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When it comes to hotels, I have simple tastes. As long as the bed is comfortable, the room is clean, the shower works, and the WiFi connects then I'm happy. When I am paying myself, I never opt for top-of-the-line hotels with top-of-the-line prices. After all, how long do you spend in your room (when you are not asleep) anyway? I'd rather stay in a cheaper hotel and spend the saved money on eating out somewhere nicer.
But Breakfast Bytes spends what probably adds up to several weeks per year in hotels. So here are my top ten (or would that be bottom ten) peeves about hotels. First world prblems, I know.
There have been a lot of amusing articles I've read recently about lights in hotels (this one in the Financial Times is particularly good). As hotels modernize their rooms, they seem to like to put in more and more complex lighting systems. It becomes increasingly hard to find the switches you need, especially when you want to turn all the lights out to go to sleep. But a bigger problem is when you wake up and want to turn something on. There are often half-a-dozen switches beside the bed and no way to know which one is going to turn on a discreet light to go to the bathroom without waking up completely, and which is a master switch that will light up the room like an operating theater. Memo to hotels: People sleep in the dark so they can't see the switches. Even if you can get a light on so you can see the switches, you can't actually read the labels. Second memo to hotels: people do not sleep with their glasses on. I don't wear them, but third memo to hotels: often people with contact lenses need to turn a light on to put them in. Fourth memo to hotels: if I have to turn on the flashlight on my phone to operate the room, you have failed.
You don't see this in the US, but overseas (especially in Asia) it is necessary to put the room key card in a slot by the door to activate the lights and air-conditioning. I find this annoying since usually it means that at least once I'll forget to take the card with me and need to go to the front desk to get a duplicate card. But I understand in this eco-green age why they do it. The good systems only operate the air conditioning and, perhaps, the lights (although they don't use much electricity, especially with modern bulbs). But the bad ones turn off all the outlets too. So if you leave your computer to charge the battery, or if you leave your computer downloading your email while you go for dinner, you will be disappointed to find that neither has happened. The power went out, and your computer went into sleep mode. Or, worst case, the final few percent of your battery was drained instead of being charged. Memo to hotels: if you have a system like this, make sure it leaves the outlets on (or at least the outlets at the desk) even when the card is not in the slot. My solution: I put one of my business cards in the slot and forget about the whole thing.
Just as nobody ever complained that there are too many outlets in their kitchen at home, nobody ever complained that there are too many outlets in a hotel room. This is especially bad in older hotels. I have been in hotels where there is not even an outlet at the desk. I usually charge my phone overnight, and use it as an alarm, so I need an outlet near the bed too. Memo to hotels: if I have to start unplugging lights to charge my computer or phone, then you have failed.
Often there is a digital alarm clock. Often it is set to the wrong time since the maid doesn't seem to look, or we went onto daylight saving three weeks ago. The reason it is set to the wrong time is that the clock is impossible to use and trying to set the alarm is just as likely to change the time. In the smartphone era, I use that. But that doesn't mean that the previous room occupant didn't set the alarm anyway, meaning that at 3am suddenly I get awakened to a very loud radio program in Japanese. On the opposite side of the bed from where I am sleeping. And then I can't find a way to turn it off. Not really a peeve, but some of the hipper hotels managed to put an iPod dock in their rooms so that you can play your own music. Unfortunately, they used the old 30-pin connector and didn't seem to notice that Apple switched to the lightning connector in 2012 over 6 years ago. Memo to hotels: we all have smartphones, lose the clock-radios already.
My biggest peeve about showers is when they are non-intuitive to operate. Faucet designers seem to regard any labels as esthetically ugly, and so the beautiful brushed stainless steel is unadorned, except perhaps for a discreet red and blue dot. Sometimes there is one handle. Sometimes you pull it and rotate it. Sometimes you just rotate it and it operates both the shower and the temperature. Sometimes there are two handles and it is unclear which does what. Sometimes there are two showers, one on the ceiling, one handheld, with an opaque mechanism for deciding which one is operational. It is often difficult to turn the shower on without half getting into the shower, which offers the possibility of dousing you (or at least your arm and shoulder) with either freezing water or scalding water. Or freezing water, followed by scalding water.
By the way, Hollywood seems to have special showers. Watch any movie, and someone gets into the shower and turns it on. The water instantly comes out at just the right temperature from the very first drop.
Some hotels realize that the showers are so non-intuitive to operate that they provide more detailed instructions, but often in a small typeface. Memo to hotels: if I have to put my glasses on in the shower, you have failed.
Another peeve about showers is that often the shower door or curtain doesn't really work, meaning that it is impossible not to cover the room in water (and have a bathmat that is already soaked when you get out of the shower). I try not to make extra work for the maids, but if the shower door doesn't seal, it can be impossible.
Have you ever had this happen? You get to the hotel from the airport. You are jet-lagged. You hang the do-not-disturb sign on the door. You have a shower and go for a nap. Suddenly you are woken by the phone since it is someone's job to call you to ask you if everything is okay. Of course, I could have called the switchboard and told them to hold calls, but why would I bother since nobody would call the hotel, they would call my cellphone. I used to like the old Max's Opera Café menu where one of Max's guarantees was "Nobody will ask you how everything is—when we ask questions they'll be good ones", but even they had to give up that idea since people regard it as poor service if that doesn't happen. Memo to hotels: when something is not okay, I will call you.
These days, I think even the highest end hotels give you free WiFi. It used to be one of those weird paradoxes that the high-end hotels would charge for WiFi and low-end hotels would give it for free. Marriot Marquis $15/day, Marriot Courtyard free. But some hotels only give it to you free for one or two devices. If I'm traveling alone, then I have a phone and a laptop, but I may need something else too. If I'm traveling with someone, almost certainly we have more than two devices between us.
Another problem is that the WiFi may be free, but regularly my computer will stop downloading email, and when I go to the browser, I find I need to put in my name and room number again. Memo to hotels: once I connect, leave it connected throughout my stay even if nuclear war breaks out.
I have two peeves about late checkout. I am not a premium (gold, diamond, whatever) member of any hotel chain since I mostly don't get to choose where I stay (I'm at a conference so I stay there). But I am silver with one chain, which means I should automatically get late checkout if I need it. The first peeve is that they never ask me when I check in whether I want late checkout, and usually I forget until the last minute even if I have a flight where late checkout would be convenient. But the biggest peeve is that typically room keys are programmed to stop working at noon the day you checkout. This is true, even if you have late checkout, meaning that you go to lunch and then can't get back into your room and have to go back down to the lobby to get them to reprogram your key. Memo to hotels: if someone has late checkout until Xpm, then make sure their room key works until Xpm.
I like that there is usually a coffee machine in the room. Often, these days, they are those Keurig-type ones that make pretty good coffee. But why only provide two capsules of coffee? If I have jet-lag and wake up at 5am, I am going to want more than two coffees. If I'm not traveling alone, it's only one coffee (each). My solution, after the first day anyway, is to steal some extra ones off the maid's cart while she's cleaning another room. Also, I bring extra Nescafé with me so I at least have that, even if it is second best. Memo to hotels: when guests (I love that word, as if the hotel has invited us over) pay $200 per night, throw in a couple more 50¢ coffee capsules.
I think compulsory resort fees are simple dishonesty. Part of the room rate is removed so that the hotel appears cheaper when you book it, and then the obligatory fee is tacked on. For instance, for CES coming up in January, Cadence is staying in the MGM Grand, and it has a daily resort fee of $35. I have no idea what it is meant to cover, since if I see a show or gamble in the casino or use the spa then I have to pay for those things anyway.
While on the subject, another pet peeve, which is nothing to do with the hotels directly, is the amount of tax on rooms. This seems to be especially bad in the US since, I think, cities have all figured that it is one of the few ways that they can tax non-voters. If they have to put it to the voters anyway, voters always say "yes" since nobody stays in hotels in their home city, so they don't pay it. Here in the Bay Area, every so often there is a vote on whether to increase the toll on the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge, and everyone votes "yes" since most of us don't use the bridges regularly.
When we are at home, we know our way around. Even if it is unclear which switches operate which lights the day we move in, or how the shower faucets work, it rapidly becomes second nature (although I lived for 8 years in one condo in San Francisco that had a switch for which I never found anything it controlled). But every hotel is like the first day we move into a house. So the meta-rule is that everything should be as intuitive as possible. If you can't operate the room without your glasses or an instruction card, it is fail level 1. If you also need to operate the flashlight on your smartphone, it is fail level 2. If you still can't get the last light in the room to go dark so you can sleep, or if you can't get the shower temperature right, it is fail level 3.
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