A few years back, I sold everything that wouldn't fit into a small suitcase, gave up the lease on my tiny, overpriced London apartment and hopped on a flight to New York to begin a new life living permanently in hotels.
The decision wasn't as ridiculous as it sounds: my parents are both career-long hoteliers and, while growing up, I spent more time living in hotel rooms than I did in actual houses. Moreover, thanks to my inherited ability to negotiate great room rates (and my gift for talking my way into things), I had figured out a way to live in hotels just as cheaply (or expensively) as staying in my London apartment.
Over the years, hotels have provided me with endless adventures - some perfectly wholesome, others so debauched that I ended up writing a book about them, which is now beginning the slow, torturous process of becoming a movie.
More depressingly, having spent thousands of nights in hundreds of rooms, I've become a reluctant expert in the annoying habits of even the fanciest hotels. And given that the electronic version of my hotel-living book has just been published, I figured this was as good a time as any to share them.
Here, then -- for lovers of first world problems -- are the The Ten Most Annoying Mistakes Made By Luxury Hotels...
- 10. Aggressive Front Desk Upselling
Every hotel-dweller knows the joy of receiving an unexpected upgrade. Perhaps you're a regular guest, or maybe the hotel is oversold: whatever the reason, the words "...and I've put you in a suite" are amounts the sweetest one can hear in a hotel (except for guests at the Lanesborough where the sweetest words are "you have your own butler and all the adult TV channels are complimentary".) But times have been hard for the hotel industry and even check-in is seen as a way to squeeze more revenue from guests. The result? Increasingly guests are being told that -- good news! -- an upgrade is available, but only if they're willing to pay a small additional sum; perhaps 50 or 100 dollars. For solo travelers, it's easy enough to say no, but for those checking in for a romantic weekend, saying no to paying a few extra bucks is a great way to look like a cheapskate in front of your partner. Blackmail accomplished. Dicks.
Speaking of financial duress, it's no secret that bellhops, valets and most other service staff in hotels live or die based on the size of their tips. Unfortunately at some hotels (The Hudson in New York, for example) this has lead to a weird practice whereby the bellhops will only fetch one guest's bag at a time, no matter how many others are waiting. The idea, of course, is that by giving each guest their undivided attention, the bellman's tips will be bigger. The real result is that, after waiting 25 minutes for a bag, everyone wants to punch that same bellman hard in the face.
Time was that even the cheapest, crappiest hotel room offered guests the use of a coffee maker (or a tea kettle in the UK, obviously). Today it seems that only the cheapest, crappiest hotels that still do; the upscale ones are increasingly doing away with that most basic of hotel room human rights, forcing guests to order (and pay for) their morning coffee from room service. Seriously, hotels, if you're so desperate for the extra cash, just bolt three dollars on to the room rate and let me make my own damn coffee.
With well-stocked minibars and 24-hour room service, hotel rooms have always a great place to continue a party started at a nightclub. Recently though a new breed of party hotels has appeared, aiming to keep the whole night under one roof by turning the entire hotel into a giant bed-filled nightclub. Bouncers on the front door, a preposterous dress code (a dress code!) and $600 table service in the lobby bar -- and don't get me started on front desk staff and waitresses who look good enough to be models but lack the customer service skills of... well... models. Clift in San Francisco, I'm looking at you.
I would like to propose a simple rule: henceforth, anyone who designs a hotel room must be forced to work for an entire week in that room. Curious as it might seem - especially to those who have confused hotels with nightclubs - some of us actually do spend a lot of our working hours in hotel rooms. We don't ask for much; just some decent lighting, power outlets near the desk (and the bed) and a desk and chair of appropriate proportions to one another. Paring a tiny backless stool with a twelve-foot high table should be made a capital offense.
For 300 bucks a night, I want a freaking bath. That's all.
"Think before you throw your towel on the floor", "Please be considerate to our neighbors when leaving the hotel.... and no more than four people in your room", "If you must smoke, a cleaning fee of $250 will be added...". Ok, ok, hotel room signs, I get it -- I'm an asshole.
The bad news: we're going to add an arbitrary $15 fee to your nightly rate. The good news: we'll give you a copy of USA today and comp the $11 wifi. Subtext: We hope that infographics and porn will distract you from the fact that we're screwing you.
I remember, in about 1987, staying at a crappy b&b on a family trip to the English seaside town of Blackpool. The place was so cheap that to operate the television, you had to drop 10p (about 15c) into a little box on the wall. Today's children will look back with equal sadness at the days where they had to enter their parents' credit card details just to log on to Facebook.
Want to know how to live permanently in hotels for less than the rent on a crappy apartment or about a man being chased down a mountain by Spanish drug dealers? The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale Without Reservations, Paul Carr's book on living in hotels -- and how it nearly killed him -- is available now on Kindle and iBooks.