So, hotel rooms. I spend quite a lot of time in them and have noticed that, over the years, they are much improved. It's a long time since I was in a hotel where the main light switch was outside the room (London) or where the bedroom had walls so thin that I was effectively taking part in a threesome with the couple next door (Paris). But things are still imperfect. Worse, some advances in hotel room thinking have created problems of their own. I'm speaking, inter alia, of the cushion epidemic, which sees one's bed submerged under hundreds of cushions for no apparent purpose.
So there remains room for progress. The do's and don'ts of my perfect hotel room would be as follows. Perhaps you'd let us know yours, and then the hotel trade would surely take notice.
DO stop the receptionist, porter or anyone else accompanying me to my room on arrival. This is so evidently a tip-generating ploy that I occasionally want to bark with annoyance. "Is this the bathroom?" I ask. We are standing in a small room surrounded by a bath, a washbasin and a lavatory. "Yes," says the young uniformed person before leaving, untipped.
DON'T add further cushions. It already takes me 20 minutes to move them all off the bed on to the armchairs before I retire. Any more, and they're going out the window.
DO install room lighting systems comprehensible to, say, the average university graduate. This means a switch by the door to work a central light, plus switches on either side of the bed that will work both this central light and the bedside lights. And that's enough. Trying to turn off all the lights, only to find that this operation turns on two standard lamps fashioned like swordfish over by the desk… well, thus do grown men weep. Life gets even worse when turning off the swordfish lamps brings all the other ones back on again.
DON'T overestimate the appeal of domotics. Many hotel clients, including myself, are of a generation trained to turn on heating by hand. We're also skilled at opening curtains manually. We don't need to do it by smartphone from the other side of the Atlantic. And if we did need to, we couldn't, because we don't understand how the b‑‑‑‑‑ thing works. And every time we try, we get details of traffic jams in Strasbourg. Just stop it, please. And, while you're about it, simplify the television remote control. I want to watch the late night soccer or, you know, a nature documentary on the termites of Namibia; what I don't want is to have to tangle with three different satellite dishes, 47 (forty-seven) buttons, bursts of Uzbek folk dancing and hard-core porn before bumping yet again into CNN and its sheet-metal-voiced female presenters who never sleep.
DO provide reading material, if you like. A short round-up of hotel facilities and local attractions is always acceptable. Altogether less acceptable are the magazines found only in luxury hotel rooms. They are called Tendances15 or £black Horizons, have advertisements for Dior, Givenchy and Jean-Paul Gaultier, pictures of women wearing clothes that no other woman will ever wear and articles about the brand ambassador for cutting-edge Italian handkerchief design ("Umbria is my inspiration!") These publications serve only to drive normal people into the arms of political fanatics. Bin them.
DON'T even begin to think that your minibar policy is adequate. For a start, you more than likely charge for simply moving the mini-bottle of Scotch whisky, never mind drinking it. This, as you know full well, is insane. And what charges! How exactly do you justify the £10 that I faced recently for a mini-Grant's? If I ever stooped to such lunacy, I could buy a mini-Scotch whisky in a shop for around £2. Hotels can probably get it for about £1. So that's £9 profit on the assumption that some poor sucker (may I introduce myself?) is going to be so desperate that he'll fork out more or less anything. And why is he so desperate? Because he can't switch the b‑‑‑‑‑ bedroom lights off, that's why. One last thing (it happens with increasing frequency): what is the point of having a minibar in the bedroom with absolutely nothing in it? Do please tell.
DO put electrical sockets in places where normally constituted humans might reach them without injury. Behind the desk and up the wall beyond the reach of a baby giraffe are not those places.
DON'T think I'm going to steal your clothes hangers. I'm really not. If I were contemplating a life of crime, I'd be holding up trains or abseiling into art galleries instead. So, from this moment on, make them removeable.
DO tell me, also, who uses the trouser press?
DON'T hesitate if wondering whether or not a bedroom terrace is a good idea. It is. It requires a table, chairs and an ashtray. Tragically, I no longer smoke but like to be able to invite smokers to my room. My wife springs to mind.
DO answer the question: "Pillow chocolates: yes or no?" with a "No". One has just cleaned one's teeth, for heaven's sake. Those vast bowls of fruit provided in top-class hotels, though thoughtful, are also ill advised. There's always far too much (they'd do me a year) and also a knife and fork. Who eats a banana with a knife and fork?
DON'T bother leaving printed notes from the manager, saying that he or she and the staff are going to do their utmost to make my stay pleasurable. I don't get notes from the greengrocer, insisting that his aim is my fruit'n'veg enjoyment. Or from my doctor, saying he wants to make me better. I just sort of assume it. The only reason for a note would be if it were unexpected, as in: "Ha, customer: p‑‑‑ off."
DO think long and hard before placing a washbasin and/or the bath in the bedroom. This is still both rather trendy and terribly wrong. No one I have ever met wants to have a bath while his/her partner looks on. Baths have always been in bathrooms as horses have been in stables, for a very good reason.
DON'T overcomplicate the business of showering. We need water more or less hot delivered more or less powerfully. And that's it. Any greater sophistication in shower technology is getting in the way of the business of essential hygiene. It's also making us feel stupid. Oh, and we also need a dish, or a little ledge, upon which to put the soap and shampoo. Otherwise we must balance both on top of the shower cabinet, or put them on the floor, ensuring catastrophe.
DO continue putting notices in the bathroom, pointing out that not changing towels is saving polar bears. But do also expect us to mock because if you were so concerned about conservation, you'd (a) not have put half a ton of fruit on the lounge table and (b) have provided somewhere to hang the towels where they might dry. Am I clear?
Over to you.