August 1, 2006

Things about hotels.

Douglas Coupland is doing a TimesSelect column this month. (Link for subscribers.) Today he's got a list of 7 things he hates about hotels. Go ahead, make up your own if you don't get TimesSelect. I'll bet you can come up with some funnier stuff then "incompetent front-desk staff." That's one of his entries.

I'm writing this post from a hotel room, actually, and I could bitch about the one thing I don't like, which is having to pay extra for the internet, which only seems to happen in the most expensive hotels. It just makes them look old. No one's impressed that you have the internet. We'll be pissed if you don't, which today is like not having a bathroom. So don't try to sell it to me. It's like having to pay to get to the bathroom.

(Remember pay toilets? When I was a kid, I could never understand why someone would pay a dime to use one of the stalls when the others are free. Now that I understand why, they don't have them anymore. But they were an affront to egalitarianism. Still, we tolerate "first class" on airplanes, so what's the problem?)

Coupland also offers 5 "fun secrets" about hotels. I liked this one:
Most hotels have an armoire-type thing where they stash the TV set. Next time you go into your hotel room, stand up on a chair and look on top of the armoire. When people are checking out of a room, it’s where they dump stuff they don’t want to take with them, but can’t throw away in case the maid finds it. Stuff that could get them arrested or cause them shame. Really harsh porn. Pot. Pills. Coins. Touristy things that people gave them that they don’t really want. It accumulates from one year to the next.
Hey, make up some more "fun secrets" about hotels.


SippicanCottage said...
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MadisonMan said...

The main thing I don't like about hotels is rude guests. Usually, these are parents who don't corral their uber-hyped kids.

I'm sorry your vacation is being spoiled by your kids, but that doesn't mean mine should be too!

Re: Armoire tops. I can usually see the top without getting on a chair, and have never found a thing. Douglas Coupland must be of small stature.

the Rising Jurist said...

Having stayed in a hotel just last night, I will echo madisonman's comments about kids.

First, I was in the hot tub, when a kid came over and started splashing his dad, also in the hot tub. Rather than trash his child, as my own father would have done, the man just joined in with the horseplay.

Then, around 10:30, there were these two boys, maybe 6 and 8, running laps down the hall. While that seems bad enough on its own, I was really more angry at the parents. Where were they that these kids were left to treat the second floor like a speedway?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I couldn't read the TimesSelect portion. Sorry if this is a repeat. I intensely dislike wimpy showerheads at posh hotels. I also dislike clingy shower curtains.

I stayed at a mid-price hotel in July and was pleasantly surprised by the Crescent shower rod and invigorating showerhead.

Maxine Weiss said...

1. The Mexican maids who slam the doors and yapping (screaming at the top of their lungs, in Spanish, all day long, down the corridors)

(I'm not using 'Mexican' as a perjoritive---more as an objective, the tone of Spanish conversation is much higher in volume than English, especially when you are a maid screaming down the corridor, and the guest is in the room trying to sleep!)

2. Bedspreads. They don't disinfect the bedspreads, and with my imagination, I can only guess what the prior guests were doing on that bed.

3. Tipping. Especially, the "Mexican" (natch) maids. I do my own cleaning, actually. I make my own bed, sans nasty bedspread, and I have my things all the way I like 'em. The last thing I want is some (Mexican?) uh, I mean stranger, entering my room. Nevermind the complete lack of privacy.

In any case I always do end up tipping the maids, and quite generously, but more out of fear than anything else.

I don't want them to steal my stuff if I do leave, or them sending any Central American gangs after me! Tipping out of complete fear.

Those Illegals will make your life miserable if you don't!

Believe me, I know what I'm talking about.

But, definitely take your own sheets, always. No matter how expensive the linens are.....someone's done something on those sheets prior to you....and the hotel laundry doesn't sterilize the way they should.... know I'm right!

Peace, Maxine

Pogo said...
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Pogo said...

1. Don't drink the in-room coffee.

2. Hotels right by a Bail Bond office are to be avoided.

3. You wouldn't think about asking whether the hotel is having a crossdresser convention that weekend, but from now on you will. Especially when the kids are along.

4. Outside of running into the maid in the morning, I've found no good way to leave a tip for one of the hardest jobs around.

5. Giant communal hot tubs leave me very uneasy.

6. There are ugly egomaniacal customers who will have your job at every economic level, from the Super8 to the Palmer Hilton.

7. You might think it's OK to wear just your swim trunks to the pool and back to the room. But it's not. I mean eeww.

8. The bottled water in the mini-fridge is how much??

9. Hotel desk clerks in Columbia MO are actually nice, whereas the ones in Minneapolis are Minnesota Nice (like Velveeta instead of Colby).

10. If there is a group of teenagers sitting on the floor when you get off the elevator, close the door, head back down, and get another room, even if in a different hotel. Unless you weren't going to sleep anyway.

Hamsun56 said...

I'll second bedspreads. The first thing I do when I enter my hotel room is throw the bedspread in a corner. It has no purpose for me since I don't want to sit or lay on it.

I'm not too keen on maid service either. I like to spread my papers and stuff around the room in a system that I understand. The maids always reorganize my things, which I don't like. I don't see the need for maid service for a short stay, I can use a towel more than once and they don't wash the sheets, just make the bed which I will unmake once I get back to the room. So I usually request no maid service for two or three night stays.

Henry said...

1. Expensive hotel parking garages. At one hotel my wife asked one of the employees, "well, where do you park?" Turned out all the employees parked at an open-air lot that was closer and much cheaper than the official hotel parking garage that the front desk directed us to.

2. One-price (upwards of $10) hotel breakfast buffets when all you want is coffee.

Ann Althouse said...

I just paid $38 for a bacon and eggs breakfast.

MadisonMan said...

Six pounds of bacon and 3 dozen eggs is a pretty hearty breakfast! At least that's what I hope you got for the price!

jeff said...


Somehow I suspect we will never travel in the same economic corridors, Ann.

Even if I won the lottery, that would be ridiculous.

Robert Burnham said...

The charge-for-internet thing is entirely an upscale hotel phenomenon. The management assumes that a customer either doesn't care about the extra $10 or $12.95/day or is traveling on a biggish expense account.

But notice how the chains that market to middle management and vacationers are all boasting about free internet. These are travelers who want the access but are tighter on expenses. So — aim for the mid-range places and you'll get your internet free. (It's often handy wifi, too, because that covers a number of rooms cheaply.)

Another annoyance — actually more like an outrage — is compulsory valet parking. Last year I made a reservation at a hotel in Harvard Square for a family reunion. When I arrived, I was sent to another hotel half a mile away owned by the same company, to which my reservation had been switched (without my knowledge or permission). I stepped up to the desk and found out that I'd have to use valet parking, no exceptions.

At that point I blew up and insisted on my original hotel — which I got. And, as planned, it was where all the rest of the family was staying already, too.

It pays to be a little cranky sometimes.

As for where to stay — here's a rule of thumb that's worked OK for me. Any Motel 6 or Super 8 is tolerable if you visit within its first 12 months after being built or 6 months after a complete refurbishment. After that, the shoddy workmanship shows.

For a non-chain motel, well, my only rule is to look for room doors that all match in style and paint color. If they don't, stay away — in such places, there have been too many police battering-ram visits, or doors kicked in by irate husbands hoping to catch cheating spouses.... The shower will creep you out, too.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, then there were the days when I didn't eat anything but nutrition bars and drove the whole time. It balances out. When you're in a nice hotel, it's nice to order room service. The price is what it is. What are you going to do? Eat the granola bars in your suitcase?

steve said...

Here is my plug for Drury Hotels. They aren't everywhere, but if one is in your destination give it a spin. They boast free internet, a free hour of long distance calls, and a free hot breakfast, with far more actual comestibles than the average bread-and-a-toaster "breakfast" offered elsewhere.

Maxine, those Mexican maids were just hollering about the crappy tip that the racist bitch in room 327 left on the dresser.

And the advice to ditch the bedspread and byo sheets is especially sound if you are staying at a hotel where people stash porn, reefer and pills above the TV.

DaveG said...

1. Don't drink the in-room coffee.

And WtF is Wolfgang Puck thinking by putting his brand on that flavorless, tepid, vile brew?

Madison Guy said...

What did you find on your armoire-top?

J said...

There are so many good things listed here, but a slow drain in the shower absolutely tops my gripe list. It ought to be a felony.

Next would be maids (or more likely maids' supervisors) who don't seem to grasp that a DND sign means "stay the hell out of my room. Even if I'm not there".

I'll second Madison Man on the armoires. Coupland must have been staying at the seediest dive on the wharf. Or he's 5'3" and leaves stuff up there thinking if he can't see it no one can. Everybody knows that crap belongs in the trash can by the elevator.

Pogo said...

My fireman friend never ever stays above the third floor because he says the ladders reach that high.

I think he's just chicken, and he never watched Towering Inferno, where cool helicopter rides await us all.

Townleybomb said...

I've never noticed anything on top of a hotel armoire (not that I've looked) but I've noticed a similar thing in cheap Japanese hotels (the only ones I've ever stayed in.) They have pretty much all have the same kind of modular plastic bathroom that includes a removable panel in the cieling that tends to be used by lonesome salarymen to stash sleazy comic books. Heck of a surprise to stretch out in the morning and dislodge a copy of Rapeman.

SteveR said...

I once found some porno mags between the mattress and wall at a Courtyard. They weren't even good as porno mags, maybe that's why he left them.

Generally I try not to think much about what goes on at hotels, I fit it into the same category as government regulations on the maximum acceptable level of rodent hair and insect parts in foods.

jeff said...

A hotel is simply a place to sleep. As long as the bed is comfy and the room quiet I don't generally care about the rest.

Well, okay, the bathroom had better be at least as nice as the one at home.

Besides that... I'm either supposed to be driving or seeing the sights. Neither of which can be done from a hotel room.

So I don't see much advantage to going "luxury" for something like that.

Pogo said...

11. Never turn down the chance to sleep in a motel room shaped like a teepee. You'll forever regret the missed opportunity.
(Well, maybe not regret, but a teepee! ! How could you not stay?)

12. When in smaller towns, try to read the local paper. It's part of the trip. Plus, how would you know where the good estate sales are?

13. If you wake up suddenly and don't know where you are, and assuming it actually matters to you, don't call the front desk. They don't think it's funny (even tho' you're not trying to be). Look at the phone book; it's keeping the Gideon company.

14. If there is any sports team at all, from peewee soccer to pro basketball, staying at the hotel, demand a room on the first 2 or 3 floors. You'll never ever see the elevator again.

15. Don't hide anything above the armoire. Douglas Coupland and the maids check there every day.

Seven Machos said...

Let's talk more about this pay-toilet thing. I have no recollection of this. What were you getting for 10 cents that you were not getting for free?

Rick Lee said...

I've been saying for some time that it's a huge irony that you pay 10 or 15 bucks for Internet at a GOOD hotel but you get it free at the Super8. It's crazy.

In a cheap hotel, they give you sanitary plastic cups sealed in celophane to drink out of. In a GOOD hotel, the maid washes your nasty glass cup in the nasty bathroom sink. (I'll bet you didn't know that.)

Here's my pet peeve. They never, ever have a soft drink that is diet and caffeine free in the drink machine (besides bottled water).

Seven Machos said...

I'm sitting right now at the Comfort Inn in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Free Internet, and pretty fast. Sure, it's nice.

I'm won't sit here and dis' the Comfort Inn. However, anyone who says that, on the whole, they'd rather be here than in at the Peninsula or the Mandarin Oriental or some such because of the free Internet needs to do some serious soul-searching.

But, seriously. What about these bathrooms...?

Richard said...

Every job I have held since I graduated from high school in 1972 has involved travel. Most of it has been to small towns within a couple hundred miles of home. So 50 or so hotel nights a year for 34 years makes well over 1000 nights OF LISTENING TO THE LOUDEST AIR CONDITIONERS EVER MADE. I wasn't in a rock band so I must be losing my hearing from thousands of hours of exposure to noisy fans.

J said...

7M, I can recall pay toilets and even using them as a child. I'm not certain if this was the rationale (though it probably is), but they tended to be much cleaner and in better shape than most public restrooms. See this for more:

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, the basic idea was that it would be cleaner, but it's a disgusting concession that they aren't keeping the bathroom clean enough. I think there was also a bit of a sense that a better class of people would be choosing the pay toilet.

MadisonMan said...

I also recall pay toilets -- but don't ever recall having the parents spring money so I could use one. Boys can always go on the side of the road, after all.

And how come you never see Magic Fingers in a hotel room anymore?

al said...

My family just stayed in three different hotels while traveling. Two Hampton Inns (DuBois, PA and NYC) and a Country Inn (Youngstown, Ohio). All three had free in-room wireless and a free breakfast buffet. They don't always the the greatest selection of food but free is nice. Occasionally you get some local specialties but usually it's fairly generic.

Hyper kids can ruin your sleep but a number of the chains offer a 'complete satisfaction' guarantee. We had noisy kids running all night one time and the room was free!

J said...

The interesting thing about the wiki article on pay toilets is that I don't recall ever seeing pay toilets co-located with free toilets. That's not to say that wasn't the case - the last time I saw one was several decades ago - but as a child I thought the pay issue was just to keep vagrants out and such. As to cleanliness, a bathroom is only as clean as the last person left it. You can plan ahead though - set your inner George Costanza free here: