Luxury Hotel Peeves–A Rant in Four Acts

www.whattheduck.net

I’m back and furiously trying to get the three long multimedia slide shows, one for each leg of the jet trip, done and sent off to National Geographic Expeditions so they can dupe them and send one to each passenger. It’s fun working in iMovie and iDVD when you’re totally jetlagged. It makes you feel like you are not as smart as you think you are!

In the meantime, I had a chance to bang off a rant on the plane home. It illustrates just how nasty I can get when I’m sleep deprived, but what the hell, here goes:

It’s been almost two straight months, 18 countries, and countless hotel rooms. Most of the latter in much better establishments than I’m used to staying….much, much better.

By and large, the luxe hotel experience is kinda nice (but I tried really hard not to get used to it!). However, I am stunned at how many things about some of these these places are, well, downright frustrating. Things that much cheaper hotel chains got right years ago.

I don’t want to be whiny, (but I am, ‘cuz I’m profoundly jet-lagged) but there are reasons (besides my lack of income and inherent cheapness) that I stay at regular two or three-star business hotels and not these types of places. Here’s a quick list of my luxury hotel pet peeves.

1. Playing Hide the Plug–With a few notable exceptions, many of the fancy places don’t understand that we travelers need plugs, and we need plenty of them and we need them to be accessible.

I don’t care if the table I’m sitting at in my designer-furnished room is made from rare Burmese teak smuggled out of the jungle on the backs of thousands of specially-trained army ants in the service of Sultan of Brunei and carved to its current state of exquisiteness by a band of blind eunuchs who commit ritual suicide after they finish their works of art.

If I have to crawl on my hands and knees under said exquisiteness to find one damn plug, it’s all for naught. Why don’t they get that? What we need is a power strip with universal plug receptors on the top of the main table in the room. There are a few places that do something just like that in a very tasteful way (yeah, Four Seasons in Istanbul, you go!).

But if I have to get on my hands and knees to look for electricity, I think they should charge the damn interior decorator, and not me or my client, to stay in the room. C’mon! With apologies to Richard III, “My kingdom for an outlet!”

For a look at some of my other hotel pet peeves, and a chance to add a few of your own, hit the jump!

2. I’d like to use the internet, not necessarily own it!–$37 a day for glacial internet that makes me feel like I’m back in the early 90′s using dial up AOL? Really? You really have to charge almost $40 freakin’ dollars a day for this subpar service, when my client is already paying 10 times that per day to rent the room for me? Really? You usurious bastards!

Although a number of places (mostly in China and Japan) would include free internet, a lot of other places gouge you on this, and then have terrible service just to add the “coup de grace” to the total feeling of being ripped off. Oh, Courtyard by Marriott, how I missed you!

3. Is it coffee, or liquid gold? Because the speed and rarity with which it is dispensed at breakfast might convince you that it is the latter. Yes, one thing luxe hotels have is plenty of waiters, and what that army of tuxedo-clad help does in the morning for the first 10-15 minutes that I sit at the breakfast table waiting for a freakin’ cup of Joe is beyond me, because they ain’t pouring java, that’s for sure.

Of course, if you want to make them appear, just get up with a cup in your hand looking for a coffee urn, and you get swarmed and scolded for looking for your own coffee. And then you’ll wait another 10-15 minutes before they come back, usually with some tepid excuse for coffee.

I hate to say it, but Denny’s and iHop, with their insulated pots of steaming, albeit weak, coffee plopped at your table before your fanny hits the bench seat, could teach these palace hotels and six star places a lot about the priorities of the breakfast experience.

Of course, true aficionados always get a quad latte at Pete’s or Starbucks before hitting those chain joints for solid food, a meal strategy which pretty much constitutes the piece de resistance of the road warrior breakfast experience, AFAIC. But then again, I’m from New Jersey, and as the brilliant John Gorka song says, “I don’t expect much…”

4. Did you wash my clothes, or have exact replicas made in a day? Because you just charged me more to launder my shirt and pants than I paid to buy them….

I gave up on hotel laundries decades ago, and travel with all microfiber, supplex and other fast drying, easy wash clothes that I rinse out and hang up myself (it’s a great thing to do while you’re waiting for your cards to download!).  But we were just moving too fast on this trip and there was simply no time in the evenings to do this.

So I had to throw myself on the mercy of hotel laundries. Ouch!

True, they package up your clothes intricately and present it to you in a variety of baskets and bags that make them seem like ritual offerings to royalty (“behold the royal boxer shorts, my liege, starched so stiff that they stand up by themselves, and if it please my lord, notice that we also starched and ironed your socks!”)

Yes, it’s good to be a laundry liege and not have to rinse out your own skivvies in the sink. But, you pay dearly for those momentary glimpses of what life was like in the glory days for the Windsors and the Hapsburgs….

Got a few pet hotel peeves of your own? Let’s hear ‘em.  A little whining here and there is good for the soul…whether you’re jet-lagged or not!

This entry was posted in Destinations, Ironies, Technology, Travel.

31 Comments

  1. David Haas May 7, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Bob,

    As a long time reader of your past articles and now BLOG posts I spit my OWN coffee (brewed myself in my HOME office) while reading your hilarious travel observations :)

    I agree!

    Too funny……..

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 8:09 am #

      Thanks David. I hope you didn’t do any damage! Bob

  2. Jim Green May 7, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Fantastic rant! As a frequent business traveler, I agree wholeheartedly. I’m amazed at internet charges, in fact in Cocoa Beach, the Hilton charges something like $12 for each day, but the nearby Hampton Inn (same corporate owner), the internet is free! Since a business traveler needs the internet anymore to function, the extra charge on the internet seems to me as another hidden cost.

    I have become a big fan of the Hamton Inns and Marriott Courtyards – for many reasons, but I like the fact that I can get a cup of coffee in the lobby 24/7.

    Since you didn’t have a car on this trip, you missed one of my pet peeves – charging me to park. Really?, I’m paying a significant percent of my monthly home mortgage to stay in this hotel and I have to pay an additional $15 to park my rental car?

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 8:51 am #

      Jim: I hear you on the car thing…it’s amazing!

    • mike May 8, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

      I had to pay $50 for one night parking in Chicago while staying at the hotel next to the garage. Never again….

  3. Chris May 7, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    :-) Oh, I know very well what you mean!!! I’ve sort of come up with my own theory of why these things are true. I believe a lot of people travel either on the cheap, or they want to afford themselves something nice, leaving the 3* hotels somewhere in the middle. This means the competition is high, and so they offer good extras – like free internet, while the 4-5* hotels either don’t have to care, or don’t care on the assumption that some corporate account will pick up the tab … just my theory though.
    To point 1) – the best I could come up with so far, is to charge everything humanly possible via USB, like that I only need to find one outlet for my laptop, and I can charge stuff from the computer in a pinch.
    2) haven’t found a really great solution to 2, short of staying in said 3* hotels instead … sometimes you can mooch of other hotels internet in the lobby, but it’s a hassle. Another option is to use a USB wireless internet adapter that will use the cellular network. If you use it enough, that’s cheaper too.
    3) Starbucks all the way. Starbucks also have their own instant coffees that are actually pretty good, so a few of those (they come in nice portion packs), can save the day if you can make hot water
    5) believe it or not, I’ve taken to hand-washing!!! with the right stuff, you can cope very well. Two magic ingredients: Dr Bronner liquid soap (love the peppermint one) – will do double-duty as a shower shell (no, you won’t smell like a chewing gum), and can be use for the laundry too. It’s concentrated so you don’t need much. Second key ingredient: wool stuff! thin wool socks (e.g. woolpower 200g/m^2), and wool t-shirts (e.g. icebreaker 150 g/m^2). wool is naturally anti-bacterial, so they won’t smell quickly, it also dries faster than cotton, especially if you just lay out the freshly laundred stuff between two towels, roll it up, and press the roll a bit by e.g standing on it, they will be semi-dry already, and they will dry within a few hours. Finally, instead of jeans, I take along nylon-based pants. RailRiders has a couple (e.g. backcountry khakis, rock jeans) that don’t look like you’ve just stepped out of the jungle. These are very robust, and dry very quickly without the need for ironing, and look good enough to wear around town.
    To each his own, but the above works pretty well for me …

  4. Mike Byrne May 7, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    While staying in the Philippines during 17 trips, I stayed at the serviceable hotel in Laguna instead of the luxury hotels in Makati in Manila. Medium speed internet was about $2 an hour, laundry was cheap, service was good in the hotel restaurant, but the coffee was horrible.

    I now carry the new Starbucks instant coffee and creamer packs in my carry-on bag. They take up little room, but make a really good cup of coffee when it would be impossible otherwise.

    As far as electrical outlets in hotel rooms – I agree, there is an international shortage.

  5. Renee May 7, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    Hi Bob. Welcome back! (Sorry if this entry is a dup. My system burped when I was typing it.) I am with you on the hotel pet peeves – especially the one about the outlets! Here is my latest. I just ran an event at an upscale hotel in Scottsdale for 350 people and was charged five dollars for every beverage we provided the attendees – and I am not talking alcoholic beverages – I am talking sodas, water, etc. You expect an uplift but OUCH! And they also added a daily charge for maid service. Shouldn’t that be already included – or at least optional for some special service?

  6. Rich Kennedy May 7, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Bob, I think you missed the fine print. After staying/paying for the $37 internet service for 10 days you get a free iPad! (HaHa) I’m sure you were too tired to see the offer. Great to see you are back and your posts along the way were tremendous. Rich

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

      Thanks Rich. It’s good to be back. Very few places more beautiful than Bucks County in May….cheers, Bob

  7. Jeremy May 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    Not a platinum/corporate/miles member? To the floor that was last refurbished 10 years ago, not recommended to open the curtains

    Hotel parking? $29.99, across the street $9.99

    24hr valet parking with 10 min call down? As long as you’re not leaving for a dawn shoot

    Year round swimming pool? Wetsuit may be needed

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

      Amen! BK

  8. Eric Hatch May 7, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Loved this rant. In earlier days (and another career) I’ve worked on 3 continents. Mostly, hotel managers tell you what you want to hear and deliver their usual substandard crap — at inflated prices. The art of baksheesh is worth learning! Cheaper in the long run.

    I’ve enjoyed this rant, but especially your travel pix. They’re exceptional. Thanks.

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

      Thanks Eric! Bob

  9. David Buge May 7, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Bob,
    First of all thanks for taking us along on your trip — places I’ll never get, things I’ll never see. I’ve seen them, thanks to you.

    Now, please keep quiet about the non-luxe hotels or we’ll have herds of demanding, whiny, obnoxious rich people with their nasty little children there. Let me enjoy my morning fruit cup and waffle (with free Wi-Fi,CNN, and paper) in peace.

    • Bob May 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

      David: Your secret is safe with me….and the rest of the internet! I’m with you…cheers,Bob

  10. Tom Devlin May 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    OMG – flashbacks.

    Very sadly all too true.

    Great rant – thanks.

  11. Dave Ewers May 8, 2010 at 1:34 am #

    I have some complaints about a certain hotel chain here is US.

    #2.00 for a local phonce call these days is a bit riduculus. I don’t think telephone service is that expensive.

    Having to pay for parking. I am already giving you my business.

  12. Eric Delmar May 8, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    Great rant Bob. My trick for addressing morning coffee: Caffeine pills. Seriously. I love my own coffee–worship it, actually–but I know damn well that I’ll get a poor substitute when I’m traveling. So I stock CVS caffeine, and my travel mornings are assured to be a better experience.
    And as for internet service and the variability of pricing? As it was explained to me, expensive hotels charge more for the web because they can.
    That’s it. Just plain business greed.
    Whataworld!

  13. Jim May 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    As Tom Bodet of Motel 6 would say…will leave the light on for ya.

  14. Jeffrey Chapman May 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    I just had to pay 20 Euros a day for internet access in Venice! It’s absurd and insulting. The hotel also charged extra for a bad cappuccino even though breakfast (bad as well) was included. By my last breakfast I gave up and just went out.

    I’d stay at any hotel that advertised easily-accessible, multiple outlets. I’m tired of unplugging lamps!

  15. Jason May 10, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    While I’ve not stayed in many luxury hotels, I am noticing an increased dearth of outlets everywhere we go, whether it be hotels, airports, coffee shops, or where ever. People just don’t seem to like you using their electricity! Even builders don’t install enough of them in houses anymore. Is there an outlet shortage going on we’re all unaware of? Or is it a crackdown on us portable-ites? Either way, somethings got to give…

  16. g d gustafsson May 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Just to clarify re the coffee…it’s “Peet’s” not “Pete’s”

    • Bob May 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

      Sorry GD, I was talking about this place in Knoxville (www.petescoffeshop.com). What were you talking about?:-). Bob

  17. Bernie May 11, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    I retired 10 years ago,On the road in the US I use the Red Roof when I can, the new one’s are nice,they now have free wifi,free parking even for my Class B RV.

  18. Paul May 11, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Traveled on business for years.
    I get extra free shampoo for my laundry.
    I always ask to get comped a free breakfast (what the heck, it doesn’t hurt to ask). 75% works.
    I always ask for a better room. 25% works.
    I complain about $2 telephone charges to use an 800 number and hidden charges for “services” “internet” “bar charge”. Waived fees nearly 100% of the time. [We charge it if you don't catch it].
    Hate hotel laundry, dry cleaning, food. Will cross the street for all of the above. An early morning stroll for better coffee, a bagel and fruit presents photo opportunities and a healthy lifestyle. I hate Starbucks, will look for local coffehouses. I’d choose Peet’s (SF)or Pete’s (Knoxville) any day of the week. Although, from above comment I will now add cafeine pills to the weak hotel coffee for a quick rocket launch.

  19. Jim Green May 13, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    New pet peeve, just happened this week. Now, radios in the rooms of a large hotel chain are set only to pre-selected stations. You have to select type of music/news, etc. and a pre-selected station plays. This reminded me many years agi of staying in British hotels where the radios only had four stations (BBC 1, BBC 2, etc.) Of course, the BBC had much better programing that most of the dreck on US radio anymore, but that’s a different rant.

  20. Pete Stone June 4, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Ahhhhhh Bob!
    Where do I begin……?
    Soap in the bathroom wrapped in plastic?
    Unfindable thermostat adjustments?
    Mystery light switch locations?
    Shower heads installed at the 5′ level?
    I really do wonder if hotel managers & execs ever stay in any other hotels to see how others do it?
    Another pet peeve has always been airport signage…….I mean what’s with “Arrivals” & “Departures” signage? Driving to an airport, you don’t care what the PLANES are doing….you care about what YOU’RE doing…..i.e. “Passenger Pick-up & Passenger Drop-off”!! Airport designers have never gotten this…..and probably never will.
    Pete

    • Bob June 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

      Pete: How great to hear from you….and amen to all your additions to the gripe list. Your stuff is looking younger and hipper every day—what about you? Tell me why we do this again and aren’t just starring in Wexler’s movies about old age?! ciao, Bob

  21. Bill Millios June 7, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    How about advertisements for “free continental breakfast”; so you get up in the morning to go down to the lobby, and find day-old bagels and stale danishes, with fake “juice” (does not contain real fruit juice) to wash it all down.

    Hello, McDonald’s? I’m coming your way. Egg McMuffin, please.

    • Bob June 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

      Ah, Mickey D’s cafe….I know it well. B

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