Crossland Economy Studios: plumbing ever deeper circles of hell

Crossland Economy Studios has always been a mediocre chain with owners cheaper than its room rates, but it keeps finding more room at the bottom to further degrade its customers and its employees. Here’s what I was told by the evening desk clerk when I checked into the Rancho Cordova property tonight:

1) If I’m going to extend my stay, I need to be absolutely sure to do so by 11:00 am on the morning of my scheduled checkout date. This is because bean counters from Extended Stay America’s corporate offices have been cracking down on the front desk staff for allowing guests to pay for their room renewals after the 11:00 am checkout time. They’re now instructing line employees to evict guests who intend to renew their rooms but don’t have their accounts current by 11:00.

2) The entire supply of pots, pans, dishes, cups, cutlery, and coffeemakers normally kept at the front desk was gone by the time I checked in and won’t be replaced until tomorrow morning. As the desk clerk put it, “I’m all out of everything.”

Until this summer, these items were routinely stocked in guest rooms. Then some dipshit at headquarters got worked up about guests stealing cookware and ordered a conversion to stocking these items in plastic boxes behind the front desk, so that guests now have to request a box and then lug it to their rooms and unload it. Unless the front desk is all out of cookware, probably because corporate fuckheads decided to cut corners a bit tighter and underestimated the number of guests who would want to cook that night, in which case lugging the box up the stairs is a moot point because America’s Diner is Always Open (TM). Of course, this rather defeats the purpose of staying in a residential motel on the edge of the ghetto specifically in order to have an in-room stove top. If I were going to take my meals at Denny’s anyhow, I might have been able to find a better room in a better and more convenient neighborhood for the same price. Or, with luck, for less.

Extended Stay America’s executives don’t give a shit about any of this. Nothing good can be expected of a residential motel chain based in Charlotte and owned by a private equity group. One of Extended Stay’s previous private equity owners, The Blackstone Group, has established an exceptionally atrocious record as a corporate slumlord following the subprime mortgage meltdown, especially in the urban South.

This is a company that wantonly shits on its own employees, too. I’m on quite cordial terms with a number of Crossland’s desk clerks in Rancho Cordova, Springfield, and Salem. These are cool people who give a damn about customer service, know what the hell they’re doing, and do a pretty fucking good job holding the business together while shit hits the fan. They have to deal unassisted with multiple incoming phone calls and multiple guests in line because headquarters is too cheap to pay for backup clerks. They’re in the line of fire when the company’s computers overbook their properties, an especially routine occurrence in Springfield on University of Oregon game weekends. This is probably by design: the Eugene-Springfield has a tight lodging market most of the time and an extremely tight one on major U of O events weekends, offering unscrupulous innkeepers an excellent opportunity to hose the clientele and walk the really unlucky ones to Albany or Cottage Grove.

There are a few dogs on staff, but really not very many given how awful the workload and conditions can be, and turnover looks pretty low for a competent workforce employed by a company that provides last-resort housing to the down-and-out and offers a work environment that verges on worst in class. Believe me, a number of these people definitely have what it takes to get hired for equivalent positions at Hilton.

Extended Stay is at heart a bad company, but it has the indigent third or two thirds of Crossland’s customer base by the balls. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s running emergency housing rackets on social services agencies and charities. From time to time Crossland properties get overrun by people who are in such manifestly bad shape that I can hardly imagine them having the means to pay their own way. I’m unaware of this happening at other Extended Stay properties, but I don’t know for a fact that the other brands aren’t getting significant numbers of the down-and-out.

Perhaps surprisingly, there is a perfectly feasible and straightforward solution to this mess. The solution is public housing. The projects turn into nightmares like Cabrini Green only if the residents and the government allow them to turn into Cabrini Green. If the private sector is more your thing, despair not, for there are plenty of market-based, limited-government options to achieve the same level of squalor and violence in residential motels. In some cities, like Eureka, CA, the public housing is objectively better than the downmarket private rental housing and worlds better than the residential motels. In Los Angeles, the public housing and residential motel sectors maintain a stiff competition with each other to keep the poor in unspeakable squalor, although as best I can tell the private sector is winning this race in Silver Lake.

The only things standing between the American people and more public housing are the public corruption of its governments and the private corruption of its more affluent and socially climbing citizens. We’re a wicked people, but we don’t have to be wicked.

Okay, maybe we do have to be wicked. Maybe we should just admit that we’re an inherently rapacious, resentful, and fraudulent people who like to kick the poor when they’re down, and be proud of our character. That feels better, doesn’t it?

Don’t blame me. I’m not here to assuage your easily bruised nationalistic fee-fees, and I won’t be for as long as I’m living in cheap-ass residential motels where the cookware is all gone.

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