The World's Suckiest Hotel (Part 1)
Everyone knows a bad hotel when they see one: bugs of one variety or another, a bathroom that hasn’t been scrubbed since Hechtor was a pup. A front desk with bullet proof plexiglass separating you from the bookie/ pimp/ front desk agent. A bed with blood stains not quite bleached out.
But what about the 5 star hotel that sucks? How can that be, you ask? Ah, but it can. And it’s nothing to do with price, or small rooms, or even the suite overlooking the elevator shaft. Usually, these suck because of one fatal flaw: pretentiousness.
Just recently I was hired to photograph a conference in LA for General Mills. The hotel? The posh Ritz Carlton LA Live, a monolith of a building stretching toward the warm western sky like the well manicured lacquered finger of a Saks makeup counter worker.
Suck indicator number 1: I book the room, on line, on Marriott’s web site. Is there any special request you have to make your stay more enjoyable?
Yes, I think. “A higher floor, please.” (OHHH, by the way, the rate? $350 per night x 5 nights = $1750 plus taxes).
I arrive a few weeks later to check in. Excited, to tell you the truth. I’ve had events at this hotel, but have never stayed there. I was to be in residence for five nights. I check in.
“You are in room 347.”
“Really? I asked for a higher floor.”
“You are in room 347…Sir…(pause)… that’s on the third floor.”
“Were all the rooms on the first floor booked?”
Blank stare from Front Desk Agent.
“There are no rooms on the first or second floors.” (puzzled look)
“Maybe we could set up a bed next to the front desk, and I could sleep here. Look! There’s a bathroom right over there. It would be convenient, I imagine.”
Blank stare. Struggle to remember training manual.
“Do you need help with your luggage?”
OK, so I resign myself to my room on the third floor, which, by the way, is the same floor as the conference center. A little weird. But clearly I was getting nowhere with catatonic LA desk agent.
I bitch to the bellman on the way up.
“Oh, no Sir. This is a nice room. You’ll be happy with this room! It’s on the corner, it’s large, it faces the plaza. It’s on the same floor as the conference center (you are working the conference, right?. Roll out of bed, shoot, roll into bed. Those elevators take forever. (he lowers his voice) We have a hotel full of, well, ehhem, ASIANS. They tend to hog the elevator.”
OK, so he sold me before the Asians crack, but we’ll let that pass. He was just trying to bond. I get it.
I enter the room, and, it is BEAUTIFUL. A long hall, arching around a corner. A floor to ceiling window in the hall, then a panorama of plate glass in the font with a chaise lounge parked in the middle. Lovely. Bellman was so right. Had stupid front desk agent sold me the room like the bellman did, I would never have thought twice about it being on the 3rd floor. I whisk open the drapes to the hall window. (A window in the HALL? How lucky am I?) It’s fake. Well, it’s actually completely covered with what I later learned was a billboard outside. Not a peep of light came in. Ok, there’s still the FRONT windows. I’ll live.
So I know what you are thinking. Prima Donna! That does not make this hotel suck, let alone giving it the not so coveted SUCKIEST HOTEL EVER Award! Buttercup, what are you thinking? Third floor, really? That’s your biggest complaint? One boarded window? A bellman who’s just mildly racist? That doesn’t stack up!