Cheap, Corner-Cutting Hotel Trends to Watch Out For

Do hotels think we won't notice when they skimp on rooms or service?

Keemala Phuket Thailand Tree House room and pool
••• No complaints: Keemala Phuket's two-story Tree House rooms. ©Keemala

Hotel Trends We Really Don't Like 

Dear Hotel:
You call yourself a luxury hotel. 
Well, you're slipping.
Please check out our definition of a luxury hotel.
And our standards of five-star hospitality service, as defined by hotel guru Eric Weiss.
See: I want to love you, but you must earn the love.
And there are lots of hotel trends I'm really not loving.
I've described them below, and the ways you can do better.
Thanks for listening. Sincerely, Luxury Traveler

Bad Business: Policy Gaffes

Bad: Charging for every amenity in your room except the sheets
Better: Hiding upcharges in a “resort fee”
Best: Including the wifi, water, snacks, and shoeshine in your room rate

Bad: Faux "pet-friendly" restrictions and fees that penalize your pet and you
Better: A hotel that doesn’t want pets skips the mixed signals and just bars them entirely
Best: Welcoming pets (cats too) with no restrictions or fees; that'spet-friendly hotel policy (as at The Point in the Adirondacks or Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, L.A.)

Bad: Paying on top of your room rate to use the hotel gym; or being told “the gym is under renovation” (and "here's a voucher" to a gym 15 minutes away)
Better: The gym is free, but closes at 9 or 10 p.m.
Best: The gym has free entry (and is 24 hours, with a fruit bowl, cold water, and iced towels)

Poor People Skills: When Hotel Service Fails

(this section contributed by Eric Weiss of ServiceArts Inc.)

Bad: Waiting an hour for your luggage to arrive in your room
Better: Your luggage arrives in your room within a few minutes that you do
Best: Your luggage gets to your room before you do and is placed out of the way

Bad: Your wakeup call never comes (No more than a 50/50 chance, even in a top hotel)
Better: You do get a wakeup call, but it's a mechanical recording
Best: You get called on the dot by a real live human being (as at Gleneagles in Scotland)

Bad: All staff uses the same exact greeting
Better: They use a neutral and appropriate greeting (time of day, weather, etc.)
Best: An individualized and appropriate greeting that seems spontaneous and authentic (as in, when you're carrying a briefcase: “Good morning ma’am, have a great meeting!”)

Bad: "What would you guys (referring to men and women or just men) like to drink?"
Better: "What can I get you to drink before you start your meal?"
Best: "May I tell you about some of our house-made cocktails?"

Bad: "Just one for dinner?"
Better: “One?”
Best: "Nice to see you, let me find you a great table"

Bad: Knocking on the door when the Do Not Disturb sign is up
Better: Calling your room during Do Not Disturb 
Best: Least intrusively, slipping a note under your door 

Bad: Staff's clothing is either indistinguishable from guests', or cheap institutional uniforms (please, no vests for women, ever)
Better: Clean, pressed, well-fitting uniforms that identify staff as staff
Best: Definite uniforms, but designed to harmonize with the surroundings or flaunt its fashion scene

Bad: No card in-room that instructs staff to greenly reuse your sheets and towels, so you have to make this request by phone 
Also bad: A card is offered, but housekeeping disregards it and changes the sheets (sadly, the usual)
Best: A card that is respected by housekeeping

Bad: Charging outrageous fees for room wifi 
Better: Comping a basic connection while charging a few bucks for fast wifi
Best: Fast, free, full-service room wifi (as at motels)

Bad: Room service indifferently served and hardly better than fast food
Better: A tasty room service meal removed from the metal trolley and served as a waiter would
Best: Room service as good as the hotel restaurant, served with distinctive flair (as at Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace and Live Aqua Cancun)

Bad: A poorly informed concierge of the "least effort" school, or one who seems to be judging you, or one whose default recommendation is tourist traps
Better: A concierge who appears to be up on things but whose restaurant recommendations are the Top Ten on every website
Best: A concierge who finds out your tastes and does extra research to give you the best experience (as at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine in Spain)

Bad: No chocolates at turndown!
Better: Chocolates, but commercial kisses or wafer mints
Even better: High-end commercial chocolates like Lindt Lindor truffles
Best: Locally or house-made fresh chocolate bonbons (as at MGallery Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassonne, France)

Bad: No gift amenity in your pricey room
Better: A gift, but it’s another baseball cap or logo-ridden tote
Best: A nice bottle of local wine, or something you want to take home, like a straw hat or elegant beach bag (as at Cancun's NIZUC

Corner-Cutting Room Features

Bad: No dresser and no drawers or even shelves anywhere for your clothes; you can only hang them on hangers in the closet or pile them on the desk
Better: An all-in-one closet with at least shelves and maybe a drawer or two under the safe
Best: Plenty of shelves and drawers, or an actual dresser (like at Fairmont Grand Del Mar near San Diego), or a whole dressing room (a la SoHo Metropolitan in Toronto)

Bad: No slippers or bathrobe in the room
Better: A robe but no slippers 
Best: Two pairs of slippers and two robes 
Best of all: Two pairs of slippers and two pairs of robes: one for beach, one for bath (as at Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Thailand)

Bad: Flimsy, generic white terry slippers
Better: Handsome cloth slippers
Best: Fashionable slippers to take home, like the black fabric flip-flops at  Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali

Bad: Jungles of electrical cords; as architect Mies van der Rohe said, "G-d is in the details" (he designed the iconic tower that now houses The Langham, Chicago)
Better: Electrical cords neatly shortened by twisties
Best: Nearly invisible cords

Bad: Motel-style non-removable hangers
Better: Nice wooden hangers, but typically not enough of them
Best: Ample wooden hangers made from the same wood as the closet (as at Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali)

Bad: Packets of chemical-laden non-dairy creamer beside your coffee maker
Better: Single servings of Half-and-Half
Best: Real milk for coffee in your fridge (as at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe)

Bad: Wood or stone floors with no rugs (and a girls’ getaway in stilettoes happening above your room)
Better: Hardwood floors with a lot of area rugs
Best: Dare I say it? Quiet-enhancing wall-to-wall carpeting (the pretty kind)
Best of all: You requested and got a room on the top floor, or below an empty room

Bad: Noisy fridge in room (second thing I do, after removing the bedspread, is unplug it)
Better: Noisy fridge, but basically out of earshot in the vestibule
Best: A quiet fridge positioned where you can’t hear it at all (as at SoHo SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto) 

Bad: Minibars that are sensitive to touch: you move it, you buy it
Better: A small munchie threat delivered with turndown (as at Four Seasons Baltimore)
Best: Free minibar, as in all-inclusive resorts

Bad: No bottled water in room
Better: A couple of bottles, replenished on the house
Best: Earth-friendly glass bottles of purified water (as at Four Seasons Rancho Encantado in Santa Fe)

Bad: No ice waiting in room, so you have to call and wait for it
Better: An ice machine not a long walk away, so at least you can get it yourself
Best: Ice is always in your room (as at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui in Hawaii)

Bad: Windows that cannot be opened (common in city hotels)
Better: Windows that can open, but you needed to call for help
Best: Easy-opening windows (as at Loews Philadelphia)

Bad: Noplace to hang your hand laundry (washing your own UW is a lifesaver for carryon packers)
Better: Lots of hooks and racks for drying your scanties
Best: The hotel does your laundry gratis (a frequent feature of club floors)

Bad: No full-length mirror in the room
Better: A mirror on your closet door
Best: A heavy wall mirror (like at Four Seasons Nevis) or free-standing dressing mirror

Bad: A clock-radio (welcome to the Eighties!)
Better: A clock on a modern device like the Bose Wave
Best: A room with a view of a clock tower like Big Ben (Corinthia Hotel London) or the Wrigley Building (Trump Hotel Chicago) or Kowloon Station Tower (Peninsula Hong Kong)

Guest, Are You Ready for Your Tech Challenge?

Bad: Electric control panels that are ultra-high-tech and so hard to figure out, not even the staff know how
Better: When you check in, your valet or butler shows you how to use the overcomplicated electric panels or screen menus
Best: The room's tech aspects are familiar enough for you not to need a tutorial

Bad: It's nice to offer a tablet device in your room. But no one wants a knockoff brand that requires instructions
Better: An iPad you can borrow from the front desk
Better: An iPad in your room

Bad: An old-style coffeemaker with underfilled packets of inferior java that create, more or less, hot brown water
Better: A basic coffeemaker with good choices like Starbucks Breakfast and Blonde
Best: A pod coffee maker that's easy to use (no programming, please!), with a choice of strong brews (as at The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch in the Colorado Rockies)

Bad: Nothing to plug your iPod or iPhone into, so in order to hear music, you have to play it out of your phone or on your laptop
Better: A player device with only an aux jack, so your iPod or iPhone plays but doesn't charge
Best: an iHome device or similar style of dock and charger (as at Four Seasons Resort Nevis)

Bad: No in-room safe
Better: An off-brand safe with obscure instructions, or any safe too small for your laptop
Best: An Elsafe-brand safe sized for a laptop, with a charger outlet and a jewelry tray inside (as at The Pierre New York)

Bad: A room phone that requires a master's in engineering to use, and whose voicemails are impossible to retrieve
Better: A phone that doesn't give you a headache
Best: Free local calls and free international calls to the US and Canada (as at Le Blanc in Cancun)

A Luxury Traveler's Obsession: Hotel Bathrooms

Bad: A generic porcelain throne
Better: A generic john in a partitioned area
Better still: A john and a bidet
Best: A Japanese-made TOTO toilet (as at Palace Hotel Tokyo)

Bad: It's a tub! It's a shower! It's a tub!
Better: A separate tub, but not generously sized 
Best: A deep soaking tub made for two, with water jets (as at Corinthia Hotel London)
Unbelievable: A deep soaking tub with a separate shower, all gorgeously hand-tiled by a mosaic artist (as at Inn of the Five Graces in Santa Fe)

Bad: And that tub-shower has a depressing sliding glass door
Better: The shower is separate, with a stone bench inside
Best: The glamorously lit, marble-lavished 'throom feels like a spa suite (as at Hazelton Hotel in Toronto)

Bad: No wall-mounted makeup mirror for Madame
Better: A makeup mirror without a light
Best: A mirror lit in non-Halloween fashion

Bad: Outsourced made-in-China toiletries
Better: Global luxury brands like Bulgari and Bliss 
Best: Locally made bathroom toiletries (like Byredo at Nobis Hotel Stockholm, soaps made in the Yucatan at Viceroy Riviera Maya), or custom-made (like Rosemary and White Tea potions by Natura Bissé at Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace)

Bad: Those toiletries are either too masculine or flowery
Better: Unscented toiletries
Best: Genderless herbal aromatherapy scents, green fragrances like L’Occitane Verveine, or spicy fragrances like the Noir potions at Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City)

Bad: Micro sizes of toiletries (Ace Hotels’ soap is the size of a matchbook)
Better: Wall-dispensed, Earth-friendly refillable bottles like at Viceroy New York)
Best: Take-home sizes close to the TSA limit of 3.4 ounces for carryon packing (as at Le Negresco in Nice)

Bad: Arty, raised, bowl-shaped sinks that splash everywhere
Better: Deep porcelain sinks
Best: A pair of capacious sinks side-by-side (as at The Cromlix, Andy Murray's hotel in Scotland)

It’s All About the Bed!

Bad: A dated, fusty, maybe even synthetic bedspread that’s not only potentially viral but ugly
Better: A handsome bedspread made from natural fibers
Best: No bedspread but a fine cotton duvet with a newly laundered, spanking-white cover (as at InterContinental Montreal or Mukul Beach, Golf and Spa in Nicaragua)

Bad: Puffy foam-filled pillows that no actual human finds comfortable
Better: A pillow selection on your bed or in your closet, or a “pillow menu” you can choose from
Best: A pillow concierge who comes by offering a range of therapeutic pillows (as at The Benjamin in NYC)

Bad: Heavy down quilt in a tropical hotel, forcing you to blast the AC
Better: An appropriately chosen down quilt
Best: A choice in your closet (in case you like to blast the AC)

Bad: Wrinkled linens or any other remnants of past guests
Better: Pressed and clean sheets, made with military precision
Best: A well-made bed with sheets from Frette, Pratesi, Delorme, Dr. Porthault, or Frette and embroidered by Lesage (hopes Eric Weiss)

Thank you for paying attention, hotels!