This weekend my wife and I, along with some of our close friends, traveled to the USA for our annual Christmas shopping trip at the Somerset Collection Mall.  The mall itself is a grand collection of upscale and luxury shops that can easily put a large dent in your wallet.

The mall has both a north and south side but don’t worry, you don’t actually need to walk from one side to the other; instead you take the “skywalk” which is nice, to be perfectly honest. It allows you to put your bags down for a minute and catch your breath in the midst of the shopping chaos.

You’d think when you visit a mall like this you’d top off the weekend by spending a night or two at a luxury hotel with lavish heavenly beds and exquisite dining opportunities.

You’d think that….

But we end up staying somewhere else each year.

We ended up staying at the Drury Inn & Suites in Troy, Michigan. The hotel sits alongside the I-75 Freeway and looks like your typical budget hotel/motel. Driving by, you’d think it looks ok, but that you would probably want to spend a few extra bucks to stay somewhere a bit “nicer looking.”

But here’s the thing. The Drury in Troy rocks. Not only do they hold the #1 ranking spot on Trip advisor for Troy but they also beat other hotels at  two, three or four times the cost! Screen shot 2009-12-07 at 3.00.23 PM

They do a few things right and it got me thinking.

I should add that this wasn’t our first time staying at the Drury. We’ve stayed there five years in a row now so this experience wasn’t a fluke.

I like to think of it as the “little hotel that could.”

I’m not sure how other Drury hotels compare to this one. I did a quick look on Trip Advisor and found that some don’t fare as well in the reviews. I believe the Troy, Michigan Drury has a solid system in place and it’s working for them.

Firstly,  check-in is a breeze. It’s quick and efficient and the energetic front-desk staff treat you pleasantly.

Next, you’re treated to an onslaught of freebies so intense that it almost becomes the running joke by the end of  the night.

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For example:

  • Free Calls – 1 hour of free long-distance phone calls and 15 minutes of free calls  to Canada. (It’s a great time to call your mom in Saskatoon.)
  • Free Net- The hotel is wired for free wi-fi or wired Internet access in your room. You choose. (Most hotels I’ve been to charge anywhere from $24-30 per day for Internet Access)
  • Free Booze - Three free alcoholic beverages. Yes, three. Is this the secret formula? :-)
  • Free Food – Happy Hour snacks – Friday night includes nachos & cheese, salsa, hot dogs & chilli
  • Free Work Tools – Business Center. Fax machines, computers, printers… all free of charge..
  • Free Food, again. – Hot breakfast in the morning. Eggs, waffles, sausage, biscuits, juice and coffee, absolutely free.
  • Free Parking

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Now you do need to realize that the food isn’t gourmet but it’s decent quality, and the hotel is clean, has friendly service and is a great experience.

Here’s what I took away from this.

The Drury is doing more than just giving away free stuff. They are turning your stay  into an experience. From checking in to enjoying your drinks in  buzzing & vibrant lobby, they instantly create the experience of a great pre-pre-party to start your night. It’s a little cheesy but it’s fun and when you’re with friends it’s a total blast.

The Drury is monitoring their brand within the social media. Check them out on Twitter…. not just constantly tweeting out deals but actively responding to their customers and conversing with them.

There are always going to be people who will pay more to stay somewhere else simply because it looks nicer and costs more money but the perception of cost equaling  a “better experience” or a “cheaper so it must be worse” mentality isn’t always the case.

If you’re the smaller, grungier, cheaper competitor in your field, it doesn’t mean you always need to be second best or seen as the second-rate cheaper alternative.

Be like the Drury in Troy. Do a few small things better than everyone else consistently you’ll eventually beat the big dogs.

P.S. You’re probably wondering how much this all cost us… $59.99