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What hotel advertising REALLY means

Posted: September 11, 2014 12:20 p.m.
Updated: September 12, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Years ago, Holiday Inn had a slogan: “The best surprise is no surprise at all.”

There’s some truth to that.

If you like to travel -- if you enjoy seeing new places and experiencing the culture of other areas, both in the United States and abroad -- then you probably could tell a horror story or two concerning hotels in which you’ve stayed.

Maybe you’ve checked into a place that was so bad you stayed awake all night waiting for morning, when you could skulk out and get on the road.

Holiday Inn’s message, of course, was that when you checked into a chain hotel, you would know exactly what the experience was going to be like. True enough. But by doing that, you also miss some of the local flavor that can be found in hotels and inns which are independently operated.

But there are a few risks in booking a local hotel. Over a number of years, Wife Nancy and I, traveling with my friend Waylon Fortenberry of Chesterfield County and several of his different wives, have learned to decipher the advertising pitch of inns and hotels.

Here are a few slick-sounding hotel advertising pitches, followed by what they really mean:

“Cozy rooms”: Our rooms are smaller than a broom closet. You’d better plan on putting your suitcase out in the hall, because you won’t have enough space to open it in your room and still be able to walk.

“Rustic charm”: The paint is peeling, the plumbing doesn’t work properly, there are termites crawling under your bed and if it rains during the night, you’re going to get soaked because the roof leaks like a sieve.

“Lovely rural setting”: This place is so far out in the boondocks that you’d better plan on bringing a ham sandwich with you, because you’ll never find a restaurant within an hour’s drive.

“Located in a vibrant area”: Just the opposite of rural setting. You’d better pack an industrial set of earplugs along with one of those sound machines they sell at Brookstone. This hotel is set smack in the middle of the noisiest area of town, filled with bars frequented by college students getting ready for a big football game. Be prepared for plenty of 3 a.m. alma mater singings, students retching in a nearby alley and screaming matches between drunken fans of  opposing teams.

“A short walk to downtown and all its attractions”: Yea, a short walk being a relative term. Bring your hiking shoes and a snack to have along the way, because it will take you a couple hours to get there.

“Tucked away among mountain splendor”: If you don’t have a GPS in your car, don’t plan on ever finding this place.

“Waterview”: If you bring along a telescope the size of the one at the Palomar Observatory, you might be able to catch a wee glimpse of Lake Timbuktu in the distance

“Friendly family atmosphere”: If you’re not used to a bunch of ill-bred kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs, you’d better find another place to stay.

“Old-world ambience”: This place was built while Christopher Columbus was searching for the new world. It hasn’t been improved since then.

“Wake refreshed with our unique continental breakfast”: Be prepared for cold cereal, stale muffins and tepid coffee.”

“Linger in our restaurant for a leisurely dining experience”: Our wait staff is so slow you’ll be on the verge of starving before your meal arrives.

“Relax after dinner in our old-fashioned parlor”: If you don’t mind wire springs sticking in your rear end from our depression-era furniture, you might survive long enough to  read our selection of outdated magazines.

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