Regus is a global provider of short-term office space, often for those who work from home or are on the road and don’t have access to their normal office. These people tend to be frequent travelers, which may explain why United and American (to my knowledge) have been providing free Regus Businessworld Gold memberships to their top-tier elite customers.
I also received a second free Gold membership due to my American Express Business Platinum Card. To the best of my knowledge there is no difference in the membership, but I can say that American Express gets props for sending the card without making me request it first. It also looks different, with a logo for their OPEN small business network.
The downside is that the phone number you call to activate the card tells you to use a web address, and the web address redirects to the Regus homepage with no further instruction. Really poor form for what is supposed to be a premium product, touted as a $600 value (it really costs about $588, since a Gold membership normally costs $49 per month for global access or $29 per month for the U.S. only).
What Does Regus Offer?
After receiving two of these Gold cards, I decided to explore whether it’s really worth almost $600 a year. My goal was to review the business lounge, since free access is the major benefit of having the Businessworld Gold membership. Is it good enough to include among the other benefits of top-tier airline status or paying for an American Express Platinum Business Card? (Other benefits include a 10% discount on meeting rooms and day offices and access to their discounted purchasing group.)
Blue membership is free and includes only the discounts. Platinum membership includes access to an office. Prices range from $249 a month for 5 days up to $599 a month for unlimited access. Platinum Plus costs about $300 more, but it really wasn’t clear why. In theory Platinum is for 5-10 days a month and Platinum Plus is for unlimited access, but both cards allow you to choose the other option. Renting an office as a Gold member costs about $80-120 for a full day.
Regus business lounges are meant to be comparable to an airline lounge, but oriented toward getting work done. Sometimes airport lounges are horrible at this. Most people come in only for an hour or two, and the computers and desks are shunted off to a corner (if there are any at all). Furniture is shabby. Food inedible.
Seattle has several locations, including three downtown, so I visited the one on the 42nd floor of Columbia Center since I figured it must have a good view. My impression was generally good, but the lounge was more similar to a large welcome lobby than an actual lounge.
Getting down to Business
There were a few chairs by the elevator, some more before the receptionist desk, and a few after it. With these were several lamps and power outlets. The furnishings were very nice, comparable to a good international business class lounge but certainly not anything like the Singapore Airlines Private Room. I felt like I was in a professional office.
But the absence of much more beyond the chairs and a few cubicles makes sense: their goal is to pull you in and convince you to pay up for a real office. If you read the terms and conditions more closely, it even implies you can be denied access if you overuse it:
The Businessworld program is intended for your temporary use of our facilities. In order to best serve you and create a professional workplace for our cardholders, we reserve the right to limit or terminate cardholder usage if we consider it to be non-compliant with any applicable terms or conditions of use.
And more specific to the use of shared and private offices, which are not free:
A Businessworld membership is not intended to be a replacement for a full time or regular office. Should you use more than ten days in a single Regus center per month we reserve the right to charge an additional usage fee.
It certainly seemed like some people were there more than 10 days a month and knew each other well, so they must have been on an unlimited plan. I was able to work well in in the lounge for about five hours without much disturbance, good WiFi, and a view of a rare sunny day overlooking Elliott Bay.
The biggest sources of distraction were the televisions (I could ask to turn them off) and ambient conversation (regular visitors knew each other and were very chatty). I didn’t mind too much as I came here specifically to get away from the silence of my apartment. Despite my concerns, no one approached me about an upsell, although it didn’t seem like they got a lot of requests to use the lounge, either.
The major benefit of a Regus lounge is that it is much, much nicer than an airport lounge or a coffee shop, my usual choice to escape from home. The downside is that it really is all about business, and you won’t find an array of beverages, snacks, and reading material
I did find a single copy of the Wall Street Journal near the elevator bank that no one bothered to read all day. On the opposite side from the lounge, there is a large kitchen with four (small) dishwashers, a refrigerator, microwave, coffee/tea machine, and two vending machines.
You are welcome to bring in outside food and drink, and there are plates and cups to serve it with. I found the staff very helpful throughout my stay making sure I was taken care of and the entire lounge was kept neat. The coffee and tea were not to my taste, but maybe I picked the wrong flavor packet for the coffee machine — a model I’d never seen before. Fortunately, there was also a Starbucks two floors down in the building’s sky lobby, and prices for the vending machines were very reasonable.
I wouldn’t pay for a Gold membership. It’s nice to have a place to go, but the lounge isn’t really a place to visit regularly as a substitute for an office. Even Starbucks or Panera has tables to work on, and this lounge didn’t unless I used one of the two cubicles. It was much quieter and the WiFi much faster, but still, five hours in a lounge chair is not good for my posture. The free membership is worth at most $100 a year to someone like me.
If you do need a workspace, I would approve of a Platinum or Platinum Plus membership. It’s pricey, but you aren’t paying for any unnecessary rooms or a storefront if your business doesn’t require it. You get the support of the on-site staff to accept packages, and there are fax machines, printers, and meeting rooms when you need them. And if you do travel a lot, you can pop in wherever you are in the world rather than setting up shop in one location.