Customers who stay at Marriott Corp. hotels prefer straight furniture legs, light walls, big bathrooms and a long telephone cord, say officials at the company.
Marriott Corp. -- the largest operator of hotels in the country, operating or franchising some 151 hotels with a room count of 67,043 -- ought to know.
The company, based in Bethesda, builds fake hotel rooms modeled on its competition, then trots customers through to find out their preferences. The company sometimes rents office space and builds fake rooms or takes a block of hotel rooms out of service and rearranges them to try them out on customers.
In a delicate psychological dance, customers are asked to rate rooms on a scale of one to nine -- one meaning the room has a totally commercial feel and nine meaning the room has a totally residential feel, said Frank Camacho, vice president of corporate marketing services.
"One of the things we found was that people want a hotel room to feel residential -- it's their home away from home," Camacho said. "You don't spend a lot of time sitting around on your bed, so they want a clearly demarked place where you go and sit down, preferably with a loveseat or coffee table."
Customers also appreciate a spacious work space, Marriott has found. "You will see the desk areas in our rooms are growing. . . . More of our rooms have a second telephone and a longer phone cord so you can pull the cord over to the desk," he said.
More rooms now have separate dressing areas, and two-room bathrooms -- one room for the bathtub and one room for everything else, he said. Remote control TV and pay TV service, including Home Box Office, are increasingly being offered.
The company has found "a lot of people really hate" modern furniture, so it sticks with a more traditional variety, Camacho said. "You'll find we have lots of Chippendale and Queen Anne touches in our decor."
Marriott is emphasizing safety features, such as special locks and smoke detectors, and also is testing electronic services that speed up check-out, he said.
"In a couple of hotels you can see your bill on the TV and actually check out on the TV," he said. "You call your bill up; if it's okay, you push 'check out,' and by the time you get downstairs, it's been printed," he said.