Club Quarters

Posted on April 15, 2009


When I hear about a new business concept, I generally have one of three reactions. Sometimes I am surprised by how novel an idea is, especially in this world that often feels like every good idea has already been thought. Most often, I turn the concept around in my head a couple times and put it back down, hopeful that it succeeds but glad that I do not have my money involved. Then there are those times that I wonder who would ever think this concept could work.

The Club Quarters unfortunately falls into the latter category. Mix that with an economy in decline, and you have a formula for disaster. To step back for a minute, the Club Quarters is a hotel chain that operates on a membership model. Companies become members and thus are able to lodge employees in any of the thirteen prime locations. Generally, the hotels are located in prime business hubs including New York, London, and Chicago.
Club Quarters promises low rates in exchange for a lower level of service than you would typically find in a hotel. Usually there is no more than one person at the front desk and all routine transactions (check in and out) are done through computer terminals. Because the hotel is limited to business travelers, you do not have to cope with family travelers (kids screaming in the hallway, lollipops in the clothes drawers, the pool too full to fit one more person).

While in Houston, I ended up staying in the Club Quarters because it was the lowest rate I could find for a central location. Hexion, like most companies these days, has restricted travel budgets. I do not have high requirements and I take the budget limitations seriously, so I was able to find a low price at the Club Quarters on Yahoo Travel ($150 per night compared with $250 per night at other downtown hotels). Note that I did not need a Company membership, anyone who can type can get full access.

In practice, Club Quarters falls short. Business travelers do not expect much, but demand clean, comfortable rooms in convenient locations. My room was very small and out of date. It was what I would expect from a low price European hotel. The first room I was given was right next to the elevator and the wall vibrated every time the elevator moved past. When I complained I was told that my only other choices were a room that faced a brick wall or a room that overlooked a construction site that started up a 5am. I took the brick wall. My TV did not work and the toiletries were low quality. The single towel in the room was clean, but had a big hole in the middle.

This hotel holds no attraction for business travelers unless they are looking for very low price in good locations and they are willing to sacrifice room comfort. Vacationers are better served staying at a cheap chain hotel that is a little more out of the way. I would expect that the new exciting business concept of Club Quarters will not survive long without a major rethink and a realistic reassessment of who their customer really is.
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