Hotels are a constant source of irritation for The National's Travel Editor
On the move: top hotel hates
On a trip to the United States earlier this year, I wrote in my diary: “If I wanted to invent a money-making business where guests are constantly disturbed, abused, overcharged and played with, then kicked out, I’d open a hotel.”
Over the past two decades, I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels. For me they are usually a necessary evil, an unavoidable part of visiting and experiencing some of the world’s most incredible places. Very rarely are hotels the restful, restorative shelters they should be. I’m always optimistic, but usually leave more tired than when I checked in. There are exceptions: the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh in Cambodia earlier this month was one example. These hotels get the basics right: comfort, peace, ease of use.
The worst hotels fail to get the basics right and try to cover this up with unnecessary fluff. A beautiful room that is noisy, hot or smells of air freshener; piles of useless cushions on the bed; Wi-Fi you constantly have to log on to use. Air-conditioning that stop-starts throughout the night; no choice of pillows; glowing or flashing light panels; ineffective curtains or blinds; tea but only a coffee maker and no milk; a phone by the bed that can't be unplugged. Infantilising or smarmy staff standing around, needlessly invading your privacy. A lack of hygiene at buffets and added sugar in fruit juice and yogurt.
I am fussy, but I’m not the only one complaining. From the glorious comfort of my own bed on Sunday morning, I awoke to the end of a Twitterstorm about hotel hates. A casual comment by Tim Richards (@Aerohaveno), a travel writer based in Melbourne, started the maelstrom: “Things I am tired of in hotels. Pulling furniture around and unplugging lamps to charge things." The list was quick to grow. "Windows that can’t be opened. Unacceptable. At the very least allow it to open a limited distance. I need fresh air!”
Noise, hotel laundry services, mini-bars, a lack of sockets, pillows, slippers, multiple light sources, light pollution and poor light quality, and, most annoyingly, “no clear switch-off for the TV that is always blaring inanities when you walk in”, were some of the first comments, which soon reached more than 100. Plastic key cards that don’t work, extortionate parking charges, no iron and “only three coat hangers” in the wardrobe. Then there are shower controls: “two millimetre turns between lukewarm and boiling death.”
Most of these complaints suggest that the hotel in question has absolutely no real concern for the experience of its guests; it seems to be believed that because we are only staying temporarily we will soon forget about short kettle cords, alarm clocks going off in the middle of the night, breakfasts “dominated by sugary and processed food”, “garbage cans where the liner is so tight it’s a trampoline for trash" and “bedspreads tucked so tight you can hardly move your legs".
And that’s without even getting into the hotel services that no one tells you about until it’s too late, such as a shuttle bus or free house car.
What are your hotel hates? Get in touch @behanthere