I don’t talk about this much, but I write regularly for the fun and swarmy site HotelChatter. Since I’ve reviewed over 400 hotels for a trade publication and I stay in more hotels than I can count, good and bad, it makes lots of sense. They let me rant about terrible hotel deals, places with bad views, and the like, but I also get to give praise when it’s deserved. I do the good rate/bad rate post each Tuesday, so it forces me to look around and see where the real lodging values are (and not).
Anyway, I’m linking to this particular post I really like because it exposes yet another reason why the faceless chain hotel experience is so uninspiring. Chain hotel music sucks. Not all over the world mind you, but where the suits and the bean counters are in control (the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for a start)–absolutely.
I am especially sensitive to this because I just came back from Argentina, a country that takes all five senses seriously. I only heard lousy hotel music once there and that was when I was inspecting the blandest hotel I encountered: Sheraton Salta. I actually heard a damn Phil Collins song coming out of their bar. The manager probably thought I had a nervous tic when he saw me cringe.
Everywhere else in Argentina, the hotel music was pure pleasure: from my $30 hostel in San Telmo to the hyper-hip and expensive Faena Hotel & Universe. I’m talking Gotan Project, Camera Obscura, Thievery Corporation, Bajofondo Tango Club, Seu Jorge, Bibel Gilberto, Patricia Barber, Quantic, and on and on. None of this is outlandish enough to send a conservative guest screaming for the exits, but it’s not just annoying background mush. People actually put some thought into what was playing over the sound system. I even heard a Tom Waits song while breezing through a hotel in Bariloche. I can’t remember ever hearing a Tom Waits song in a single hotel in his home country and it’s not like he hasn’t been around long enough to be respectable.
Here in the U.S., the article linked above shows the typical group-think corporate response to a competitive threat. They see the most desirable guests gravitating to boutique hotels with more character, so what do they decide to do? Play the same bad music, but louder. And oh yeah, let’s have Muzak program it all from one central office, so people will have the same “experience” whether they are in Boston or Boise. Oh great, just what we want when we travel…