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AN INTERNET VIP BORN EVERY MINUTE...
By Michael Matthews
October 11, 2012 -- Do you believe in dreams? If so, I may have a deal for you.

From the first installment of this column in 2004, I've preached making hotel reservations directly with the general manager's office. From the stack of E-mail I get every time I bring up the subject, I know that what I have taken to calling the Matthews Method of Hotel Booking works.

Now four dotcom types and a New York PR woman have dreamed up an Internet site that, in essence, attempts to codify and computerize the Matthews Method. It's so closely patterned on what I've been preaching for years that maybe I should charge them a licensing fee.

The site in question is called, for reasons I don't fully understand, Want Me Get Me. You must join the site to partake of the benefits, but there's no membership fee--at least for now, when the site is in what those digital types call " beta."

If the public relations patter is to be believed, Want Me Get Me has contracted with more than 200 hotels around the world. Besides a host of independent and boutique properties, the roster includes outposts of the Shangri-La, Peninsula, Fairmont, Oberoi and Montage chains. The list of properties is expected to grow in the next few months.

Want Me Get Me works like this: When planning to visit a city where Want Me Get Me has a hotel (or hotels), you book through the Want Me Get Me site at the standard rate room. Then the dream part is supposed to begin: You will get upgraded, be included on the general manager's VIP list and receive complimentary WiFi and other perks. These freebies may include free parking, wine, spa visits, breakfast, late checkout, things like that.

But even dreams have limits, of course. If your company has a corporate rate with the hotel, Want Me Get Me cannot help. You have to book through its proprietary site and pay the standard Want me Get Me rate.

Very soon, the site says, you'll be able to send Want Me Get Me your picture. When you make a reservation, your picture will then be distributed throughout the hotel and the staff supposedly will call you by name. Frankly, I think that is a stupid idea. I don't want my picture floating around a hotel and the Web. (Pay no attention to the picture at the top of the column, of course.) And I do not think that it works, either. I once tried something similar at a hotel so my staff would recognize the real VIPs when they arrived. They didn't--at least not because I had circulated the VIP's picture before s/he arrived.

Frankly, Want Me Get Me sounds a little too dreamy, but your wishes might come true if you get in early. I've spoken with a couple of general managers who really doubted the site's long-term merits. Their logic is that Want Me Get Me is something of a Catch 22. If it's successful, a participating hotel could get flooded with reservations and every guest will be eligible for the perks. But if every guest is a VIP, then no one is. If every guest gets perks, then the perks stop being special. And that puts us all back at Square One, with people who want truly VIP treatment needing a new outlet.

Of course, it's possible that Want Me Get Me won't work at all. Then four dotcom types and the PR woman won't be joining the Internet billionaire's list. And, ironically, that means they might not get VIP treatment at hotels, either.

Incidentally, the PR partner's title in the venture is Chief Curator Officer. My dictionary says "curator" is a museum administrator. I know that "curation" has a new meaning in this digital age, but I don't like my hotels to be like museums.

Meanwhile, I await your judgment on Want Me Get Me. If you try it, let me know if it's a dream come true or just another Internet nightmare.

A note to readers: I am off in Europe and cruising for the next few weeks. I will have limited Internet and E-mail access. I'll get back with you as soon as possible when I return.

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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2012 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2012 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.