I spend a great deal of my life in hotels. I know that isn’t the norm, for most, but for me, it is. For now. During several months out of a year, I am in a hotel room four or five nights a week, three or four weeks out of a month. Whether you stay in a hotel one weekend a year, or more weeks per year than not, I’m sure you have certain minimum expectations that make the difference between a hotel stay being just right and being just wrong.
Consider that even in the most miserable locales in the U.S., a clean, decent, hotel costs you at least $100 per night, and in a “normal” locale, twice that. For a clean, decent, leased living space in Manhattan, roughly the same size as a hotel room (400 square feet), the rent, broken down into a rate per night is about $160. Ok, so by comparison, my 1,100 square foot, three bedroom two and a half bath, recently new construction, single family suburban dwelling with an attached, two-car garage and a neighborhood “clubhouse”, in Northern California is $47 per night. For perspective.
My point is, for what a hotel costs per night, your expectations should be pretty high. Perhaps I am quite choosy, but I am in need of a good, comfortable night’s sleep so I can function with wit, wisdom and humor for 8+ hours, standing on my feet, for my clients each day I’m away from the comforts of home.
My high expectations are as follow: clean, quiet, functional, complete, not stupid. Fair enough? I should think. How hard can it be to think like a guest and make a room clean, quiet, functional, complete and not stupid? If you’re responsible for “designing” a hotel room, try actually staying in a hotel room and trying to function as a normal human being the following day.
Lets’ discus clean first, shall we? My definition of clean includes 1) no one else’s hair on the sheets, pillows, bathroom floor or shower drain. 2) no mold or soap scum on the shower curtain 3) water dispensed from coffee maker = clear 4) glasses = no lipstick stains 5) no Febreeze odor masking something far worse 6) the ability to walk on the carpet barefoot, step into the shower, and not have black, foot-shaped stains where I stood on the shower floor 7) towels free of black greasy smudges, brown, nasty smudges, red, bio-scary smudges and dried, yellow, chunky, crusty matter (all of which occurred at “four-star” properties) 8) spotless tile and grout
Functionality includes 1) some kind of fold out rack for a suitcase 2) shower curtains that prevent water from spraying onto the floor 3) water faucets that actually project water into the sink basin and that aren’t designed to be so aesthetically modern in shape that they are functionally inept and when they are set to low, water flow will spill onto the counter top instead of into the sink 4) ironing boards that are full size, have a cover that won’t produce more wrinkles in my clothing while ironing than I am trying to remove 5) curtains or blinds that actually block out the obnoxious, glaring, fluorescent light placed so inconsiderately in front of the window to my room 6) wifi that actually reaches the internet 7) thermostats that actually allow you to control the environment in the room 8) adequate outlets for iPhone near the bedside table because I really don’t want to monkey with the stupid clock radio, I’d really rather rely on the steadfast and true alarm function that I know will go off in the morning 9) blow dryers not designed by bald men. This is a particular gripe of mine. Have you seen the itty, bitty blow dryers that are basically barely a bit more oblong than round? There is a purpose for the extended “nozzle” on a blow dryer, so the blowing end is at least a few inches away from the sucking end. Engineering gentlemen who designed the small, nearly round blow dryer obviously have never used a blow dryer, or were nearly bald when they tried. If your hair is more than an inch long, when using the “round” blow dryer, the sucking end sucks your hair into the dryer, through the fan and into the heating element. This results in the nasty smell of burning hair, a chunk of lost locks, and in many cases, a small fire inside the blow dryer, rendering said unit ruined. This has happened to me on more than one occasion in the past couple of months. I now carry a full-sized blow dryer in my checked bag, bringing the weight total to precisely 49.5 pounds (at 50 pounds I pay a penalty). 10) ironing boards that will actually collapse back down successfully, and preferably without a horrific noise likely to startle people in neighboring rooms 11) a clothing hook in the bathroom that doesn’t drop clothes onto the (wet/slimy/dirty/hairy) floor 12) a towel rack not IN the shower so when you grab the towel it isn’t as water logged as you are 13) electrical outlets that actually have electrical current, because dead cell phones don’t have functioning alarm clocks at 5:00 AM when you need them the most 14) thermostats that actually control the heating/cooling device 15) closets tall enough to accommodate trousers hung from the waistband and not folded in half, because I just ironed all my trousers for the week and I don’t want to fold them over a hanger and have creases at my knees 16) clothes hangers that actually fit on the rod and don’t have too small a hood for the diameter of the rod and fall to the closet floor at the slightest touch, both soiling and wrinkling your work wardrobe you just spent half an hour ironing 17) when you say “fitness center”, can you please mean a center for fitness and not the more literal application, by which I mean, if I stand in the “center” of the “fitness center” I can easily touch all four walls with an outstretched arm 18) windows that don’t produce more draft than the air conditioning
A “complete” hotel room experience would include such amenities as 1) one shampoo, one conditioner, not two conditioners that you don’t discover are two conditioners until you’ve entered the shower without a travel size shampoo 2) coffee for the coffee maker 3) cups for the coffee 4) room keys that actually open the door because nothing is worse after a fourteen hour travel day than schlepping your 49.5 pound suitcase, 42 pound backpack/computer case and 20+ pound “purse” all the way up several floors on the slowest elevator in the world only to find that not one, but both magnetic card keys don’t work. And the replacement keys provided upon a pitiful return trip downstairs also don’t work. 5) hardwire internet service when wifi is not offered … and an ethernet cable to go along with it, because I’m already packing so many cords and cables that my computer bag looks like an incendiary device in the security x-ray machine and one more cable/cord is more than I can possible deal with 6) functioning light bulbs 7) light bulbs that actually illuminate an area greater that four inches, because it isn’t really that easy to place the lamp ON the bed when I want enough light to read by 8) couches that aren’t upholstered concrete, because sometimes I think it would be nice to sit on something soft, besides the bed 9) a pen to write on the pad of paper next to the phone 10) a pad of paper to write on with the pen left by the phone 11) liquid shower gel that isn’t green and runny and doesn’t look like mouthwash because at 5:00 AM, if it’s green and runny, its mouthwash, and ingesting shower gel causes the runs 12) enough hangers for trousers for a work week, blouses for a work week, cardigans to match (perhaps two or three) and a coat 13) if a refrigerator, then a microwave. If a microwave, then a refrigerator, please, both, or neither 14) bar of soap for the shower AND a bar of soap for the sink, because getting into the shower and realizing there is not soap and having to step out onto the incredibly cold, extremely slippery tile floor to grab the bar of soap by the sink is a lawsuit just waiting to happen, for the cost of one more tiny bar of soap 15) an “ungoverned” thermostat, so if I wish to heat my room the more than 68 degrees, I can do so 16) an ATM in the lobby that actually functions and dispenses cash so tips can be paid to bellmen, doormen, housekeeping and valets 17) more than one tissue in the Kleenex box
“Not stupid” is probably too broad a category to cover in it’s entirety, but let’s make a couple of salient points here, shall we. 1) the vent in the bathroom should have a fan that vents to a duct that leads, eventually, outdoors, not into the adjacent room. I should never hear someone sneeze in the bathroom adjacent to mine, think it is someone within my room and politely bless said someone within my room for a sneeze they did not produce. Nor should I feel compelled to answer the query of the person in the adjacent bathroom because I heard their query as though they were in MY bathroom, and I know the answer 2) bathroom sink counter space > 2”, I can’t even fit a tube of mascara on a 2” wide shelf, let alone my makeup case 3) drawers and cupboards that open without being impeded by some immovable, fixed object, like a cabinet or wall 4) light switches that turn on or off lights, not alarm clocks or electrical outlets into which an iPhone with an alarm clock function may be plugged
And, finally, if you want my repeat business, which I will often have an opportunity for, try these “make my day” tactics; 1) a mint on my pillow is cliche, but so rare, that even if it is a stupid red and white peppermint candy, it will be happily received (not eaten, likely, but photographed and commented upon on facebook) 2) better than a mint on my pillow, a chocolate of fair quality (Ghirardehili or higher) will earn my undying appreciation 3) I am currently in a hotel that left me a whole bottle of decent wine, a “quality”, fresh-baked, local, red velvet cupcake, two wine glasses AND a bottle opener … instead of a stupid mint, I will return, even if I have to pay with my own money on a vacay 4) lots of big, and I mean LARGE, soft, and I mean LOFTY, fluffy, clean , fresh-smelling towels 5) a really high-quality “cheap” ball point pen that, when stolen, will write for years, reminding me of my pleasant stay every time it is written with (Ritz Carlton so far has the best pens … and the best soap, well, it is BVLGARI, so … 6) a personal note from housekeeping, preferably in understandable English and fair grammar, which guarantees that I will stop by the ATM AND get change so I can leave a cash tip 6) truly genuine, helpful, caring, reasonably intelligent front desk staff 7) a 24-hour market that stocks beer (other than Bud Light), splits of wine, tampons, Excedrin and Ben & Jerry’s 8) Starbucks on premise, adjacent, or within a door or two so I can get there without getting wet if there happens to be precipitation 8) passes to a quality, local, health club because you know your fitness center sucks and people want to work out, not struggle to sweat on ill-kept, low-end, malfunctioning cardio machines and mismatched free weights (as in no two weights of the same weight, because having a ten pound dumbbell in your right hand and two five pound dumbbells in your left hand is just awkward) 9) and, finally, a “final” bill, for the correct amount, to the correct party, under my door, before I depart for the airport at 3:00 AM
And, finally, if you want to make me smile, as a guest in your hotel, have some intelligent wit and humor and make some part of my stay truly unforgettable, in a good way.