Taking a break from the heavy, political stuff for an evening. I’m on the road today, staying at my favorite Bed and Breakfast in Baltimore. It’s so comfortable and nice that I just want to talk about hospitality for a bit.
Generally, I’m a Marriott guy. There’s nothing particularly unique or awesome about Marriotts – except that they are consistent. I travel a fair amount, and when I travel, principle number one is “don’t screw up my trip.” That translates roughly into “no surprises.” I do enjoy having adventures, but particularly on business travel – those adventures must not be of the form, “I had to sleep in the car.” I prioritize the likelihood of having my reservation correct and complete far higher than almost any amenity you might care to name. I couldn’t give less of a damn about a hot tub (I can’t have my friends over to the hotel for a hot tub party anyway). Plush linens are noticeable for the couple of minutes before falling asleep. You get the picture.
Negative amenities exist too. Consider having the waitstaff sing you “happy birthday” at a restaurant. Ever notice how nobody requests that for themselves? Some hotels have negative amenities that are just like that. No, thanks, I don’t want everyone in the lobby to know that I’m a platinum elite awesome travel dood. No. Shoo.
There is also something to be said for playing the ‘points’ game with particular chains. A couple of trips per month adds up to some fairly hefty discounts over time. The down side is that the “rewards” in every rewards program are for exactly what the weary business traveller does not want: More travel.
Anyway, the place I’m staying today is on the far opposite side of the spectrum. It’s a bed and breakfast in a unique building, owned and run by a couple of nice guys. My suite is the “Room at the Edge of the World,” so named in part because it has big windows looking out to the bay. I usually request this room because there’s a little fish in a bowl who lives in here. Cheesy as it may be, I sort of look forward to seeing the fish. “Hello Columbus,” I say when I arrive. The furniture is eccentric, stylish, and comfortable. They usually have warm cookies available in the afternoon – and the breakfasts are terrific. The guys remember me in a general sort of way, and seem to honestly care that I feel safe and comfortable. That’s the core of hospitality to me: Doing what is reasonably within your power to help a guest have a good time – on their own terms.
As with other social thing, this concept is all too frequently submerged in a muck of form but no substance. “Gentleman” springs to mind as a word that has been so abused that it may never regain whatever lustre it once had. Hospitality is, in particular, not about spending a lot of money. Frequently just noticing that your guest is exhausted but too polite to say so, and quietly canceling a plan can be the kindest gesture a host can make.
The place is The Inn at 2920. Check it out if you need a place to stay in the Charm City.