Thursday, December 14, 2006
New York City hotel syndrome
When it comes to finding a hotel room in New York City, there's a line. Like the famous "Mendoza Line" in baseball (slang for a pathetic .200 batting average, thus, "he's hitting below the Mendoza Line"), the NYCH Line is abstract and even somewhat arbitrary, yet has significant real-world implications.
What is the NYCH (New York City Hotel) Line? It is simply this: there is a price per night for a hotel room which separates a decent hotel room from one that is squalid, depressing and even scary.
Unlike the Mendoza Line, the NYCH Line also has a subjective element: some people tolerate squalor better than others.
By pure coincidence, I began staying regularly in NYC hotels only after 9/11. (Before that, I always stayed with friends.) For a few years thereafter, NYC hotel prices were somewhat depressed by a long post-9/11 droppoff in NYC tourism. I got spoiled, because the NYCH Line was, for me, around $150 for 2002-03 bumping up to about $170 in 2003-04.
But since then, New York tourism has fully recovered, and the NYCH Line has skyrocketed to around $250. In peak periods it can be much higher.
Of course, sometimes you can get a deal -- and here's where NYCH Syndrome enters the picture. NYCH Syndrome is the belief that, through skillful use of the internet, you can find a comfortable NYC hotel room significantly below the NYCH Line.
NYCH Syndrome is listed in DSM-IV as a form of delusion.*
Take my experience last night, for example. Checking "last minute hotel deals" on Ratestogo.com, I was steered toward this apartment hotel thing owned by a company called Woogo. Their Upper West Side property looked nice enough on the web site, and the price was deeply discounted to $129 a night. Such a deal!
Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that professional photographers can photoshop out the dinginess of a places. And a formerly white towel can be clean even though it has turned gray, right?
And maybe I shouldn't have found it disconcerting to "check in" at the front desk with the tough Russian-immigrant doorman who fished out my room key from a shoebox full of roomkeys. After all, once I got up to the room and saw that it was the kind of door lock that can be broken into with any major credit card, and that there was no security lock on it, I began thinking that maybe the tough Russian immigrant was exactly the sort of doorman I wanted down there.
The photograph above: my makeshift security lock. The sofa has been pushed in front of the door. Although access to the bathroom is blocked, security always involves tradeoffs.
*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition.
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