Last Sunday, my nephew offered to take me out to breakfast. He suggested a local diner that's famous for its omelets. It's also infamous for bringing you coffee in mugs with smudged lipstick stains around the rim. I suggested a nearby hotel that does a good brunch. "A hotel?" he asked, and I could sense his fear. Most people I meet are afraid of working with hotels, and rightly so. A hotel's main goal is to separate you from your money, "with pleasure." To ease client's fears I tell them to keep two things in mind when they're dealing with hotels. 1. They're in a for-profit business, and 2. it's not what they agreed to, it's what they agreed to in the contract. Make sure everything you need (and the price you're willing to pay for it) and want is written into the contract BEFORE you sign. Don't rely on the goodness of the salesperson's heart to give you a break later on. But there's a caveat, before you negotiate with a hotel there are two other things to keep in mind 1. The value of your business, and 2. the value of your business to the hotel. To me, $40,000 is a lot of money, but to a hotel it may not be worth giving me their best function space on their busiest night, and so, at the time, they may agree and enter into a contract with me, but then they may also turn around a few weeks (or months) later and bump my event for a more lucrative piece of business. Yes, signing the contract does not necessarily mean that the hotel wouldn't give you the boot, especially wedding business. Therefore, make sure your contract has a "no boot" clause or if it does have a "willing to take the boot" clause, make sure it's painful enough that they won't be so willing to give you the boot. Another important thing to keep in mind when negotiating with hotels - do not be desperate - have other options. Be willing to lose your most favored hotel or be willing to lose your shirt and/or your concessions.
So, back to Sunday. I held my nephew's hand as we walked into the hotel's lobby. It was more like leading him to death row. He only relaxed when I told him that I'll pick up the tab, and then he proceeded to eat breakfast for five people, but I had a clean coffee mug, so I was happy.