After a 19 hour trip from Washington, the Tokyo Station was a welcome sight. A quick taxi ride to Rappongi and we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. NPS is traveling with the progeny. We’ve been here before, and it is great to be back.

Taxi stand Tokyo Station

Tokyo on arrival

Checkin was smooth. We requested a Twin Club Deluxe room with an extra bed to suite three adults. Our room 1013 is on the concierge level where the club is. Super convenient for breakfast and cocktails.

1013 twin club

The bathroom is spacious and well appointed with an NPS approved shower

Omnipresent screen

1013 is a very nice room, just fine for three adults.

The elevator hallway

A late dinner at The Oak Door steakhouse was impressive indeed. One of the best steaks NPS has ever eaten. Just wow.

Porterhouse (off menu)

The sides were just as fantastic as the steak.

And then it was time for much needed sleep. Sleeping on planes in pods is a fitful and pretty much unfulfilling experience. (United Polaris remains among the best in the business for international travel).

Some tips for Japan travelers. Make sure to reserve a wifi device for your wanderings so you can connect your phone(s) through that. You can pick up your device on landing at Narita at the fourth floor post office. Then get some cash if you can. Japan is all about cash. Finally, try to get a Japan Rail Green pass before you arrive. This trip, the US Post office screwed up delivery of our passes by imposing a six week delay. That meant we had to purchase passes on arrival (still recommended, but more expensive). The US Post Office sucks.

Shibuya mural

Day one in Tokyo started kind of late due to the inevitable jet lag suffered by the progeny. We started at Shibuya station to see the famous mural, the dog statue, and the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection. We also had some soup.

Tokyo Sunglasses

Next was a walk up towards Meiji Jingu that took us by an excellent sunglasses retailer, and the pedestrian shopping streets (very different) Ometesando and Takeshita. Trifles were acquired.

Espresso on the Street

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a magical place. Any source of peace is much needed for NPS at this juncture. Shinto.

Meiji Jingu

We exited the north end of the shrine by some yellow ginkos and walked up to a small mall to share a bottle of french wine.

Samurai Museum

There was just enough time to stop in at the Samurai museum (well worth a peek) before dinner.

Sushi at Makoto Sushi was outstanding.

Then it was off on a cocktail bar crawl of sorts. Sadly Ben Fiddich was full (a reservation is a must, but the only slot we could get by phone was for 6pm, too early for us). So we found a nearby dive bar. Three bar was very professional. Nice ice. Great Negroni measured with care.

We walked from Three Bar through piss alley. Golden Gai was our final destination for the day. We visited Baobab (the first vinyl bar in Tokyo) to listen to some old funk and drink some rum. Then it was off to our final destination Le Parrain (a godfather themed, old school, very smokey bar). Great cocktails included a Jack Rose, and over sweet Old Fashioned, and a Corpse Reviver #2 or two. (Special thanks to Jacques Bezuidenhout for excellent cocktail and food data.)

Le Parrain cocktail round

Day two in Tokyo also got off to a late start, this time because two of three of us on this trip work working (hint: not NPS who is “retired“). The day was devised with some help from Patrick who has lived in Tokyo for 10 years or so. The trip began at Hinade pier where we caught a city ferry up to Asakusa pier. The trip was about 40 minutes and a fun way to get around Tokyo.

Fuji Ramen (Tokyo)

Fuji Ramen shop

Our first stop of the day was at Fuji Ramen near Senso-ji temple. Absolutely delicious ramen!

The weather was drizzly at Senso-ji, which somehow seems to fit the mood of the temple. (See more about this visit on apothecaryshed.)

Walking Tokyo

From there, we walked to Kappabashi street to see the kitchenware and plastic food.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

A taxi delivered us to the Ueno park area where we spent an hour looking at impressionist paintings from France (because what else are you supposed to look at while in Japan?) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The people at the art museum, though teeming, were absolutely silent as they looked at the famous paintings. (See up and down art on apothecaryshed.)


A short walk through the park and a quick cab ride deposited us at our last stop, Akihabara. The progeny was familiar with all of the Anime stuff. NPS simply watched in awe of the breadth of Anime culture.

We cabbed back to the hotel for a brief pit stop before an incredibly great dibber at PST Pizza Studio Tamaka (in Roppongi close to the hotel). Recommended by friends of Jacques, the pizza at PST is Italian style and absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

Our final stop before crashing and burning in the jetlag haze of day two was the Mori tower. The view of Tokyo and surrounds from 50 floors is not to be missed.

Day three started way early for a trip on the Shinkansen to Kyoto, about which see this NPS blog entry.

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Great to be back. This place is an NPS recommended home base in Tokyo.

NPS is on a 25 day adventure that includes San Francisco as a first stop. Loyal readers know that means Japantown, and Japantown these days means the Kabuki.

The lobby is a great place to hang out and get some work done. And the bar is pretty good to boot.

And there is now espresso on the property.

It was hazy in San Francisco every day due to the fires in California. In fact, the air quality was the worst on the planet on Thursday.

This trip we’re on the top floor (16) in 1602. The rooms are well appointed.


1602 has two large windows overlooking the city

The bathroom is sizable, but the room is cold. The poor heater can’t keep up with nights that drop into the upper ’40s. That means the bathroom is chilly in the morning. Fortunately, the shower door in 1602 seals pretty well and does not let tons of cold air in. But the old sliding doors (still) need to be replaced with more modern glass that insulates better.

The shower is a room of its own with two shower heads and a large bench.

Bathroom accoutrements

Of course, San Francisco is a great place to visit when it comes to food and beverages. A cocktail or two at PCH is highly recommended, especially if your friend Jacques Bezuidenhout shows up with time to spare on his visa and a bottle of Amer Picon. Much fun was had.

Dinner at State Bird Provisions is outstanding as always. Incredible flavors put together in remarkable ways. NPS just walked right in on a Tuesday night with no reservation.

For an interesting diner-like breakfast, try out Sweet Maple.

Ramen at Iza Ramen is very good indeed.

Hard water has a top notch bourbon and rye collection (though Jack Rose in DC has it beat). Hirsch 74. Sazarac 18. Stagg 11.

The Mymy cafe is a great place for breakfast. Creative delicious options and espresso that does not suck. Recommended.

Dinner at Prarie is very good, though noisy and crowded.

Skip ABV and go straight to Churchill for a nightcap. Fewer hipsters and no bullshit at the door.

Have a wine tasting at Domaine Carneros.
It helps if you know someone who is in their club. https://twitter.com/noplasticshower/status/1063957983468474369

Four showerheads, clean air, and some warmer nights for the Hotel Kabuki. We’ll be back. Next up, New Zealand!

Third time’s a charm. This year’s cocktail extravaganza was hashtagged (as always) with a tip of the hat to the Clash. (See #londonculling and #rockthecasbar entries.)

From our base at the Mondrian London, we headed out to the shard for lunch.

The food at Aquashard is remarkably good. Fuel up!

After lunch, it was off to the Alchemist. Espresso was in the cards since it was early yet.

Next we paid a visit to our friend Alessandro (and delivered greetings personally from Jacques Bezuidenhout) at Duke’s hotel bar. Simply put, Duke’s somehow makes the best martinis in the world. Better to only have one.

Plans called for a visit to the Ritz bar, but we ran into a shoe-ware issue (someone had on trainers that cost as much as a car). So fuck the Ritz. We will be back never.

No worries, the Connaught Bar manned by Micheal was incredibly great. We sat at the bar. Somehow the Connaught became our home away from home with two visits the next day during much fun was had.

We paid a visit to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits to amass a treasure trove of Amer Picon and some very old Cuban rum. Graham and insta-graham were a blast. Gin tasting occurred.

Then it was time for prophylactic ramen at Bone Daddies. Great ramen with a rock and roll vibe. Beer seemed like a good idea.

Bar Swift was our next target. Without a reservation we shlepped downstairs. After a round, our waitress took pity on us and gave us a great round booth. Then we got into the George T Stagg 2016. Wise?? Of course it was wise.

Next up was a visit to one of our all around favorites, the American Bar at the Savoy. Our barman on point at the establishment did what he could to find us some Catoctin Creek rye to use in the Red Lips Rye. He had 24 hours. Sadly, his attempt was unsuccessful, but he did put in a real effort.

We always seem to get stuck at the American Bar for 2 or 3 rounds, after which we head downstairs and transfer our tab to the Beaufort. Two of our party bowed out after the American Bar visit around 10:30.

It was left for the remaining cocktail enthusiasts to pull all of the weight. Down to the Beaufort we went. Frankly we were not impressed with this visit. Though we love the bar and past visits have been fun (if not expensive as hell), there seem to be too many Russians around for comfort these days.

Back home to the Dandelyan it was. We made it in time for fernet and a last call that seems to have involved two CR#2’s and six Liberals. These things happen!

So, after all this we somehow ended up opening a bottle of champagne at 2am on the balcony. That was a bad idea.

You would figure that we had learned our lesson, but we had not. The next afternoon after some ramen (medicinal this time) at Monohon ramen we walked over to the Zetter Townhouse for some hair of the dog.

Which naturally led us back to the Connaught Bar to see Michael again before our fancy night out.

We leave you with a recipe for a Coburg Collins
50 ml London dry gin (no 3)
20 ml lemon
15 ml simple syrup
10 ml fino sherry
2 dashes celery bitters
top up with soda water over big ice.

Back at the Buchanan, this time for “mandatory corporate fun,” and all is well.

Sadly, when we booked, our favorite room was already slated for some other obviously undeserving guest and the Tetris game of chance did not work out in our favor. So what ya gonna do?

Start out in 216 and move up as soon as possible! 216 is a ADA room, which is not that big a problem, but its shower is wimpy and sucky, and it is too close to the street and thus a bit noisy. Oh well, one night won’t kill us.

We were greeted with a much-needed amenity which we scarfed down like the hungry dogs we are.

And then, since it was pretty late, it was straight to bed.

This shower is not plastic, but it needs a better shower head and better water pressure.

Fortunately, the room switcheroobie was smooth. So one night late, we moved up to 416. That’s better. Maybe next time the dice will roll in our favor!

View from 416

Hmm, that design looks familiar.

The MUCH better shower. All praise the shower goddess.

Bathroom with stuff: still life

The Buchanan lobby is interesting too, but not as interesting as GM E mily Gick who we finally connected with this visit. Thanks for the hospitality Emily.

Buchanan lobby

Art out of focus

Either four or five showerheads for the Buchanan. See you again soon!

In other San Francisco news, Zasie is a very trendy and great place for brunch. Cocktails at Blackbird do not suck.

Hinodeya ramen just across the street from the Buchanan is very good indeed and entirely authentic.

Cocktails at P.C.H in popup xmas mode is highly recommended. After that you must close down The Irish Bank. Spent some quality time with Jacques Bezuidenhout. What a blast!


Want to be near the Pacific in a terrific city? San Francisco can do that for you.

This visit included a bug free stay at the Buchanan Hotel in Japantown where Emily G and her excellent co-workers made us feel especially welcome. Here’s how.

First, the giant tetris game that is specific hotel room request came out in our favor and we secured 416 (the best room in the property with lots of windows and a great bathroom).

Yellow roses

Yellow roses

Second, yellow roses!

Third, a mystery gift…

What's in the bag?

What’s in the bag?

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Arrival was delightful.

416 and roses

416 and roses

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit.  All good.  Plus tea!

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit. All good. Plus tea!

416 has a spacious bathroom with a glass shower. No plastic showers!!

The glass shower cube

The glass shower cube


A little rain never hurt anything. Especially in drought stricken California. The fact that the weather was perfect for the weekend was, well, perfect.

Rainy day Japantown

Rainy day Japantown


With the expert help of Jacob, Saturday’s itenerary was outstanding.

Brunch at Foreign Cinema was first. We used the show up at 10:45 and walk right in at 11 hack.

Foreign Cinema brunch

Foreign Cinema brunch

Followed by a quick last minute stint at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning market

Saturday morning market



And a trip to Lands End.

Land's End

Land’s End



Who's that?

Who’s that?



Cocktail hour was spent at the always fantastic Smuggler’s Cove for tiki, rum, and conversation. A meeting of the secret book club was held.

Smuggler's Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Smuggler’s Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Dinner was at The Progress. Super fantastic, rollicking fun time. And the food was good too!

Sunday should start with a great brunch, say at the Hillside Supper Club.

And then a trip to Napa on a gorgeous day! Domaine Carneros is a great target, especially if you have club privileges.

One of my favorite wines in the world is Old Hill from Ravenswood.

Pizza evening (due to a 2 hour wait at the sushi place we targetted) was followed by a visit to the delightful Churchhill bar. This is a low key almost dive like neighborhood place with an outstanding collection of serious booze.

In other San Francisco fun NPS gladly notes the following establishments:
lunch (every day) at cafe claude
ramen in Japantown at Waraku
fun and games with superb cocktails at Forgery
world class brunch at Plow
jacques incredible cocktails in a relaxed and gorgeous room at Wildhawk
outstanding food at rich table

About which these twitterz:

Thursday madness was particularly fun this iteration.

Five showerheads with a wink and a nod for the Buchanan where everything went as planned.

Lafayette, CA is tucked away in the hills behind Berkeley, CA, through the tunnel and into an HO Railroad time warp. This cute little town is a classic Bay area amalgam of chic and blue collar in only the way that California can be. Lafayette Park fancies itself an upscale destination resort designed like a French Châteaux. In reality it is more like a local wedding location just off the highway next to a row of car detailing places.

All decked out for Santa

All decked out for Santa

Lafayette Park is part of the family-owned Woodside hotel group that includes the Plaza Hotel in Monterey. Frankly, the Plaza Hotel is a notch or three farther up the food chain (and we’re not just saying this because we were in the Presidential Suite last time we were there). That said, Lafayette has a few things going for it and a few things to fix.

For example, the food is remarkably good for hotel food. But the meeting rooms are dated and stuffy. The staff is gracious and well trained. But the same staff has a hard time going off script (as an example, try having the front desk deal with your car valet because the valet line is four deep and there is no time. No really, I am going to want you to do that.) The common rooms have interesting design. But the bathrooms (even in the superior class rooms) need serious redesign.

So it’s hit and miss.

NPS was assigned 354 (not the Presidential Suite sadly). The room has a fantastic ceiling and a real wood burning fireplace (sans wood of course since this is California but rather stocked with a walmart grade fire log?!). But (there it is again that proverbial “but”) who decided to keep the circa 1974 mirrored closet. At least the hangers are real hangers (but you can see on the pole back to the time when they were not).

Excellent ceiling

Excellent ceiling

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

A solid wooden writing table

A solid wooden writing table

But really, WTF?!

But really, WTF?!

The real drawback as far as this blog and its particular hangups goes is the bathroom design. Just start over.



So much tile ruined by obesity bar

So much tile ruined by obesity bar

Why all hotel bathrooms in properties grasping to be upscale still have shower curtains over bathtubs is beyond us here at NPS. We travel for glass showers.

Apparently somebody got some kind of memo WRT NPS arrival, because there was fruit and san pellegrino. Whoever brought this stuff up forgot to remove the default “upsell water” (an NPS pet peeve) and management seems to have overlooked the idea of writing a note. Oh well. So close and so “but.”

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch



One last quibble or two and we’ll shut up. Outlets by the bed. Get some. Delete the clock radio from a previous decade. And conjur up some espresso to avoid the 5am walk to Starbucks just down the street (past all those car detailing places and Ace hardware).

All in all Lafayette Park earns four showerheads and best wishes for “but”-eradication. I guess we get surly when we travel during no fly noël. Can’t be helped.

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

The cocktail scene in Lafayette was surprisingly decent. After dinner at Postino one evening, we went around the corner to The Cooperage for a cocktail or two.

We were ably served by Ryan Wehrenberg who played along nicely with our gin range shenanigans.

Ryan also happens to be a local distillery rep for Bay Area Distilling company.

He mixed us up a cocktail called the chimneysweep which was interesting but not quite ready for prime time.

1.5 oz vodka
.5 oz orgeat
.5 oz lo-fi gentian amer
.5 oz fernet
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter girl orange bitters
dash activated charcoal
shake. double strain into glass atomized with laphroig

The drink looked better than it tasted.

Back at the Lafayette Park hotel bar, we proceeded to get into the William Larue Weller (2016 edition)

The next evening we shlepped into San Fran for a business meeting at Forgery. They still have the bottle of Amer Picon that NPS dropped there before opening night.

We were served by a delightful server who dutifully made us a Liberal and then moved on to this “so darn close” cocktail Experiment Fifty-seven

.75 oz tio pepe palomino fino sherry
.5 oz amer picon
.25 oz agave syrup
1 oz partida añejo
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter truth grapefruit
shake. serve up with lemon peel.

The concensus at our table was that the grapefruit bitters were overkill. Anyway, we’ll play with that one back at Coal Stove Sink Bar.

And guess who showed up? Our great friend Jacques Bezuidenhout himself. What a delight. And CONGRATULATIONS!

NPS loves San Francisco, and so did Bill Kimpton.

Morning view from 2007

Morning view from 2007

One super tragic side effect of the IHG buyout of Kimpton was a major defection of San Francisco properties from the chain. There are now two (count ’em two) Kimpton properties in town. There used to be twelve. And the whole thing fell apart over worker’s rights, which given the superior way Kimpton manages its people is terrible and ironic.

You know how we feel about Kimpton on this blog. We’re cheerleaders for the most part. (Oh sure, we get snarky when we have to, but that is how hotels improve.) Sadly, our loyalty is being tested in San Francisco. In fact, it was overtested all week.

The fact that we do have a Kimpton room at all during this week is nice (thanks to Mike Defrino’s major string pulling which we hugely appreciate), but what would be nicer is an upscale property and some adult supervision. There are elements of Kimpton design here at the Sir. D, but more needs doing (especially bathroom-wise). And real management/staff issues are clear after a few days on the property. I miss the SF Palomar. (A couple of visits to Mr Means at Dirty Habit made the pining worse.)

A last minute change in reservations due to rampant bday shenanigans was necessary, and it was not easy. But it got done. I flew into town late.

Check out this beautiful amenity

Check out this beautiful amenity

Having a mystery cocktail (??!) with some fancy fruit and cheese is a nice welcome.


When you drink this mysterious elixer you may forget about the shower situation

When you drink this mysterious elixer you may forget about the shower situation

And the view at night is very much city in all directions from the 20th on a hill

And the view at night is very much city in all directions from the 20th on a hill

Kimpton style

Kimpton style

Sitting room 2007 suite

Sitting room 2007 suite

2007 has plenty of light and is nicely if not slightly shabbily appointed. All of the tables need to be replaced.

Table for work

Table for work

desk nook

desk nook

The sleeping part of the suite is a standard-issue room with a tiny bathroom that needs some more updating. The old tub is nice. What about a solid glass door on top of that? Nothing gets us quite as riled up here at NPS as a shower curtain! Down with shower curtains!!

This shower. No no no.

This shower. No no no.

Bedroom style

Bedroom style

2007 bed

2007 bed

NPS was already surly from the not-quite-up-to-par ride on Virgin America. We were dehydrated and there was no sparking water—anywhere—in the entire hotel.

For the record, we’re still dehydrated this morning. So we’re talking a very low three shower head situation for Sir D. Which, while average, is a low mark indeed for a Kimpton property. If anything the rating went down instead of up as the week progressed. The difference in management between the Sir D approach and many other properties is like night and day. There is much learning to do here by the staff.

Eventually (thanks to Lauren) the water memo arrived and a case of water appeared. Which was nice. But typical for this property there was no note or joke or apology or anything human from management in the room, just a plastic shrink-wrapped case of water plonked unceremoniously on the beaten up table.

To pile on the management misery, attempts to raise anyone downstairs in the lobby Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful for over an hour. I must have called 5 times with well over 100 collective rings. After corporate/social media read the deriding tweets, a surly front desker called up too late to get the things done that needed doing before it was out for the evening. Excuses won’t do it you guys. Inner circle guest expect better service. And for the record, it is YOUR damn fault you did not answer the phone, not mine.

While we’re complaining, we should also note for the record that the starlight lounge plays bass heavy music late into the evening. If the young ‘un thump bothers you, do not stay on the 20th floor.

So lets review.

Did a guest reserve a car to the airport? Let us know that actually happened.

Did someone call down to the desk from an expensive suite? Answer the damn phone.

There was no sparking water in the hotel one evening? Send someone out to get some NOW. Deliver it.

Did a guest turn 50? Apparently not at this property. Hell, even the restaurants figured this one out.

The final straw for the Sir D in my book is location, which in terms of my standard SF week is too far off the beaten path. I sure hope Kimpton finds an upscale property in SF soon. This one is off the list.

On a lighter and more fun note, here is other useful data about the SF trip, and its many delightful times:

  • Breakfast at Mels’ Diner is always great. Long line today during RSA week.
  • Lunch near the Moscone must always be Fang
  • Need to host an event? NPS recommends Forgery
  • Late night dinner at Bouche
  • Lunch at Cafe Claude is always fantastic (but guard your food)
  • Coffee and conversation go together at Cafe de la presse
  • Annabell’s is no longer, but Keystone is nice
  • Perbacco remains a superior location for getting some business done over lunch
  • Dirty Habit rules and Brian Means is at the top of his cocktail game.
  • Might as well skip the Sip Bar if the Hancock room in the back is occupied.
  • State Bird Provisions is super fantastic.

This just in. The cocktail mystery solved. The drink is La Perla designed by Jacques Bezuidenhout himself
1.5 oz Partida resposado tequila
.75 oz manzanilla Sherry
.75 oz pear liqueur
Stir/ coupe/ lemon peel

The Ten Year Itch by Brian Means
2 oz bourbon (henry mckenna 10 yr – 100 proof)
.5 oz kalani coconut
.5 oz orgeat
.75 lemon
1/2 egg white
dry shake ingredients, then wet shake, strain into coupe, garnish with peychaud’s

And now we close by looking down on the Westin…

Beautiful San Francisco

Beautiful San Francisco

Jacques Bezuidenhout’s fantastic new project is not yet open to the public, but when it is, it is going to be excellent. As a first stop on Thursday madness, a visit to the newly renovated space fit the bill perfectly. Such a Forgery!

What? No ice machines or bar sink plumbing yet? That’s OK. Tequila cheekies may be better than a fancy cocktail as starter fuel anyway.

A highly documented moment.

Not a selfie

Not a selfie

Forgery is beautiful inside. Here is a little eye appetizer.

Stocking underway

Stocking underway

One day this will be packed with excellent spirits

One day this will be packed with excellent spirits

Of course the real beauty of Forgery will be cocktail excellence. Another great reason to visit San Francisco more often.

Thursday madness moved on to excellent sazaracs at the Boxing Room with some oysters, fried chicken, and gumbo. Wash it all down with some very good bottles of wine and then liftoff. Rolling blackouts may have occurred (we’ll never tell), a phenomenon enhanced by a visit to Smugglers Cove.

When properly motivated, NPS is about as loyal a traveller you could get. Note that this behavior is less motivated by rewards than it is by habit. NPS knows what it likes in a service company and it knows where to go to get it (and where to avoid going to not get it…hah parse that). Once we find what we like at NPS, we go over and over again back to the well.

But when things go south in a loyalty relationship, NPS does not shy from corrective action. Just trawl the United airline entries here and see what we mean. After 1,590,963 miles on United (ten years as a 100K flyer), Jeff Smisek’s terrible operational leadership finally squandered and squeezed every iota of loyalty out of NPS. So what did we do? We pledged to fly any other airline possible in 2015. And we’re doing it (thanks Virgin America! Jet Blue! Delta! American!). For the record, Virgin America seems a bit surprised by just what a business traveller firehose of cash looks like!

NPS is run by capitalists—the kind of capitalists who remember who has the money, who is paying for the service, and how capitalism is supposed to work. Woe to the business that forgets this, because at NPS we mostly vote with our hard cash (oh and we tweet sometimes too).

Loyalty programs are a nice perquisite of abundant travel, but as mentioned above, NPS never choses a hotel chain, airline, or rental car organization for its loyalty program. Accumulating frequent whatever status is just a side effect of habit.

Given all this, it is high irony indeed when a theoretical “reward” associated with a loyalty program screws things up in a loyalty relationship. Consider Hertz. NPS chooses to rent only from Hertz because price differential in rental cars is completely arbitrary and, most important of all, remembering which flavor of car you have rented takes cycles we don’t have to spare. If we have a rental car reserved for a trip, we don’t want to dig around in our stuff trying to remember which company it is. So it’s Hertz for NPS.

A side effect of always renting Hertz is membership in the super gold plus “presidential circle” which as far as we can tell is utterly meaningless, oh, and accidental accumulation of points. Recently NPS looked into the points reward thing to get a bunch of cars lined up for the #collegeandthearts tour. Multiple free cars on multiple legs is great and makes us feel good! But wait, you wanted a convertible to take one way from LA to San Fran up the Pacific coast with your son? Well that will cost you more! You see your “free” reward involves a generic car type that you don’t rent by default. Talk about squandering loyalty capital, Hertz did it in spades! To make $300 in short term revenue Hertz chose to made NPS unhappy, crumpled up all the loyalty and threw it in the trash can by the door. That tradeoff is just ridiculous if you think about it. So, yes, NPS will spend the $300 bucks, but we may also switch our business cash spending hose to Avis.

Instead of “stickiness” the Hertz loyalty reward has led to brand “slipperiness.” FAIL.

What prompted this tirade was some Kimpton behavior that NPS does not approve of involving its loyalty program. Read the entries here and you will see that Kimpton has NPS right where it wants us. We love Kimpton. If we are in a city with a Kimpton, we thank our lucky stars and stay there. But do we do it for the inner circle status or the rewards? Nope. We do it because we abhor plastic showers, terrible hamster cage room design, and Disney-world-Walmart-shooper consumers (in precisely that order). Plus over the years we have come to know many Kimpton GMs and executives and we are pleased to count them as friends (I’m talking to you Joe Capalbo, Steph Vogel, Jacques Bezuidenhout, Brian Means, Chris Smith, Matt Hurlburt, and Mike DeFrino! You guys rock.)

In fact, back when the Kimpton loyalty program first started, NPS provided lots of advice to the setter uppers, most of which was operationalized. A compliment/complaint to Mike DeFrino long long ago regarding training 14 properties about NPS habits one at a time (and its relationship to arbitrary leadership from different GMs) was met with a fantastic solution. NPS was inner circle back before there was such a thing, and watching Kimpton build such a strong chain and associated brand has been a joy.

Then there is the rewards system, which should be icing on the cake, but somehow misses the mark. Just for the sake of repetition, we stay at Kimpton to see our friends and avoid plastic showers. So when we get a reward night at a new property what would we expect? Certainly not a plastic shower. NPS is not in it for the free night, heck, we have plenty of money. We’re in it for other reasons. A generic rewards program that ignores that fact does so at its peril. Give us a free room with a plastic shower and watch us become upset.

A quick aside on social media is worth a few words. Part of Kimpton’s brand strength comes from decent use of social media. But Kimpton needs to make sure to engage just as well with the hard lessons of dissatisfaction as they do with happy happy back slapping bonhomie of people who don’t travel much. NPS will aim its pea shooter in whatever direction it pleases and hopefully make the world a better place for spoiled travelers in some way. Better pay attention!

What does NPS do when unhappy? Is this all about social media and rampant complaining? No not really. NPS votes with cash when push comes to shove. So brand managers, here is a lesson for you: do NOT let your rewards system squander so much loyalty capital that you cut yourself off from the cash flow river.

The good news is Kimpton has a store of plenty of loyalty left in the lake, so there is no danger of NPS jumping ship anytime soon.

OK enough of that. Dismount.

Now on to College and the Arts hotel number 2, the Palomar in LA that got all this thinking started. NPS has sent spies here, but we have never been here ourselves. Usually, a first visit to a new property is a joy. This time, not so much.

Do tell, we hear you saying…

Wine hour in the packed lobby

Wine hour in the packed lobby

We arrived from the arts part of the day (at the LACMA) right at wine hour. Optimal! Free wine is a great Kimpton perq. The lobby was abuzz and there was even a DJ and a long line to check in.

At the front desk they told us we had been “upgraded” to a special room. But if room 1020 is superior, this property needs some work. You see, we have stayed at many a Palomar over the years and we expect way better than a gussied up hamster cage with a plastic shower. Yes, Kimpton, you have created a monster. Please just do your homework before we get there.

1020 at the Palomar Los Angeles is supposedly an upgrade?!

1020 at the Palomar Los Angeles is supposedly an upgrade?!

Anyway, our reaction to 1020 is “this sucks,” which frankly is not the reaction Kimpton is probably looking for what they dole out a loyalty reward?!

A plastic shower at Kimpton's Palomar in Los Angeles

A plastic shower at Kimpton’s Palomar in Los Angeles

As NPS readers know, we spend endless hours avoiding plastic showers. The worst variety is the kind with the bent out obesity-friendly shower curtain bar designed for Walmart shoppers. Here’s a picture of what we can’t stand.

PLASTIC SHOWER. Look at that light shine off the curtain.

PLASTIC SHOWER. Look at that light shine off the curtain.

So we called down and let the front desk know about the plastic shower thing. They were stymied because all of the glass showercube rooms were taken. BUT I MADE THIS RESERVATION MONTHS AGO IN 2014!!! Here’s the deal with loyalty. Track us all you want, but read the dang computer file and do some planning. Assign someone to read the blogs of inner circle people before they show up at your property and see what makes them tick. Free? Not us. Glass shower? That would be it.

We did say when we called down and had a chat about the room that they would hear about it. And so we took to the twitterz where we were met with cricket chirps and resounding silence from the crack Kimpton social media team who seems to have been on break for 14 hours. That meant we needed to find the GM, which we are doing in a different thread.

We’re looking forward to a chat with Rob Hannigan who has been ultra responsive so far. NPS is confident that things will resolve nicely because Kimpton is about the best there is.

Oh, and the water was still. So we went and bought some San Pellegrino ourselves when we joined friends in Topanga for dinner.

A Kimpton all time low two showerheads and an upbraiding for the Palomar in Los Angeles on this trip. You can do better Kimpton.

1020 a room with a view (and a plastic shower) at Palomar LA

1020 a room with a view (and a plastic shower) at Palomar LA

We arrived in San Francisco on a rainy day, delayed three hours so that rush hour was in full swing. 101 was a parking lot. Blerg!

Fresh flowers in room 902

Fresh flowers in room 902

But then we arrived at the Palomar. Palpable relief! Ah. The new lobby is done and it is gorgeous. The front staff had been briefed and greeted us by name. It was all like getting home out of the rain. Chris Smith is running a tight ship.

Sadly, it was all so exciting and rainy that my Bose headphone set never made it out of the back of the cab. But never fear, Bryan was all over it and fixed the problem by magic behind the scenes. Fantastic. Thanks Bryan.

Headphones found

Headphones found

Room 902 is great. Nice roomy space with no plastic in sight in the bathroom. We were greeted with a personal note, fresh flowers (!), and some cheese. Thank you Sara.

Welcome to 902

Welcome to 902

902 sitting room

902 sitting room

902 bedroom

902 bedroom

902 bathroom

902 bathroom

This shower is not plastic

This shower is not plastic

Not only were the fresh flowers special. The standard Kimpton special touches were also around.

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

In other SF news, the Crustacean restaurant is OK. Over-rated, but decent. On the other hand, hard water has one of the best “weaponized grain” storage facilities in all of SF. We had flights of Pappy, we had Hirsch 16, we had many antique collection bourbons. Just wow. Our server Erin Rose was knowledgeable and really fun.

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Not to be outdone, master barman Brian Means of Dirty Habit had a custom cocktail created and sent up to the room while we were out doing our job. Awesome way to wind down after a conference day.

Without further ado, the B-String:
1.5 oz Pierre Ferronal Cognac
.75 oz East India Sherry
.5 oz Banana liqueur
2 dashes All Spice Bitters

Properly warmed up by the pre-game show, we headed downstairs for dinner and lots of great cocktails at Dirty Habit. Cool new space. Excellent cocktails as always. Mr. Means is still on the sherry roll. Good thing the room was only upstairs!

We even had some of this.  Whatever it is!

We even had some of this. Whatever it is!

Thursday night fun was spearheaded by Jacques Bezuidenhout and joined by a motley crew of affiliated pranksters. We started with a trip to the Anchor Steam brewery christmas party. The anchor steam people also have a distillery with an upstairs patio bar. Lots of great rums including the Blue Penny brand and No 3 gin. Cocktail people are really fun to party with.

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Jacques stepped into his natural element behind the bar and crafted a gin and tonic after the extensive rum tasting.

Jacques makes a G&T

Jacques makes a G&T



Then it was off to Tommy’s for a late rendez-vous with the dinner crew. Tommy’s is just fantastic. Warm, friendly, tequia, what more do you want? We were briefly joined by AT from Partida.

Dinner a deserted Aziza was very good indeed. We had the place mostly to ourselves. Food was great.

Then a dive bar for Fernet and a bleary-eyed walk across the street to have a last Liberal. Somehow we misplaced an unused Friday completely.

Five showerheads and an alcohol-soaked cleaning rag for this trip to the SF Palomar. Fantastic.