Thursday, August 1, 2002

Hotels Losing Phone Profits

Last month I stayed at an Embassy Suites hotel in Marlboro, an outer suburb of Boston. Marlboro is less than five miles away from Natick and Framingham (where two of my meetings were), so it made sense to be there instead of downtown. I had the majority of one day free, and used it to get caught up on e-mails, work, etc. Much of this time I was online – I simply called the local number for my ISP. I say “local” because the number was to a town less than five miles away (Natick). When, half-way through the day, Natick rang busy, I called the Framingham number.

When I went to check out, I was stunned: phone charges were over $300 for just three days. Turns out they were charging me more than $2/minute for a completely local phone call. I wouldn’t have been as incensed, but I used to live there – and I remember that Bell Atlantic (now Verizon) lets you call all over the freakin’ state for a nickel. Fortunately the manager did the right thing and cleared all but one of the phone calls. But I was really annoyed – I’ve stayed at 20 Hilton hotels this year (sad, isn’t it?) and as a Hilton HHonors Diamond member you’d think the least they could do is let me use the damn phone without extorting loan-shark fees from me.

Well, turns out that this is exactly what Wyndham is doing. Saw this report on MSNBC today, which points out that Wyndham’s “ByRequest“ “guest recognition program” now allows unlimited local and domestic long-distance calls. Turns out they realized that people were using their cell phones anyway – so may as well try and give them a benefit.

Now, why these hotels can’t simply offer high speed Internet access is beyond me. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

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