me old fashioned, but when I pay for a hotel room I generally assume
that I am exchanging my money for a good night’s sleep in
comfortable surroundings. Sure, I did once book into a Brighton
guest house knowing that I was actually paying the landlord in the
egg-stained vest for an almost uninhabitable bedroom. But in that
case I was going back to show my girlfriend just how unbelievably
bad it was. She never did thank me.
this incident I have been relieved of hotel selection duties, so
instead of choosing the first bed and breakfast displaying a ‘vacancies’
sign the Internet, The Good Hotel Guide and travel supplements are
all consulted before I get to pack so much as a pair of socks. This
tends to cut out the £12.50-per-night boarding houses I have
favoured in the past, but it does, thankfully, almost guarantee
a lack of tinned tomatoes at breakfast or the need to use the kind
of grubby communal toilet (replete with pornographic magazines)
that we had in Brighton.
though, such judicious selection does not always guarantee a good
night’s sleep, as I discovered on two recent trips to design
hotels. The UK hotel industry is now full-to-bursting with these
boutique hotels, which offer modern cuisine, designer bars and copious
amounts of scatter cushions but it seems that standards don’t
always live up to that of their more traditional forebears.
Good Hotel Guide warned us that the Lace Market Hotel in Nottingham
city centre was no country retreat and that some street noise was
inevitable in rooms at the front, but what it didn’t tell
us was that room 39 overlooks a large selection of air conditioning
and refrigeration units belonging to a neighbouring business. Of
course, the droning, grating noise of industrial fans did not become
apparent until we returned to our warm room after a night out. We
tried closing the windows, we tried tissue paper in our ears, but
the loud bass hum easily cut through both.
an hour of fitful sleep I called reception to see if anything could
be done and was told that the noisy neighbour had gone home without
turning off the units and had been called back to do so.
two hours later the hum stopped, only to be replaced by the more
high-pitched sound of the refrigeration units, which it had obviously
later told us that the noise was an ongoing problem and that local
residents had approached the council to deal with it. A hotel spokesman
confirmed that this was the case, but did say that it was only ongoing
for just over a week. Though this does beg the question why the
Lace Market was booking guests into these rooms without warning.
were only too happy to grant our request for a change of room the
next morning and promised someone would move our bags while we were
out. They were true to their word and moved us to a charming, if
somewhat smaller, room overlooking the hotel’s own air conditioning
units. Again we called reception and we were soon on our way to
a room at the front of the hotel. After our previous night’s
lack of sleep the sound of drunken revellers working their way home
from the plethora of bars that surround the hotel sounded almost
like a lullaby and we were soon snoring blissfully.
snoring blissfully were the couple in the neighbouring room on a
recent visit to Exeter’s Hotel Barcelona. I hardly begrudged
them their sleep after the noisy and obviously pleasurable performance
they put in upon returning to their room at 2am, but I did begrudge
forking out for a room which had walls so thin that you could hear
combined with the high-decibel wailing of trapped air in the water
pipes every time anyone in a nearby room made a nocturnal visit
to the toilet, resulted in the worst night’s sleep I have
ever had in a hotel. I finally dropped off at around five o’clock,
only to be woken at six by the alarm, which had been set by the
previous, early-rising guest.
Barcelona marketing director Rupert Kenyon agreed that snoring should
not be audible through hotel walls, though offered little in the
way of hope for anyone unlucky enough to stay in room 203 in the
near future. He said that a good deal had already been spent on
soundproofing and attempts to solve the problem of the noisy pipes
and it seems that no more maintenance is planned for the immediate
at least for the time being, guests may just have to use the hotel’s
Gaudi-inspired scatter cushions to cover their ears and simply hope
that the next room is occupied by an octogenarian spinster with
a strong bladder and not a honeymooning couple with sinus problems.
be afraid to complain
Us Brits have a terrible reputation when it comes to complaining
about anything from inedible food to dirty bed linen, often leaving
it until the situation becomes unbearable and provokes a heated
argument, or just inwardly fuming until we can get home and fire
off an angry letter. Good Hotel Guide editor Caroline Raphael has
plenty of experience of complaining and she suggests that being
on the defensive from booking to bedtime is the best (and sometimes
only) way to ensure that your stay will be snag-free.
think when you are shown to your room you should take a good look
around to see if there are rubbish bins that are going to be collected
at four in the morning, if it’s on the main road, look in
the bathroom,” she says. “One has a tendency at the
end of a long journey to walk in and say ‘oh that’s
fine’ without checking, but I think it’s important.”
all is not well Raphael suggests discussing matters calmly and negotiating
a change of rooms or reduction in room rate, without raising your
voice. Walking away and moving hotels should be the very last resort,
especially as some hotels will still charge your credit card for
the room you have booked.
think if you are unhappy and there is a dirty room or something
don’t put up with it,” she says. “I don’t
think you should read to the end of a book if you are not enjoying
the first chapter, I think don’t put up with things that you
are not expecting.
if you are very picky you need to discuss this in advance when making
your booking. You will get a good idea of the hotel’s approach
if you have a positive discussion on the phone.”