Some of you may have seen my extremely negative post about my experience at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile (the Mile may be magnificent; the hotel is not). I have a theory since Wednesday and Thursday I went to an empty Concierge Lounge in the evening, despite their statement that there would be an hors d'oeuvres period and a dessert period.
No one was there Wednesday night. Maybe three other people. That's when I found out a glass of wine costs exactly the same as it does in the downstairs bars ($9.97); the mixed drinks were closer to $20. The whole time I stayed there, almost no one came in. Unlike the morning staff, the evening staff were not particularly helpful or pleasant. The so-called hors d'oeuvres the first night were a couple of shelves of pre-sliced typical American cheeses; and whatever else I said in my first email. It was quite forgettable. The second night, which I'll detail more thoroughly, there were dried up Bratwursts, and oh yes, the Minnesota Rice soup (that was actually the best of the appetizers) and some celery and carrot sticks. Again, there was no one else there, and it's a HUGE CL. Besides my history conference (thousands of people spread between the conference hotel), there were musicians' conferences, academic economists' conferences, and also things I saw in the elevator that included major CEOs. In other words, there were a lot of people staying at downtown hotels and the two nights I could go to the CL it was virtually empty, including Friday night.
Since no one was there, and since I was president of an organization, I asked several of my senior colleagues to join me. The staff said NO PROBLEM (there were seven of us). Trust me, we were not taking space from PP or P or G members. I bought drinks for everyone over the course of a couple of hours, which amounted to about $150.
MY THEORY: The CLs that still exist in the US IF the Chicago Marriott Downtown is representative, are starting to sell themselves like new airline fees -- anyone can use them, but you pay through the nose. They were delighted to have me bring all those non-Marriott members into their empty lounge. Moreover, after my colleagues tried some of the 'free food' they didn't go back for seconds. The dessert was slightly better, but if I hadn't been paying for everyone's drinks, I would have been embarrassed to say I was a Marriott elite member.
So my question is are more and more US Marriotts (at which thankfully I seldom stay) going to follow this route and make it open to any amount of guests of guests as long as they can make a huge profit out of it like the airlines are doing with all kinds of fees.
Fortunately, all my Delta flights were perfect. Upgrades to first class on all four legs, even if that doesn't mean too much on relatively short domestic flights. Still, the treatment you get from Delta is something Marriott needs to learn. When I handed in my ticket at boarding on all four legs (though going home through Chicago wasn't as good as the rest, but Detroit has it perfected), I was greeted by name, thanked for being a Platinum Plus Elite member, and greeted once again by the flight attendants by name, even on a regional carrier that had first class.
Marriott must get its act together. For the most part, abroad, the Marriott name means quality. It no longer does at home and I'm going to go with those folks talking about Hyatt breakfasts for the few times I stay at hotels in the US.