[87attendees] Hotels and walking (was: [87all] IETF 87 Berlin Meeting Review)

Andrew Sullivan <ajs@anvilwalrusden.com> Wed, 14 August 2013 18:34 UTC

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Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2013 14:34:50 -0400
From: Andrew Sullivan <ajs@anvilwalrusden.com>
To: 87attendees@ietf.org
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Subject: [87attendees] Hotels and walking (was: [87all] IETF 87 Berlin Meeting Review)
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On Wed, Aug 14, 2013 at 10:25:12AM -0700, Dave Crocker wrote:
> but a commitment for one, with the hotel suffering serious penalty
> for getting things wrong.

I used to work in hotels, when I was still hoping that them Corporate
Philosopher job postings were going to materialize.  I can assure you
that the hotel _does_ suffer a serious penalty.

First, there is a significant cost in having staff running around
trying to find rooms.  In cases where the hotel I was in was oversold,
it inevitably happened when the other hotels were also relatively
full.  Finding a room -- any room -- took time, and it generally had
to be done by hand.  This is probably better these days -- at the
time, we mostly worked on the phone -- but it's still staff people
chasing the problem, and ievitably you realise that you really have a
problem when your forecast numbers are running below actual arrivals.

Second, the hotel actually has to confirm that reservation, which
means that the hotel is at least out the money if the covered
reservation doesn't show.

Third, depending on the hotel, the grouchiness of the guest who
presents, and the terms of the reservation, the overbooked hotel is
usually actually paying for the room occupied by the guest (this is
the "free nights" provision).  Hotels do offer one another discounted
rates for this, but it's still not nothing, and if you're wrong by a
lot of rooms it can easily blow away your profit for a night.
Moreover, in a full hotel margins are reasonably good, but overall the
hotel industry works on pretty thin margins.  Those thin margins are
in fact what allow us to negotiate the enormous blocks we do: the
hotel wants to fill the rooms ("heads in beds") very, very badly.

These absolutely are costs that negatively affect the hotel.
Moreover, they're _really_ costs that affect the front office manager,
whose very job depends on skating exactly on the line of ensuring both
high occupancy and high room revenue while not ending up with hard or
soft costs (roughly, money to another hotel or a dissatisfied guest).
That's the basis on which front office managers are evaluated, and
people who get this too wrong too far too often (and these are all
sensitive to local market condtions) aren't front office managers for
very long.

> That the error seems to be happening more than once suggests that
> our contracts are not forceful enough.

Actually, it suggests that we're paying room rates in the lower end of
the scale.  Hotels are _always_ going to walk the people that
represent the lowest likely overall room revenue, just like any other
economic agent.  Presumably, as the hotel fills, we're paying well
below what the room will attract in revenue (either that day or, as
likely, over the long haul).  You could reduce your chances of being
walked by registering at the hotel outside the IETF block, paying
regular rates that are higher than our block rate.


PS: In some places (particularly in urban parts of North America), you
can often increase your odds of getting a room (or an upgrade) by
tipping the front desk clerk, being sure to accept help from the
bellhop and tipping him/her, &c.  I know someone will be outraged by
this fact.  It doesn't make it less factlike.

Andrew Sullivan