On the cards and off the rails


The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PETER MAN­DEL

THE ho­tel chain of your choice wants you to know that it is a lot like you. It may be a mass of el­e­va­tor but­tons and brass-plated trol­leys but it is also a bricks- and- mor­tar be­ing with a con­science.

The bath­room is where your ho­tel’s per­son­al­ity re­ally beams. Cheer­ful card­board pop-ups bloom next to the sink (‘‘ Did you for­get your tooth- brush?’’), a truly clean toi­let shows off its pres­ti­gious sani­tised strip, and a plac­ard near the tow­els cor­dially in­vites you to step up and save the planet.

Save the planet? Who, me? All I have to do is choose how to do it. Ask­ing for new tow­els means wast­ing power and de­ter­gent. Reusing my damp one saves all that. I am hon­oured to help. And while the cards don’t say this, I am glad to do my part to cut the ho­tel’s op­er­at­ing costs, re­duce its laun­dry room work­force and im­prove share­holder value.

I re­use my smelly tow­els for days but while the terry-cloth stays on the rails, I snag the towel cards to take home. I’ve amassed a world-class col­lec­tion. You might think they’re all just lam­i­nated lec­tures printed in bulk. But each is dif- fer­ent and dis­tinc­tive — just like ho­tels as­pire to be:

1. In­struc­tive towel cards: A good card doesn’t j ust ask ques­tions but of­fers help­ful hy­giene lessons. From a Nor­way-based cruise line: ‘‘How to wash your hands: a) wet hands with warm wa­ter; b) ap­ply a gen­er­ous amount of soap; c) rub hands to­gether for 20 sec­onds; d) rinse hands; e) dry hands with towel.’’

2. Chic towel cards: Th­ese come on qual­ity pa­per in taste­ful shades and may be cut in a cre­ative way to swing on a hook or rail. From a typ­i­cal posh ho­tel: ‘‘As part of our com­mit­ment to a clean en­vi­ron­ment, we of­fer you the choice of reusing your tow­els. If we can be of any fur­ther as­sis­tance, please con­tact our Style Depart­ment.’’

3. Bossy towel cards: Since they’ve got your at­ten­tion, why not badger you about other ways to be­come a car­ing global cit­i­zen. From a four-panel card dis­played at a bud­get chain: ‘‘Re­port noisy, leaky taps and toi­lets; fill sink basin to shave; and take short show­ers.’’

4. Eu­phemistic towel cards: This ap­proach is com­mon at grand old piles or inns. Ex­trav­a­gant phras­ing tarts up the is­sue to the point it ap­pears to have lit­tle to do with laun­dry. From a down­town ho­tel in Mel­bourne: ‘‘Wel­come to the ho­tel’s green pro­gram­ming. In the in­ter­ests of con­ser­va­tion, you may choose to re­tain any of the of­fered tow­elling by sim­ply hang­ing the items fol­low­ing your use. Thank you for your par­tic­i­pa­tion in ini­tia­tives that bet­ter serve the en­vi­ron­ment.’’

5. Para­noid towel cards: Along with the usual warn­ings about the en­vi­ron­ment, this type raises new and of­ten weird wor­ries. From Que­bec: ‘‘In or­der to keep our costs at a min­i­mum, we ex­er­cise a firm con­trol of our in­ven­tory. If you have any rea­son to be­lieve that you don’t have the right num­ber of tow­els, please ad­vise us im­me­di­ately.’’

6. Ul­tra-min­i­mal­ist towel cards: In bou­tique ho­tels, a creased towel card spoils the ef­fect of chrome- and­halo­gen decor. So the no­tice will be on a translu­cent sticker with word­ing as min­i­mal as the ho­tel. From a four-star in Lis­bon: ‘‘Tow­els on the floor mean change them.’’ Then I spot another tiny sign by the sink. I get my glasses. Al­most sheep­ishly, it re­quests: ‘‘Please don’t leave taps on un­nec­es­sar­ily.’’

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