27 September 2017

Hotels – the good, the bad and the hopeless

At heart, hoteliers really want their guests to have a pleasurable experience and a good night's sleep. (Those that don't should stop pretending to be Basil Fawlty and get another job – preferably one far removed from hospitality.) More often than not, however, they slip up on the simplest things, leaving their guests spitting with fury.

I know I've ranted about hotels before, but some things need repeating – namely that it's immediately obvious when hoteliers have never spent a night in their own hotel. They've never turned up – with luggage and a companion – and discovered all the niggly things that set your teeth on edge. They've never noticed that there's only one plug socket. They've never figured out that the huge expanse of bare wall in the room's entrance would be a really handy place to hang up your coat.

But no. Some designer or architect has convinced them that style comes before function. So you dump your coat on the bed, or hang it on the only chair in the room – despite the fact that it's a double room. Hoteliers: buy some hooks. There are some very stylish ones on the market. They don't cost a bomb.

You then check out the desk, and realise that you have to move the bloody thing to get to the room's second socket. I stayed in a hotel recently that had undergone a complete refurbishment, with all new furniture – furniture that was an inch higher than the existing sockets. This room cost £250 a night.

I've noticed a new trend in which shiny new bedside lamps come with a USB port. This is a good thing. More of this, please.

I've also noticed minibars with an insidious notice warning you that if you move anything in the bar, you will be charged for it. Even if you don't drink it. You pick it up, you pay for it. Apart from the fact that it's complete tosh, you're left with a feeling of animosity. This is a bad thing.

Hotels like to show their appreciation of their guests by leaving little treats, such as bottles of mineral water. This is a lovely touch, especially when there's a tag around the bottle saying "with our compliments". This is also a good thing. Otherwise, it's not obvious that it's free. I once witnessed a stand-up row at reception when a guest was charged for the bottle of water he thought was free. It wasn't. Bad feeling all round.

Espresso machines are a nice touch too. What's not so nice are the hotels that offer you only one free capsule before they start charging you. Stop being so stingy.

Bathrooms are another story. There's a bathroom designer somewhere rubbing his (or her, but probably his) hands with glee because everyone seems to be buying his long, flat basin with the too-short taps. Looks very sleek, but totally impractical. Water gets everywhere except where it's supposed to be. And showers without shelves are a nuisance.

And if hoteliers actually slept in their own hotel rooms, they would notice that the curtains don't meet in the middle. Or that the minimalist white blind doesn't come close to blocking out the light.

Don't even get me started on wall panels with absurdly complicated light switches. Especially when they're in bright LED lights that are right in your line of sight. In addition to clothes pegs to keep curtains closed, I now have to travel with BluTack and a piece of cardboard.

These things usually happen in four- and five-star hotels. I've stayed in the simplest little two- and three-stars that have managed to get these things right, even if the materials are on the cheap side. But as design hotels seem to be following the same uniform pattern, the same mistakes are being made.

And as far as hotel websites are concerned, those that refuse to give you any indication of rates but ask you to fill out an email form ... well, those can sod off. And there's never, ever, an excuse to put music on hotel websites. Ever.


  1. Scatter cushions really get my goat. You have to put them somewhere and I'm guessing that's mostly on the floor. The same floor that's just had your duty shoes on and the next day the house keeping put them back on the bed, next to the clean pillow.

  2. That's very true. And then they compound the misery by having two square pillows that leave a gap in the middle.

  3. As others have said, chargeable wifi or wifi that only works in the lobby. Lack of power sockets or sockets that are in inaccessible places.
    A new one last year, at XV Beacon in Boston — allegedly the US's "second-best boutique hotel", says CN Traveler — being charged a fortune for breakfast for me and my daughter, like $40 or something, in the on-site restaurant. Turns out, breakfast is not included, though they didn't tell me that when I asked where breakfast was served and they directed me in. Took my eye off the ball there!

  4. Sneaky when a hotel neglects to tell you that breakfast isn't included. And at some point I must do a blogpost on hotel breakfast rip-offs. So many to choose from.

  5. YES! I agree with all but especially that there's absolutely no excuse for music on hotel websites!

  6. No excuse whatsoever, Emma. What really makes my teeth itch is when hotel websites with music restart the soundtrack EVERY TIME YOU CLICK ON A PAGE. It's enough to make you want to bash your screen.

  7. Power sockets - we stayed in a "design" hotel where we had to put the kettle on a glass to make sure the lead reached the plug! The same hotel had nowhere to put your toiletries in the bathroom - room for a toothbrush that was all.
    Another "design" hotel chain we stayed in, their lighting was so dim (a thing throughout the hotel), you couldn't see to put on makeup etc.
    I'm not bothered about USB - they'll all be USB-C soon anyway and those lamps will be out of date and we'll all end up griping about those then.

  8. It's exactly this sort of "design" hotel that annoys me. I usually end up leaving the kettle on the floor – assuming there's a plug socket nearby. Because these design hotels have become become identikit, you'll find the same flaws everywhere.

  9. I started a similar thread on Facebook on Friday, featuring a news story about a guy who rearranged the furniture in his hotel so, for once, he could charge his phone by the bed!

    For me, one of my pet hates is small print on bathroom amenities, so you have to get back out of the shower to put your glasses on so you can work out which is shampoo / body lotion / conditioner.

  10. I spotted that but didn't have a chance to read it. Now have. Very funny. We've often moved the furniture about a bit, but not quite to that extent. ;)