By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
Hilton and Sheraton are our favorite hotel brands. Occasionally we stay in Marriott. In 2016, Marriott bought Sheraton as part of its Starwood Hotels acquisition and the SPG Elite membership became Bonvoy. When in Abuja, I patronize Sheraton because it is secure and because I can stay for free as a perk of my elite membership. The hotel has lost its spark long ago but I like the structure a four or five star hotel gives.
Abuja Sheraton is dated on the outside and worse on the inside. The hotel showcases the Nigerian condition with peeling wall paint, cracked floor tiles, chipped ceramic lining in the bath and lavatories and peeling veneers on consoles and tables. The staff are stiff, the restaurant staff are a spectacle with their tight fitting clothes. I could see exerting forces on their suit buttons as it creates a drag on their bodies.
Yesterday, I had my breakfast, signed the bill as I had done on Tuesday, before I left for Sokoto and rushed back to wait for a guest. I got a call almost immediately and I ran to the phone from the toilet, thinking my guest made it on time. It wasn’t my friend, it was one of the waiters. The following conversation ensued.
Waiter: Good morning ma. Please you need to pay for your breakfast.
Me: I’m sorry, I am entitled to free breakfast with my stay.
Waiter: No ma, you don’t.
Me: I’m sorry, I am in the toilet, please call the reception to verify.
Waiter: I am at the reception. Please come down… Almost raising her voice.
Me: Come down? How do you mean? Are you summoning me? I will come down when I am done.
I took care of my business, and went down fuming. At the reception, I asked for the manager. She came and I narrated what happened. From her body language, I could tell she was trying too hard to be nice. She is not naturally nice. Here is what went down.
Manager: Madam, you may not be entitled to free breakfast depending on your level.
Me: I would have thought you will apologize first, take my key card and check my profile before saying a word! Well, Nigerians like to brag and throw their weight around. Here is my card, you may wish to check, as a Bonvoy, I have earned my status as Platinum for life! At this level and with what I have accrued , I can stay at any Sheraton for a while. Check!
Manager: I am sorry ma. Your breakfast could have been at the club level. Sorry ma.
Me: Madam, this is not my first time here. Each time I am in Abuja, I stay here. Yesterday, when I came in I was offered the choice of points or wine as my welcome package. I chose wine. No one told me about club level access. Since this hotel is badly managed, I had no idea I could even go to to the club and have a drink and take fruits as I do elsewhere. Look, this is the worst Sheraton in the world and I have stayed in quite a few. I am angry as hell that this hotel is run, the way Nigeria is. I am unhappy that the worst Sheraton in the world, is in Nigeria not in some country with a population of less than 10 million. You are gown down. Can’t you see it? I lodged here in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I know what obtained.
Manager: We are trying ma. You can see we are renovating.
Me: I know you are and I wish you well. I think some brains here need to be renovated along, otherwise it will be the same story. A building does not make a hotel. If you care to know, no one on this earth can make me pay that N7, 000.
Manager: No ma. We are not asking you to pay. We are a sorry ma.
Me: I will go up now and get my stuff. I’m off to Transcorp. I have had enough!
I went up, zipped my bag and called Uncle Demi to book me into Transcorp Hilton immediately! Lucy and his lovely son called to tell me they are in. I told them to stay in the lobby. I came down and I was recognized by Steven Akintayo, a Facebook friend. That was so good. He was happy to meet me, we hugged and took pictures. They printed my slip and I left for Transcorp Hilton with Lucy and her son.
I have always avoided Transcorp since its days as Nicon Noga. With Politicians and the monied class always parading the place throwing their weight around, I feel better being at Sheraton. They aren’t compatible anyway because Sheraton Abuja is 4 star and Transcorp is 5 star. The last time I stay at Transcorp was 2009. Anyway, I was welcomed warmly and taken to my well appointed room. Transcorp is contemporary in every way. I am traditional in my choices and sometimes transitional but this is one fine Contempo I can live with. It was at Transcorp that I explained what happened to Uncle Demi. He promised to let the global folks know.
Less I forget, other than breakfast, there is nothing exciting about hotel food. I ate dinner at Sheraton on Monday night after an exhausting flight into Abuja. I went for traditional buffet at first. I chose jollof rice and took some goat meat. The meat tasted as if I was eating the unwashed head of the local he-goat… Orí Òbúkọ. I spat it out and went for breaded fillet fish. I asked for water melon juice. For that misadventure, I paid N11k.
Thank to Emmanuel my couturier. He took me to Ojuelegba where I ate Àmàlà and àbùlà with shàkì and liver. I will be there this morning to eat yam Pottage. I am so done with garden omelet and mozzarella until I get back to Lagos when I can make it myself.
Some should please help take Sheraton Abuja out of its misery. It is a disgrace to the brand.