Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In Which I Complain More About Prices

In the aftermath of business travel are the realities of unpacking, the post-trip cold and expense reports. My head has been kinda stuffy for a few days, and I'm hoping that the vitamin C campaign I've been deploying will prevail. Generally, if I believe it'll work, it will. (SwingDaddy, using the voice of Luke Skywalker telling Princess Leia that the Force is strong in their family: "The placebo effect is strong in your family.")

Vanquishing the expense report requires no less voodoo. As much as I hate the fussy detail required in filing these and Flexible Healthcare Spending Account forms, I get a sort of sick satisfaction in successfully jumping the right hoops. I pull out my meticulously kept envelope of receipts ($3.89 bottle of water at airport inflated prices, $5.62 sandwich and juice, and later more expensive meals after arriving in New York), and tap them into the company Expense Recording System.

Although I've filled out all the little requirements, I will certainly be audited this time around because of my hotel bill. I travel enough to realize that a price of hotel room in Manhattan is not comparable to the local Motel 6 or even a Four Seasons in an average town. $300 for a night is a pretty "good" deal. However, the U.N. was in session last week (resulting in some excellent motorcades sirening downtown, as well as a coup in Thailand), inflating the prices beyond the norm, even for Times Square.

We're required to book travel through the company travel web tool and select lodgings from the pre-approved list of hotels. In fact, it's mandatory that we stay at a listed hotel – you're not supposed to stay with a friend or relative for liability reasons. So I picked a hotel where I've had good service in the past and planned on walking the eight blocks to the office. Piece of cake.

Then the price popped on the screen. $549 for a night. In some towns, you can build an apartment from scratch for that kind of money. Booking travel on the web is less expensive for the company than calling a real live person, but I made an exception for this case. I explained the situation to the call agent. She whistled.

"I booked someone into Manhattan for $750 today, but it's Fashion Week, so it's a little hectic. Let me see if I can find you a better price."

I could hear her tapping at her keyboard. Pause.

"Oh, honey. Leave it alone!"

The shock in her voice convinced me that the other hotels weren't going to be any better, and I kept the booking. Now let's see what the audit department has to say.


Suzanne said...

Wow, that's steep. Whenever I traveled for work, I worried that someone would call me on the carpet for some exorbitant charge or another --
"Room service? We don't think so. You you could have gotten dinner from a sidewalk vendor somewhere."

Mayberry said...

I just booked a trip to NYC myself for work, using the online tool. After I got to the end of the process, I received a message that said "Your trip has broken one or more rules. These broken rules will be logged!"

And that was it. An ominous warning, and then a cheery notice the next day that my travel had been ticketed. What-ev!

(PS too bad we weren't there @ the same time!)

Waya said...

SwingDaddy and my hubbie can really get along. He's a big fan of Star Wars too and has been going around saying things like "go with the dark side". I have no idea what he wants me to do with that.

And I'm like you, I just came out of a nasty cold but I didn't need to take any meds, and I'm fine. The hubbie calls me "the bull"! But now he's sick, and he's been popping "Airborne" left and right.

He travels a lot as well, and I hear about these kinds of travel woes all the time, with hotels, expenses etc...

K goose blog said...

What happened to NY hotels. We stayed at a place in the spring and were planning to stay there next month. I just checked the rates and instead of the 300 something we spent in the spring it had gone up to 750 - 1000. How is that possible... I must have missed the rack room rate. Good luck avoiding the audit. Hope things are going well.

Lady M said...

Suzanne - I get those worries too! I make up little explanations in my head - it was the only restaurant around, really!

Mayberry - It would have been great to be in NY at the same time! We'll have to plan the next visit. My friend who works at the same place you do just got married this summer, and is now telecommuting from Vermont instead of living in NYC.

Waya - Yay for more Star Wars fans! I've been doing the Emergen-C thing. I should try Airborne too.

K Goose - Did you end up find a place to stay? Rates have gone crazy.