Because travel sucks ... now more than ever.

The Inside Scoop

Fri, 2009/02/06 - 12:43 by aargh

People are always on the hunt for a new inside scoop. It makes sense, really: whether you're sizing up produce at the grocer or a potential mate at a bar, the path is fraught with risk so you want to skip past any bad picks. Neither fruit nor people will come out and tell you they're no good, so you need a way to read them from afar.

In the finance realm a little secret will may you in trouble; but out in the real world it's simply a way to level the playing field when the odds are stacked against you. Such as when you're rating your hotel.

FT's Tyler Brûlé recently offered up his club sandwich gauge for hotels: if the place can't get the sandwich right, he says, chances are they're falling down elsewhere.

Works for me. For one, it's subtle. How many hotels will know you're using a stack of bread and meat as a crystal ball to their operations?

Second, the social science fans among you may recognize the Theory of Broken Windows, so you know it's sound reasoning. (In short: a system that explicitly tackles seemlingly small problems should, in theory, ward off larger ones.)

Third and most importantly, being a club sandwich afficionado myself, this was a tactic I'd have no trouble trying.

Being that I was in a hotel when I read the article, I went down to the restaurant to order up a meat-and-cheese indicator. Exchange rates aside, $30USD seemed steep for a sandwich. A quick look around told me it was also indicative of an establishment that thought a bit too much of itself and charged accordingly. (As though to drive the point home, my stay was less than pleasant due to staff who hinted that customers were too much of a bother.)

Nonetheless, Brûlé's column got me thinking about other such hotel indicators that are right under our noses. Here are a few of my favourites. Keep them under your hat, lest the hotels catch on:

The Disinfectant Indicator: Watch For Bodies. Has a budget-rate room ever greeted you with an overpowering wallop of household disinfectant? At first you're happy ("A place this cheap, and it's clean!") and then suspicious ("why the Lysol overdose? Did houskeeping haul out a corpse earlier?"). A short while later the natural aroma returns and you're trying very hard to convince yourself that it's just mildew. Yeh, mildew, that's it.

The Hanger Indicator: There Be Thieves Among Us. Every hotel anticipates some percentage of guests will be of the sticky-fingered variety. If your home on the road has bolted down the closet hangers, they're clearly saying they can't afford to replace any missing goods. This isn't necessarily a bad sign, however: I've only seen this in the more wallet-friendly places. Better they keep the prices low this way, than by cutting back on the clean sheets.

hangers in closet
what are your hotel's hangers telling you?

The Renovation Announcement Indicator: Thanks, You're Paying For It. It seems I can't escape hotels undergoing renovation. I herald the thought of self-improvement but question those who insist on throwing numbers in my face ... before the work has been completed. When the signs are posted before or during renovations, they're a snide way of reminding you: "enjoy it, dear customer, as you will cover the cost and then some."

The Free Mini-Bar Indicator: Sucker. I briefly mentioned this one in a previous rant. If your hotel has offered you "free" minibar access, well, you clearly paid too much. But you already knew that.