NYE in high style (Palomar Philadelphia)

January 1, 2011

Somehow noplasticshowers has taken on an unanticipated minor life of its own. As you know, the mission here is to provide candid reviews of hotels (focused on showers) from the point of view of a spoiled world traveller. I like nothing more than a nice boutique hotel and I have done what I can to develop a list of places I like over the last ten years. One of my favorite chains of boutiques is the Kimpton Group. I think I started going to Kimptons in 1996 or so and I have stayed at 13 Kimpton hotels in the years since.

Even with a preferred chain, things are never perfect. Some of my Kimpton-faced reviews do have a snarky flavor to them, but I also do my share of positive reinforcement when things are done right. As it turns out, positive reinforcement may be so rare among hotel guests that it can result in very nice side effects! Here’s a story about that.

After a disappointing stay ay a Kimpton in NY this September, I had a superb time in Boston at the Onyx (likewise a Kimpton). It seems, not surprisingly that hotels with strong GMs (Linda Chin at the Onyx) have motivated and well-trained staffs, while weaker GMs are so busy putting out fires (Thomas Mathes at the non-Eventi) they never develop any real rapport with their guests. So what better way to give kudos to a very good GM than to email their superiors?!

I sent some email to Mike DeFrino (Senior Vice President Hotel Operations) and Rick Colangelo (Regional Vice President Operations, East Coast) complimenting Linda, and lo and behold, Mike and Rick read their email like everyone else! Here’s a snippet of our ensuing conversation:

I would like to see the Kimpton properties share information about guests and guests preferences. Perhaps you guys could use the InTouch network for that? For example, knowing the kind of room I like at the Palomar in SF should inform your computers all over the country about the kind of room I am likely to be satisfied with elsewhere.

Things all seem very ad hoc as it is now, and as a guest I find it inefficient to “train” 13 hotels one at a time! Some properties keep track of these things, and some (including 70Park and the Hotel Marlowe) do not. Some properties run a very tight ship with well-trained staff (like the Onyx in Boston) and some need some work (like the Eventi in NY which is still experiencing serious birthing pains). Seems to me that centralizing and “personalizing” things even more than is done with the too vague to matter preferences in my folio would encourage chain loyalty.

Mike responded in a very positive manner and went on to introduce me to the “Queen of Loyalty” Natalie White.  Natalie and I have been in touch since, and I developed some detailed feedback for Natalie and Shirley King to use in their forward planning.  Natalie and Shirley have both been incredibly open to suggestion and are also genuinely pleased to get it.

Here’s the kicker.  Echoes of my feedback resulted in direct contact from the new GM at the Hotel Marlowe, Joe Capalbo, who is looking forward to winning my business back.  He sent me a nice note and a completely unnecessary holiday gift.  (It worked—I’ll be going back to the Marlowe in early January.)  Natalie sent a nice gift as well and a personal note thanking me for my help.  It is gratifying enough to have your ideas taken seriously, but a little unexpected gift is nice too.

Natalie and Shirley also helped make my visit to Philly for NYE special.  I’m celebrating with my companion of many years and some of our best friends.  We checked in to the Palomar in Philly and were warmly welcomed by the entire staff, including Sean Flanigan.  When we arrived in our beautiful corner suite we were greeted with a bottle of wine, snacks, and a note.

Without further ado, on to the shower situation.  The bathroom in the suite includes a walk in glass shower and a huge tub.  Room enough for 6 people in the tub we figure.  As usual, the tub remains untouched after a brief stay.  One NYE-related glitch to report: when we got up to shower around 11 there was no hot water in our shower or our friends’.  I would say this was mostly our fault for staying up too late drinking champagne.

A nicely appointed Kimpton sink graces the bathroom as well. 

Our friends did not have a huge bathroom in their portion of the suite, but theirs was nice anyway.  We figure they can use our tub if necessary (sadly, no).

All in all, the Palomar is a great location for NYE in the heart of Philadelphia, close to cool thrift shops (not to mention shoe shops), great restaurants, and top shelf mixology locations.  Philadelphia is a great city. Of course, the best part of all from this trip was ringing in the new year with dear friends.

The Palomar would deserve a five showerhead rating if the hot water glitch had not occurred. Great staff, very friendly and responsive. The doormen were having a blast when we got back from dinner shortly after midnight. The property is beautifully put together. Maybe next time we won’t get up so late.

For NYE dinner, we had an excellent meal at Tinto. Excellent tapas featuring wine pairing with squab over duck confit as one of the meals. Yum. Before dinner we stopped in for a drink next door at Village Whiskey where Keith concocted some gorgeous beverages. I called for a Picon Punch:

Prepare a highball with ice
Drizzle 1 teaspoon of Grenadine (make it yourself please) over the ice
Slowly Pour 2.5 oz of Amer Picon (Torani Amer) over the ice
Add 2 oz of sparkling water
Float 1 oz of Brandy on the top

Do not stir or mix. Sip slowly and experience the flavor change as the beverage level drops in your glass.

Let the new year begin: 1/1/11!

2 Responses to “NYE in high style (Palomar Philadelphia)”

  1. […] was good to his word. If Hotel Marlowe works this hard to earn back my business each time I stay, I’ll do […]

  2. […] scant three months and change since my first visit to the Palomar in Philly, I am back near town giving a talk at Swarthmore (in combination with Bryn Mawr and Haverford with […]

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