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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birmingham, Alabama / Embassy Suites

March 2013, Weekday, 2-nights, King corner suite #725

Status perks and check-in
I received free Internet access and two bottles of water, which is typical with Gold status. Check-in time at this hotel is 3 p.m., and I arrived a little after 3:30 p.m. The front desk agent said that my room was not ready yet, and he commented that notes on the computer said not to change my room. I told him that was probably because I had requested a quiet corner top floor room. Since I was going to be staying for two nights, I told him that I wanted to wait for the room that had been set aside for me, and then I took a seat in the lobby.

Fifteen minutes later, the bellman walked over and said that my room was ready. I walked back to the front desk and then waited several minutes because another guest had arrived and was checking in. I have waited in the lobby for a guestroom before, and it is impressive when the front desk agent brings me my key packet when the room is ready.
Welcome letter -
I covered up his last name;
obviously, my first name is not Harry!

Guestroom #725
When I got to my guestroom, I realized that the agent must have moved me to a different room, even though I had told him that I wanted to wait. This guestroom is not on the top floor (the hotel has 8 floors), and a welcome letter for another guest was on the counter in this room with the two bottles of water. The guest the welcome letter was for was a Diamond level guest. Since my status is only Gold, I was surprised that this guestroom would have been for a Diamond guest, because I did not think the room was very nice.

When I called the front desk later to ask which guestroom I had originally been assigned, the female agent said that information was no longer on the computer. I called because I was curious, and because I wanted to let the agents know that when I had said that I wanted to wait for the room that had been set aside for me, that I had meant it. She told me that this is one of their better suites. I sympathize with guests who end up with a basic room at this hotel!

The furnishings in the guestroom were old and dingy looking. The room was not very clean, nor was it well maintained. The entire guestroom needed to be updated, in my opinion. The bedding looked clean, and the bed looked comfortable, so I decided to stay.

Here are the details of the guestroom furnishings and condition.
Living and kitchen area:
- Full size couch, which I never sat on because it was very worn and did not look clean.
- Soft chair, end table, lamps, and armoire in poor to average condition. The bulbs in all of the lights must have been low wattage because the lighting was very poor.
- Flatscreen TV, which looked like it was in excellent condition.
- Table/desk with one desk chair and two straight back seats. The condition and cleanliness of these furnishings was acceptable.   
door stop
- The door stop was broken and laying behind the door in drywall dust. This was not cleaned on stayover.
- Mini-fridge and microwave under the counter and sink. Both of these items were in acceptable working condition.
- The coffee setup on the counter had not been restocked. There was one single serve coffee packet, and only one flavored liquid creamer. Usually, I find two or three packets of coffee and two to four unflavored liquid creamers. I would guess that the flavored creamer had been left behind by a previous guest.
- Again, the lighting in this area was very poor. I don't know how housekeeping could even tell if the counters and appliances were clean, it was so dim.

The carpet looked old and dirty. There was dust and lint buildup along the walls and in the corners, and it was stained. This is one of the few hotels I have been in where I did not walk on the floors at any time without my shoes on.

There was a door between the kitchen area and the bedroom that could be completely closed.

dust buildup along edges

- Tall armoire/hanging closet with hangers, and an iron and board. Other than the sticky door when opening and closing the cabinet, everything was acceptable. The iron worked, and there were enough hangers.
- Dresser with second flatscreen TV. The TV looked new, and the dresser looked old. It was moderately scratched, and again, the carpet corners had considerable buildup of dust and dirt.
- An undamaged folding luggage rack was open next to the dresser in front of a full length mirror.
floor stain
- The king size bed and pillows were comfortable. The outlets and lamps on the headboard worked. There was a large stain on the floor next  to the bed.
- Nightstands with a telephone and an alarm clock radio. I did not check or use the alarm, so I do not know if it worked. The radio was on when I arrived. The volume was low and the noise was static, as though no one had realized it had been left on.
- Vanity with sink, mirror and bath soap. The wood front of the vanity had water spots and a few scratches on it. 
- Sliding glass doors opened to a small balcony area. There was just enough room to step out on the balcony. The sliding door track was grimy, and there were many Asian lady beetle bugs on the windows and curtains. Some were alive, although most were dead.

I killed a couple of the bugs before I realized there were many live ones, so then I called to ask someone to come and vacuum the bugs out. When I returned to my guestroom later, a couple lights were on as though someone had been in the guestroom; however, most of the bugs were still there. 

Asian beetle bug

From what I saw in areas like the window track and the room corners, it looked like housekeeping at this hotel needed a lesson on how to use a vacuum hose nozzle.

Asian beetle bugs

I usually leave a tip for housekeeping, and I had a difficult time deciding whether to do so for this stay. On one hand, I did not think it was deserved, and on the other hand, I thought if I left a tip, my room might be cleaner the next day. In the end, I decided to leave a tip, and it did not make any difference. The guestroom cleanliness was just as poor the next day as it had been when I arrived. The coffee, however, had been restocked with two packets of regular coffee and four unflavored creamers.


The bathroom was spacious except for the way that the door opened against the toilet seat.

- Long vanity and mirror with bathroom amenities. The vanity was clean; however, it was severely cracked the entire length along the back.
- Tub/shower combination. The tub and shower curtain were clean. There was ceiling damage in a couple spots above the shower.
- The toilet was clean. Since the door did not open past the toilet, it needed to be closed in order to use the toilet.
- Hairdryer. A decent quality hairdryer was hanging in a bag on the back of the door.
- Towels. The towels and washcloths were clean, unstained, and good quality.

vanity crack

shower ceiling

Food & Beverage
I attended the evening social hour the first evening of my stay. Low quality wine was served, as well as mixed beverages and beer. I did not inquire about the beer or liquor brands. Snacks included tortilla chips and guacamole, and cheese and stale crackers. I thought breakfast the next morning was just as unsatisfactory. I suppose the omelet I had (well, that I had ordered anyway - I did not eat it after tasting it) would have been okay, if it had not been cooked until brown because the vegetable ingredients did look fresh. I thought the morning coffee was weak and watery, and I did not finish that either.
Calamari Salad from Ruth's Chris

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is located in this hotel, and I had soup and salads there. The service at Ruth's was exceptional both times that I visited. The first evening, I ordered the Calamari Salad to go. The second day, I had the Lobster Bisque and the Harvest Salad for lunch. All items were good quality and flavorful.

Fitness center 
The fitness center was open 24 hours. There were several working cardio machines with cardio theater. The room also contained weights, a water cooler (no cups the first day I visited), towels, and a flatscreen TV. The sani-wipes dispenser was empty both times I visited.

I did not have any trouble getting a cardio machine in the afternoon; however, the machines were all in use between 6 and 7 a.m. both mornings.

Business center
I thought the business center was excellent. I have stayed in some Embassy Suites hotels where I could not print documents on my own for no charge. This business center had two computers and a fast laser printer. It also contained a stapler and other office supplies.

Public areas and overall
The plants in this hotel were in excellent condition, and the atrium decor was great. Embassy Suites hotels always have a nice atrium area; however, the atrium in this hotel was more beautiful than many I have stayed in. There were even plants above the guest reception bar and breakfast counter. The lobby view from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse was great.

Other than the great plants, the cleanliness and condition of the public areas were like the guestroom. I was worried about my stay from the start, because of what I observed when I entered. The furniture by the entrance was worn, dated, and unclean. There was debris on all of the floor mats and rugs, and there were spots on the floors that needed to be cleaned. I realize that some of imperfections I have shared here did not affect my stay, such as the cracked vanity; however, for what this hotel charges, and the image they want to project, I thought the condition was unacceptable. The condition of the furnishings I saw in this hotel, do not match what is shown on their website.

Another thing I did not like was that there was no parking when I returned to the hotel the second evening after dark. I had to park near the bank next door, around the side of the building. The valet parking sign at the entrance says that valet parking is for Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and the hotel page does not list valet parking as an option.

I chose this hotel because it was in an excellent location for the businesses I needed to visit. I had also considered the Marriott Courtyard in Homewood, which was almost as close. I decided to go with the Embassy Suites since I would be staying two nights, and I figured I would like the extra room in the suite. In hindsight, I should have kept both reservations (either could have been canceled up to 6 p.m. day of arrival) until after I had checked in. If I hadn't canceled the Marriott Courtyard reservation beforehand, I probably would have left the Embassy Suites and went there.