Apparently many travellers now pay more attention to a hotel’s guest reviews than to its advertising. I tend to ignore these reviews myself because I’m in denial about the growing obsolescence of my profession. But I’ve seen enough to know they’re usually badly written and I feel comparison sites are missing a trick here. To really put people like me out of business they need to incentivise punters with something more bankable than the warm glow that comes from helping strangers avoid disappointment. And if they submitted the pick of the posts to critical evaluation and gave out glittering prizes, in time they might even transform the online consumer review from a digital rant to a minor literary genre. As it happens, I’ve just had a less than satisfactory hotel experience myself, so here is my putative entry for the inaugural Golden Whinge awards:
Last night I googled a celebrity designer and saw, not in a zoo, but posing in some fancy diner, a being bodied much like me or you: his arms were not especially long or lean, his forehead didn’t slope, he wore a shirt. And while it’s hard from snaps to gauge hygiene his hands and hair and clothes seemed free of dirt. But in the smiling close-ups I could sense the thing anticipated least of all; a spark of real human intelligence.
Not, then, the mouth-breathing Neanderthal I had envisaged, having last week stayed in one of his ridiculous hotels. The room they gave me there, I swear, was made by and for an illiterate. Why else, I ask, would its designer have forsook a shelf or bedside table – or indeed surface of any kind to rest a book? To make it still more difficult to read, reaching the light switch dangling overhead would strain the sinews of the tallest man; to activate it lying on the bed you’d need the arm of an orangutan.
And when you do get out of the bed beware: that stylish floor-to-ceiling window blind won’t close. So lest you’re quite prepared to share with all of Central London your behind be sure to book a room without a view – or you will find yourself becoming one. Then, in the bathroom, when you’ve used the loo, don’t try to wash your hands – it can’t be done. The basin taps are two smooth orbs of chrome which fingers slightly damp or touched by soap can’t grip or turn. The shower’s the bloody same!
How do my fellow guests, I wondered, cope? What mug but me would fork out this much cash (the cheapest room’s three hundred bucks a night), to stay in a hotel where you can’t wash or read or work or hide from public sight? And yet the place was full – and fully booked for weeks ahead, said the receptionist. And when I whined about my room she looked at me as if I might be mad or pissed.
Complaints they clearly don’t hear much. As bar and elevator chat confirmed, this guest was sadly out of touch with the consensus, which is, broadly, that because they were designed by this great man the fittings in each room are objets d’art: His beds are not for reading in (or sleep), his sinks are not for washing nor his bar for leaning on. His shiny cupboard door does not have knobs because it is not meant for opening. So what then is it for?
The answer’s simple: it is ornament – and nothing more. And this might, I suppose, explain the patronage of this hotel by those well known for paying through the nose for things which make no sense: a clientele whose shoes cannot be walked in without pain, whose trousers hang half-mast between their knees, whose raincoats weren’t designed to keep out rain, whose hairstyles simulate a steady breeze. And as I watched them totter to and fro on scrawny legs with sunken eye and cheek, the penny dropped. But how could I have known, when booking, this was London Fashion Week?
I saw my bill and caused a little scene, then walked to Charing Cross and caught a bus. Celebrity designers of this ilk are making monkeys of all of us.
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