I had to stay in a hotel last night to ensure I made a work commitment. (A Thistle Hotel, near the Barbican if you’re a detail person) The country had been brought to its knees by the snow, and the concern was that if I took the train home, I wouldn’t get back into London again. So rather than rely on East Midland trains, who have taken to running their service on a ‘special occasions only’ basis, I would stay near by.
Now, I have nothing against staying in hotels; the prospect of being away from my family is usually offset by the extra hour in bed the following morning, and leisurely start to the day, which is in stark contrast to the bedlam of a usual morning getting myself and the kids ready. If it’s only for one night, I have nothing against hotels at the cheaper end of the market; I can survive at a push without haute cuisine, marble floors or infinity pools. I don’t really have anything against dreary seventies décor, or unpleasant carpets. What I do have a problem with, however, is being taken for a ride.
However, I arrived at the reception desk and was greeted by a young, camp looking Mediterranean man who said without, taking a breath “Hellomynameisirrelevantcanitalktoyouinacondescendingmannerforamoment?”
I smiled meekly and thrust my booking form into his hands. “Thankyouiwon’tbeoneminutesirpleasestandtherefeelinguncomfortableamomentlonger”
Eventually after my introduction to the hotel and the new language, I was off to my room. It was the usual undersized, lazily decorated fair that chain hotels do so well. The air conditioning unit sounded like it was powered by midgets banging the inside with a lump hammer, but not to worry, I would drop my bag off, quickly log on to the internet for a bit and then pop downstairs for a bite to eat.
Oh no I bloody wouldn’t. £6 an hour for internet access. How the hucking fell can anybody justify £6 an hour for internet access? £6 an hour! If I was after hard-core pornography, or browsing was accompanied by a massage from a young lady called Candy, then fair enough. But £6 an hour just to check emails or youtube is surely taking the piss. So, no internet for me. I headed downstairs to check the bar snacks. I’m sorry, but how can bar ‘snacks’ start at £17? Possibly Heston Blumenthal might charge that for a snack, but I would expect a crispy red squirrel cooked in Nitrogen for that.
I took my custom elsewhere, and returned later that evening and settled down for the night to be entertained by the choice of five, yes five, channels and the air conditioning team drummers. After a sleepless night I attended breakfast the next morning, which fortunately was included in the bill. But when I was handed the courtesy receipt I noticed that if I had paid, it would have cost £15.90. Wow, I thought, this should be good. It’s probably a bit early for caviar and champagne, and I shall forego the foie gras on moral grounds, but hey, why not. The reason why not was that for £15.90 you got cold scrambled eggs, cardboard hash browns, ‘value’ sausages and soggy mushrooms. They might as well have dished up a dollop of gruel and been done with it.
I left the Thistle hotel with a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, and it wasn’t just down to the beggars breakfast, but more down to a feeling that chain hotels are doing very nicely out of their guests unsatisfactory experiences. Next time I shall take ear-muffs, a picnic and a wireless router.