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The Road Warrior: Avoid Hotels with Police Tape in the Lobby

1.12.2010

 

Executive search professionals don't always have the luxury of a long time-line when planning business trips - often schedules change and re-change, resulting in last-minute flight and hotel arrangements...a recent trip to Detroit provides a good example...

It started to hit me right after I exited to the street and closed the cab door. Tires screeching, the driver bolted down the road, away from the desolate area and into the night like a stock car racer.

It dawned on me a bit more as I turned around to face the hotel and saw the reels of yellow "POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS" tape cordoning off a substantial area of the parking lot. But it didn't become crystal clear until I entered the lobby and checked-in with the front desk clerk via intercom - three inches of plexiglass separating the two of us and ostensibly shielding him safely from my fellow hotel guests.

By the time I got to my room, secured all three locks and latched the deadbolt, I wasn't even surprised to see the sign on the back of the door: "HOTEL WARNING: Do Not Open Room Door to Any Unfamiliar Visitors!"

Yes, perhaps there was a reason this hotel still had last-minute availability when every other place in the city was booked.

People who don't travel much for work frequently assume that the "corporate jet-setter" lifestyle is glamorous - flying all over to world-class cities, experiencing culture, and discovering new places - and sometimes it is...but sometimes, reality can be far less captivating...

Time is always of the essence and on many occasions, as veteran business travelers know, the routine consists of trip to the home airport, flight (hopefully direct), cab to the hotel, meetings, cab back to airport. Perhaps if there isn't a Starbucks or equivalent in the hotel, you might take a short walk around the block to find one.

I've had many enjoyable business excursions from the Pacific Northwest to the Deep South, but I can also testify that Detroit, DC, and Des Moines all look incredibly similar during a midnight cab ride to-and-from the airport.

In the interests of saving time, I've become a practitioner of the occasional cross-country redeye - grabbing a quick 3 to 4 hour nap on the overnight San Diego to NYC (or DC, or Boston) route, tearing through a morning and afternoon of back-to back-meetings, catching the return flight that same evening, and getting back home without losing a day.

However, as I learned the hard way during a trip to Atlanta, a shorter redeye - say a four hour flight - is a recipe for disaster. Just as you are finally nodding to sleep, the plane lands, jarring you awake into semi-consciousness. Worse, you're out of the airport too early in the morning for a coffee shop or any other comfort of civilization to be open (and far too early for meetings to begin) and need to endure the pre-dawn hours alone until the rest of the world catches up.

My Atlanta experience convinced me to avoid the redeye for the trip to Detroit, which had all come together at the last minute. Never having been to the city (and with almost every hotel improbably booked at the time) I put my trust in the rating system of a certain major travel site. Whoops.

Needless to say, I spent that night in Detroit in my clothes, lying on top of the bedcovers, after debating whether to just sleep sitting up in the chair. The next day, the candidates I met had no idea that I might as well have stayed at the Greyhound station the previous night.

Despite the wonders of modern-day video conferencing technology, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, and thus there will always be cause for the - sometimes exciting, sometimes exhausting - phenomenon that is business travel.

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