A Short History of Bad Hotel Ideas
I come from another planet. One which is absolutely pedantic, startlingly interior and shamelessly derivative. Welcome to the Willy's Wonky World of Hoteldom.
In a world of fractured ideas, the hotel business certainly sits front and center as a proponent of silly works. These range from service, design and of course the arcane sector known as 'brandspeak'.
Tom Cruise and those mixed nuts from Scientology have nothing on our own circle of confusion.
First off, is the front desk, (more politely known as the reception). This is the magnetic gravitating point of first contact for aliens from the outside word wishing to enter.
Early in my hotel career, we'd often try to equate hospitality to that of taking visitors into your own home. I've yet to encounter any house on any scale that has one of these monstrosities.
Over the years, those innovative types have come up with "out of the box" concepts such as automated check in machines, executive club lounges (most of these have reception desks but they are smaller) and lobbies with no desk. The latter boutique concept ends up having prospective guests wandering around like a lost Chinese tour group who have lost their flag carrying comrade.
Worse yet are resorts that make you sit down like a doomed prisoner of war in a noxious lobby, with any type of ding dong cultural music clatter to drink a toxic tropical drink. Once you have completed this Amazing Race challenge, you are then, and only then, allowed access to your room.
For me this is the equivalent of a Taliban kidnapping, and all I really want to do is just go to my room ASAP.
This brings us to the hotel room itself. Finally.
In the old days they had those control panels, which somehow gave a Captain Kirk feel on the Starship Enterprise. Everything was laid out and labeled. Of course in many cases certain switches never worked and life's great mystery of lowering the air con temperature or turning down the muzak remained elusive.
These days we have intuitive design, which makes the most mundane task, such as turning off the lights and going to bed, as complicated as a great ocean crossing.
Despite being an 'Indie', I have no shame in recounting the times I've unscrewed light bulbs, shouted abuses at operators or just given up and gone to dreamland with one light holding out. The virtual last man standing.
Business acumen remains key in the industry and often hoteliers cannot see the forest for the trees, trying to milk every last dollar from guests. Perhaps the greatest change over the past decade has been being ripped off by enormous surcharges when using hotel phones. Who the hell wants to pay five dollars for one local call? But the reality is those with burned out mobile batteries, last minute urgent business or the nave do. From my perspective it's not unlike selling water and food to disaster victims.
Let's not even talk about paid internet. My blood pressure will rise and people will die.
Goofy evolutionary changes have brought about premium services. Remember a massage? Now we call it 'aromatherapy', or a 'spa treatment' and charge double or triple for exactly the same thing.
Sure, we now have homemade cookies, designer chocolates, iPads and rainbow-colored edible condoms in mini-bars, but for the price of one item you can buy out the entire 7- Eleven down the street.
While two iconic amenities seem to be on the decline – turn down chocolate and fruit baskets – one thing that remains is the welcome letter from the general manager. These anonymous mass marketed letters are worse than the internet Nigerian lottery scheme.
You know the ones that start with: "My Dear Friend, last Thursday our housekeeper found twenty billion dollars in our backyard buried under our BBQ…" Perhaps hotels need to scrap the letters and save the environment, just as they claim with the don't waste towels, and help us save the Earth. Another ploy, as this simply saves the hotel money in laundry expenses.
I don't need to know who the general manager is. If there is a complaint I will see you in the virtual alley out back known as Trip Advisor.
Oh Lord, this column is growing a mile a minute and yet I've yet to scratch the surface. But for now, trust me, hotels (for the most part) need to don the dunce cap and go down to Patong to buy our favorite t-shirt – "same same, but different".
Though, after all is said and done, there are far worse offenders out there – say the government, military, education and the automobile industry. Indeed stupid things are all around, wherever we look.