I love reading flight reviews, and while I didn’t really plan to write reviews on this blog, the pages that consistently get traffic are the ones where I’m reviewing something. Planes are pretty easy to review, and in general the experience within a class of service is pretty uniform for all the passengers on that particular flight. That’s why a single person’s review is mostly representative of what others can expect if they fly that same product. Service and food quality vary from flight to flight, although you should have a pretty good idea what you’re getting after reading a well-written review.
Hotel reviews are different, for a couple reasons. First, hotels are tough to photograph. Even reviewers who are good at taking photographs usually end up positioning themselves in a way that captures as much of the room as possible in a given photo, which makes the room look bigger than it actually is. Second, most frequent travel bloggers also have top-tier status at hotel chains, meaning their experience at that hotel is only representative of what other top-tier elites can expect to receive. I realize that top-tier elites probably comprise a disproportionate chunk of those blogs’ readership, so it’s not like those reviews are worthless. That said, I don’t really give a crap how great the “free” breakfast is, because there’s no way in fuck I’m paying $80 for the breakfast buffet at the J.W. Park Regis Whogivesacrap. I’m also gonna be stuck in one of the worst rooms in the hotel, because I’m probably redeeming points for any hotel that’s over a few hundred bucks a night, so your description of the Presidential Suite you were triple-upgraded into on account of spending 425 nights per year in a Starwood is meaningless to me.
Finally, I pretty much think all chain hotels are fine. As long as the rooms don’t open to the outside and people aren’t arranging meet-ups with their meth dealer in the parking lot, it’s probably going to get the job done. It’s not like economy vs first class on a plane in that a basic Holiday Inn Express is perfectly comfortable, where as economy on a plane is actively uncomfortable for anything longer than an hour or two. The only hotel review I’ve ever read that I truly love was a review on Tripadvisor of the Intercontinental San Francisco that complained about a used butt plug on the floor next to the bed, along with multiple pictures of said butt plug. I tried really hard to find a photo to post here, but there are over 1200 pictures of that hotel, and it was like looking for a butt plug in a haystack.
With all of that out of the way, I think I’m going to start adding hotel reviews to the blog (LOL). One of my coworkers asked me the other day why I never review any of the hotels I stay in (with the exception of the Park Hyatt Vendûmb), and after talking about it, I realized that I could probably start including reviews if I used the same useless 80-point scale format like I do for my very famous and extremely popular lounge reviews. Obviously it couldn’t be exactly the same scale, but I figured I could come up with something similar, as long as it included categories that are only really useful to me. I’m going to do a trial run with a review my recent stay at the EVEN Hotels Times Square South in New York. Tripadvisor currently rates this hotel as the #13th best hotel out of 467 in all of New York. While I didn’t hate it, I find that ranking absurdly generous. Here’s my review.
Bed comfort: This is the #1 thing I care about in a hotel room. It doesn’t matter how nice the room is; without a comfortable bed, it’s a den of shit. And fancy hotels sometimes have surprisingly uncomfortable beds. The EVEN was decent enough – it was fine, but I was very aware I was on a hotel bed, whereas a great bed would make me think I was floating in a peaceful cloud. (For reference, the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in was at the Maxwell Hotel in Seattle.) 7/10
Water situation: You gotta stay hydrated. I drink tons of water, and if I skimp, I get headaches, heartburn, and all kinds of other ill feelings. I feel anxious if I don’t go to sleep with a full bottle of water by the bed. Some hotels have surprisingly drinkable tap water; others give you high-quality bottled water for free. Bad hotels have nasty tap water or give you gross swimming-pool water like Evian. Bad water access can ruin a good hotel stay for me. The EVEN gives you a free water bottle and has a bottle filling station on the bottom floor. However, since the hotel’s horizontal footprint is tiny (the floor I was on had only 4 rooms), it’s a quick trip from the room to the filling station. I’d give an extra point if there were a filling station on each floor. 9/10
Climate control: Another thing that can absolutely tank a hotel. If I can’t make the room 65 degrees at all times, I’ll be too warm, and it will make me hate the hotel. Not having to deal with a window unit is a real plus – even an effective window unit is only going to get a 5 or so. The EVEN had central air that took a while to cool the room down, but it got there eventually. I’d prefer a quieter system, though. 6/10
Sleep quality: This is a combination of two main things – sound insulation and shit that blinks in the room. Does anyone else hate hotel rooms with 15 different devices that blink and flash and ruin the darkness? It drives me crazy. Aside from the smoke detector, the EVEN room didn’t blink that much. However, the walls are pretty thin. Since every room is close to the elevator, it’s hard to get away from the associated sounds, although with only four rooms on a floor, it doesn’t get that much use. Unfortunately, I was woken up one morning to the sounds of a woman being vigorously plowed in an adjoining room, which was annoying. I usually sleep with earplugs anyway, but I still appreciate walls that block out whatever gross, depraved things my neighbors are getting up to. 4/10
Room size: Self-explanatory. This hotel room was pretty small, but it was laid out well enough that it didn’t feel claustrophobic. 5/10
Bathroom: No tub, but there’s a rainforest shower and two sinks, so I’d say that’s pretty nice. However, the toiletries in the shower are in refillable containers affixed to the wall, and these are a pet peeve of mine. Why, you ask? It’s because I can’t get the thought out of my head that the last hotel guest spit in them as a prank. Sorry if I just ruined them for you too. 7/10
Food options: For a hotel this relentlessly focused on health and fitness, the restaurant is annoyingly light on vegan options. That’s one of the things I was most excited about, although my best option ended up being a platter with some dumb flaxseed chips and some remoulade or tapanade or whatever you call thick, umami-flavored spreads. I did like the options available in the 24-hour grab-n-go market, though, so I’m not totally dissatisfied. Oh, and there’s no room service (boo). 4/10
Fancy shit: This is the true measure of luxury. A nice hotel should score a ten here. The EVEN isn’t really fancy, although it does a good job with the whole “modern, clean, and cheap” aesthetic that’s becoming more popular in mid-market hotels. Notably, there’s an LED light display behind the headboard that changes colors with a remote, and it was pretty fun to mess around with. I liked a nice bluish-green personally, although if you’re in the same mood as my neighbors, you can bathe the room in a rich crimson glow while you get your fuck on. 6/10
Annoying shit: This is a catch-all for whatever gripes I have about the hotel. The EVEN’s whole brand is built around fitness, and so I shouldn’t ding it too much for how it barfs hot yoga all over everything, since I knew that going in. Still, the rooms are pretty small, and I didn’t need the exercise ball or foam rollers taking up space. Also, fuck people who are so motivated to stay fit that they need shit like this in their hotel rooms. IT’S A VACATION – BLOB OUT WITH SOME BEN & JERRY’S AND WATCH A MOVIE YOU FREAK. Sorry, EVEN hotels – I should be more generous here, but I kind of hate you. 3/10
Location: The last piece of the puzzle! This location was okay I guess. I don’t know New York that well, but I was happy not to be all that close to Times Square. The street it’s on is pretty quiet, and it’s close to Penn Station. There’s plenty of stuff to do nearby as well. 7/10
Total score: 59/100
That’s all for now – I reserve the right to add or delete categories while I iron out this system. For the time being, I think I have a pretty solid 100-point scale that covers all the necessary aspects of a hotel. I hope you enjoyed my review, and feel free to suggest other categories I should consider.