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Wifi, like running hot water, is becoming a utility and hotel customers expect it to be free or cheap. And with all talk about bringing in tech in check-in experience, lack of human touch there is most grating, customers say.

You want Wi-Fi in your hotel, but you don’t want to pay for it, nor do you want the amount hidden inside a “resort fee.” There are a lot of you, by the way, who are using Wi-Fi at your accommodations–about 55% of all guests, an increase from 20% in 2006.

But that’s not the only thing that’s ticking you off about hotels. In fact, you’re disappointed in the check-in/check-out process, food and beverage, hotel services and the facilities in general.

Those are the results of a J.D. Power & Associates report released Wednesday that indicates a group of grumpier-than-ever guests.

In the 2012 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, now in its 16th year, overall satisfaction dropped to 757 out of a possible 1,000 points, down 7 from 2011.

Surprisingly, it’s not the cost of the hotel that rankles customers. Compared with the fast-increasing cost of an airline ticket, the cost of a night’s lodging doesn’t upset customers, said Jessica McGregor, senior account manager in the global travel and hospitality practice for J.D. Power. Instead, it may be the longer-lasting effects of the economic downturn, she said: Hotels cut back on staff and deferred some maintenance, but as the economy has improved, staff hasn’t been restored to commensurate levels and upkeep hasn’t been addressed to the guests’ satisfaction.

So guests may have to wait longer to check in because of a reduced staff that perhaps can’t focus as much on the customer. “Having a friendly service-oriented staff helps drive the top and bottom line,” she said.

As for the Internet, it’s an irritant, especially for people who are used to getting free Wi-Fi–so much so that their satisfaction, as hotel customers, is 76 index points below the satisfaction of those who don’t have to pay for it. (The service is often free at more modestly priced hotels.) Customers also are annoyed if the connection is slow and use social media to say so, the report says.

Gripes aside, consumers like these hotel groups, which are tops in each of the seven segments of the survey: Ritz-Carlton (luxury); Omni (upper upscale); Hilton Garden Inn & SpringHill Suites (tied in upscale); Holiday Inn (midscale full service); Drury Hotels (midscale limited service); Jameson Inn (economy/budget); and Homewood Suites (extended stay). Ritz, Holiday Inn, Drury and Homewood have topped their categories at least two years in a row; Drury has been on top seven times in a row.

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Tags: jdpowers, wi-fi

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