Our love-hate af­fair with ho­tels

What’s a sure-fire way for ho­tels to earn poor re­views?

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Ilove ho­tels. Most of the time. It should be very ob­vi­ous why you pay more than a rental apart­ment or road­side mo­tel: think plush pil­lows, great ser­vice, spot­less bath­rooms and a lux­u­ri­ous bed. But it’s not al­ways like that, is it?

Thank­fully in the last decade the con­sumer has re­gained some power: yes, the on­line re­view that is TripAd­vi­sor (and its ri­vals). Isn’t it great to have some­where to vent.

Hid­den fees and ex­tras

I’ve had to shell out ex­tra for every­thing from a daily elec­tric­ity charge in France to a den­tal kit in a four-star ho­tel in Eng­land. Back­pack­ers on the Banana Pan­cake trail will be well aware of South­east Asia’s love of charg­ing for rooms with air con­di­tion­ing. All of the above should surely be in­cluded in the rack rate right? Wrong. The ridicu­lous re­sort fee in many US ho­tels, which ‘‘cov­ers’’ ameni­ties like the com­mu­nal pool needs to be boy­cotted. Hold­ing fees or de­posits against things like the mini­bar are far less com­mon, but still out there.

Show­ers for short peo­ple only

The av­er­age hu­man height is about 160-odd cen­time­tres but it seems the av­er­age ho­tel shower strug­gles to ex­tend to 155cm. I’m ex­ag­ger­at­ing, but not much. I can’t un­der­stand why, when in­stalling a new bath­room kit, ho­tel op­er­a­tors wouldn’t try to sat­isfy all guests by al­low­ing the shower head to reach 2m.

That’s if you can get it to work

I don’t know where ho­tel com­pa­nies buy their show­ers, air con­di­tion­ing units, TVs, even kettles – but it’s not from the elec­tron­ics shop down the road. Be­cause if that were true they wouldn’t take a good 30 min­utes of trial and er­ror to fig­ure out how to turn them on and make them work.

Put a sock(et) in it

If you’re like my party of two you’re likely to be car­ry­ing around four or five pieces of elec­tronic kit: lap­top, charg­ers, kin­dle, hairdryer et al. It’s the way of the world. Ex­cept if you’re a ho­tel room de­signer and you think elec­tronic sock­ets are ugly so you hide them in silly places or just dis­re­gard them.

Six-hour win­dow of noth­ing­ness

Who wants to get up un­nec­es­sar­ily at 9am to check out be­fore 10am? No­body. The worst des­ti­na­tions for this are Aus­tralia and New Zealand. I feel like I’m de­mand­ing their first-born child just to be granted a sleep-in on hol­i­day and check­out be­fore noon. I know there will be rooms to clean (al­though it’s un­likely that all guests will be check­ing out that day) but why keep us from check­ing in un­til 4pm? It seems aw­fully le­nient to the clean­ing staff and barely lets you make the most of the ho­tel’s out­door fa­cil­i­ties in the heat of the day.

You pay for the ser­vice, but you don’t get any

If I was lazy, I’d say this comes down to the host na­tion cul­ture, with some anec­dote about fan­tas­tic ser­vice stan­dards in Asian cities and lazy, grouchy ser­vice along the Med. A cliche that is of­ten cor­rect. But sadly, you find crap ser­vice the world over. Staff who would rather be any­where else and own­ers who lost their pas­sion for the in­dus­try years ago. That be­ing said, un­like phys­i­cal prob­lems like a blocked drain it’s rather hard to con­front a man­ager or wait staff and say: ‘‘You’re in­com­pe­tent and your ser­vice is an em­bar­rass­ment’’. I can’t imag­ine that wins you favours or (shock!) an apol­ogy – which is prob­a­bly why ag­grieved guests turn into key­board war­riors on TripAd­vi­sor later. Email if you have a travel is­sue you’d like Josh Martin, a Lon­don-based travel jour­nal­ist, to write about.

Good room ser­vice is worth pay­ing for.

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