STICKER SHOCK

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I serve on the board of a national organization located in Washington, D.C. Our by-laws require three board meetings annually. Consequently for me, the Nation’s Capitol is not off the beaten path. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity. In addition to board meetings, it not uncommon to throw in another trip for good measure to visit with Congressional staff regarding proposed legislation.

 

There are places to see and areas of interest to tour, but I travel there so often that I don’t generally allow myself time to do sightseeing. If there is any leftover time, I limit any sightseeing to the Wall or Arlington National Cemetery. The rest of my time is generally invested in meetings and trying to keep up with work. I know this is beginning to sound like an “Oh poor me” scenario, so let me quickly say that in the midst of the routine, I manage to capture the adventure. I’m not an “all work and no play” kind of guy, but at times it feels that way.

 

Perhaps my most memorable trip to Washington (or perhaps most painful) was several months ago when I toppled down an escalator at one of the Metro stations face forward. Bump, bump, bump – I thought I’d never come to a stop. Once I did, I wasn’t sure that I was okay. Yet, when mention was made of calling an ambulance, I managed to put a halt to that plan. After all, I had already paid my subway fare. If I needed medical care, I’d take the train.

 

Actually, that wasn’t my most painful trip to D.C. Without going into details, the etched in stone name of my brother on both a white stone marker at Arlington National Cemetery and at the Wall represent real pain.   The topple I took face forward down the escalator pales in contrast to that kind of discomfort.

 

For the most part, despite the discomfort of the past, I’ve managed a regime in Washington where comfort ranks high on my list of priorities. When I was first invited to serve on the board, a colleague from a neighboring state was serving as president of the board. He is really a nice guy, but at times had the tendency to posture himself in a “take charge kind of role” and suggest where the group would go to dinner and where the group would stay.

 

I’m a flexible kind of guy, but after booking a hotel room in the same shabby hotel down the street from the Capitol for the first two board meetings I attended, I determined that enough was enough. I drew a line in the sand and announced that creature comforts and basic amenities in a room were an absolute must for me. For example, I didn’t think it was too much to ask or to expect that the room have a closet or somewhere to hang up one’s clothes after you took them out of a suit bag. When the hotel where we were staying had been built, clothes closets weren’t yet an expectation.

 

Don’t get me wrong. There is something inviting about the sounds of the city, but if you’ll pardon the pun, it could border on overkill. For example, if the weather was too warm in your room, I learned early on not to bother to look for a thermostat to adjust the temperature. The hotel where we were staying was operational and serving guests before thermostats were invented. Of course, the plan for cooling that they originally used worked fine. All you had to do was open a window. Of course, that also was an open invitation to the sounds of the city. In addition, if you had the misfortune to have a room on the first floor, it could also pose a whole new concept to “mi casa es su casa”.

 

The third time may have been the charm, but I opted not to go there. After two trips to the Nation’s Capitol and staying in what I considered marginal settings on Pennsylvania Avenue, I learned about Priceline and I’ve never looked back.

 

Initially, I opted to bid on rooms. According to the parameters of the Priceline website, you can make as many as three bids in a twenty-four hour period. Consequently, it almost became a game with me. About a week out, I’d start the bidding process. Sometimes I got a room early on and sometimes I didn’t. Often out of desperation, I’d go a higher than I wanted to pay, but it was also under what you could expect to pay for a La Quinta or something comparable.

 

In more recent months, I’ve discovered express deals. Available information provides you the star rating, location and price. Wow! Wow! Wow! If what they’ve got posted looks like a bargain and is located in an area where I want to stay, I opt for the express deal. It takes the guesswork out of knowing whether or not you’ll get a room.

 

About three weeks ago, I checked hotel rates for Washington. When it came to rates for 4 star hotels, they were way above what I generally pay. They ranged for $350 to $425 a night.  I guess you could say I looked at the prices and had sticker-shock. But then again, it was three weeks out. Consequently, I waited a week and tried again. I wasn’t sure what was happening in Washington, but the whole premise of Priceline is related to supply and demand. It was apparent that the demand was much higher than the supply. Consequently prices were not dropping.

 

Two weeks out, I was startled to discover that rooms were sky-high. I scrolled through express deals and didn’t come up with much. Actually, hotels with a 4 star rating were way over my price range. At some point, I check deals again and found a 3 ½ star hotel near a metro station for $61. Wow! That was an incredible price. I can’t remember now. I think the regular price was three times that amount.

 

Okay, so I’m sometimes too big for my britches. I opted not to reserve the $61 dollar room. It wasn’t that I thought, “How lower middle class.” I didn’t think that at all. I was confident that when rates changed on this past Sunday, I’d easily find a hotel with creature comforts (aka – within walking distance to a good restaurant) in the same price range I always pay.  Besides that, I wanted a 4 star venue.

 

Sunday morning, I almost gasped for breath when I looked at prices for hotels in D.C. The four star hotels had not dropped in price. If anything, they had gone up and the 3 star hotels had skyrocketed. I’m old school. I’m not going to pay $267 dollars for a 3 star hotel anywhere.

 

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. All I can say is, “If I had it to do over, I’d have taken the 3 ½ star hotel for $61.

 

All My Best!

Don

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