Archive for April, 2015

Airbnb believer

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

My boss is a very experienced and savvy traveler so when we needed to make hotel reservations for the two of us for a trade show in Connecticut, what hotel did she use?

She didn’t make hotel reservations at all, but instead reserved a townhouse through Airbnb.  This was going to be my first experience using Airbnb and I must say, I wasn’t totally enthusiastic about the prospect. But hey, she’s the boss.

In case you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it is an “online community marketplace” which enables people who have space (it could be a room or an entire house) to rent it out on a short term basis.

The concept has become very devise in many communities including Petaluma. Some residents oppose allowing the service to operate because of concerns about increased traffic and noise in neighborhoods.  Some cities regulate the industry so that they can collect Transit Occupancy Tax as is done in hotels thereby leveling the playing field between Airbnb rentals and local hotels.

The positive Airbnb experience we had in Hartford made me a believer. I don’t foresee giving up hotels entirely but in a lot of situations, Airbnb is a wonderful alternative. I think cities would certainly be wise to get on board working with the service so that they can benefit – both in positive PR and tax revenue –  from the new “sharing” economy.

What made staying at a townhouse reserved through Airbnb better than staying at the Marriott next to the Convention Center?

To begin with, the price. Even with the trade show discount, rooms at the Marriott were going to be at least $250 a night so for two rooms for four nights, that’s over $2,000. The townhouse was less than $900. So we had at more than double the amount of space – full kitchen, living room, dining room and our own bedrooms and bathrooms – at half the price.

One of my concerns about not staying in a hotel was the potential lack of amenities. Would coffee, snacks, close and safe parking be available? All of these features were more readily accessible than they would have been at a hotel.

The absolute best part was having access to a kitchen so that we didn’t have to eat out. At the end of an exhausting day manning our trade show booth, it was a total blessing to be able to sit in the living room, order in Chinese food and have a cup of tea. In the morning, we could have coffee before putting on our clothes and make-up.  And the owner left us a garage door opener so we were able to park much closer than we would have been able to at a hotel parking lot.

At first, it seemed a little odd to be staying in a stranger’s house with all their belongings and family photos on the walls. This particular situation was even a little more unusual because the owner of the townhouse keeps a Kosher kitchen which means that everything that comes in contact with dairy – utensils, dishes, sinks – is kept separate from anything that comes in contact with meat. It really wasn’t a big deal. She made it easy to respect this practice by labeling all the drawers “Dairy Only” or “Meat Only.”

It only took one night for me to appreciate the comfort that I felt staying in a home with lots of personal touches versus a very impersonal hotel room. Accommodations made through Airbnb give travelers something that a hotel never can: literally a home away from home.

Uniform appearance

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I came upon a New York Times article about men who are famous enough that they can wear the same thing every day. Guys like Mark Zuckerberg in his ever-present gray t-shirt, hoodie and jeans. And before Mark, there was Steve Jobs who never left home without his black mock turtleneck. Of course, no one ever asks (or asked) these gazillionaires, “You ever take that shirt off to wash it?” because we know that they probably have closets the size of Gap stores filled floor to ceiling with their iconic clothing components.

The reason Mark Zuckerberg gives for adopting a uniform is because it’s one less decision he has to make that could take time away from doing the best job that he can serving the 1 billion people in the Facebook community. So he does it out of self sacrifice and altruism for Facebook users…what a guy.

Zuckerberg makes wearing a uniform sound like a noble gesture but maybe the reason for it is that he’s just like the rest of us who dread figuring out what to wear on any given day.  And it’s 10 times worse for women. Even if men don’t wear exactly the same color and style of shirt every day, it’s all variations on a theme. Basically, they only have to deal with three pieces of clothing: shirt, pants and shoes.

But for us, deciding what to wear to work is a job unto itself. The process goes something like this: “I think I’ll wear the black pants and the blue print blouse …no, I can’t wear those pants; they’re my skinny pants and I’m not feeling skinny. But if I wear my other pair of black pants I have to wear shoes with a heel so they don’t drag but I can’t because today I have to walk 2 blocks from the parking garage to the client’s office and my feet will be killing me. What about the gray pants? Those need to go to the dry cleaners and I always hated the flow-y pink shirt that I bought to go with them. And besides that client’s office is always freezing and I don’t have a jacket that matches. I guess I’m back to the too tight black pants…”

By the time I finally settle on an outfit, I’m worn out from deciding what to wear out and probably running late because of the 15 minutes I spent staring at my closet and muttering to myself. At this point, having a uniform to wear to work sounds like a really great idea.

Notably, this article was only about men who have adopted a clothing uniform. Can you imagine the flak if Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wore the same red dress and black cardigan at all of her public appearances? Talk about a double standard between men and women.

Which leads me to think about Hillary who will arguably be the woman most seen in the public eye for the next two years. I’m sure her strategists are discussing if she should develop a uniform and make it part of her brand like Zuckerberg does. Maybe. But I think if she wants to have any chance of winning, it would be best if she left her rainbow pantsuits in the closet.