What A $10,000 Hotel Room Taught Me About Money

As part of my job, I organize my company’s presence at trade shows.

We just returned from a show in Las Vegas, where we booked a suite in a nice hotel to host client meetings.

When I say nice, I mean a one-night stay in this suite costs more than I spend in a year in rent, literally.

When I say suite,  I mean a collection of rooms that, put together, is bigger than the house I live in.

Each of the multiple bathrooms is bigger than my main floor.

Now, since the suite was for meetings, and every bedroom was a designated meeting room, no one actually stayed in the suite, unless you count long days of meetings as “staying there.” On the last night, when it came to light that I was the only person who had to be there the next morning to organize shipping and check out, I decided hey – I’m totally staying here tonight.

So as our team went out to celebrate a great trade show by hitting the town, I came back to the suite to get some rest and be ready for a day of logistics.

And you know what?

I was so excited.

I thought it was going to be so fancy and so luxurious having the place all to myself. When on earth would I ever again be spending a night in a hotel room that costs five-figures a night? Might as well make the most of it.

I walked through the gorgeous lobby, took the luxurious elevator to our beautifully decorated hallway, pulled out my key card and walked in.

And… nothing.

I mean, literally nothing.

It was eerily quiet, which hadn’t been my experience all week, while the suite was jam-packed full of meetings and coworkers and excitement in the air. It was so jam-packed we set up our staff lounge in one of the bathrooms, for crying out loud.

 

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(Just picture three or four guys on laptops, takeout containers and water bottles everywhere to complete the picture.)

Again, did I mention this bathroom is bigger than my main floor?

A little unnerved by the quiet, I got my stuff from the staff-lounge bathroom and made my way to the other, pristine, football-field-sized bathroom. Ever since seeing the gigantic bathtubs, I thought that taking a bath in that unbelievable bathroom, while overlooking a panoramic view of the Las Vegas strip, would be the height of luxury, and that I would love it.

Which leads us to the first thing I learned.

Lesson #1: If You Don’t Like Something, You Probably Won’t Like the Expensive Version More

It turns out, if baths bore you in regular life, no amount of fancy bathrooms will make you enjoy baths. Even if the tub is basically the size of a small swimming pool.

I was in the tub for all of ten minutes – ten dreary, albeit jacuzzi-ing, minutes – before I couldn’t just lie there anymore doing nothing. So I got out, still weirded out by the quiet, and went to bed.

I had so expected that this fancy-pants version of a thing – baths – that I typically don’t like or spend time on would be amazing, simply by virtue of being expensive.

Which, when I say it out loud, sounds ridiculous, right?

But even as a frugal-to-the-core person, I fell right into the trap of assuming that because something was out-of-this-world expensive, that I’d like it more than the everyday, regular-priced option.

Realizing this assumption – and thoroughly disproving it through a boring ten minutes in an objectively gorgeous bathtub – made me question all of the other times this type of thinking can come up in a day.

“Maybe if I had more expensive clothes I’d like choosing my outfits more.”

“Maybe if I bought a membership at the expensive gym I’d like working out more.”

“Maybe if I buy the more expensive phone I won’t mind living in my inbox.”

Maybe you’ll hate the expensive version just as much as you hate the version you have now. It’s something to think about.

Lesson #2: Diminishing Returns are Really, Really Real

Even after I got out of the bath, all I could think about was how weird it was to be staying there. This was the room where, earlier that day, I had pitched a big client with one of our executives. This was the room where people had been meeting, almost non-stop, for an entire week.

And now I was just going to crawl into bed in my PJs?

Weird.

So weird, in fact, that I was sorely tempted to call it quits on the whole idea, get straight into a taxi and go back to the regular, un-fancy hotel the whole team had been staying in all week. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but after almost a week I was comfortable there, the beds were comfy and I even had oatmeal and milk to microwave for breakfast in the little kitchenette.

Which sounds crazy, right?

Here I was, in a hotel suite bigger than my house, living in the lap of luxury, and all I wanted to do was go back to the run of the mill hotel room I’d been in all week.

But everything people have ever said about diminishing returns is true of hotel rooms, too.

The year before, we stayed at a budget hotel, befitting our company’s startup status, and the beds were truly awful. “Anywhere but there,” was the best feedback I could give when we chose a hotel this year.

So this year, we chose a slightly more expensive hotel that was still within the realm of reasonable, and that slight improvement made a world of difference. The beds were better, there was a little kitchen to use for breakfast, and the pillows were downright amazing.

That was money well spent.

But how much better can a hotel room really get when you’re travelling for business?

You’re never really in the room, other than to sleep, and you don’t have any of your loved ones there with you. Beyond a decent bed, additional amenities start to matter less and less – no matter what you’re paying for them.

I had lost sight of this when I assumed that staying in the five-figure suite would be amazing. I forgot that beyond a certain point, you can pay as much as you want, but you’re really not moving the needle on the things that matter – or if you are, there’s only so much more you can improve the experience.

For every additional $1000 a night (gulp) you can only add so much to an experience that at its core, is a bed to sleep in away from your friends and family.

Lesson #3: People, Not Price Tags, Will Make or Break Your Experience

For all the wonder and glamour of the suite – which did its job nicely, giving us all the space we needed to accomplish our goals at the trade show – there were two things I raved about throughout the week, and one thing I missed.

And none of those things had anything to do with the price tag of the suite. At least, not directly.

The first thing I raved about was how well our team did, and the awesome times we had working together to make sure the trade show went off without a hitch.

The second thing I raved about was the unbelievably awesome employees at the hotel.

I will say, in this regard, we more than got what we paid for. I’ve never experienced such amazing, consistently great customer service from literally every person who works on a team. I could not stop raving about it to both them and our team.

I’m still raving about it, and it’s been days since I got home. I mean, they were just superb, from the door staff to the convention manager to the people who brought our coffee order up every morning. To a person, they went above and beyond and were unfailingly cheerful.

And the only thing I missed, that would have made the experience ten times more fun? The people I left at home – or more accurately, the person and the dog who held down the fort while I was out of town.

That’s what really stood out when I walked into the big, empty, luxurious suite all by myself.

“This would be way more fun if The Boyfriend and The Dog were here.”

At the end of the day, no matter what the price tag is, it’s the people you’re with who will make or break an experience.

 Have you ever had the chance to experience something totally luxurious and expensive that didn’t live up to the hype? Or the opposite – a time when the extra expense made your experience amazing? I’d love to hear stories from either side!