money by staying in the room her company was paying for rather than using my reservation at the Drury Plaza. The nice things I can say about the Radisson are that it was conveniently located to my St. Louis workplace, it was a really big room on a decently high floor, and that the room service was shockingly cheap and pretty good. They also had a coffee machine AS EVERY HOTEL SHOULD. Pancakes with sausage were like $8. I am a pancake eating machine when I travel, so sue me. However, here were the bad things:

1) The whole hotel looks worn and heavily used. Like, the tiles in the bathroom floor looked filthy but they were just really scratched. How does that happen? Likewise, the sides of the elevator doors and even the sides of the hotel walls had all these marks all over them. Do they care so little that they can't paint?

2) The first room we got was filthy; we were told it was the last king bed and it was clearly the shittiest room in the hotel. The second room still had a messed up bathroom floor and a mildewy odor.

3) They charged $10 per day for wired internet access, and did not have wireless internet access. This is not such a big deal but it wasn't really significantly faster than the crap speeds at the Adam's Mark.

4) We had a drink in the lobby bar and there were some sketchy looking dudes who kept coming in and out of the bar. The one guy seemed to have set up camp near the bar. We sat on couches and watched them come and go. I guess St. Louis has a lot of poor and homeless people even in the downtown business area so maybe all hotels have this problem if you hang out in the bar. One really cool and bizarre thing was that there were a bunch of old Amish people walking around the hotel in traditional dress. I wish I had taken a video of an old man and three old women descending a long escalator. Had they ever seen an escalator before? What the hell were Amish doing in downtown St. Louis? Taking in a Cardinals game? (That's what was going on that night)

Total cost: $120, no discount

Drury Plaza Hotel

The first time I was in St. Louis I stayed at the Drury Plaza Hotel. I hope I stay there for every subsequent visit. Let me tell you all the great things about the Drury Plaza:

1) Free wireless and/or wired internet access. It works throughout the hotel.

2) Three free drinks per day at their 5:30-7 happy hour. THREE free drinks! When I was at the Adam's Mark I came over and my coworker gave me one of his. Three is a lot!

3) A free, pretty good breakfast: coffee, waffles, bacon. No sausage but they basically have the breakfast I would have gotten, and I can just go down and serve myself for free. It totally rocks. No worries about my per diem and expensing things.

4) One hour of free long distance on their phone. Why would you have to do that in this day and age of cell phones? I don't know, the Drury people are just nice like that. I had a long chat with my wife when I got back from work and didn't worry about my Treo running out of batteries or anything. And I didn't get my Treo all greasy from a long phone call… you know how it is. (I don't use a headset or earpiece; never have)

5) Of course they have a coffee maker

6) Two free cans of soda in a decent-sized mini fridge. Why? They are just being nice. Same with the free popcorn.

7) It's a fairly newly renovated hotel and so the rooms were definitely nicer than the Radisson or the Adam's Mark.

The only downsides I can think of is that it doesn't seem to have that many other amenities in the lobby like a gift shop, and the only restaurant is a Max & Erma's which I guess is analogous to T.G.I.Friday's. I haven't been there because my coworker who's been out there for a few months now is utterly sick of it. My room also had one of those "inside views" of a walkway and the elevators so I could not see the sun, only artificial light, but that didn't bother me. All things considered, if my client is going to spend $100 per night to put me up, I would way rather be in the Drury than those shitty other hotels.


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