Many business travellers have a genuine love-hate relationship with hotels: they love the upgrades, free breakfast and nice surroundings, but hate the forgotten or ill-timed wake-up calls, the shower tubs, the noisy neighbours and the surcharges for real barista coffee at that same ‘free’ breakfast.
We’ve compiled the top five ways that any hotel, even the most lavish five-star luxury properties, can turn an otherwise-positive stay into one that makes us sigh, cringe or just plain irritated.
1. Charity donations appearing on the bill
Nothing sours an otherwise great stay like reviewing your folio on departure day and spotting that somebody else has decided that you will be making a charitable donation as part of your visit.
Usually the donation comes as an inconsequential $1 tacked on at the bottom, but which puts you, the guest, in a very awkward and unnecessary position.
You can either ask for the dollar charge to be removed – which admittedly makes you appear cheap – or you can leave it on and explain to your boss why you used the company credit card for a donation that’s too small to even be tax deductible.
We’ve nothing against charities and wouldn’t mind so much if hotels simply offered the chance to donate on check-out, but adding unauthorised charges to your bill is a no-no in the banking industry, and should be so at hotels, too.
2. “Would you like to pay in Australian dollars?”
Visa and MasterCard users spending overseas will have been asked “would you like to pay in Australian dollars?” many a time under the guise of being convenient, and hotels are no exception to that rule.
But what many people don’t realise is that the hotel usually pads that exchange rate by 1-3% and pockets the extra as a commission. Then, your Australian bank will likely charge its usual 2-3.65% foreign transaction fee on top of that, adding as much as 6.65% to your overall bill.
Hotel reception staff are also seldom aware of the hidden cost and often tout the service, known as ‘dynamic currency conversion’, as if they’re doing you a favour so that you “know exactly how much you’ll be billed in your own currency”.
Make the question an honest and transparent “would you to pay us a higher amount but in Australian dollars?” and we’re sure this ‘convenience’ would quickly become extinct.
3. Hotel gyms that close overnight
Normally accessible only by key card, we’ve never understood why some hotel gyms and fitness centres close their doors in the evenings – particularly when they’re largely self-sustaining and come fitted with CCTV cameras for added security.
For jetlagged business travellers arriving late at night or early in the morning after a long journey, a quick workout can do wonders for your circulation, fatigue and even mental preparedness ahead of your busy schedule for the days ahead.
There are also the crowds who prefer to rise early for a pre-breakfast calorie burn or head to the gym later at night once all their work is done, and in this modern age of hi-tech gadgets and electronic access cards, “the little hand was on the twelve” no longer passes muster.
4. HDTV aspect ratios, blurry images
It’s always ironic when a hotel spends thousands of dollars installing shiny new high definition TVs in its guestrooms, only for the pictures displayed to stretched, squished, cropped or otherwise in the wrong size or ‘aspect ratio’.
For example, if you’ve ever flicked on Sky News, CNN or Bloomberg to find that your hotel TV is missing much of the usual on-screen information – or even just an entertainment channel to watch a movie and noticed that the actor’s head was abnormally wide – you’ve got an aspect issue.
Frequently the hotel will have programmed its master set top boxes in ‘4:3 crop’ mode, which takes a virtual cookie cutter to the centre of a widescreen image for display on the more squarish TVs of yesteryear, before piping that straight to your wide TV and stretching the image back out to fill the screen.
What you end up with is half a channel filling the whole of the screen and looking like a downright mess, rather than a widescreen channel displayed in actual widescreen.
5. Bedside clocks past their use-by date
Some hotels have brilliant bedside clock radios with built-in phone connectors and USB charging ports, while others lag behind and claim an often-faulty auxiliary cable as their headline feature.
The former are fantastic for business travellers – serving not only in place of the phone charger you forgot to pack but also to air your personal music playlist while your phone is re-juiced for the busy day ahead.
Switch to the latter and you’ve got no phone connection and no backup USB power sockets: instead just a flimsy audio cable that should have been upgraded years ago. Hilton, take note.
When it comes to hotels, what makes you grumble before, during or even after your stay? Share your pet peeves in the comment box below!
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