Can You Determine The Quality Of A Hotel By The Quality Of Their Pens?

Submitted for your pondering: Hotels have pens. Almost all of them do. Most of the ones I stay at put their name on their pens, hoping you will take them as constant reminders that you need to return. Often. Every time you write something.

I have a number of these pens in my house and most of my writing is fueled almost exclusively by hotel pens. I grew up that way as my Dad traveled often for work, staying at hotels and bringing back pens for his sons. But it wasn’t until recently that I noticed pens in a friend’s house and wondered, “Would I go to that hotel based on how their pens look?”  I know, I’m shallow, but that will not stop this blog post.

And thus, I submit some samples of pens. These pens are taken from my last year plus of travel and it’s highly likely that they provided me a dry, warm place to sleep for free. I doubt they ever expected me to write about their pens.

Fluffy Kitty – Home

Fluffy Kitty sure is cute, isn’t she? She doesn’t look happy, but she is. She reminds me of home and my daughter, who’s pen it is (really!). A good, quality pen that makes me smile. The pen matches the establishment.

The Plantation Inn – Maui, Hawaii

I’d have to say the Plantation Inn’s pen is the most deceiving of the lot.  The Plantation Inn is far more comfy and inviting than the pen implies. Here are some shots of my room and the grounds for comparison.

The Plantation Inn’s pen does not match the quality of the establishment. The pen is simple and useful, while the Inn is well appointed, stylish and relaxing. This match is off.

The Jupiter Hotel – Portland, Oregon

The Jupiter Hotel took an older motel and turned it into something funky. It’s stylish, it’s a hipster magnet and each room has a different mural on a wall. It’s cool. I didn’t stay in this hotel, but am hosting two photography workshops there this summer (having previously hosted a slide show and workshop on the premises in February). Jupiter’s pen is one of my favorites as it’s easy to hold and has a hip, new style that is becoming more and more duplicated. I say The Jupiter Hotel’s pen does match their establishment.

Marriott – San Francisco, California

Growing up, I held Marriott in high esteem. They always seemed like the nicer places my parents would take us. But from my last experience holding a photography workshop at the downtown Marriott in San Francisco, and then looking at the pens we received, I realize they are far more utilitarian than my dreams recall. Yes, they are decent and yes they work well. Same for the pen. But it’s cookie cutter. I know, to be expected. It just hurts to have my childhood memories dashed by a pen. This match is dead on.

The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono – Maui, Hawaii

The Old Wailuku Inn on Maui used to be an old house, as many Inns tend to be. It’s smaller, situated in a residential area and I had the good fortune of meeting a pair of guests at breakfast who used to play in the house when they were kids. This, of course, colored my experience of the establishment a fair amount. Being able to hear its history for someone other than the adoring owners was nice. It also helped that I was given the old owner’s master bedroom (to the chagrin of my travelmates). My room and experience was above the quality of their pen in this case. The pen is above average, but its writing isn’t as smooth as I’d like. Sometimes I have to shake it.

They also won me over with their tub. I love a good soak in a nice tub. And free wifi and an old writing/computer desk. And spacious comfort. I’d say the pen does not quite match the quality of this establishment, because the establishment is nicer than the pen.

Kimpton Hotels

I’m not sure where this pen came from as I’ve stayed in a number of Kimpton properties. I also might have stolen it while walking through a lobby at one point, without staying in the hotel (the Alexis Hotel in Seattle comes to mind). I also might have received it from my friend Liz who used to work for Kimpton. At any rate, the writing quality of this pen makes up for its ordinary design. It also feels good to write with and my daughter likes the color. This pen matches the company.

The Clam Cannery – Port Townsend, Washington

Oh my, the Clam Cannery takes the cake for pen and establishment matchup. The Clam Cannery is an independently owned hotel of suites along the waterfront in historic Port Townsend, Washington. The building was an old cannery and the current owners went to great lengths to make this hotel something special. From the reclaimed wood used, to the local artist touches, to the inclusion of a dozen buckets of actual clam shells from under the building to mix into the counter tops, this place is something unique and classy. Their pens are smooth and write very well. A perfect match. If you want to read more, I wrote a review of my stay and so did fellow geeky writer Pam Mandel.

Vertical Response – San Francisco, California

If you can’t stay at home, stay with a friend. In this case, Vertical Response is where my friend Liz works and she was willing to give in to my pen hoarding ways (disguised as, “Sabrina would love that pen!”). When I’m in San Francisco, her and her husband’s place is a welcome second home to me and I am always thankful when they have space available. The pen is quality and fun to use, just like…wait, no, I mean; the pen is all rubbery and has great curves. No, that’s not it. I love using this pen? Dang it! This pen is wonderful and it reminds me of many great moments spent with friends. Whew. I’m counting that as a save. The pen matches our friendship.

And there you have my totally non-scientific query of the question: Can You Determine The Quality Of A Hotel By The Quality Of Their Pens?

The results show that 6 establishments were fairly judged by the quality of their pens, while 2 were misrepresented in one manner or another. I now feel confident in ignoring all the feedback hundreds of people have written on dozens of review websites and instead simply calling a hotel and asking, “Can you please send me one of your pens so I may determine if I want to stay with you or not?”

How about you? Have you found the quality of pens is in line with the quality of the establishment 75% of the time?

16 Replies to “Can You Determine The Quality Of A Hotel By The Quality Of Their Pens?”

  1. Winger

    “Start the ball rolling?”

    Were all your pens ball-points?
    Inn-keepers: Have you no felt tips or sharpies? No fountain pens? No colored pencils? Let’s think outside the ink, people.

  2. Gray

    Great topic! I have to say, I have often wondered about expensive hotels that have cheapo pens in the room. Do they really expect us to steal them? Then they should make them stealable! (read: nicer) The Clam Cannery pen rocks. I’d definitely want to check it out based on the pen alone.

  3. Everywhereist

    I’m with Gray on this one – The Clam Cannery Pen looks awesome (if only it had a little clam decal on the top – that’s the only thing that could make it better).

    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind the trusty old Bic pens you find everywhere – but I do love that these places are spicing things up a bit (and the pen you are pretending belongs to your daughter is adorable).

    • Peter West Carey Post author

      I hear you, Geraldine. I’m fine with the Marriott pens as well, but my favorites are the Clam Cannery and Jupiter Hotel. I have another from the Maxwell Hotel here in Seattle that came with a nice notebook that I use often, but the pen has no name on it. It would be a close tie for second.

  4. Jennifer

    This is pretty hilarious. Looking at my desk, I see a Hyatt pen, Marriott pen, Hilton pen, Ritz-Carlton pen (swanky!) and a Holiday Inn Express pen. Note: I’ve never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. We have an interloper.

    • Peter West Carey Post author

      Is the RC the thin, gray one? I liked that one for a while even though it was slimmer for my clunky hands. It always wrote well. The problem with the thinner pens is they get lost easier. I really need to have my daughter clean up her room so I can remember where else I have stayed.

  5. Cailin

    I actually stayed at a hotel in London a couple weeks ago and they didn’t have pens they had mechanical pencils and I was furious!! I know some people love a good mechanical pencil but not me, I hate ’em.

    I do take pens from everywhere I visit, I also just recently found out that tourism conferences are great places to get pens too – my favorite from the London World Travel Market last November can’t find the pen to share with you the name of the company/destination/website though unfortunately. sorry.

    Definitely a hilarious post and spot on most times I find for myself 🙂

  6. Donna Hull

    My pens all have bank names on them. When my husband sees a nice fat pen when he’s doing business at a bank, he asks if he can bring it home to me. Great post, Peter.

  7. Leon White

    I agree with the Kimpton statement. I have stayed at them a few times, I still use one of the pens to this day. On the other side of that coin, I was at Sunriver Resort, the pens that they offered were recycled. While I can appreciate the gesture of being green. The pen was terrible. However the resort was great,

  8. Randy

    Great post! We just stayed at the Copley Square Hotel in Boston last week and I think their pen represents the boutique hotel well. It’s matte black and streamlined. I really liked the pen and used it all the next day during a walking tour, unfortunately, I dropped it and it broke. Guess, I’ll just have to stay again.


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