LA Story

Fern tree across from the hotel

Okay so some of you guys know I went to Los Angeles last week. There are more details about the gathering I attended on my other blog

American Express made it easy to get my flight using miles, but booking a hotel was an adventure. I looked and looked, using many of the usual sites and didn't feel like there was a significant difference between them. It's not as simple as it should be.

Basically, I know nothing about LA, so didn't feel like I could find a place on AirBNB and confidently know it would be convenient in terms of getting to the W Hotel in Westwood—the venue of the #140confLA event. So I tried to find a reasonably priced room in the W Hotel, which is across from the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA. (BTW, there wasn't a reasonably priced room, but I bit the bullet and booked it anyway since the event was taking place there.)

Being a little bit nervous traveling by myself because I usually have my trusty Sherpa a.k.a. husband David Horsfall with me, I wasn't sure how to get from the airport to the hotel. So I called the hotel and I asked them what was the easiest way to get there from LAX? One person at the W suggested I call Uber; another person at the W said they didn't think Uber went to the airport, and suggested a taxi, and finally the third person suggested taking a shuttle from LAX to the hotel. So I went online and found the shuttle's website was kind of broken, and trying again when I went to our storeand I was able to reserve a ticket and it looked like it was all good.

It'd been a long time since I've flown on Alaska Airlines because back when I was doing a lot of web-press printing, I frequently flew back and forth between Seattle and Portland on Alaska for press checks. (Press checks involve the designer going to the printing plant to view and supervise the quality of a project being printed.)

Over the course of maybe 10 trips from Seattle to Portland and back, I was pulled out of line and searched every flight, because as everyone knows, I look exactly like a terrorist. I wrote a letter to the president of Alaska Airlines, who said there were reasons why I was "selected" for the experience of being embarrassed and handled by people prior to every flight, but I never got an adequate explanation. So I stopped using their airline for about a decade.

Anyhow. the experience I had on Alaska Airlines was very positive this time. I was happy, and it seemed like a good omen.


The flight from Seattle to Los Angeles is about two hours and 45 minutes. Alaska checked my carry-on bag because the flight was full, so after landing, I picked up my rolling bag and headed out to the transportation area.

It turned out I'd just missed the shuttle, so I had to wait more than an hour for the next one. Drats! But I wasn't in a hurry — just tired and hot. When the shuttle finally arrived, I asked the driver if they stopped at the W Hotel, and she said yes. So I boarded and was on my way.

It took about 45 minutes to get to the W from the airport because of traffic. I walked into the lobby and the three people at the desk were (to quote Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada) "moving at a glacial pace." After 10-15 minutes, someone finally helped me. But in searching for my reservation, it wasn't to be found.

She called the "other W" hotel, in Westwood (at this point, I had no idea where I was or that there were TWO "W" hotels) and they confirmed my reservation was at the other one.

So I summoned an Uber, and within a half hour, I finally arrived at the hotel, more than three hours after I'd landed at LAX. This means it took longer for me to get from LAX to the W Hotel than it took to fly from Seattle to Los Angeles!

Hot, tired and exhausted, I checked into a room that was large enough to house a family of 4. It was freezing cold, but a pleasant change from the outside temperature. I showered, changed, then went to the lobby to meet Marsha Collier and her husband Curt. We both had looked forward to that moment, so it was amazing and great to finally meet in real life!

The #140confLA event was attended by a ton of people. At the end of the evening, I took the elevator up to my room, opened the door, and was hit with a blast of cold air.

Fiddling around with the thermostat, I was unable to adjust the temperature. I took a hot shower to warm up, but found myself shivering under the covers, even after piling the extra down pillows on top of myself for warmth.

I called the front desk around midnight and explained the situation. A nice maintenance man came up, armed with a space heater. A SPACE HEATER. In the W Hotel. I mean, was this room really worth $400?

The space heater remained on all night and throughout the morning while prior to my departure. When I got back to Seattle, I received a questionnaire from the hotel. I had some major issues, like, why doesn't the hotel have a standard recommendation for transportation for hotel guests? And why isn't the desk staff on the same page? The front desk person at the WRONG W hotel told me this mishap happens frequently. Um. Doesn't this protocol seem like something that needs to be fixed?

They took note, and the W made a gesture of peace by offering me another night there. I don't know if it will make sense to stay there the next time I go to LA, but I sure hope they get it together by then.

As my friend Reg Saddler says, it was a case of "first-world problems."
Stand of mature bamboo in the UCLA botanical gardens across from the hotel


  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    Crazy... especially the traveling from the airport to the (right) W Hotel taking longer than the actual flight from Seattle. Very glad to see you made suggestions to the W Hotel to improve customer service -- given that the mix ups about the two hotels happens often, they really should be on it. And the space heater? wow.... Well, I'm glad you saw some of your Twitter friends, AND the photos of the lobby art... beautiful. -- Lissa

    1. It was quite insane getting from the airport to the hotel. I had the impression that once a reservation is made, the rest of the trip isn't their concern. But the condition of the room IS something they should be able to control.

      Twitter friends who become real-life friends are similar to long-distance colleagues you finally have a chance to meet, but maybe even more meaningful since you can choose your friends, but can't always choose who represents your vendors.

      Love ya!

  2. Good description of the perils of flying to LA these days. Tell them to book the next conference in Hawaii and your trusty Sherpa will gladly go.

    1. Dear D,
      Hawaii would be an awesome destination but the tradition has been on one coast or the other. Who knows, though? Maybe next time?
      Love ya, me

  3. It sounds like a disaster. $400 not worse it! It sounds more like you were staying somewhere in motel haha. Happen to us when we did a road trip. Agreed with David, they should have conference in Hawaii;)

    1. Diana, I think I said somewhere (maybe on Twitter) that I've had much more positive experiences in a Holiday Inn Express. Offering the one-night voucher was nice, but it would have been completely satisfying if they'd comp'ed the room. It would have negated all of the horrible things leading up to my arrival at the hotel, and compensate for the deficiencies of the room. It's a case of penny wise, pound foolish for the loss of positive exposure they could have reaped.
      Love you and thank you for commenting!

  4. What an odyssey, Terri. Traveling is exhausting to begin with without the extra added stress of being lost and not being able to sleep because you're freezing. Sounds like the W could have their act together better. I can't imagine why they'd put you in a room with faulty air conditioning (really, a space heater?!) and it seems pretty basic that they'd mention that they have 2 hotels. Sorry to hear that you had such an unpleasant trip down there but it made for a very good post!

    1. Dear Jennifer, you really nailed it when you said "traveling is exhausting to begin with..."

      Because of a comment made by the maintenance worker, I got the impression the hotel was experiencing a systemic problem, and only responded to people who called the concierge.

      When I think of placing a take-out order at any Seattle restaurant with more than one location, invariably they confirm the location where you're placing an order. It does seem strange the hotel made no effort to avoid confusion!

      Thanks, as always, for your support, Jennifer. Lots of love, me


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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura