Sunday, March 11, 2007

La Quinta: Spanish for "Great Pet Policy"

La Quinta has earned my loyalty.

We made another road trip last weekend with the two dogs and, once again, we stayed at a La Quinta. Both Kirby and Baxter remembered the place and even little Kirby trotted right up to the room we stayed in last time (same motel, different floor). I'm amazed at the directional capabilities of canines, even young ones. This is probably because I can't remember where I parked the car at the mall half the time.

Anyway, I just want to take a moment to thank La Quinta for having such a great pet policy. Dogs are welcomed with a smile and sometimes even free biscuits. They don't charge a pet fee (not even for two dogs) and the rooms are equipped with extra counter space, little sinks and refrigerators...perfect for fixing dog dinners (or our case it's always the former). And, to top it off, they're usually clean and quite reasonably priced.

I've stayed in a lot of hotels and motels, for both work and pleasure, many of which do not allow pets or charge very large pet fees (Marriott: $100 non-refundable per pet per visit...unbelievable, but at least they allow them...sometimes), and none of them were any cleaner, more convenient or well-appointed than La Quinta. I've stayed at some very pricey, big-name hotels with fancy lobbies, big chandeliers and absolutely filthy rooms. I think such places don't allow pets because they know their housekeeping staff can barely clean up after people. In my experience, the quality and cleanliness of the La Quinta chain is pretty consistent from motel to motel, at least in Oregon and California where I've spent most of my stays.

Another fun aspect of La Quinta is the camaraderie with other pets and pet owners. The motels tend to draw a dog-loving crowd, so there's often someone to talk to when you're standing out in the grassy area waiting for Fido to do his business. Yes, there's the occasional bark-fest when the housekeeping staff rolls the trolly down the hallway (of course barking is contagious), but I'm always surprised at just how quiet these motels are. Either they have extra insulation in the walls or people who travel with their pets are responsible enough to make their dogs stop barking at the maid.

I wish I could say the same for some of the parents who allow their small children to run up and down the hallways screaming at 7:00am, which we encountered on our previous visit. One could almost hear all the dog owners shushing their pets as the dogs reacted to the ear-splitting screeches. (Now I'm not holding the children responsible here...any normal little kid would love to go running up and down a motel hallway screaming with glee. In those cases it's the parents who are irresponsible and shouldn't be allowed to travel without supervision.)

I seldom see a motel with a "no children" policy (although I did run across a B&B recently). This is because our society pretty much expects children to be able to go anywhere adults go (except for bars and certain other locales of adult entertainment, of course). And motels expect (rightfully so) that parents will have their children under supervision, and the housekeeping staff just has to pick up the pieces after the irresponsible ones leave.

But many places of lodging have a different policy toward companion animals. By their view, because Baxter and Kirby are a different species, they are somehow less clean or less a member of the family than a little human would be. I think there are a lot of families out there who, like us, would beg to differ. And this is especially true from the kids' point of view. I'd be willing to bet you 9 out of 10 kids would say their dog is just as much a member of the family as their little brother or sister is, and in many cases they would probably rather travel with the dog. I say bring 'em all.

The question really comes down to parenting skills. Irresponsible parents are irresponsible parents, whether the little ones they are ignoring are human or canine. And I'm sure the little disaster areas left behind when they check-out bear a striking resemblance (with the exception that dogs leave behind a bit more hair). But we don't discriminate against ALL parents just because some of them don't take good care of their children. I think the same should be true for dogs.

Returning to the La Quinta example: they do not charge a pet fee, but they make you sign a waiver that says if your pet ruins anything, you will be charged. That seems entirely fair to me. Charging me in advance for damage my dogs will not make (thank you, Marriott) is really just a way of saying "we really don't want your pets in here, but we don't want to be seen as not having a pro-pet policy." Hogwash.

The difference between La Quinta and most other mid-range motels out there is that La Quinta trusts their pet-loving guests to be responsible. And, in my experience, their guests oblige by being trustworthy. I think we pet owners are just so happy to have a pet-friendly motel chain, we're extra careful to be as low-impact as possible. We don't want La Quinta to suddently start charging pet fees or, heaven forbid, stop allowing pets altogether.

And a note for those motels who play the allergy card... Again, this is partly an issue of cleanliness. If you are really cleaning and vacuuming the room, you'll pick up most of the pet hair and dander, which are usually responsible for allergies. And for those folks for whom a microscopic amount of dander can create an allergic reaction, offer them the choice of "always pet-free" rooms, just as most motels offer non-smoking rooms. (Honestly, I can sympathize as I was terribly allergic to cats until a few years ago. I could barely breathe after a few minutes in the proximity of cat hair and dander...thanks to NAET acupuncture, that's over...another story).

And while you dog-refusing/allergy-aware motels are at it, maybe you should consider that some people will be allergic to the mold in your bathrooms or the synthetic scents in your shampoos or even the dust in the rooms that your housekeeping staff never bothers to clean. If you are going to have a "no pets due to allergy concerns" policy, you damn well better make sure your rooms are SPOTLESS. I haven't seen one yet. And at this point I really don't plan to give my business to any "no pets" establishments unless I'm at a business function and required to do so.

Interestingly enough, even though ALL rooms at La Quinta motels are pet-friendly rooms, I didn't notice anyone sneezing or wheezing at breakfast (I forgot to mention the free continental breakfast, which is pretty good). Perhaps those who are allergic to pets self-select to stay at other motels. Or, perhaps, La Quinta just happens to run a very clean establishment that caters to responsible people of all types.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great post! It is very true what you say about kids and about companion animals. I'm about to try a La Quinta with my Yorkie for the first time and am encouraged by your review.