Bring me a wigwam, please
LAST weekend’s Departure Lounge (‘‘Hotels need to lighten up’’) has provoked a flurry of emails from readers who share mydark thoughts about not being able to read in guestrooms as bedside lighting is too dim or poorly positioned or to work out which switch does what in high-tech chambers at so-called hip hotels.
Duvets are a real issue, it appears. Too hot is the verdict. Often plonked on without a top sheet is another complaint. ‘‘Bring back blankets!’’ is the pitiful cry in the tossing-and-turning wilderness.
Why doesn’t the obsession to provide best-quality Egyptian cotton bedding extend to equally superior pillows? Cheap cloth ones are far too commonly in place. At a guesthouse with five-star pretensions in the NSW Hunter Valley, I saw a pillow menu, rang reception for a goosedown variety and was told, quite snappily, that such luxuries needed to be booked. ‘‘We only have one, you know,’’ declared the front office manager, as if I had wanted the company helicopter on short notice.
Readers tell me they need irons and boards and, most of all, kettles. While half the hotels I visit have Nespresso machines the size of rabbit hutches and designer teabags made from hand-pulled herbs, just as many (mostly in Europe, it has to be said) can’t be bothered giving you the makings of anything. They want you to ring for room service, pay for the cuppa and tip the butler so he doesn’t ‘‘accidentally’’ spill boiling water on your toes.
I am not keen on centralised service, either, a trademark of chains such as WHotels and Hilton. Here is what I wrote in January 2006, while reviewing the then just-revamped Hilton Sydney: ‘‘The centralised Magic button on my hyper-phone is about as annoying as that Whatever, Whenever stuff they carry on with at W Hotels. I just want someone to say hello and not to pretend they are a magician or a ‘guest request manager’ and not to ask me if I would like to order food when I request room service. ‘No, I would like to order a child’s paddling pool, a stuffed giraffe and a wigwam,’ is what I long to reply. My message light blinks for two days but I am repeatedly told no one has called. One of the staff tells me Magic stands for ‘managing all guests’ incoming calls’, which somehow makes it worse.’’
Seven years on and still I am foiled by all this technotwaddle, which is increasingly installed in the name of five-star opulence but is so damned complicated some hotels have to employ ‘‘technology butlers’’.
But luxury 21st-century style is much more to do with being cocooned, with being made to feel all reasonable requests will be considered. In our busy lives, we want hotels to mother us and if not exactly tuck us in, then make us feel nursery-safe and properly cared for.
At one European city pile last year, I was offered Horlicks and a 15-minute head massage as I stumbled in at 9pm after a long flight. An hour later, I had bathed and was in bed with shiny lights and a television remote controller that worked on the very first try. Heaven.