Blues Travels

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Wingate Inn of Lynchburg, Virginia

Sometimes when I write about one of my stays, I find myself more or less going through the motions. Now I know it is important to chronicle my journey, my experiences and my growth. After all, that is really what this trip has been, and continues to be about. But I would rather be inspired one way or another, when I write about an experience.

There are times when I feel inspired. There are times that I really look forward to writing about one of my stays. Sometimes it is because the stay was so overwhelmingly good that I just cannot wait to tell you guys about it. At other times it is because a stay was so poor that I want to inform my readers as to my experiences so they can avoid my disappointment.

I have spent the entire week in Lynchburg, VA this past week. I stayed at two hotels and at the house of one of my friends. Thanks to Jay and Elizabeth Roberts for putting me up for a few nights. You guys are terrific.

Sleep Inn of Lynchburg

One of the hotels I stayed in was a Sleep Inn, and I could not have been more impressed, considering the price.

For one thing, I earn credits staying in Choice Hotels, which Sleep Inn is a part of. By staying two consecutive nights, I supposedly earn a free stay at a Choice Hotel of my choosing. I have not read the fine print of the promotion, but it sounds like a good deal unless they are deceiving me in some way. That remains to be seen ( And trust me, if they are sticking it to the consumer with this promotion, I will let you know. ).

For another thing, Sleep Inn does not promise much in the way of bells and whistles, so there are no real expectations to fall short of. That said, the rooms are imminently comfortable and attractive, come with broadband Internet access and a basic continental breakfast. I slept like a log both nights and while the breakfasts were not much to write home about, Sleep Inn does not brag about their breakfasts either, so I didn’t expect much. Most of the foods were processed, cheap and tasted pretty bland. Bagels, cream cheese, Yoplait Yogurts, juice etc. All in all though, a good value.

Contrast that with Wingate Inn of Lynchburg.

Wingate Inn of Lynchburg

Wingate Inn of Lynchburg attempts to raise the bar of excellence in mid-range hotels. To a degree, they have succeeded, but in my book Wingate Inn falls far short of living up to the reputation it is trying to cultivate for itself.

It should be pointed out that Wingate Inn is expensive. You will pay a minimum of $100.00 per night, unless you book a large engagement to earn group rates. Wingate justifies this price by attempting to offer several free amenities.

For example, Wingate offers full scale support for small businesses in need of a hotel equipped with a complete business center. Meeting rooms ( Wingate has two; a smaller one, and a large one) are really supplied well, and they look terrific. If I had a small business, especially if I had a small sales force I needed to train, Wingate Inn would be a fantastic place to host a mini conference of sorts.

In addition, the rooms are gorgeous, and come fully equipped with Broadband TV Internet, conference phones, a refrigerator, coffee maker and a microwave oven. The rooms are terrific eye candy, and if you want to really go all out, some of the rooms are even equipped with full Jacuzzi’s. Furthermore, instead of the standard soaps and shampoos, you get Nuetrogena, which is a nice touch!

Wingate even has a nice PC in the lobby for people to use. So, if you are an Internet junky, you really do not need to bring your own PC. It’s all here at Wingate Inn.

However, the praise stops there. Here is my beef with Wingate.

The trouble with trying to be all things to all people is that you have two choices: You can either do all those things well, or you can flub it up and choose to do all things in a mediocre fashion, and in fact do them so poorly you might as well not have done them at all.

I have always felt that something is not worth doing unless it is done well. Sadly, Wingate has chosen to do most things extremely poorly. Considering that Wingate Inn sings its own praises far and wide, Wingate’s failure to live up to its own praise is a bitter pill to swallow for the consumer.

Before I go any further, I admit that I can be a real pain in the ass. In fact, when it comes to spending money, if I am not altogether satisfied, I can be vocal about my displeasure. It is not uncommon for me to return a meal or refuse to pay for a dinner if the food is terrible. If I spend good money, I want a good service and the customer care that should come with it. Pain in the ass that I am, I am also reasonable. If I am trying to save money and do bargain hunting, I expect to get a service or a product that may be sub par. And in that case, I have no problem with a merchant. But damn it, if you are going to charge premium rates and promise the world, you had better damn well offer the world.

Case in point:

Wingate Inn brags about their “extended continental breakfast”. They say that this is one of the things you are paying for when you stay at a Wingate Inn. The “extended continental breakfast” is suppose to be far superior to the standard fair that passes for a breakfast at bargain rate hotels. But for the life of me, there is not one iota of difference between a continental breakfast at a Wingate Inn or a Sleep Inn, accept for the fact that you can make your own waffle. The bagels, bread, fruit, juice and cereals, all of which can be found at any dime a dozen hotel, tastes no better than anything else out there. Really. So, I think Wingate Inn needs to stop selling us on the salient features of their “extended continental breakfast”. Either that, or start offering something that is truly distinct and different.

Wingate also loves to boast about their Nautilus Fitness Center. I just have to laugh about this one. I went into their Nautilus room and all that was there was a small, multi-purpose gym that resembled Nautilus in name only.

First of all, the Nautilus machine was broken and did not work. Second, the machine was crammed in a room as though it were a seldom used piece of fitness junk, and the garage was the only place you could find room for it because you were too lazy to throw it away. This room was not designed to be a fitness room and it honestly looked like it was put there as an afterthought, just so Wingate could say they had a fitness room and be technically correct about it.

The room was so small that you literally tripped on the machine or bumped you head on it as you tried to navigate around the four sides of it to access the individual stations, only to discover that some or all of the individual stations were broken and unusable. The machine had broken chains, broken straps etc., and was so full of dust and cobwebs I wondered if critters lived inside of it. Maybe I am being too harsh, but I really believe that very little thought went into considering how to equip this room.

A fitness rooms needs to be spacious, adequately equipped with functional equipment that is safe, clean, attractive, well maintained and operable at all times. If you cannot offer this, then do not bother offering it at all. Period. This applies to Jacuzzi’s and swimming pools as well.

My mom had an in ground swimming pool. When she was healthy, that pool was immaculate. The water was a clear, crystal blue and you could see deep into the bottom of every square inch of it.

Wingate Inn lauds its indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi as though it were the Holy Grail of leisure, and indeed it has the potential to be just that. I really wanted to try them both. But to tell you the truth, I would not set one foot in either of them.

The pool had dead bugs, small articles of clothing (hair ribbons and such) and other debris along the bottom of it, at least in the shallow end. The green water was rather murky, so I could not see into the deep end very well, but I can only assume it was populated with the same sort of undesirable litter found in the shallows. The Jacuzzi was even worse.

The water in the Jacuzzi wasn’t just murky. It looked dirty. The edges of the Jacuzzi were definitely dirty, where dirt and sediment collected along the edges of the water line. It just looked unsanitary. And earlier in the day, I swear I saw a little boy and his father taking what appeared to be a bath in it. The Jacuzzi was full of suds, and unless I am mistaken it looked like soap suds! Yuk! :confused:

A few other things of note: My shower produced barely enough water to get me wet and the remote control for the TV was missing. What I found so hysterical was what passed for the replacement remote control that they gave me. The damn thing was brain dead. No it wasn’t. It was mentally retarded. No matter what button you pressed, the only thing that happened was that the channel would change….and the channel changed in only one direction…backwards! And that meant that if you inadvertently failed to stop on the channel you wanted to watch, you had to click through all the channels again, going backwards in descending order, working your way all the way back around to the channel you wanted, if you could even remember what channel it was to begin with.

I got so damn mad at the remote that I finally just gave up and started work on this review.

In conclusion, Wingate Inn of Lynchburg does not represent Wingate Inn the chain. I am sure the Lynchburg location does not reflect what you can expect to get from all Wingate Inn’s. But the Lynchburg location is a mid rate hotel with top of the line amenities, most of which do not work or are so poorly maintained that only an idiot would use them. Wingate Inn of Lynchburg would do well to be more detail oriented, or just charge less, for Petes Sake. It has the potential to be worth the cost, but currently staying at Wingate Inn is like being in purgatory: You are surrounded by potential opulence that consistently falls far short of being opulent. Somebody STOP me! Whoa there, take a big breath. In true dah nose, out true dah mout….in…out….in…out.

Until Wingate Inn of Lynchburg shapes up, save your money and stay at the Sleep Inn instead.

PS: I took tons of pictures, but in the end, what would be the point. Eye candy is eye candy. And unless the candy is sweet, you just end up spitting it out anyway.

PSPS: The people that make up the staff of Wingate Inn are top drawer. They were all very, very nice and I cannot praise them enough.


October 31, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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