Hotel Rant: Not Singing My Tune

I’ve been traveling a lot recently and I’m excited to show you pictures and describe all the fantastic things I’ve done. But first, Cal, ever vigilant of my hotels obsession, alerted me to the most egregious hotel marketing stunt I’ve ever seen. While it should be noted that I’ve never stayed at a Tune Hotel, nevertheless I shall now rant about it. Gather the kids and make some popcorn, this one’s going to be a doozy.

Tune Hotels operate on the Ryanair model: Charge a low base price, and then make the customer pay for “add-ons” normally considered a given in civilized society. And you know what? I’m OK with that. I’ve used Ryanair and easyJet to skip my way across Europe on a budget. If you’re going to charge me a 99 cents to fly to Sicily, I’ll gladly fork over 20 bucks to check a bag if I need to do so.

And, in Tune’s cheeky little promo video, they ask the question: If you haven’t used a hotel’s sauna or gym, why should you pay the same price as someone who did? Again, I’m on board with this. If it means that I get a perfectly fine hotel room for dirt-cheap, let someone else pay to exercise while on vacation – a foreign concept if I ever heard one.

There’s also the other side of the hotel coin – luxury hotel “perks” like pillow menus and duvets made from the gossamer wings of angels. Could you charge a little less, maybe, and not make me suffer the embarrassment of discussing the finer points of a lavender scented pillow with a perfect stranger?

Now that we’ve gotten the diplomacy out of the way, let’s take a look at what Tune Hotels is really offering. Since I’m eurotrash, we’ll use Tune Hotel’s Westminster, London location as an example.

First, their tagline: “Five-star beds for one-star prices.”

According to that same promo video, the first half of this ambitious manifesto appears to be true: They’ve gone and bought beds from the same bedmaker that supplies unnamed “five-star hotels.” Their thread count is an impressive 250, if you’re into that. Also, although I’m not sure if this is measurable, they also have the same water pressure. And, really, those are good features in a hotel room at any price.

However, they literally mean that just the beds are five-star. They’ve placed these five-star beds in a one-star hotel. Because the last time I checked, an 8-sqm room (86 sqft) is not five-star. Neither is having to kneel on the toilet to use an airplane-restroom-size sink. Also, I don’t believe there are any five-star hotels in the world that offer 11 windowless rooms.

Which brings me to the second half of the tagline: one-star prices. (I’ve converted all prices to USD, because otherwise this is gonna get confusing.)

To continue with the Ryanair comparison, a flight from Rome to London on June 16 will run you $38.85. With the stupid nickel-and-dime fees, the total base price is $85.78. The next lowest fare I can find is Alitalia, for $227.30. That’s a savings of $141.52, or 62%. Even if I got all the Ryanair add-ons, it would still run more than 50% less than the next cheapest fare.

The thing is, a plane is a plane. It’s not like Alitalia is going to offer you something more spectacular than Ryanair. You get a seat on a plane that takes you to London. Boom.

But even with all the many variables in choosing a hotel, Tune just doesn’t make sense – and certainly not for the hype.

The cost of a Tune Hotel room, with or without windows, on June 16 is $131.43. This is what they consider a “one-star price.” And, looking at other one-star hotels in the Westminster area of London, it’s about on par: On Expedia, the Park and the Corbigoe are both $103; the Wellington, $133. No big savings there.

Then we get into the Tune add-ons.

On Ryanair, it’s relatively easy to avoid the add-on charges – extra baggage, travel insurance, getting a text message about your flight. With Tune Hotels, not so much. Here is a screenshot of the add-ons I’ve chosen to make the Tune comparable to the other one-star hotels of equal or lesser value in the same area of London:

This brings my total to a whopping $181.41, putting it well above the price of a comparable one-star in the area. And, no; there is no gym or sauna in the Tune Hotel to opt in or out of. You’re opting out of maid service and towels – which, the last time I checked, were included in the price of both my hotel room and the room of the person who uses the hotel sauna and gym.

The amenities they do include, like CCTV, 24-hour reception, security guards and the fact that you can enter the hotel without needing a special access code, made me wonder what it would be like to stay in a tiny, windowless room with no comforts at a heavily secured facility. Unfortunately, to find out I’d either have to check into a Tune Hotel, or commit a crime.

The question remains, then: Who is falling for this?

A lot of people, if their site is to be believed: They’ve just welcomed their one-millionth customer (all hotels in the chain combined, since 2007).

But perhaps the question should be – what kind of a person thinks this is a deal?

Chances are, we all know someone who would think they were getting one over on The Man by staying at a Tune Hotel. They’d make their lives one huge inconvenience for some perceived savings – when in fact, they could pay an equal or lesser amount and have the basic amenities offered in any decent hotel.

It reminds me of a person I once met who wore his frugal traveling ways like a badge of honor, and had the horrifying stories to prove it. He was staying in possibly the seediest hotel in Manhattan – and after our dinner together, during which he did a fake wallet-reach while we all put in extra to make up the balance of the check – took what had to be a $25 cab ride back to said hotel, even though we stood not 50 yards from the nearest stop on the most efficient, cost-friendly public transit system on the planet.

I guess it’s all about what you think is important while on vacation. To me, the hotel is everything. I don’t need five-star luxury, but I want it to be a nice break from being at home (where I do have towels, but have to pick up after myself). For some, maybe a hotel is simply somewhere to pass out at the end of the day, and traveling throughout the destination in luxury is more important.

What do you think? Am I totally off the mark on this one? Is Tune Hotel singing your tune?


13 thoughts on “Hotel Rant: Not Singing My Tune

  1. UGH, totally NOT my tune either… couldn’t be further from my tune. I’m no diva but I will not stay in a windowless room and pay extra for basics that any decent hotel should provide. Two thumbs down!

  2. I once stayed at an Easyhotel in London with a very similar idea – a window-less room for a bargain price.

    Which sounds fine – especially in London, where if you’re spending any time in your hotel room, you’re doing it wrong – but then the fire alarm went off at 3am.

    There’s nothing like waking up in a panic in a blacked-out room with no light, and then trying to fumble around in very unfamiliar surroundings for something as simple as a light switch – while the fire alarm blares all around you – to make you value the virtue of a window.

  3. If the prices were a bit lower for the base, I might go for it. I frankly don’t care if my room is cleaned every day, especially on a short trip, and generally, I’m only in the room to sleep. So, it’d probably save me some money. However, their pricing structure really makes it seem like there’s zero advantage. They aren’t offering extra inexpensive rooms compared to the hotels around them, which makes it seem sort of silly.

  4. Wow, you did a lot of investigating into this! I like the idea of add-on charges, since I don’t need the beds made everyday and such, but you’re so right – this hotel doesn’t turn out to be such a deal!

  5. Honey, you’re not eurotrash.

    I always went with one-star hotels within walking distance of the train, and was never disappointed.

    Never had to worry about housekeeping wanting to come in and turn down the bed and put a mint on the pillow.

    Never flew RyanAir or anything else except to get me across the Atlantic, and were traveling by freighter any easier I would have done that, instead.

    My personal preference is for all-inclusive; I don’t like being nickel and dimed.

  6. Good piece on Tune Hotel! For people who don’t travel a lot, I’m guessing they do what a lot of us do — rely on the promotions, and hope for the best. You’re like the Consumer Reports for travelers, maybe you saved one poor soul from trusting the hype.

  7. Could not agree more! Infact for the same reason I avoid ryanair as much as possible you might pay less at times its ubeatable but being treated like cattle Its not my turnon.
    I strongly believe that unless you are a last minute traveller you can find reasonable deals on the web and as you say make a brake away from home one that is worth remembering wether it’s for work or pleasure gives me that extra push to pull out those few bucs needed

  8. I don’t need my room cleaned every day but towels ??? I do like the idea of “A La Carte”pricing if it as some sense to it.

    I am not a four star hotel person but as I get older my list of must have has become longer. (No more shared bathrooms for me)..

  9. Great rant! I’ve never heard of them, but will avoid them after reading this.

    I no longer use RyanAir as I will NOT pay to checkin on my internet connect, with my electricity, and print out a boarding pass on my printer. This is not an add-on in my opinion as you can’t fly without it, so how can they charge for it?

    My next flight to Italy from London is via BA. Easyjet was £10 cheaper when I added on my suitcase, but for my £10 extra with BA I get a bigger seat space, an adjustable seat and snacks & drinks included, if I want them.

    Back to the hotels, why would anyone pay for cleaning a room? Again, isn’t this a basic need and not really an add-on?

  10. There are some corners which shouldn’t be cut. Technically, you could stay in the most elegant and expensive cities in the world for free just by standing up the entire trip and never sleeping! Why waste your hard-earned cash on a soft flat surface to lie upon, when you’lll just be unconscious the entire time? Don’t throw away money just for the privledge of having water pour out of a pipe onto your head while you rub your body with a blob of soap! Only kings and queens need a room with a door while they change their robes and crowns!

    The Tune has towel rental charges? Quite.

  11. Thought it was less of a rant and more of a well laid out argument.
    Sometimes “pay as you go” works for you, but not with this hotel.
    (Now post some of those great photos!)

  12. I was quite content with a one-star hotel, The Stanley, on the street running south-ish through Belgravia from Victoria Station.

    Bath was down the hall, but the towels were included, all for thirty pounds per night (about $50).

    The Stanley’s only case of nickel-and-diming (or its sterling equivalent) was the five-pound key deposit.

    Everything I wanted to see was within walking distance, with the exception of the crosswalk on Abbey Road. 🙂

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