Tolerable for bargain hunters A review of Seton Hotel

New York hotel prices were extremely high in November 2004, so I booked three nights at the Seton. My single room with private bath was $95/night including all taxes. Nothing else came close, even via Priceline (going by bids reported on Biddingfortravel).

The location is excellent - two blocks from Grand Central, in a residential neighborhood. The hotel has no lobby. You walk up to what looks like bullet-proof glass to speak to the receptionist. On the glass is taped a sign that says "No refunds."

The room was a reasonable size - at least by NY standards. It had been painted long ago in pale green. Furnishings - double bed, night table, wardrobe, dresser, chair - were quite shabby. The room appeared to vacuumed and dusted, but it had ancient grime on the walls, window sills and in the corners. The overall effect was grim and depressing. The bathroom (toilet and sink) was clean; there was a stall shower tucked into the bedroom in what must have been a closet at some point. The room also contained a small refrigerator, but there was no desk.

The hotel has a communal living room, which was nicer than the room. It also has a room with a microwave and a washer and dryer, which guests can use.

Various problems:

- After flushing the toilet, it was necessary each time to lift the lid of the tank and fiddle with the mechanism that acts as a stopper when the tank fills

- There were no washcloths, though I did get fresh bath towels (no hand towels) every day.

- To turn the bedside lamp on and off, it was necessary to unplug and replug it, since the switch on the lamp itself had broken off.

- Though the shower had good water pressure, it did not hold the temperature steady - the water turned too hot or too cold without warning.

- One must leave the key each time one leaves the hotel. But since there's only one person on duty, it's possible to have to wait for your key if you come back when the person is taking a break. I saw a sign saying "Back in 10 minutes" sitting on the counter behind the glass, ready for such occasions. Fortunately, there was always someone on duty when I came back to the hotel, but it was a concern that I might have a long wait.

When I first arrived, I was so dismayed by the appearance of my room that I wasn't sure I wanted to be there all three nights. But I got used to it, and by the time I left I felt that I'd stay there again in a similar situation, when other options would be close to double the price. Things that won me over:

- I never had a sense that the room was dirty; it was cleaned daily and the towels were replaced

- The staff was quite pleasant

- The other guests seemed normal (!) - for example, there was a high school sports team staying there one night.

- The room was quiet (though I did hear other guests in the hall)

- The location is terrific and I felt safe coming back late at night, as well as safe in the hotel itself

- Though the hotel doesn't provide Internet access, there's a Kinko around the corner on Third Avenue and the public library at 40th and 5th, a few blocks away, has free Internet access when it's open.

- I liked having a refrigerator

It's important to have appropriate expectations for a place like this. My room was not nearly as nice as, say, a typical Motel 6 or two-star hotel in Paris. The hotel has zero charm; it's shabby and unattractive. But if you don't plan to spend time in your room, and if you want to keep costs to a minimum, you may decide you can live with that.

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Seton Hotel
289 reviews