Turning down the service

In the late 90’s or early 2000’s I took a work trip to Chicago and stayed at the Omni Hotel on Michigan Avenue. At that time the hotel was better known by the phrase “Guests of the Oprah Winfrey show stay at the all-suite Omni Hotel” which concluded each episode of Oprah. Fast forward ~15 years and a work trip brought me back to the Omni Hotel. The hotel truly is a luxury hotel in a great location and not too long ago it went through an $11M renovation. The public information about the renovation boasts about the upgraded public spaces, new guest and specialty suites, and a unique blend of modern and historical charm.

Returning to my room one evening is what first got my attention to their lack of sustainable practices. As I entered my room I found the TV on the relaxation channel, several lights on, the furnace on, and my ice bucket filled up. All of which had been off / empty when I left my room. It seems the turn down service attendant had followed protocol and prepared my room for me to turn in. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the lamps in the room all contained incandescent bulbs. It seems the $11M renovation did not include any modernizing of the room lighting. In hindsight, I should have done more research prior to booking my stay.

I reached out to the front desk and was told to leverage my do not disturb sign to avoid turn down service and was referred to the website for contacts to discuss sustainability practices further. I voiced my concerns respectfully to their leadership, asking them to consider making the turn down service an opt in practice. The next day I received a call saying that they would flag my account if I wanted and then would not change my bedding, towels, or turn down my room going forward if desired. I had them go ahead and do so, but the person on the phone was not the right resource to discuss the broader issue.

Most hotels these days have an Environmental Mission Statement and have instituted numerous things to help reduce energy consumption. Next time I will do more research first and likely stay at a Wyndham, Marriott, Starwood, InterContinental, Fairmont, or Hilton who are all more invested in environmental stewardship and sustainability. In a city as green as Chicago, where there are solar powered trash and recycling compactors on most blocks, the Omni hotel is a disappointment. Lastly, I should mention that the Omni Dallas made great investments while being built in order to achieve LEED certification; including capturing rain water for irrigation use, automated lighting and thermal controls, automated guest room energy management systems, water saving fixtures, low VOC products, recycled building materials, and more.

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