September 27, 2007

Annoying Hotel Staff
Siem Reap, Cambodia

There are some things you just don't do to guests.

It was our second hotel stop in town, and I'd sent Tatiana into view the room I'd just seen, to get her input and approval. Returning to the tuk tuk a few minutes later, she thought the room was pretty, but if we wanted, could move into a cooler room she was shown on the first floor that would be available tomorrow.

"Wait a second," I said, "they let you into the room of some guy checking out tomorrow when he wasn't there?"

Caution flags instantly went up in my head—this was a major, major no-no, not to mention unprofessional and invasive of personal privacy and personal space. I had no doubts that I'd leave absolutely nothing out of my pack, as I was already questioning the hotel's integrity.

Under normal circumstances I would've kept shopping for a place, but we were so tired, hungry, and filthy from sun, sweat, and dirt of our boat trip that I rolled over and gave the OK to get a room there for the night. What a mistake—I should've listened to my gut.

Strike one for Villa Coconut Lodge came when Tatiana was let into an occupied room while the traveler was out. Strike two was when we discovered that the staff had entered our room without cause after we'd left to eat a late lunch—turning off the fan that was cooling down our room and unplugging the mini-fridge (we'd just turned on to keep the water cool we planned on stocking the room with).

Villa Coconut Lodge annoyingly requests what so many other hotels in this world also require: That you to relinquish your room key when you leave the hotel. This bothers me to no end, as it not only displays the fact that no one is in the room (which invites all sort of theft problems), but also means that I have to interact with the staff every time I want to go into and out of my room. As expected, I could not install my own lock on the outside of the door—the place made itself out to be much too safe and nice for such security necessities.

Tatiana and I were pretty unhappy with the entry into our room, but was too tired to make an issue out of it. Besides, I was displeased enough with the price of our room that I planned on searching for a new place anyway.

The third and final strike came when we returned from dinner the same evening to find the staff had entered our room again while we were out, taking the opportunity to turn the fan off and close up the (barred, second story) windows that we'd left open (to help keep room cool). I was furious.

Not only did they shut off the ceiling fan and seal up the room—perhaps a strategy to get us to pay the extra US$3 for the air conditioning—but they never even left the towels they were instructed to bring up several hours beforehand.

It was more than obvious that after each time a guest left the hotel the staff was entering their room to shut things down. This was the kiss of death for the Villa Coconut Lodge. And even though I was sunburnt and absolutely exhausted from little sleep the night before and the day's activities, I grabbed my guidebook (for the map) and vowed we'd not spend another night in the hotel.

Heaps of 'Reap

Running around at night was much cooler than during the heat of the day, and I spent almost two hours walking the dirt roads and paved streets of Siem Reap looking for the right room at the right price. I had a dollar figure in my head: No more than US$10/night for a room with air conditioning. The US$12/night that we were paying for a fan room at Coconut was really eating away at me.

The bonus of any extensive hotel search is that you really get a good idea of the area you're living in. I saw heaps of 'Reap yesterday evening, and at least two dozen of its hotels.

It would seem that most every budget hotel in Siem Reap (<US$20/night) is willing to discount rooms about US$2/night if you tell them you're going to stay for a week. Some require that you pay in advance, but most are willing to just take your word for it.

Bun Seda Angkor Villa

The winner was discovered towards the end of my search, and is a place that I almost didn't bother going into because it looked too nice (like a US$20+/night mid-range option). The Bun Seda Angkor Villa is, without question, the best of the cheapest options in town.

The clean, spacious room reminds me of one of the nicer options you'd find driving down the highways of the United States—or perhaps a cheap room in Las Vegas. It sports a bath tub, great hot water (from the pipe, not an electric heater), mini-fridge, cable TV with movie channels and remote, soft bed, closet with hangers, power outlets galore, non-fluorescent lighting, and a respectful staff.

Negotiated price of our room: US$10/night. Damn, I'm good at this.

Comments:

Hamish

February 25th, 2008

Hi. What did you bargain the room down from? Can you tell me more about your room bargaining technique? E.g. do you bargain the price before or after seeing the room? If looking at multiple places do you bargain when you first see the place or when you return? Cheers, Hamish

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

February 29th, 2008

Hi Hamish,

Humm, it would seem some important information got inadvertently clipped out of the middle of that story—too bad, not sure what happened there.

Anyway, to answer your questions: I always try and find a price that I think is fare for the environment I'm living in. When the ratio of cash spent to happiness found is out of balance, or I'm obviously just getting gouged (I'm glaring at you, Singapore and Brazil), then I feel compelled to move on, or search for new accommodations until I'm satisfied nothing better can be found.

There in Siem Reap, hotels seemed more than willing to discount rooms by US$2-3 per day if you asked for a discount if you were going to stay for a few days (which in some places is about 20-30% off). Many people jam into 'Reap to see Angkor, and leave the next day. Knowing what other tourists/travelers are doing helps give you some leverage.

I always look at the room before I talk about price, unless I'm quickly trying to sift through a lot of hotels.

Smile wide, tell them you're a good boy who doesn't make noise, and exaggerate how long you'll stay in order to find out just how low they'll go. Once they give you a price you'll usually be able to hold them to it, even if you decide to walk away to continue searching and come back later.

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