Friday, March 24, 2017

Expensive Hotels

Expensive Hotels are just expensive, and really don't provide you with an improved experience.

After the "Flyer Miles" fiasco with my stay in Savannah, I had to have a talk with Mr. See about reward points and miles.   He was still a believer in the frequent flyer miles fairy - or the reward points genie - even though he realized the folly of this in other areas of his life.  

We had started accumulating "rewards points" from Hilton when his work forced us to stay in Atlanta, and the points were part of the deal.   Rule #1 about Rewards: Rewards are fine and all when someone else is paying the airfare, hotel bill or whatever.   Spending your own money to earn rewards is just folly.

But we did take a couple of trips by car where Mark booked rooms at a Hilton property, arguing that the "rewards" points were worth it.  I went along with this, until I saw the rack rate - over $200 a night with taxes and whatnot!   What's more, he had enough "rewards points" from work to pay for the hotel stay!

When I pointed this out, he said he was "saving them" for a "trip someday".     Rule #2 about Rewards:  Cash them in as soon as possible.  Why?  Because they often expire and often plans to "go on a trip someday" never materialize in the interim.   Use 'em up and get your value out of them.   They count on you accumulating rewards or miles and then never cashing them in or letting them expire.  It is like with gift cards, a lot of people never spend them and they often are lost or expire, and yes Mark often saves gift cards for "special occasions" and then stuffs them in a desk drawer. 

Myself, I get rid of them like a bad penny.

For example, Sam's Club is opening up in our town.  The offered to sign us up at an event here on the island and gave us two gift cards for $25 and $15 (why not one for $45??) as an incentive.  The next day, we were buying groceries at Wal-Mart "Ghetto Gourmet" (Neighborhood Market) and I went to use them.   "I was going to save those!" Mark said.   "For what?" I replied, "They're just money - spend them and get rid of them as soon as possible!"

He was flabbergasted.  For some reason - an emotional reason - he was convinced these cards needed to be saved for "special."   But they are just cash, and if you "save" them, the odds of you misplacing them or forgetting about them increases with each passing day.   Get rid of gift cards as quickly as you can - without just willy-nilly spending of course.

And the same is true for miles.   If you fly a lot, of course you should "save up" for the trip you want to take.  But to try to "bank" them is folly - they will expire over time and you will lose whatever value you can get from them.

But getting back to hotels, a hotel is just a place to sleep and wash up.  It is usually not the destination of your trip, or at least it is not in most cases.   Very few hotel rooms, even in expensive hotels, are very nice.  No balconies or views of the city.  Just that carpet smell, 500 channels of bad television, and little soaps in the showers.

Paying $250 or more a night to stay in such a place (which is the rack-rate for a very middle-brow hotel in many towns) makes no sense for middle-class people.   Not when there are other hotels not far away that charge half as much.  Are they as nice?  Of course not, but you didn't go to the destination you are at to stay in the hotel.  It was not the reason for the trip, just a place to hang your hat.

Now, for business when someone else is paying, sure.  And for a resort with on-site amenities, of course.   But the rest of the time?   For what we were paying to stay one night at Hilton, we could have stayed in a lesser hotel for two nights.  Or a bed-and-breakfast, or even a condo on Tybee island.  Or an Air BnB or whatever.

The same is true of airfare.  Frequent flyer miles make sense for frequent fliers - folks whose employers are paying the airfare.  Rack up those miles and then frustrate the snot out of yourself trying to actually use them.  Blow your brains out.   But as one frequent flyer noted, "I fly all the time for work, the last thing I want to do in my free time is fly on a plane" so he gives his miles away or gives them to charity for a write-off.   Let's face it, he's right.  Flying on a plane is about as much fun as having your wisdom teeth pulled - sans anesthesia.   Staying in a hotel or motel room is about as exciting, frankly.

You cannot spend your way to wealth just as you cannot deduct your way to wealth.   Paying less is always a better option than paying more, even if they give you bonus points.   They throw pennies at us, hoping we spend dollars.  And in this case, for every week you spend in a hotel, you might get one free night with points - if you can navigate their horrific points system and actually book a room and not get utterly fucked at the last minute the way American Airlines did to me.

I would rather we had spent those "points" on a hotel room and used them up rather than accumulating them.  One less freaking thing to worry about!   And if we had no points to use up, I would have rather shopped around on price for the best deal on a hotel or motel.  Because paying $250 a night for a place to stay is just outrageous, particularly when it is just a place to flop for the night while you wait for a plane the next morning or are in town to see a show.

This was, of course, one of those difficult discussions you have to have with your spouse on occasion.   And of course, Mark was defensive about the points.  But after seeing how these "rewards" can be utterly useless and screw up your plans, I think he realizes that I was right.  He was chasing after a false dream.   It was like coupons - just a waste of time for the most part, and not a way to get ahead.   Like I said, ask a couponer, what's the name of their yacht?   Because if these stupid coupons, rewards, cash-back, bonus points, green stamps, or whatever were so freaking valuable, folks who chase after them would have a yacht.

No yacht.   That says it all.