This is about the Chinese water torture I experienced at the massive Hyatt Regency Minneapolis when I arrived for a transit conference so important that it also drew the attendance of the Secretary of Transportation.

20140923_082721-Rail-Volution Anthony Foxx

U. S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx

Despite being checked in online before arrival in response to an email the hotel itself sent to me just before I left, the kiosk’s software couldn’t find me. I was forced to stand and wait in a long line for a front desk clerk.  Because of the conference check-ins, the line moved slowly, giving me plenty of time to mentally condemn their malfunctioning system.  Why even bother to email an online check-in option if it didn’t work on arrival?  When my turn finally came, I was given the key to room 4111.

I have to give credit where it’s due to the Hyatt for encouraging physical fitness in its guests. After taking a gander at my portly dimensions on arrival, I assume they decided an exercise regimen wouldn’t hurt, and thus they assigned me to room 4111, one room shy of being the most distant from the elevator. Here’s a view of just one of the several halls in the rat’s maze of corridors on the fourth floor required to reach 4111:

20140920_182309-Hyatt Minneapolis room 4111, the LOOOOONG 152 step walk

Key in hand, I began my walk from the elevator.  At first I thought I had taken a wrong turn because I kept going and going and going, but the signs kept showing room 4111 around the next corner.  And then the one after that, and so on.  When I finally arrived, I assumed that I must have read the signs incorrectly in the lift lobby and that surely I had traveled in a circle and was almost back to where I started.  A quick look to the end of the hall, just one room away, however, proved me wrong.  It was really the dead end of a very long series of corridors.

Later I counted the number of steps to and from the elevator: 152 steps, which for my stride is 340 feet, longer than a football field.  In sixty years of staying in hotels I don’t recall ever having a room so far from the elevators.  Though the hotel was planted firmly in downtown Minneapolis at one end of the Nicollet Mall, it’s possible that my room was actually located in a St. Paul zip code.  Every trip to my room required a good deal of extra time.  The Millennium Hotel across the street, which served as the overflow property for the conference, was a closer walk than from the one to my room.

My room faced Nicollet Street, and when I took a better look at the hotel from the outside, I understood why the room was so distant from the elevators.  The property’s architects wrapped extra rooms around the front of the hotel up to the fourth floor with meeting and conference rooms built on the opposite side of the corridor of rooms where 4111 is located.  But in order for guests to actually reach those rooms required trekking down a tortuous series of corridors that snaked from the main tower around the edge of the building to the front. You can see this front wrap of rooms on the second, third, and fourth floors jutting out from the hotel in this photo, along with the great majority of rooms in the distant tower:

20140921_091348-Hyatt Minneapolis landscape view

At the door I was happy to find Hyatt had converted the keys to the RFID type.  I had only to touch my card key to the sensor on the door to open it.  The room itself was spacious and unpretentious, and the soundproofing seemed at first to be pretty good. I could still clearly hear TVs, talking, and toilets flushing above, below, and next to me, albeit reasonably distant.  The HVAC system was whisper-quiet and held the temp dead steady.  Maybe if it had been at least slightly audible, it would have drowned out the dim but irritating noise leaking in around me from other rooms.  The hotel provided strong and free wifi, which happily surprised me.  Here’s a view of the room and bed:

20140920_182842--Hyatt Minneapolis room 4111 view to window20140920_182810-Hyatt Minneapolis room 4111 bed

The bathroom was well-lit, but the room not so much.  The glass-enclosed shower with a rain-shower head was roomy, but with so-so water pressure that required extra rinse time (I have always wondered why water-saver shower heads are thought to be more efficient, since, for me at least, they require lots of extra time soaping up and rinsing off, which surely uses the same quantity, or even more, water than a normal shower head).

My first impression of the furniture changed after actually sitting on the couch and two chairs.  All three were terribly uncomfortable.  The couch turned out to be a fold-out hide-a-bed, and of course they are never comfortable to sit on (or to sleep on).  The cheap desk chair with no arms was reminiscent of a piece of dorm furniture.  The other chair looked good but didn’t sit well.  Here’s a closeup of the desk chair, sofa, and chair:

20140924_112515-Hyatt Minneapolis room 4111 furniture

For all this convenience, comfort, luxe, and grandeur, I was enjoying the Hyatt’s special discounted conference rate, which came to $214.33 per night, all in. I thought it was pretty steep for a conference that filled the entire hotel and the Millennium across the street, not to mention the extra revenue from the many banquet and conference rooms booked.  Well, at least the Hyatt bundled wifi in the rate.

After turning off the light to sleep on the first two nights I noticed what I thought was noise from adjacent rooms, but It sounded like people arguing.  On the third night the same noises awakened me at midnight because they were much louder than on previous nights.  Trying to locate the source, I walked around the room, finally narrowing it down to the window.  Opening the curtains, I looked down four floors onto Nicollet Street to see 15-20 shabbily-dressed men yelling and screaming at each other.  Several were facing off out in the middle of Nicollet Street and almost nose to nose with each other, pointing fingers and cursing.  Their words drifted clearly up to me, and I had a drone’s eye view of the action, but I could not tell how old they were or any detail other than their clothing.  The word “mother” peppered their rich vernacular.  They all acted as if they’d been drinking heavily, as they meandered all over the sidewalk and street beneath me.

I called the front desk to complain.  The fellow who answered was shocked and didn’t seem at first to believe me, but after I insisted several times that I wasn’t crazy or drunk, he went outside to investigate.  The sight of so many, obviously belligerent men milling around just outside his door made him quickly retreat and call the police.  However, despite my several more calls to him over the following hour, the police never showed up.  Remember this is the Hyatt in downtown Minneapolis, but the police never responded to the hotel’s call, at least not as of 1:10 AM.

Just past one in the morning the group slowly broke up, with individuals drifting off in several directions, after which I was able to fall asleep again.  No thanks to the hotel or the Minneapolis Police Department.  I remember thinking I was glad not to be down on the street with that crowd.  My sleep that night was fitful; I kept waking up, dreaming that the noise below my room had returned.

The next morning I asked for, and received, a private conference with a manager on duty to complain about the incident and the way it wasn’t handled.  She waffled on why the night manager had not been more forceful in getting the police to respond.  She apologized to me, and we parted.  Later I found a gift waiting for me in the room: not a bottle of wine and a fruit basket, but one small plate with one apple, one peach, one banana, some grapes, and two small bottles of water.  Next to it was a pre-printed, unsigned note of apology from the hotel for “our service shortcomings..”  All shown here:

20140923_181331-Hyatt Minneapolis room 4111 my gift

I did appreciate the fruit and the gesture.  Truth be told, however, and I feel somewhat conflicted admitting this because it sounds a bit ungracious, I would have appreciated just a short handwritten note, or at least a quick personal signature on the generic apology card, much more than even one bottle of water.

In most other respects, the Hyatt was like most Hyatts: expensive, well-maintained, boasting a youthful staff bursting with over-achieving cheerfulness, though missing the style and panache of public areas once so characteristic of the Hyatt brand.  Here’s a view of the unimaginative lobby from the second floor:

20140924_103458-Hyatt Minneapolis lobby

I was glad to check out and won’t miss the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, though I have to admit that my legs feel stronger from all those 152 step walks to my room. I believe that I might have even lost a couple of pounds.  Perhaps I should jot a note of thanks to their management!