Room 77, taking the surprise out of hotel rooms

Choosing a hotel often feels like a game of chance ... you roll the dice and hope you get what you want but unlike any other betting game, you have to travel somewhere to see if you've won or lost.

This rolling of the dice and sort of losing happened to me a couple of months ago when I made a booking at the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. At the time I booked there weren't a lot of rooms available but the details on the hotel Web site looked promising.

Alas, reality and brochures aren't always in sync; it's impressive how a wide angle lens and a low resolution photo can make a relatively dowdy room appear luxurious. So it was when we got to the room we were disappointed.

The room was, well, "tired" ... it was smaller and more cramped than the picture implied, there was a "drab" quality to the furnishings, there was no flat screen TV as in the picture, and the jack for the Internet service was hidden behind the old-fashioned tube TV which was mounted at standing eye level so the management had thoughtfully provided a tangled, eight foot Ethernet cable to connect my PC.

All of that aside, the mineral spring hot tub in the room was great, the restaurant was excellent, the staff were terrific, and the local walks were great. Even so, the accommodations seemed overpriced for what they turned out to be and the fact we expected something else amplified that disappointment.

If only I could have seen a better representation of the rooms ... which is what the service that is my focus of today delivers. The service is Room 77 (tag line: "Your key to a great room") and it claims, as of writing, to have data on 460,000 hotel rooms in 21 cities.

Being a new service, Room 77 obviously concentrates on the more popular destinations so it will be some time before it covers Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. In the meantime let's consider a hotel that I have stayed at that they include: The Westin Copley Place, Boston and room 3001.

This room is on the 30th floor and according to Room 77, you can see the Charles River (great), it is 93 feet from the elevator (excellent), it isn't a connecting room, it has a king bed, it is 472 square feet in size (nice), it's a corner room and it is non-smoking (perfect!).

This is the kind of data available for all of the covered hotels. You can select a room and find out its details or you can search the hotel for rooms that meet a specification and then see a list of rooms and how closely they match your requirements.

The user interface displays a Google-derived map of the location along with a Google Earth generated view from the room and a brief summary of the hotel as well as links for the hotel Web site, making a reservation, requesting a room, and social networking. Room 77 also includes comments collected from the concierge and hotel staff.

Room 77's business model is being developed but it will most likely involve deals with major hotels chains to enable users to book a specific room they want. The company is seed-funded ($3 million series A) and is adding hotels and rooms to its platform all the time.

The idea of providing detailed data on individual hotel rooms is fantastic; no more disappointments, no being kept awake by the elevators, no surprise when you find out that you have a view of the gasworks when you thought you would be seeing sunsets across the bay.

If only Room 77 had been around a couple of months ago and had details of Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort ...

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