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International House: A Lesson In Why You Should Never Revisit a Holiday Romance

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  Site Where: 221 Camp Street [map], New Orleans, LA, United States, 70130
September 10, 2010 at 4:24 PM | by | Comment (1)

Yesterday we told you about our free WiFi (and bad service) hell at the International House in New Orleans. But while our computer hated its stay, how did we find it? Here goes...

Check-In: We already knew we loved the beautiful lobby area of International House because we stayed there two years ago and adored our stay. The guy on the desk was lovely, and gave us the key to room 1005. (When we booked over the phone, we asked whether we could get a discount for staying alone, and instead, they slipped us an upgrade from a queen to a king room, since we had stayed there before).

Room Reaction: We’d stayed in a deluxe room during our previous stay and had loved the plush, over-the-top fittings (velvet, chandeliers and the like)--so coming into this one was a disappointment. It just looked boring in comparison. There was nothing actually wrong with it--it was clean, the dark carpet was inoffensive, we liked the cupboard (painted an almost duck-egg color) and while the view wasn’t spectacular, the room was at least bright.

Again, the bathroom was plain but inoffensive. In looks, anyway. Its function was not so good. The shower was weak as a kitten and although the bath was clean, it looked a bit old and stained--enough to prevent us from wanting to take a bath.

When we arrived, the towel rail had come unscrewed from the wall and was hanging right out on both sides. We removed a towel as gingerly as possible and it promptly fell out, taking a load of plaster with it. Seeing as it was iron, it’s a good thing it missed our feet. But from the look of the hole in the wall, this was obviously something that had happened time and time again, and nobody had bothered to report it.

In fact, the whole room seemed like it could do with a visit from the maintenance man. The electric socket by the bed was also hanging loose, the iPod docking station clock was showing a totally different time (petty, yes, but when a room looks tired you start noticing the little things). It was clean, but it felt old.

The bed was very comfy but we were kept awake for a long time because there was some kind of work going on in the street outside with an industrial spray noise and the steady beep, beep, beep of large vehicles reversing. Also, the pillows were made of really noisy material so every time we tried to move, they crackled at us.

Finally, the corridor smelt weird. They may like to change their cleaning products, because if we were in a cheaper hotel we’d have ventured to say it had a vague whiff of pee. We’re sure it wasn’t, but it wasn’t a good smell.

Amenity Madness: Gorgeous Aveda toiletries in the bathroom. There was a fridge under the TV in the cupboard, but it was switched off and had food stains on the bottom so it wasn’t too appetizing.

Internet Connect: See yesterday’s post. The free WiFi didn’t work and the manager was nothing less than, well, superbizatchy about it.

Dining Scene: We got a coupon for a free cocktail at the bar, Loa, at check-in and tried an Absinthe and Old Lace (absinthe, vodka and elderflower liqueur). It was delicious and the bar is beautiful. Also, nice to see female bartenders.

Service: Hugely variable. The doorman was great, all smiles and cracking jokes. Three out of four of the front desk staff we dealt with were lovely--and reminded us why we’d loved the place so much last time around.

But when the manager treats you with the same level of disdain as a cat looking at the leftover innards of a mouse it just ate, it kinda ruins the whole experience. To be utterly unhelpful about our WiFi connection problems is one thing. To refuse to knock $10 off the room for said problems is another. But to just stare at us wordlessly when we pointed out that she’d given us bad directions to the coffee shop with free WiFi--that’s a whole other level of bad service. And no apology at any point, even for the hassle we’d gone through? That confirms that we won’t be back.

Worryingly, it felt like her attitude was contagious. We mentioned upon check-out that the towel rail had fallen off the wall to another member of staff and were told, “Oh, well, wear and tear does happen in hotels”. Yes, we’re aware of that--but that’s what regular maintenance is for. Also, we weren’t complaining, merely mentioning it as a request to help the next lucky inmates. Normally, we’d expect a “sorry about that, hope the iron bar crashing two inches from your foot wasn’t too inconvenient” rather than an excuse.

What We Liked: The bar, the lobby area and the lovely men on the front desk.

What We Didn’t Like: The room was boring and tired--there were too many things falling apart. We wouldn't want to go back next year if it continues to let itself go at the same rate. The late-night noise. The manager.

Bottom Line: We paid $99 ($112.87 inc tax) for our room, which was pretty good compared to rates that the other hotels were charging on Wednesday night (seeing as the Saints’ first game of the season was on last night). But it was worrying that standards had slipped in two years, and the nail in its coffin was the manager with a ‘tude, who managed to shoot International House down from one of our favorite hotels to somewhere we’ll now remember for all the wrong reasons.

What a shame, but quite an achievement--well done, girlfriend.

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Street noise in 2010

Although I can't vouch for the problems you had with staff or the condition of the International House, I can defend them on one count in your story. I work at another hotel in the same vicinity as International House, and you stayed at the time they were repaving the streets downtown. Due to the fact that the Quarter and CBD are very active tourist areas as well as being active business districts, to not cause unnecessary traffic problems, the repaving was done at night. (also in New Orleans it makes sense to work with hot asphalt at night due to the over-whelming temperatures during the day time here.) Our hotels also got complaints about this issue, which we accomodated by moving guests to the other side of the hotel, there was no advance warning to downtown businesses of exactly when there would be road work nor were we forewarned about the noise issues by the city. Hopefully your next trip will be quieter in the city and less eventfull as far as your hotel experience goes!

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