99.9% of our experiences visiting most locations are positive ones. We love the thrill of exploring new places, trying unfamiliar cuisines and staying in hotels with quirky personalities. But it’s the little things which irritate; little things which could easily be avoided/rectified with the application of a modicum of common sense.
Hotels can be the biggest culprits. Generally we prefer smaller, more personal hotels to chains, but on occasion we find ourselves pondering if some owners ever stay in other hotels at all. Or, if they do, whether they compare their stay elsewhere to the experience guests might have in their hotel. It seems an obvious thing to do, take note of ‘best practice’ as you travel. However, I’m willing to bet there are plenty for whom this never enters their thinking, otherwise we wouldn’t encounter the following little ‘annoyances’ as much as we do.
Pointless pillows are one of my particular bugbears. When I spot pillows with all the oomph of a week-old party balloon I know I can kiss any chances of a refreshing sleep goodbye. Two flaccid pillows I can just about deal with, but hotels which are guilty of having anorexic pillows are the ones most likely to supply you with only one deflated one. I’ve spent many nights with my head on pillows of cheese-slice thickness which I’ve tried to bulk out by placing cushions/blankets/clothes underneath. I don’t expect a pillow menu in small hotels but neither do I expect a sad sack of an affair which should have been taken out the back and shot years ago.
What’s with the wardrobe?
Six coat hangers for two people staying for a week? Seriously? And as for those ones which snap if you hang so much as a tee-shirt on them… out the back with them, just like the flaccid pillows. We recently stayed at a funky boutique hotel in Siena where a lot of thought had gone into the design of the room. Wardrobe and drawers were in metal, office lockers. Visually it worked, practically not so much. The locker wardrobes were too narrow for hangers to fit, unless squeezed in Harry Potter style (Diagon Alley) we couldn’t close the door. A case of design over functionality; something which is relatively common.
There’s a rural hotel in Gran Canaria we liked a lot; we liked the owners, their taste in decor and the food the served. But on our first visit our minimalist room didn’t have so much as a chair, essential for dumping clothes without any fuss so you can jump into bed before the chills set in (in a room without heating in the Gran Canaria highlands it can get pretty parky in winter). To be fair, they took on board our comments and a chair was added pronto. But a lack of chairs isn’t as rare as it should be. At an expensive rural hotel in Portugal our pricey room was so small there wasn’t space for a bedside cabinet on one side of the bed, and there was virtually no counter space at all. But it did have a chair. However, because there was no other space in the room, when the chambermaid turned down the bed at night she put blankets and decorative cushions on the only chair. Again, the room looked great but wasn’t practical.
Hooks for towels
I can’t think of many hotels which don’t have some blurb in the bathroom informing about how concerned they are for the environment, with text saying if you aren’t concerned you should dump your used towels on the floor/bath/shower (it might not say that exactly but it’s what it means). I don’t mean to dump used towels on the floor, honestly I really don’t. But providing a couple of hooks would help prevent accidental abuse of the planet’s natural resources when they slip off any slightly protruding object I’ve tried to hang them on. It astounds how many places don’t fix towel hooks in the bathroom. Possibly worse, and more common, are sink plugs that don’t work (so much for being concerned about the environment), or no sink plug at all.
No toilet brush
This is a delicate one to go into any great detail about. It’s something you tend to find more in large, luxury hotels – no toilet brush. Who on earth was the first person to think “you know what would be a really luxurious touch, we’ll remove the toilet brush from the bathroom.” There’s a prestigious hotel on Tenerife which has a sign beside the toilet which says “by request we can provide you with a toilet brush”. Yeah, right! Because guests will feel really good about having to call housekeeping and tell them they’ve done a Trainspotting with the bowl.
Watery orange juice
Offering watery, concentrated orange juice at a breakfast buffet is unforgivable, especially in areas where oranges… err… grow on trees. There were at least two hotels we’ve stayed this year where this has happened. One in the Douro Valley was excellent in every other way and reviews on Tripadvisor reflected this. But reviewers have been complaining about watery juice for some time. It wasn’t just watery, it was unpleasant. Despite the negative comments being out there for the world to see, the hotel did nothing about its substandard juice. Tripadvisor might be a pain in the backside, but it is a free tool which businesses can use to see where they might be going wrong.
Con is the right word. For a while I thought it was my inability to figure out complicated air conditioner controls in hotel bedrooms which never seemed to want to do what I wanted them to do. The result, a night’s sleep which was too hot, too cold, too noisy. In sweltering nocturnal summer temperatures in Italy I couldn’t get the aircon to budge below 19C. There was a good reason, it had been set to not go below 19C. What is the point of that? 19C is a ‘toss and turn my way through the night’ temperature. To be fair, I can understand why hoteliers set limits, we’ve been in plenty of hotel rooms where previous guests were reptilian humanoids who’d set the temps at 25C or higher… in summer.
Overly enthusiastic cleaners
I get that chambermaids want to get rooms cleaned as quickly as possible, but doing it when guests are at breakfast? Come on, that’s just silly. For a start, we’re going to mess the room up again the second we return from breakfast as WE WEREN’T FINISHED DOING WHAT WE WERE DOING. Plus, there’s the whole business of completing what we call ‘ablutions’ after breakfast has been digested and coffee drunk. There was one hotel in Germany where each morning die Großmutter was waiting outside our door when we headed to breakfast. By the time we returned, the things we’d left out (i.e. needed for the day) were tidily put away. Still, early birds are better than those who still haven’t touched the room by three in the afternoon.
One of the most annoying things after a sweaty day’s walking is to stand under a grubby showerhead which spits at you with less venom than a slightly irritated camel. You can buy a decent enough shower head for around €10. Small hotels could transform guests’ shower experiences for not a great output. So why don’t they? And don’t get me started on cheap and nasty shower curtains whose icy surfaces get a kick out of moulding themselves to your body. Where does that breeze in completely enclosed bathrooms come from anyway?
The one thing that nearly all the above have in common is that mostly the overall hotel experiences in the places mentioned above were very positive ones. On the whole, it wouldn’t take much investment for any of the hotels to go the whole nine yards and cut out the little things they get wrong.