22nd December has been dubbed ‘frantic Friday’ as it’s the day that many of us will be driving home for Christmas, desperately trying to get Chris Rea’s dulcet tones out of our head and keen to kick-start a few days of quality time (and Quality Street). Some of us will end up staying a night or two in a hotel because there’s no room at our family’s ‘inn’. Depending on how organised you are and how far ahead you booked, it’s likely that the experience will be delightfully distinctive. But for those who find the timing of Christmas a complete surprise every year and may not be quite so organised, our lack of planning can result in spending time in hotels that can be distinctly dodgy.
Wherever you end up, my Christmas wish for you is that you don’t encounter one or more of my top five hotel over-nightmares…..
1. Coat hangers attached to the wardrobe rail
These are the ones you have to thread the upright stand through a hole to remove, before you put your jacket on it and then put back trying the same manoeuvre in reverse. It requires a level of dexterity last seen on The Krypton Factor and is equally as stressful. Clearly the hangers are designed to stop you taking them home but given I can barely fit my Christmas Day outfit (s) in my carry on, am I really going to make space in anticipation of nicking four wooden coat hangers? Spoiler: no.
2. Bed linen ‘adjacencies’
This covers all the stuff on the bed in addition to sheets and pillows. Specifically, those nasty and completely useless cushions that you chuck on the floor every night and then find miraculously back on your bed the following day. Special shout out to the strip of 100% polyester laid over the duvet across the foot of the bed for what reason I do not know. Often the colour of a distressed battleship, its only purpose is to remove any vestige of Christmas spirit by making me feel slightly sad or to turn me incandescent with rage, depending on whether I’m just looking at it or have got tangled up in it.
3. Car Park apps/supplementary hotel parking charges
The drive home is nearly over. Traffic has been challenging. You’re at the mercy of Radio 2 and you’re allergic to Slade. You finally reached your destination – let’s call it Ipswich – and walk towards the welcoming light of reception to check in. The warm greeting you receive? “If you want to park here you need to pay by app.” No worries, I will just check the six parking apps I already have on my phone. Oh, what a surprise, it is a new, Ipswich only, app. Let me now stand here for 15 minutes in my coat, surrounded by my luggage and bag of badly wrapped presents, downloading another app, filling in all my details, returning to the car park to confirm my number plate because I’ve had a mental blank and then, in a lightly suppressed rage, committing to spend £5.15 for 24 hours parking. Just roll it into the cost of my room PLEASE.
4. Plugs in the wrong places/moody lighting
Here we have ‘atmospheric’ lighting which would be perfectly acceptable in the chill-out room of a New Year’s Eve nightclub but is less useful when you’re trying to read a book. Often, the only light of any brightness is a standard lamp in the corner of the room which means you have to get out of your cosy bed to turn it off at night, make a leap back into bed in the dark and hope you don’t trip over the luggage you failed to put away and both stub your toe and fall face first into the bed, writhing with pain in an incredibly undignified way. Because apparently that can happen.
Then there’s plugs that are in the most unhelpful places. This includes, as far away from the bed as possible and also, nowhere near a mirror. For plug-less mirrors, this results in the unique experience of drying your hair with no idea what you look like. Entertaining for your family when you meet them for breakfast, if not so good for your self-esteem.
5. Charging for use of the hairdryer
She’s making this one up, you’re probably thinking. What hotel would charge its customers for use of the hairdryer for goodness’ sake? Well, the Zedwell chain for one. If you don’t fancy visiting your relatives with wet hair, you’ll need to pay £10 to borrow a Zedwell hairdryer. Which, on principle, I didn’t. The cost of a Zedwell hotel room is comparable with other ‘budget’ hotel chains in London AKA still pretty expensive so it’s not like it’s passing on the savings made from the hairdryer tax to the customer.
What can we learn from these gripes? (Apart from how petty I can be). Whilst all of them are annoying, the reality is they’re not going to stop me from using those hotels. I need somewhere to stay over Christmas and these are minor inconveniences really. But being charged for a hairdryer? That is a hill I am prepared to die on. Zedwell lost me as a customer over something that I know logically is insignificant but emotionally was a deal-breaker.
However, in the great scheme of things and at this time in particular, I realise the immense privilege of having a choice in where to rest your head. I won’t be returning to Zedwell but I will be donating the cost of a few hairdryers to Shelter this Christmas.
Wishing all our clients past and present, colleagues, friends and fellow travellers a very happy Christmas and all best wishes for 2024.