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A Pox on Corporate Tourism

Ok, I’m sorry to do it, but this one is going to have to be a bitch session. See, we’ve admittedly been staying in some pretty posh places on the trip so far, but my experience here at the Crowne Plaza Wuzhou in Beijing tops any of the bad hotel experiences I’ve had anywhere in the world. It’s a damned shame, because Beijing is a fantastic city. I promise that I’ll get right on a new, more interesting post as soon as I vent a bit.

Now I understand how “it works”. I know “the deal”. International douchebag corporations love to book their traveling staff into these places because the billing is centralized and predictable. The result, as everyone knows, is that the hotels gouge on prices. Who cares, after all, when everything is going to be “expensed” anyway? 10 Euro for a bottle of Evian? Sure, don’t be naïve! Of course, Douchebag International Worldwide passes the buck on to various governments by claiming tax deductions for the absurdly overpriced “services” of hotels, so everyone wins, except… well… regular people.

I booked us into the Wuzhou Beijing Crowne Plaza because it was where the NetBeans folks were staying and because, according to the map on the Crowne Plaza website, it was a short walk from the Forbidden City. Beijing is big. Really big. And I wanted to maximize our time here. Too bad the map on the Crowne Plaza website is a fraud. Yep. A straight lie. The hotel is actually at the back of beyond, out past the 4th ring road. To put it in Prague terms, it’s like booking a hotel in Pisek if you’re staying in Prague. Of course, the management had nothing to say about this minor problem with their website, and I’m sure it will be “corrected” in time for the Olympics. The Wuzhou Crowne Plaza is conveniently located next to the stadium, and I truly pity the folks who will show up here and expect professional service and advice.

So, you ask, what does one get with a 200 Euro a night hotel room? Well, I plugged in the internet, only to find that the Crowne Plaza is the only international hotel in China that appears to exceed government requirements for firewalling. All video sites and anything with web 2.0 capacities simply do not work. Tourists be warned – collect a list of free web proxies before you leave home if you plan to stay at the Crowne Plaza. At a mere 10 euros a day, the internet speeds just about matched a few of the Ladakhi villages we visited this summer. To call it broadband is, again, a serious fraud.

Basic training for any hotel desk staff usually includes some knowledge of locale. Forget about it at the Crowne Plaza Wuzhou. Plan on taking a taxi from the hotel? Plan to pay more than twice the normal rate, unless you flag the cab down yourself. Of course, given the peripheral location, you’ll be taking a lot of them. We asked the concierge to recommend a decent local street market, which was a pretty stupid thing to do – it turns out. At the Crowne Plaza, their idea of a street market is a 5 euro cab ride to a 1970’s era shopping mall featuring fake Diesel t-shirts and Faulex watches. I suppose this works for the vacationing nieces and nephews of some low-grade Russian oligarch, but street market? Never mind, we should have known better than to trust the staff at a 200 Euro a night hotel. Sheesh, how naïve can you get? Naïve enough to try a 10 Euro bottle of Evian from the minibar, perhaps?

Adding insult to insult, breakfast is evidently not included with such a low class room. The Crowne Plaza spread costs a mere 15 Euros per person – approximately what we spent for a delicious dinner for 4 people at a high-street restaurant last night. This must be perfectly reasonable to some beige middle management marketeer who merely scribbles his name next to the tab and floats off to the next “business meeting”. Utter nonsense.

Seriously – if anyone reading this plans to visit Beijing during the Olympics, avoid these “western” money pits at all costs. While walking through the Hutongs behind the Bell Tower the other night, I spotted two designer hotels that were hands-down classier than the Crowne Plaza at one-third the price. Hopefully, I’ll be writing from there tomorrow night and lesson learned.

Like the difference between “real” and “fake” brands, the purported value provided by these chains is dubious at best, absent at worst. Like a Diesel t-shirt, their branding represents no real value, no real craftsmanship or attention to detail. It’s all part of a gigantic fraud being foisted on Western people by our International Douchebag overlords – we’re supposed to have a sense of shame that someone would dare “violate” branding copyright the way the Chinese do, but it’s all nonsense. Any true value these brands once represented is long gone, leaving us holding the bag – or the room service tab, as the case may be. Keep buying, lest these dopes have to work for a living one day.

/rant