On a chilly Friday last March, after a long day of medical appointments, my late husband and I checked into The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common, for an overnight splurge. We thought that even a short getaway at a great hotel would allow us to escape the world of illness and enjoy time together. It worked like a charm. I remember every moment, from our easy conversation over melt-in-your-mouth petit filets at dinner to snuggling in the world's most comfortable bed and getting the best night's sleep we'd had in a long time.

I love luxury. It makes me crazy that the word has become synonymous with corporate excess; that five-star hotels purpose-built for meetings have been lambasted as inappropriate for meetings. Luxury means different things to different people, but it typically brings to mind levels of comfort and service and décor that exceed what we experience in our everyday lives. What's wrong with that? Luxury, in my opinion, is one of the best ways to reward, motivate, and revitalize people.

We've all become afraid to admit that we love luxury. In part, this is fueled by the anger of many hard-working people reacting to the handsomely rewarded execs and salespeople in the financial industry. I agree that corporate greed is responsible for the economic downturn that has affected so many of us. But what's missing in the perception wars is an understanding of what motivates ordinary guests like me. We may not stay in a Ritz-Carlton often, but when we do, it's a powerful reward. Wouldn't it be great if every employee in your company had the chance to qualify for travel reward programs? There's no better way to recognize all worthy employees, not just your top producers.

I also think the public still needs to put a human face on the luxury-hotel employees at risk if hotels have to cut staff. Consider Adreene Vassell, who took her first real job at The Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort, Rose Hall, Jamaica, in 2000 as an assistant server. Nine years and many employee awards later, she's a supervisor-in-training. She is one of the main sources of support for her mother, brothers, niece, and 5-year-old daughter. At the same hotel, bellman Roderick Whyte is co-founder and chairman of The Brighter Day Foundation, which holds back-to-school drives, health fairs, and holiday parties for needy kids. What a different world it would be if the media reported their stories — and the stories of nonsales, middle- to lower-income employees at your company whose hard work earned them a stay at a fabulous hotel.