Thursday, November 27, 2014
Serving The Middling Franchise In A Middling Way: The EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids, Michigan!
The Good: Good room size, Clean
The Bad: Grounds not cared for, Low customer service, Mediocre breakfast
The Basics: In a fairly hotel-packed area, the EconoLodge & Suites in Grand Rapids simply seems cheap.
Some years ago, I was working at a Star Trek convention and the hotel that I was used to going down to had been demolished in the months since I was last in the area. That unfortunate turn of events (the original hotel had been a decent one and it was flattened to make some giant store, like an IKEA) led me to stay at an EconoLodge and that experience was so bad that I swore off the chain. When my wife was helping me plan my latest convention excursion, she pointed out that my previous bad experience at a single EconoLodge in an entirely different part of the country should not sour me on the whole chain. The thrifty part of me responded well to her argument when my search for hotels in Grand Rapids, Michigan, revealed that despite there being a lot of competition for the tourist dollars there, the deals were not at all extraordinary. As a result, I opted to book for the EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids, if for no other reasons than it was in my chain and it was the least expensive hotel in the area the weekend I needed lodging.
To be fair, the EconoLodge & Suites in Grand Rapids was nowhere near as bad as the outright hideous EconoLodge I stayed at in Maryland a decade ago. That said, it still had enough problems to make it an underwhelming stay and one that made me feel that – despite the low price – it was not much of a value.
The EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids, MI294 in the Choice Hotels numbering system (a number quite useful when making phone or online reservations), is located at 2985 Kraft Ave SE in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is a section of Grand Rapids that is discreetly away from the college areas and all that seemed to be around it were strip malls, fast food restaurants and a few big box stores. This was a pretty unremarkable area of Grand Rapids with no real draw.
The EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids has a single entrance right off Kraft Ave SE and this hotel’s little side street is right off one of the major arterials around Grand Rapids. Mapquest directions are more than adequate for finding this hotel.
The EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids looks very small and the first real strike against it is its parking lot. I arrived on a weekday during prime business hours and the driveway had not been plowed. There were over two inches of wet snow on the ground throughout the parking lot and for the four days of my stay at the EconoLodge & Suites, the snowy parking lot was never once shoveled or plowed. The lack of care for the grounds made the hotel seem exceptionally inhospitable.
Upon entering the hotel, I was surprised by the size of the lobby. The lobby had a high ceiling and a very open feeling and was well lit, the only part of the building that was so open. The front desk was to the left of the front door, perpendicular to it, and when I entered, there was no one at the front desk.
A minute and a half after ringing the bell at the front desk, a manager appeared to sign me in. He was friendly-enough and it was very easy to find my room on the second floor of the hotel.
As for the room itself, this was a decent-sized room, which was split into a living room and a bedroom, separated by a small hallway which has the bathroom and the alcove which passes for the kitchen. Measuring twenty-nine feet deep by fifteen feet wide, the full suite included a king-sized bed, two nightstands, a tv hutch, bathroom with shower and bathtub, desk, and a couch in the living room. The room did not feel cramped at all and had a number of lights that made the room feel warm.
From the first moment I approached the door to my room at the EconoLodge & Suites in Grand Rapids, I had a cool feeling about it. The wallpaper was not peeling, but it was darker than looked clean and the rugs were not all laying flat on the floor! On the plus side, the nonsmoking room lived up to that. The nonsmoking room smelled like nothing at all. There was no evidence or trace of scent that would have indicated it had ever had a cigarette smoked in it. Instead, the entire hotel smelled good.
Every time I enter a new hotel room, I flush the toilet and this EconoLodge & Suites easily passed the first flush test with no difficulties, which admittedly surprised me. The shower, hot tub and toilet were all clean. The wallpaper in the room was tasteful and none of the wallpaper or paint was peeling. Still, I found several spots on the wallpaper, even at eye level, both in the room and in the hallways. Unfortunately, the hotel was not all that bright; the lighting was average and enough to add a feeling of warmth to the rooms, but I found I could not sit and read comfortably with only one light on.
The common areas were all clean and well-maintained. The lobby was clean, as was the breakfast room.
The EconoLodge & Suites Grand Rapids has only the standard amenities, at least in our room. There were the standard coffee packets, shampoo, soap, and lotion. The suite actually had a microwave and very small refrigerator, which was a nice touch. The suite had two televisions, one in the living room, one in the bed room. As one of the oddities to this EconoLodge, shampoo was not replaced two of the three days I was there!
This hotel had a free breakfast, but it was pretty lousy. Billed as a “hot breakfast” online, the EconoLodge & Suites in Grand Rapids included a make-your-own waffle station and a toaster. The breakfast is dominated, however, by cold options: yogurt, danishes, cold cereal and fresh fruit. This hotel had only two drink options for breakfast: one type of milk and orange juice.
In the room, the television has approximately twenty cable television stations and the television was one of the smallest I've had in a Choice Hotel. We got a great on-line deal on the room, but it still cost us $72/night after all of the taxes. The hotel did have one of the most reliable wi-fi internet connections I’ve ever had at a hotel.
When the time came to check-out, the new manager at the front desk was not well-versed enough in procedures to make it easy for me to have the room charge taken off my credit card so I could pay cash. That was irksome.
The EconoLodge & Suites in Grand Rapids is mediocre; not bad, but overpriced for such a basic hotel, especially one in a snowy area where it is not adequately cared for to make guests feel invited.
For other Michigan hotels in the Choice Hotels chain, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Quality Inn By The Bay - Traverse City, MI
Comfort Suites Southfield, MI
Comfort Suites Lakeside - Houghton Lake, MI
For other hotel reviews, please visit my Hotel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.