I travel a lot, so I should be a prime customer for a number of travel related companies. If I had a bigger travel budget things might be different, especially when it comes to hotels and maybe air lines. However in this business one has to keep travel costs down. For that reason I am rather brand ambivalent except for a couple of cases.
I really won’t price shop for a car rental because Hertz is so very good at getting me into the car and out of the lot. Hertz is usually more expensive but the discount I get from my status at one particular airline helps mitigate the difference. I’m also a Gold member which gives me no price advantage but is the secret to the easy in, easy out benefit. I go right to be bus, get dropped right at the screen which tells me where my car is. Show my license on the way out and I’m gone. I have a membership at another leading car rental company but even then I have to wait while the type endlessly on the computer…what are they typing anyway, they already have my info.
Hertz trains their people well. They aren’t warm and fuzzy in a fake way, just crisply efficient and cordial. I’ve had a couple of hiccups here and there. Their staff at DCA really have not gotten the memo on how to treat customers. Going to the Gold desk in that airport garage means getting the impression that you are really bothering them and taking them away from whatever they are doing at the computer terminal. Once is a fluke, twice is a pattern.
All rental cars are older and crummier now but they spiff me once in a while with something nice. I’ve got an Impala with a sun roof for this week of distance driving, but the AUX input jack doesn’t work. Oh well.
Ok, this is not the brand loyalty the hotels want me to have, but I book all hotels through Hotwire. Once you figure out the ratings (never ever go with 2 stars) you can get from adequate to really nice hotel rooms for real bargains. Not always the same bargain each time but I can really count on them to set me up right. I wish they did international hotel bookings.
I used to be loyal to United until they very convincingly sent me a clear message that they just don’t care about customers. Now I have a slight preference for Delta as long as the costs aren’t dramatically different. Flying in economy however, no matter the airline, is an ordeal to be suffered through.
At my budget level I cannot justify spending hundreds of dollars for one night stay, even though the nicer hotels are definitely worth more than the mid-level ones. With Hotwire I can almost always keep it under $100, often well under$100. For example I am right now spending 4 nights at a Hyatt for $89 a night. Stay away from 2 stars, though.
Hotels part 2
If I could, I would probably have loyalty to both Hyatt and Hilton. Both have been very comfortable when I’ve stayed there, with good staff and efficiency. Hyatt seems slightly more styled which appeals to me. This is in severe contrast to the exceedingly dull Marriott chain.
I am truly annoyed when any hotel charges me separately for internet access. In this day and age that is like having to purchase water at the sink separately. Apparently “delighting the customer” is relative and stops at messing with a cash cow. Wingate is great in that regard. Try them if you find them in their rather limited area.
I was given a pair of their Quite Comfort noise canceling headphones a couple of years back and they completely changed by flying experience. Anything, from the movie, to my ipod, to nothing is bathed in a blanket of quiet. The grinding of the engines is off in the distance, it is wonderful. These things are not cheap but they work great.
After having them for at least 2 years, long past warranty, part of the trim on the headband broke off. They still worked but my hair got caught every time I put them on. I called Bose hoping they had some kind of repair service. Imagine my surprise when they told me over the phone that they would replace them with the newer updated version! That made Bose first on my list when considering anything they make, which includes their iPod dock that I bought about a year ago. Before I had this experience I bought a competitor to their desk radio/cd system and I am regretting it. The clock never keeps time and now the alarm function stopped working. I am quite convinced that that would never happen with a Bose product and if it did, they would replace it before I had gotten the request out of my mouth.