Hotel wifi is the worst

I’m traveling for work this week, which means I have a cheery room at a generally pleasant extended-stay suite hotel. The accommodations are clean, the breakfast is reasonably tasty, and the amenities are generous—with one exception: the hotel wifi.

Speed tests on my internet connection peg at 5Mbps downstream or so—embarrasingly slow for this tech-centric city. The network also forces me to reauthenticate multiple times each day—an unwelcome reminder that the connection is locked down. Yes, as I’m repeatedly nagged, I can upgrade to “premium” internet service for $5 a day, but I refuse to pay three times more for a connection that’s noticeably slower and flakier than what I enjoy at home—in the mountains of rural Appalachia.

Why do hotels still nickel and dime their guests when it comes to connectivity? Don’t they know that every guest has an LTE modem in her pocket, and that we’ll fall back to it at the slightest sign of trouble?

Funnily enough, the internet service seems to get worse as the hotels get nicer. This past weekend, I crashed at a $75-per-night hotel in a sketchy neighborhood. Overall, the experience wasn’t great: a breakfast overloaded with processed carbs, pungent whiffs of weed in the halls, and a cigarette-burned bedspread were among the highlights. But the internet at that dive easily beat the pants off what I have at this business-class hotel. Speeds were snappy, and authentication was easy.

I’m not sure why cheap hotels offer better connections. It’s as if hotels have resigned themselves to the fact that value-conscious clientele won’t pay extra for things that ought to be complimentary. By contrast, those customers for whom the experience is paramount might surrender five bucks for convenience’s sake.

But as someone in the middle—a value-conscious and picky guest—I resent the “freemium” hotel internet model. ■

  1. Suitcase and wifi artwork courtesy of Vecteezy.

travel Uncategorized

Charmed To Death

I dread visiting bed and breakfasts.

Don’t get me wrong; when I’m traveling, I’d much rather support a small business owner than some “hospitality conglomerate.”

And, in some ways, the B&B experience trumps any cookie-cutter hotel:

  • First, the food is better; many B&Bs prepare homemade morning meals with fresh, local ingredients. At hotels, you’re lucky to get waffles from a bag mix.
  • Second, B&Bs have charm. Often, the owner packs each room with skimmable books and interesting local knick-knacks. Meanwhile, hotels settle for sterile blandness; a room in Akron boasts the same wall art as a room in Portland. You’re stuck with the same worthless TV channels you’d watch at home.
  • Finally, at B&Bs, everyone you meet is genuinely friendly…

… But that’s the problem; they’re too friendly. See, there’s an unspoken understanding at B&Bs; guests are expected to spend some time making conversation. For example, there’s the obligatory twenty-minute check-in chat, in which you dutifully describe the details of your trip for the proprietor. You’ll then repeat that spiel for each of your fellow guests. When you return to the house at day’s end, be prepared to discuss your outing. And, worst of all, many B&Bs force strangers to take seats around the breakfast table and endure one last chat with people you’ll never meet again.

Some travelers relish these chance encounters with strangers; they want to meet new people. But for introverts like me, small talk feels like a resented chore, antithetical to rest.

Give me the quieter, antisocial experience of the average hotel chain. I want a staff who treats me with indifference and prefers not to hear from me at all. I love how fellow hotel guests avoid eye contact in the dining room or fitness center.

At the soulless hotel, there are no social gatekeepers and no conversational tolls to pay.