I’m currently nibbling chocolate, sitting in a comfortable hotel room in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson today.

My day didn’t start out this good, and because it’s always the difficult experiences that give us the best lessons, I feel like I need to share the story.

Will and I travel a fair bit in the course of our business, and because we own a small business, we need to be careful to keep our expenses reasonable, otherwise we can’t write paycheques for our great team!

In planning this little jaunt to Niagara, we found hotel prices to be really expensive (it’s high season in this tourist region!), so we decided to economize. Last week, we booked a 2-night stay at a “boutique” hotel through Hotel Tonight. The prices were more reasonable than our usual places, and we had stayed there before and enjoyed it, so we figured we made a sensible business decision. We paid in advance for a non-refundable room.

Upon arrival last night, we learned that there would be an additional $20/day added to our credit card for parking, along with a hefty $25/day charge if we wanted a fridge in our room. We felt a little deflated at those unforeseen charges, but it was late so we proceeded to our room. Once there, we discovered a damp, dilapidated space with mold on the ceiling in the bathroom. There was no coffee maker, no real desk, and no chair even if we’d wanted to use it for a desk. We often work in our hotel room, so it’s pretty important to have a space to do that. After just a few minutes, Will had some breathing challenges (he has asthma), so we decided to call Hotel Tonight to see about checking out in the morning and asking for a refund for the second night.

After a full hour on the phone, we didn’t get anywhere with Hotel Tonight. They called the front desk of our hotel (that was kinda awkward!) to tell them we weren’t happy, but the front desk person said they couldn’t do anything about it, and we’d have to talk to the manager in the morning. Early this morning, we packed the car, deciding that we couldn’t stay there. We went to the front desk to speak to the manager, who gave us her assurance that she would talk to Hotel Tonight to get us a refund for the second night. We’ll be watching for that.

We decided that we would bite the bullet and go to our favourite IHG property, the Holiday Inn Express in NOTL, and pay more to get the comfortable stay we needed. Upon arrival, the friendly front desk person, Emma, listened to our sad story and went to find the manager, John Crescenzi. John didn’t judge us for trying to save a few bucks, and he immediately found us a room and gave us a great rate. It was only 8:00 in the morning, so our room wasn’t ready yet, but he took our refrigerated items from us to keep them cool until he could move them into our room when it was ready.

So, here I sit, nibbling the chocolate that John left in our room with his card and a hand-written note. It’s cool and quiet in here, allowing me time and space to think and write about today’s experience. I have a comfortable chair and desk, but even better than that is this great chaise I’m sitting in, right beside a table with a plug and USB port for my electronics. The room is bright and clean.

What did I learn?

I learned that sometimes in the quest for a great “deal”, you can lose sight of the big picture. You can nickel and dime yourself to death, when the true value comes from the relationships you have with quality providers of services.

It mirrors our business, too, I think. L’Moor will never be the cheapest supplier, nor do we plan to be. We’re never going to be a “buy one get one free” distributor. What we WILL do is offer the products and services our clients need, and we’ll be the people you can depend on.

Thanks for the chocolate, John. Don’t tell Will I didn’t save him any.