Lodgenet = Stupid (from the Hilton Santa Clara)

So I’m sitting here in my room at the Hilton Santa Clara, and it’s the morning after the fabulous BlogHer conference.

It’s a perfectly fine hotel in many respects, with one glaring exception: the Kafkaesque way in which the ISP LodgeNet manages this hotel’s in-room internet access. If you plan to stay at this hotel, here’s a tip to ensure that you don’t get ripped off…

Long story short: If you stay at this hotel and wish to use more than one laptop for internet access, insist on a refund for all charges past the first access charge per day. I got such a refund, and you should too.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ME

When I made the reservation for this room, I was told that our in-room broadband Ethernet connection would cost $9.99 per day. I’m sharing a room with fellow blogger Koan Bremner. She signed up for the in-room internet access and has been using it for the last two days.

This morning, for the first time during our stay, I plugged our Ethernet cable into my laptop. Much to my surprise, I was greeted with a screen asking me to pay $9.99 for access.

Hmmmmm, I thought… We’ve already paid for our room’s connection. This must be a mistake.

So I called down to the hotel front desk and explained the situation. After about 15 minutes they sent up an engineer to our door. This gentleman merely took our information, agreed that there should be no further charges, and said he’d look into it. He noted that the Lodgenet access system was “only installed 3 days ago,” and so they were still working out kinks. Fair enough. However, why this exchange had to involve a physical visit escapes me.

About another 15 minutes later the front desk called back to say that they couldn’t solve the problem immediately, but that if I paid for access from my laptop, that charge would be refunded at checkout time.

OK, fine. I clicked the option to pay for access.

I promptly received an error message: Maximum number of users exceeded.

Joy.

I called the front desk again to explain the situation, and they informed me that I’d have to call LodgeNet. I clarified that no, this was not a problem that I (their paying customer) should have to solve – that they should call LodgeNet.

Which they did. About 15 minutes later (are you adding up all these 15-minute increments?) the hotel operator rang back with LodgeNet on the line, to “walk me through my computer” as she said. (A characterization which raised my hackles.)

The LodgeNet support guy had me repeat the process which led to failure. The same thing happened, of course. While I was staring at the error message screen, he said, “Just try to hit CNN.com.” I did, and – to my surprise – the site popped up after a second.

Without apology for his company’s cryptic and maddening error message, the LodgeNet rep then went on to explain that it’s his company’s policy to bill for daily in-room broadband per computer, rather than per room.

I paused, and said, “That’s incredibly stupid, you know.”

He paused, and said “That’s how we do it.”

I said, “You realize that I’m sitting in a Silicon Valley hotel, literally just down the street from Yahoo! headquarters, and you’re expecting to charge my friend and me $20 just so that we can both log on to the net from the hotel room we’ve already paid for?”

No reply.

I continued, “That is very, very stupid.”

He said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

I said, “I sure you don’t. And you will be hearing about it.”

…Which concluded that phone call.

I’m glad the Hilton Santa Clara at least realizes that it’s not reasonable to charge for in-room access on a per-computer basis. It would be even better if they realized that, given their Silicon Valley location, there should be free wireless throughout the hotel.

They do offer free wireless in the lobby here, but I had no luck with that. In a half hour of trying to use the lobby wireless yesterday I was able to get onto the hotel’s network, but not out onto the internet. Other people had success, I didn’t. Perhaps their network here isn’t Mac-happy.

Oh well – at least the in-room broadband is working, and hopefully the hotel will live up to its promise and refund my access charge when we check out later today.

Again, if you’re staying here and this happens to you, insist on a refund for the extra access charges. Give them my name, and tell them you know they gave me such a refund. Then just stand there and stare at them. That usually helps.

3 thoughts on Lodgenet = Stupid (from the Hilton Santa Clara)

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  1. This sort of idiocy is quite common in paid hotel internet access, particularly in the UK where they still think that an appropriate charge for access is $10/hour or more. Fortunately many of the systems they use are not as smart as they think they are. If you get caught like this, check to see if the system has a “log out” page. Often the supposed “per computer” restriction only works because the first person to use the system didn’t log out, not because the system detects the ID of the computer that bought the access as they claim in their terms of service. Also note that because the idiots who write these systems generally only ever test on IE, the logout screen is often a pop-out window which Firefox automatically blocks for you. Failing all else, the systems generally log you out automatically after an hour or so of inactivity and someone else can then log in.

    (Sorry I missed you Amy, you flew into the Bay Area just after I had flown out.)

  2. Hello Amy! Like you I tried to hook into the Hilton’s high speed internet but on a lark I decided to try my WiFi. O and behold I was instantly connected to WESTIN’s wireless service. It was great and It was very free. T As I wrote in blog. Thank You WESTIN for making my stay at Hilton much more enjoyable and about 30 dollars less expensive.

  3. LOL, Elana, you had better luck than Koan and I did. We couldn’t see the Westin’s wireless network. We were on the opposite side of the hotel from the Westin, maybe that’s why. Oh well…

    – Amy Gahran