You caught an early flight and when you land you’re exhausted. You refuse to pay the airline extra for a meal, so all you’ve had today is a cup of coffee. So when you step into your hotel room, you think delirium has set in. "Have I been here before?"
A couple of weeks ago, I got a PR pitch for Cooper Used Hotel Furniture, a company that purchases and resells old hotel beds, dressers, whatever. For as low as $250, anyone can buy entire rooms of furniture. Anyone, the pitch claimed, including other hotels. My editor, sensing a good kamikaze-intern mission, assigned me to find a hotel that would admit to stocking its rooms with secondhand furniture.
To my surprise, with a couple of phone calls, I seemed to be close. The pitch had implied that Cooper sold to economy hotels like Days Inn, Super 8, and Ramada. Cendant is a franchisor that owns all three brands. I left a message with the corporate office and then called Kurt Karchmer from Cooper Used Hotel Furniture.
Karchmer told me that hotels have an interest in new looks that follow the trends. In January 2005, he said, Cooper sold furniture to a Ramada on South Lake Shore Drive that originally belonged to a Chicago-area Hilton. He moved the furniture 40 blocks to its new home. Karchmer gave me the name and phone number of the general manager at the Ramada, Roy Patel, saying he would speak with me about the transaction.
I called Patel three times, but ultimately never heard back. Soon, I figured out why.
I heard back from Cendant’s Senior Director of Design and Development, Mike Bruce. Bruce is not directly responsible for decorating the rooms at Cendant-franchise properties. But he could tell me this: Cendant does not allow used furniture at its properties. The rule against used furniture, he said, is written into Cendant’s standards manual and there is a review process written into the franchise agreement that oversees improvements and upgrades. "Our franchisees don’t want to spend a lot of money, so it’s up to the brand to provide some sort of direction," he said.
I chuckled as I hung up the phone. It seems the Ramada on Lake Shore decided to go in the opposite direction.
As I began pursuing this story, one of our writers observed that "after the first night of new furniture, it’s all used." But for guests, it seems distasteful (or downright gross) to think that they’re exposing themselves and their belongings to furnishings that may have been used by a wide variety of strangers at different hotels over many years. Before hearing back from Cendant, I called Karchmer again to see if he had another "friend" who would be willing to talk about a furniture transaction. He hasn’t returned my call.
So reader, if you’re in a hotel room one day, stretched out on the bed, and find yourself overcome by a strange feeling of familiarity with your surroundings…