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Monday, June 4, 2012

A year in Marriotts

Marriott says I've spent 314 nights in their hotels since I joined their frequent stay program in 1987. It's actually more than that. I was a Marriott customer prior to 1987, and in the early years of their program they didn't count stays at their related properties like Fairfield Inns. Also, their count excludes frequent stay awards that I didn't pay for. Bottom line, I have slept a year of my life in a Marriott bed.

I don't stay at Marriotts exclusively; I'm as sensitive to price and convenience as the next traveler. Why have I chosen Marriott so often? Partly because they build or acquire properties in the right places. Location, location, location... just like McDonalds. But there's a reason why I give Marriott the nod when all other things are equal.

Like McDonalds, Marriott strives for consistency. This was pointed out to me by a colleague, Rashid Rafek, on a trip to Utah in 1988. (Rashid, a Muslim, was fascinated by the Mormon lifestyle we saw. It still saddens me that Rashid died in a car accident a few years later.)

The noteworthy things about Marriott -- cleanliness, responsiveness and attitude of personnel, etc -- are not merely good. They're predictably good. I can take for granted that when I check into a Marriott, it will be good. That's not the case with Hilton and Sheraton, where I've slept about 75 nights each. I never know what to expect from those brands. When you're on the road for a large chunk of your life, consistency matters. I can count my bad experiences at Marriotts during 30 years on the fingers of just one hand.

That's why I fly American Airlines, too. Like Marriott they're not the best, but they are good and they are predictable. I could have said the same about Delta until 1995 when they fell into a terrible funk. Fifteen years later, Delta has regained its footing. Better late than never!

United and US Airways? Don't ask.