Recently, Frau R. and I went on vacation, and stayed in a chain hotel (not my favorite choice, but at least most chains don't operate like big-box retailers, they're independent operators signing on for branding clout). After a day or two, my dame joined us. The way things worked out, the Mrs. and I got a free room update, but my dame didn't.
When I compared the two rooms, there wasn't a lot of difference. The upgraded room was furnished a little more stylishly (I think -- I'm no expert in these things), but the basic room was actually more functional. And notably more efficient.
Two quick examples --
In my room, the loveseat was covered in leather (or a good facsimile thereof), but it was so deep as to be hard to get out of, and so plumply cushioned that it was really only an extra-wide chair -- no way you could seat two people in it. Not even skinny people. In my dame's room, its opposite number was covered in a tweedy fabric, with firmer and thinner cushions. No problems getting in. No problems getting out. No problem sitting two folks at the same time. Not even substantial folks.
In my bathroom, the complimentary toiletries were in those silly little plastic bottles, and soap cakes, and such. Nothing special, but clearly individual servings. In my dame's bath, the body scrub, shampoo and conditioner were in a permanently mounted three-reservoir dispenser. Take what you need, and as much as you need. No individual packaging (which typically costs more than the product it surrounds). No ability to take the extra soap home with you, it's true. But you have soap at your house already, right?
Anyway, it struck me -- not for the first time -- that "better", at least as our commercial culture has defined it, has nothing to do with being more functional, nor more comfortable, nor any other exogenous variable. "Better" is often defined as "more expensive", and the additional expense is often justified only on the basis that the item in question is somehow inherently "better".
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