What can we learn from a really bad pizza and an absent internet connection?

You’re going to think I’m food obsessed, but anyway…… whilst we’re waiting for a resolution, it gives you a little time to think.

I’m not normally a person who’s given to ordering room service when staying in hotels. It’s expensive, for starters, and it’s rare that there isn’t at least one other option available.

I had a stopover in London a few weeks ago on my way to New York, and the lateness of the hour combined with the tiredness of my body caused me to relent. I was a staying at a well known hotel chain near Heathrow thanks to a good value, last-minute internet deal and I figured the money saved would be reasonably spent satisfying my growing hunger.

The menu looked reasonable, however given that they’ve got you over a barrel at these just-remote-enough airport hotels, it was also rather expensive. I ventured down to the restaurant area but there wasn’t any reasonably priced relief there, either. Somewhat chagrined, I reluctantly opted for the comfort of a late dinner in my room, ordering one of the hotel pizzas, which you can order to your own specifications from a limited number of ingredients.

To say the result was disappointing would be an understatement of significant proportions. At a cost of around 15 pounds, I was expecting a base overflowing with my chosen toppings. As it turned out, I had more fingers and toes on my extremities than I had bits of ham on my pizza. It was more like bread parmagiana (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is a tomato and cheese topping popular on Australian pub meals).

While I was waiting for my ‘pizza’, I thought it a good opportunity to log in and check my email. I work on the web and it’s my main method of connectivity. I can’t recall the price to connect, but given my exasperation at the price of my dinner, the sum they were asking for internet access was sufficient to make me think twice. I was only going to be awake for another two hours at most, so the thought of ploughing another double-digit sum into the hotel’s coffers wasn’t overly appealing.

My hotel in New York offered a similar deal, only this time you got to pay an exorbitant amount for your room (hey, Manhattan’s expensive) and then you can add an additional fee for a scratchy internet connection that doesn’t work if others in the hotel are also trying to access it.

Why is it that small hotels, like the one I’m typing from in Sweden right now, can offer fast internet access for free when the big hotel chains, who pride themselves on reputation and hospitality, feel empowered to charge like wounded bulls for the same service?

And what, I hear you ask, does any of this have to do with cars?

I guess you could say it’s the concept of value. The notion of meeting or even exceeding expectations.

I’m a reasonably uncomplicated person. I don’t have any airs or graces that I’m aware of. I don’t feel entitled. I have my opinions but generally speaking, I’m not pushy. I’m rarely demanding, except maybe when it comes to what I do for a living.

In the words of John Cleese: “I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!”

What I like in a car is a combination of utility, comfort, useful equipment and sportiness. I like it when the car has the ability to adapt to my needs, to my moods. I like it when I feel an affinity with the name on the steering wheel. I’m a Saab nut, and I like it when I feel like I’m part of something that’s bigger than me. (Please bear in mind that when it comes to this website, I’m an enthusiast first and an employee second – but don’t tell the boss I said that!)

With Saab, as with some of those well known hotel chains, I have a certain level of expectation. With Saab, unlike those hotel chains, I’ve never been disappointed.

I still love every Saab I’ve ever owned. My only lingering disappointment is that I don’t still have them all. I’ve taken them to track meets in the daytime and hauled trunkfulls of musical equipment in the evening and my Saabs have been equally suited to both. I’ve enjoyed fistfulls of turbocharged second-gear kickdowns with an ear-to-ear grin and I’ve relaxed like a king while my car ate up the miles on a long holiday fling.

Like hotels in Manhattan, great cars don’t come cheap in 2011. What matters is the value equation – does the car do what it’s supposed to do and more importantly, does it meet your expectations? Do you get what you’re paying for and do you get it with the requisite level of service along the way?

Yes, at Saab, our cars have options – not everything comes as standard and as with any manufacturer, a higher specification commands a premium. But we like to think that our standard performance and equipment offerings compare more than fairly against our competitors, as do our options.

I’ve always believed that we punch above our weight in the automotive industry. When I see cars like the new 9-5 on the road, I feel pretty proud to be associated with the company that designed and built it. When I drive a new Saab with one of the world’s premiere all-wheel-drive systems, I feel pretty happy that it was developed first with Saab in mind. When I see the ads here in Sweden for the most powerful low-emissions and full-sized vehicle on the market, I wonder what our engineers can do next (I had the same feeling of wonder when I first read about Saab’s history of innovation, way back when).

I love what we design and build here at Saab and after several years mixing with the broader Saab community around the world, I know I’m not the only one. Now, with a chance to observe the company up close, I can see just how much work, really dedicated and committed work, goes into this.

And it’s all with the goal of building you the best Saabs – delivering you the best cars and the best value – that we can.

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    1. the art of paralleling the pizza and car….and our consumer buyer behavior expectations…..that’s why the old just isn’t anywhere nearly as appealing as before, sure there’s news there but not with the same left of centre perspective (Soul) that made it my must read. Although I’m starting to miss fish n chips, flake in particular, a few good potato cakes, some dimmies bathed in salt ‘n vinegar wrapped in white paper from my local fish ‘n chip shop, I ‘m dealing with it, I guess we all have to, the Buddhists call it impermanence. I practice that art of non attachment everyday when I think of my old Saabs.

  1. Very nice read Steven. It’s funny because as a Sales Manager at a Saab dealership and knowing the ins and outs of sales, I feel the same way about everything in life. I need to know that in everything I do, there is value. I need to get value, but I also need to give value. I feel with Saab for instance, that I get value. Saab is very different then most companies because the people care. I am fortunate enough to work for a dealer that cares about the customer and I’m fortunate to work for a brand that cares as well. I remember when we sold our first 2011 Saab 9-5 and posting something about either on our facebook page or it might have been yours, minutes after posting there was a response from someone from the factory saying that they hoped the customer was happy and they hoped they had done a good job putting it together for us. What other company has employees following dealers, in touch with blogs? Heck, with all that’s been going on, you guys are all still hard at work and pushing on, great job SAAB!! I love what this company stands for and can’t wait for the good news. By the way, I think your employer hired you because you’re “an enthusiast first and an employee second” so no worries there. Take care Swade.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Steven, and when it comes down to finding those overachieving pizza joints or hotels, the web has become a really powerful tool of allowing the small players to compete. New marketplaces like livingsocial, Groupon, Google’s new Offers, Gilt/Jetsetter and the like allow companies who want deal savvy customers to come check them out and spread how great they are through good will and word of mouth. Sometimes I feel like Saab should promote itself like these smaller independent companies by partnering with the very same sites, get a 9-5 on Groupon for $249 a month for 2 years, lose a little money but gain a ton of exposure and get a hell of a lot of volume out of it. I think Saab marketing gurus could learn a lot from these examples, and from the spirit of your post.

  3. Whenever possible I spend my bucks at companies I like. It may cost a few more here and then but it feels much better. And since many of those are small companies they can handle my needs much better than the bigger ones who just try to satisfy the average. I’d rather cope with no room service than with bad room service.

    Whenever I meet someone from Saab it feels like family. Even when I ran into Victor at Geneva he took a minute to talk to me though he had to catch his plane. And that’s just another reason why I love this company so much.

  4. Once more an extraordinary post. Usually I’m no follower, I have no Idol I admire, I don’t believe everything from “important” people or authorities, I don’t like to take orders. I have my own opinion, but I admit, I’m dedicated to certain brands, amongst others to SAAB. I don’t know why. Is it because a 99 Turbo was my first car? Is it because you don’t see a Saab on every corner? Is it the quality? Is it the design? Really I don’t know. It’s probably a mix of everything. But what I know for sure, I don’t want to change! A car is a personal statement and my statement is, I don’t care much what others think and follow my own path. That’s why I ordered my 9-5 SC already and looking forward to the delivery, I have faith.

  5. Story telling at its best. Not unlike the intangibles in a product (like Saab) which keep us attached and coming back, fluent and genuine prose is like a fine wine or a good pizza….you just can’t get enough.

  6. I have two Saabs: a dark blue 95 2.0t, almost 8 years old, and a brand new (2011!) 93 sport estate 2.0t. in shiny red. Before that, a black 9000 cse 2.0t. I felt very much at ease in the 9000, I’m totally at home in my 95 and I enjoy every ride in the 93. Completely different cars, but yet, all three comfortably the same. Clearly all part of the same family with a very rich history. Though from a technical perspective many cars are not that different, Saab has achieved something unique. Giving warmth and character to dead stuff as metal, rubber and plastic. That’s the difference in driving an old car from one of the big German car makers and driving an old Saab. If you drive an old German car, you clearly did not have enough money to buy the latest model and you just drive … an old car; if you drive an old Saab, that’s considered character.

    1. Well said, Mikeve. I’m looking for an older Saab to use as my regular commuter here in Trollhattan and everyone that I see, I want to bring home with me.