You’d think a guy like Anthony Melchiorri, host of Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible,” would settle for nothing less than luxury hotels when he travels.
But Melchiorri, entering his seventh season as the fixer of failing hotels, says he’d just as soon stay in a roadside motel if it’s got good reviews online.
“Those are mom and pops that are working their butts off,” Melchiorri said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “They live in the back of the hotel, they get up in the morning, they put out fresh flowers, they make you breakfast ... I can’t wait to meet that owner. I can’t wait to have their breakfast. I can’t wait to sleep in that bed.”
Melchiorri, who’s got a new show called “Extreme Hotels” in the pipeline, also offered advice for getting good hotel deals and reflected on growing up poor. Here are excerpts from the interview, airing Wednesday on the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here !”
Growing up poor
“I actually grew up really poor. My dad died when I was 2 years old. My mom struggled to make a living. ... We were on welfare, had the block of cheese. She couldn’t afford college. So I went into the military and got my college degree and got some hotel experience. It was the best way to grow up because you understand the struggles so when you do have some easier times, you still work like you’re getting a block of cheese on Thursday.”
“I started my career at the Embassy Suites in Times Square. Then I was fortunate enough to work at the Plaza Hotel. At that time the current president (Trump) owned the hotel and it was in bankruptcy. We were brought in to help come off that, went to work at the Algonquin Hotel, the Lucerne Hotel and turned those hotels around with some of the greatest teams ever. ... Even before I was on television, I was always the guy they called in when things couldn’t be fixed.”
“People say, what’s your secret. It’s that I can identify talent. ... A kid that worked for me at the Plaza, who worked for seven years at McDonald’s, and no one would give him a shot as a bellman. Patrice. He was the best bellman I ever had in my career. The ability to recognize talent has been my key.”
“When you go online you have to be aware that all the ads on the side of the websites and all the ads on top, those are usually third parties. Say you put in the Algonquin New York. The Algonquin New York comes up but it says underneath the URL, Hotels.com. You have to be really savvy about making sure you find the website of the hotel. That sometimes could take you to the second or third or fourth page. ... You book with a third party, it’s really difficult to get your money back. The hotel’s hands are tied.”
“The hotel is guaranteed to have the lowest rate. Expedia is not allowed to have a lower rate than the hotel. When you go to the more opaque websites like Priceline and those, sometimes you can get a better deal. I hate to even say that. Those rates are hidden and sometimes the hotel will drop their rate last-minute, ridiculously low, just to fill up the rooms, but it’s always better to go to the hotels.”
Call the hotel
“I’m so frustrated with visitors that are afraid to call the hotel. The hospitality field by definition, that’s what we do. We’re hospitable. We want to talk to our guests. ... Make a personal connection. ... That gives that person at the hotel ownership of your reservation. ... It costs a lot to get you to my hotel. Once you get there, I want to keep you as my guest.”
“Ask for anything you want. You want flowers. You want an upgrade. You want to be by the pool. You want to be upstairs, downstairs, ask for everything. There are limits of what we can do. But it’s not whether we say no or yes. It’s how we say no. If we say no, that’s just a bad answer. If we say, ‘Unfortunately the upgrade is not available today, it’s available tomorrow if you want to change rooms,’ which most people don’t want to, at least you’re giving them an option. No one likes the word no. People do like explanations. If you’re explaining things to people, 99.9 percent of the time, people are understanding.”
How to complain
“There’s three stages of complaint: polite complaint; direct aggressive complaint; third, go to the internet and blow the damn hotel up on the internet and tell them how bad they are. I am a very big proponent of giving hotels two chances to fix their problems. If they don’t, I am a huge proponent of going online and telling everybody in the world the hotel’s problems. ... The training priorities, the passion has to be to take care of every single problem.”
“I got my badge of honor in Europe a couple weeks ago. I finally got bit by bedbugs.”