The Hilton DeSoto Review

Posted in Reviews, Roadtrip by Harsha on December 10, 2007

Not all Hilton’s are born the same. This is a clear nature vs nurture situation, with nurture being the reason behind it’s appearance and feel. But I should thank them for providing fodder for the Name Experiment – 2 post.

When we drove up here in SAVANNAH, GA, we were not greeted by anyone at the door. They did upgrade our room to the 10th floor because we called earlier telling them we may be late thanks to the horrible Atlanta traffic. They put us on the 10th floor with fantastic views of the Historic District.

The room itself was nice with an amazing Tempur-Pedic bed. The bathroom was huge with two sinks and well kept. The view was amazing. The air-conditioner did make weird noises on startup but then worked out just fine. The room was decked out well with good clean linen, curtains and sofas.

The staff were generally good and prompt and helpful. The servers at their restaurant were just average and not particular keen on making sure we were having a good breakfast – I guess that is symptomatic of a restaurant in a hotel; they are after all in the hospitality business and not catering. Or is that just an excuse?

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

Obviously, there were better hotels in Savannah at the same rate. We just did not know about it till we got there. But I have no regrets and will stay there again if we get that 10th room floor or something above the 7th story. If you’re in town, I think The Hiton DeSoto is a good option.

Tagged with: , , , ,

The Hamilton Crowne Plaza Review

Posted in Reviews, Roadtrip by Harsha on December 1, 2007

Welcome to a hotel in downtown DC that charges $30 for parking (no option to self park), and un-smiling staff. The hotel sign is easy to miss at the street level. But the lobby is grand and the hallways are well lit.

Our room was cheerful with good linen and carpet. The bathroom was great as well with good lights and clean tiles. The food being served from their 14K Restaurant, is just unbelievably good (read the food review here). The bed was awesome as well.

We had booked a king bed, got checked into a queen bed and then got moved to the right room. When this happens, I’m left shaking my head because the reservation will clearly tell the front desk staff our preference. There are no two ways about it – either you ordered queen bed or a king bed, a smoking or a non-smoking room. There are only so many options. It is like having your tires rotated when you asked for an oil change. It is that stupid.

But, I’ve been in instances where my reservation has been disputed by the front desk folks, but that did not happen here. The room change was made sheepishly by CJ, the front desk person. But not before asking some really brilliant questions like “Would you like to come down to pick up the new key?” and “Do you need help with your bags?”. Take a wild guess, I just drove in from Boston.

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

Well, if this were the last hotel available in DC, with every other choice either booked or not affordable, then maybe. Otherwise, never. I will still eat at the restaurant because it is just out of the world fantastic.

Big Luxurious Green Lies

Posted in Pulpit, Roadtrip, TOOBs by Harsha on November 28, 2007

Andrea Barnett of Travel And Leisure writes on CNN about the hospitality industry’s Eco lies.

I saw some of what she writes (like being “asked to recycle towels and use a key card that controls your room’s lights and climate” on my recent road trip).

But here is something I wrote about what Auden Schendler now says, in a recent BusinessWeek article.

Tagged with: , , , , ,

Name Experiment – 2

Posted in New, Roadtrip by Harsha on November 28, 2007

This is always an interesting experiment for me. To address someone by name and see the reaction. We all lead fairly anonymous lives already, so a little recognition seems to go a long way. And it did seem to go so for Dante.

Dante is a bellboy we met while staying at the Hilton in the Historic District in Savannah, GA on our recent road trip. We checked in at around 9pm after a 6 hour drive from Atlanta. As we pulled up to the curb, no one came out immediately to greet us (I’m going to review each place we stayed in later posts).

Then this guy walks out of the hotel pretty casually, has a “yeah, whatever” look and demeanor about him. In a lazy tone, he asked if we’re checking in, the room number and if we wanted to self park or use his services – all short and I-don’t-care-for-your-reply type of questions. Believe me, after a long drive, the last thing you want is someone (who works in the hospitality business) to not care. My wife was livid, but I kept my cool as usual. I tried a couple of jokes with him, no luck. I handed off the keys to him with a tip, and checked in at the front desk. He was doing double duty as the valet and bellboy so he brought our luggage upstairs (with the same attitude at the door).

As he was exiting the hotel room after dropping off our luggage, I walked out with him and asked him for his name. Then I tipped him again and thanked him for helping us. I can tell you, I sensed an instant change in his attitude. Not that he was jumping for joy but it was the tipping point and it was clearly visible to me.

Next day, in the morning as we went down to have him pull our car out, guess what happens? I get a warm handshake from him and cheerfully says, “Let me get your car out for you Mr. Raghavan”. This is after a grueling 8 hour night shift – if you’ve never worked at night, then you will never know how lousy and horrible one feels the next morning.

This experiment is the most interesting and rewarding of experiments that I run. The pay off is instant and usually, exactly opposite of the initial treatment. Sure, I could have made a scene, complained to the manager at the desk only to make his already tough life more miserable. Yet, I took a minute out to empathize, assumed he was doing a good job and tipped him. However, the flip side is it might enforce his broken view of the world even more and not help at all. But that is a risk, I am willing to take. 9 out of 10 times, it goes my way. I am willing to pay that “1 time fee” for the happiness I get 9 other times.

This is a relevant lesson in all walks of business and life. If you want to get your way with someone, then I believe that this is the only route. Either that or you’ve got mafia backing. It does not matter to me if Dante remains positive after he serves me, selfishly I say because I have no control over that aspect of his life. I can only control how he decides to deal with me. Nothing else.

I personally like to deal with a tough situation without blowing my top, because I’ve found that I am paralyzed when I get angry (read my post on Cortisol) and am ineffective. My fight or flight instinct is mostly flight (relevant today as calmly dealing with the situation). We can get our way either by being a total jerk or by being empathetic – I choose the latter. True, there may be cases when the person needs a good dose, but then again, who are we to judge someone else, when that is reserved for their last day on earth? It may also be the case that the person is just a “bad” person (is that even possible?) and nothing can be done about them. I feel that we jump to this conclusion at the very first hint of an initial attitude like Dante’s and the reality is totally different when compared to your view of that person.

To be honest, I am still learning how to execute this experiment perfectly. Most times, I find myself not making eye-contact when I say the server’s name. It is an ongoing process that needs sharpening on my end. But I love this experiment dearly and don’t even think that I will grow weary of it’s results. It is also one of the very first experiments I ran.

Retirement Experiment

Posted in New, Roadtrip by Harsha on November 27, 2007

How do you plan to spend the golden years? Do you have the energy, passion and interest in setting up a bed-and-breakfast inn? Are you (in)sane enough to move out of your home of 30 some years and start anew in a different city?

I’m talking about a couple we met on our road trip. I am back home now after a fun and exhilarating experience traveling and traveling down south.

Patti Pizinger and her husband own the Trinkle Mansion Bed and Breakfast. It is a stunning investment made by a couple seeking to move into the golden years of retirement. They took a run down (nevertheless historical building) and turned it into an opulent, magnificent, grandiose and palatial inn. It pained me to hear that they did everything (with help, obviously) and I’d estimate that they’ve sunk close to $1m in decorations and furniture and at least a $1-$2m on the renovations.


They are like a startup company. Crazy, yet extremely passionate about their retirement dream. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Patti and living in her beautiful home for a night and could not help wonder, what drives a person to such great lengths? Do I have something in my head that I am so passionate about? Clearly, it is her dream to run this place and I can’t speak for her husband since we did not meet him. But when she was describing the place, you could see the excitement in her eyes. They gleamed when she told us the details of the reconstruction.


The vision she had about this place is interesting because she took it from a rundown building that house two attorneys and a couple of apartments


Check out the “Adel” (which is where Patti and her husband are from in Iowa). The pictures are EXACTLY how you will find the room. In fact, the rooms are more beautiful in person. Read more here. Pictures courtesy of