I’d never stayed in a hotel until I was twenty two, when I went on my first business trip. Since then I’ve clocked up a good many overnight stays and have been able to make a few observations. All of which make me ask one simple question: Why aren’t hotels designed for the benefit of the most important person in the hotel, the guest? (rather than the convenience of the staff, or so the architect can win awards).

The problems start on arrival. The elegant revolving door, is cunningly dimensioned so that you and your suitcase do not fit together into one of the segments. The idea behind this, of course, is that the hovering porter must take your luggage through the convenient, wide, side door to which only he (or she to be PC) has access, thus earning him (or her) a tip when your bags eventually arrive in your room.

At the reception desk you’ll have to take the registration form test: I hope you can remember the name of your grandmother’s cat! Still, this gives you something to do whilst the receptionist’s fingers flit over the keyboard (what is all that typing about?).

At the lower end of the market the lift (or elevator for those from the other side of the pond) will be just about big enough (with a squeeze) for one person and a small suitcase. Travelling with the family will mean you’ll have draw lots for who goes first, but that’s your fault for staying in cheap hotels!

On your designated floor there are helpful signs indicating in which direction the various rooms are. A word of advice based on experience; it is worth spending the time carefully searching for your exact number on the sign. Don’t assume that because you see 610 and you have 612 that your room is two doors further down the corridor indicated, it could be in the opposite direction.

In the days when doors had locks with metal keys the next part was easy. Nowadays one inserts a piece of plastic into a slot. What happens next can vary from nothing, to a red light, to red and green together. All of which mean you can’t actually get into your room. Now you try all the possible combinations of direction and speed of insertion and withdrawal. If you’re lucky you’ll hit on the right one to give you a green light accompanied by a buzzer. If not it’s back to reception, but don’t expect any sympathy there. From the fixed-smile trainee at the desk you’ll probably get an “are you sure you put it in the right way, Sir”, accompanied by all the body language associated with such a rhetorical question.

Finally your suitcase wheels come to rest in your room, and you collapse onto the bed, exhausted. But no time for rest, you need to explore your ‘home’ for the night.

Within seconds the cloud of déjà vu descends:

– the double bed which isn’t, and parts like the Red Sea at the smallest       movement on either side; convenient for the chambermaid, but can play havoc with your love life

– wardrobe hangers that require a high level of dexterity to remove and        replace (do people really still want to steal coat hangers from hotels?)

– windows that don’t open (ending any thoughts you had about suicide!)

– air-conditioning that doesn’t work or needs a degree in     thermodynamics to get anything but blasts of sub-zero air out of it.

Clutching your toilet bag, you enter the bathroom like Daniel going into the lion’s den. The concealed, low lighting (ideal for shaving or putting on makeup!) reveals (just) that all the components are there. One sink, one bath/shower, one toilet, one bidet, squashed into a space slightly bigger than the wardrobe.

You look for somewhere to put your toilet bag down. Even if you move all the miniatures (soap, shampoo, shower gel, shoe polish, etc. etc.) out of the way – probably into your suitcase; you’ll never use them, but they are ‘free’ – there’s still only enough room for your toothbrush and toothpaste. Double rooms are usually cunningly designed (and I use the word advisedly) so that there is even less space to store things. I would love to see inside the house of one of these architects. Don’t they have bathroom cabinets? Even a simple shelf would be useful.

It’s been a long day and you’re ready for an early night in bed. But don’t think you’re going to get much sleep: it’s either too hot or too cold, and, in spite of quadruple glazing, the tram/bus/truck that thunders by every few minutes sounds as though it’s coming straight into your room.

Ah well, you can always fill out the form that tells you “your comments help us to improve our service to you, our valued guests”. Maybe someone will take notice this time – dream on! Oh but you can’t because of the temperature and the noise, sorry.


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