Four stars of lucky hotelification

Susanne is a fan of the Hotwire Lottery, as she calls it. Hotwire, for those who know not of its business plan, is kind of like blindfolding oneself and playing Pin the Donkey, only instead of one giant jackass, one is attempting to get a good deal with any one of tens of hotels, all masked by the Web site so one can’t really be sure where one is staying until one has plunked one’s money down.

One of the things users can see is the star rating of the hotel, another, the general neighborhood where the hotel is located. There’s also the amenities list. One intrepid, rather persistent friend of ours spend considerable time comparing these indicators against the ones mentioned on various hotel Web sites, until she was 99 percent certain that she knew which hotel she was going to put money down. She was right, and when it came time for the conference, she and Susanne had a perfectly fine time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when Susanne and I were looking at places to stay in Victoria. Not having been there before, we were of course unaware that really, everything is located in the same neighborhood—the harbor. But one 4-star hotel caught our eyes, and we got a great price, something ridiculous like $61 a night. We giggled at our good fortune. Surely it would be a step up from the Hyatt in Vancouver.

The Congratulations! notice came up, joyously informing us that we would be staying at the Inn at Laurel Point at the “Inner Harbour” of Victoria.  The Web site is amazing, picturesque views of the building, the view one sees from one’s glass-bedecked deck, the gentle calls of birds and waterfowl playing as the music of the peaceful. It is a marketing moment of luxurious proportions. We pulled the lever of Hotwire Fortune and came up with a winner!

Now then, do take 10 seconds to look at their Web site. Note the strong architectural lines of the white building, but take note also that the glass-fronted terraces are only on one side. In fact, those two halves of the building have different structures, don’t they? It’s all white, but . . .


The backside of the building

The backside of the building

This white paint only goes so far. The dorm-like structure on the left here, is the same as the left side on the Web site, only from another angle. They only painted what would be showing in the picture on their marketing! Such crafty Canadians!

The whole hotel was this way. It was as if to get the 4-star rating, they had hired a swanky hotel improvement team/marketing consultants to go through and tell them what they had to improve. In our room we had: 

  • A brand new headboard, but old and chipped dresser, nightstands, and TV cabinet (the TV itself was so old it still read, “Trinitron” above the analog dial)
  • New pleather chairs a la cocktail lounger flanked either side of an old, round kitchen table.
  • A new alarm clock.
  • A very, very old ice container.

In the bathroom a beautiful and shiny toilet greeted the weary traveler, but didn’t have much space between the cracked countertop and hastily assembled shower. And the entire room smelled of my Aunt Edna’s, who had a penchant for plastic-covered furniture and vinyl. The woman never met a synthetic fabric she didn’t like. I wasn’t quite sure what was off-gassing at the hotel, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.

The $60-a-night “bargain” was looking a little worn at the edges. We decided it didn’t matter so much because really, we were only sleeping there, but plopping ourselves on the bed after the drive into town, I suddenly missed our Sleep Number bed at home. I thought a spring might push its way through the thin padding and walk out the door, in protest of its many years servicing ungrateful tourists, such as ourselves. It was like a topographical map, that bed surface. Unfortunately for me, Mt. McKinley was right about under my left hip socket. Susanne, being shorter, was mostly able to avoid Mt. Vesuvius in the southwest quadrant.

The other annoyances came at us slowly, revealing themselves bit by bit, like how Jack Nicholson gradually loses his mind in the hotel Overlook in The Shining. First, we noticed that the other wing of the hotel was indeed, much grander and more luxurious. They couldn’t even put in roll pillows in our room? Roll pillows would have broken the bank, is that it? There was the random ventilation system that spewed whatever aroma was being produced by the kitchen staff at the swanky restaurant in the lobby, right down our hallway to our room’s door. And then there was the parking garage. At a mere $10 a day ($8 in US money), it was an easy place to park. But the other hotel guests were so overly fond of their vehicles that they each insisted on taking up two and sometimes three parking spaces each. This is what comes of no DC Parking Enforcement. Every snob to himself. I almost missed the little smaller-than-a-SmartCar vehicles patrolling the streets, whipping out ugly pink tickets to the wealthy for parking like jerks, a smile crossing their lips because they and they alone have the power to make even the richest person in the District, furious with the pain of a $200 ticket.

So our time in Victoria would begin and end with the momentary frustration of the parking amenity. Most of our time, however, was spent tooling around the harbor and taking high tea at various locations. More on that to come.

Meanwhile, in the land of Walla Walla Freecycle, I feel I must mention an entry from earlier today, in which a couple about to be observed by a county official as part of getting authorized to be foster parents (aww) was looking for a first aid kit and a locking box. The first aid kit because the county requires it, and the locking box so that they could stow their HANDGUN. It’s the liberal in me, I know, but it’s also the snob, because what I hear in my head is: you want children in a house with a handgun, but you’re looking for a free lockbox? Did you spend all your money on the ammunition? What are they, hollow points?

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Categories: visiting


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2 Comments on “Four stars of lucky hotelification”

  1. June 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    I think these Hotwire-affiliated hotels actually save their crappiest rooms for the Hotwire customers. I’ve stayed at a few really nice hotels, booked on sites like Hotwire, and ended up in the crap corner room with the bad bed, stinky smells, and complete lack of viewable view. The nice parts are reserved for people who pay full price, I think.


  1. Welcome to Luray! « Trans/plant/portation - June 24, 2010

    […] never set even a toe upon its soil before, we really only had the pictures supplied by each hotel, which we know from prior experience are visual manipulaitons, like Stalin cutting former allies out of his photos, and user-generated reviews, like Yelp and […]

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