Last month I wrote a generally positive review of the W Austin hotel. It wasn’t a perfect hotel, but on the whole the hotel works for me — because it is in a great location (downtown but not on 6th by the bars, with a view of the lake) and the staff are friendly.
And it’s just around the corner from the world’s best barbecue restaurant that offers sit down service, online reservations, and a bar.
I noted a few minor gripes — housekeeping not especially thorough, toileteries go unreplaced, and room service trays littering the halls much of the time. And requests for chocolate cake (on the menu) and a yoga mat went unfulfilled by “Whatever/Whenever.”
I like the hotel though, and on balance I found it worth returning to (although readers made a couple of good suggestions for alternatives in the comments to my last post on the hotel).
So I went back — and experienced what for one of the first times was an obvious and over-the-top ‘different stay’ from what a ‘normal’ guest would have.
I’m often asked whether I get treated differently by travel providers because of my blog. Most of the time it seems pretty clear that I do not. I have way too many bad hotel stays to think that hotels are treating me better because of my blog.
Generally the treatment I get stems from the nature of the property, from hotel program elite status, or because I’m a frequent guest at the given hotel.
Still, it’s a relevant question, how much will your stay experience be like mine? And most of the time I think the answer lies more in whether you are a similar type of traveler to me … lots of paid domestic rates for business travel, lots of points redemptions internationally at upscale hotels for vacations.
This time, though, they clearly knew I was coming. They must have seen my last review, either because of a ‘Google alert’ or through twitter. They hadn’t reached out to me about my post. But when I arrived they had things at the ready.
- They assigned me to a top floor room, very similar to the rooms I had had on previous stays, although closer to the elevator.
- They had a display of chocolate cake with a yoga mat — things I couldn’t get on an earlier stay. And it was accompanied by a bottle of prosecco (which I did not drink).
- The bathroom had an extra set of Bliss toileteries, and a set of full sized ones as well.
- My review commented on a previous ‘Whatever/Whenever’ failure at the W San Diego where I couldn’t get coffee… and this stay there was a machine in the room that I didn’t recall being there on previous visits.
Housekeeping seemed more thorough on this stay. And room service trays were never left outside of rooms — they went from being in front of most rooms (this hotel must do a relatively high proportion of room service) to never seeing a tray even once during the weekend.
That left the hotel as being just a good property, in a good location. The pool scene wasn’t as happening (you can look down on it from the rooms looking out at the lake) because of the generally overcast skies during the weekend. But that, to my mind, is better.
This stay was really really good on the hotel side of things, although my bill had an extra day’s valet charges that I’m working to have corrected. I suppose my only gripe is with the other guests, the hotel does draw quite the crowd looking to be seen. But that just makes the lobby a ‘show’ that you can watch for the price of your room if you wish… or not.
I’m going to have to stay again, making my reservation under a different name this time, to see how the experience differs… whether the improved housekeeping was a one-off or something they’ve actually fixed, whether they can keep room service trays out of the hall.
The chocolate cake display on arrival notwithstanding, they did seem to fix some of my minor nicks from my earlier post. I’d love it if that actually sticks.