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  • Writer's pictureManhattanBNB Teammate

Rethinking Loyalty: Why I prefer vacation rentals over hotels

About a year ago, I stayed at the Lexington Hotel in New York City (at 511 Lexington Avenue), an "Autograph Collection" hotel that participates in the Marriott loyalty program. As someone who frequently visits the city and held Ambassador Status with Marriott — the pinnacle of their loyalty program — I was deeply disillusioned by this particular experience, to the extent that it has significantly deterred me from considering hotel stays in the future.


Firstly, it's common knowledge that New York City hotel rooms are notoriously small. However, the rooms at the Lexington were exceptionally cramped, to the point where maneuvering around my room without placing my small carry-on suitcase on the bed was a challenge. These rooms were tiny even by New York City's already low standards.


My disappointment was compounded by the deceptive $35 nightly "Destination Fee." This fee, which ostensibly covers amenities like (vastly overpriced) drinks and breakfast, in reality, only serves to obscure the true cost of a stay, complicating price comparisons with other hotels. This practice, while sadly common in New York City, feels particularly underhanded and warrants regulatory pushback. Everything in New York is already expensive enough, and such fees seem not just unwarranted but bordering on deceitful. These "destination fees" underscore a broader issue within the commercial hospitality industry, where opaque pricing strategies not only erode trust but also diminish the overall guest experience, highlighting a pressing need for clearer, more honest billing practices.


Sadly, this is not where the fees ended. Since Covid, hotels have begun charging guests to store their bags after checking out. I’ve stayed at countless Marriott properties around the U.S. and internationally, and nobody has ever charged me for this since my experience at the Lexington. It was a small amount - only about $3 - but it was cash only (what year is it again?) and it’s a moral outrage that a relatively upscale hotel like this one would nickel and dime guests like this. This policy struck me as particularly petty, indicative of a broader trend of nickel-and-diming that diminishes the guest experience. I avoided this fee by asking for a late-check out and kept the bags in my room instead of paying the fee (which meant that the hotel could not turn around the room quicker), but it still left a horrible taste in my mouth.


The global pandemic has been difficult for hotel owners. But the manner in which this establishment has chosen to navigate these challenges — by diminishing the quality and transparency of the guest experience — has led me to seek alternatives for my future accommodations in New York City. Despite my elite status with Marriott, this experience has reinforced my preference for clear, straightforward pricing and solidified my intention to opt for a trusted vacation rental on my next visit.


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