It's a Mann's world: Hotel room Mann-ifesto

Olly Mann

This month Olly Mann lends some friendly advice to budget hotels on how to improve their service

I’ve been travelling, for work. Staying in a lot of hotels, paid for by my employers; satisfyingly, I’ve now reached the “…and will you be providing a hotel?” stage of my freelance career. But I’m not exactly being put up at The Ritz.

Left alone in a series of dispiriting business hotels, I’ve had plenty of time to consider what might improve my experience. I will now share these thoughts with you. (I could have filled out a customer feedback survey, but this isn’t the first time I’ve abused the privilege of being a published columnist and it won’t be the last, so strap in.) Here are my Olly Mann action-points for improving budget hotels. My Mann-ifesto, if you will. Let’s hope senior management are reading…

Let me start, as I frequently do, with coffee. Britain is a nation transformed: no longer are we exclusively tea-drinkers, lorded over by those freaky flat-capped cartoon Yorkshiremen, fearful to order a cappuccino lest we seem too Continental. We now expect our hotel breakfast buffets to proffer a range of coffees and they dutifully, uniformly, oblige: filter, espresso, foamed milk. Many hotels even have a branch of Starbucks or Costa in the lobby, so you can depart holding a hot branded beverage in your hands, like you’re Sarah Jessica Parker getting papped in Manhattan. Yet, in the bedrooms themselves, caffeine provision has remained unchanged for decades: a kettle, tea, and sodding Nescafe.

Every enlightened Englishman now considers instant coffee granules a mere simulacrum of coffee, just as we’ve come to realise Sunny D isn’t really orange juice, Angel Delight isn’t really strawberry mousse and many of our Facebook “friends” have no idea who we are. So, why do hotels still give us instant?

"What if I overly-lubricated my feet, slipped and tumbled straight out of an un-barred window?"

The obvious upgrade would be coffee pod machines, or even drip filters, as in American motels. But there are a range of cheap alternatives: cafetieres, coffee bags, liquid espresso. Even those “barista-style” granules, if you really insist. How can it be that it’s possible get a “proper” coffee on a budget airline 30,000 feet above Gatwick, but you can’t get it in your bedroom at the airport hotel? Madness.

 

Next, let’s consider toiletries.

Shampoo and shower gel are the clear priority here, so I’m pleased to report that only one establishment has recently failed to provide me with these—and that was the one where the room was constructed from wipe-clean bright plastic, like a 1980s McDonalds restaurant, and the window had bars on it so you couldn’t kill yourself.

But what about toothpaste, eh? We’ve all turned up at a hotel and forgotten toothpaste. Yet, despite complimentary toothpaste being a staple of hotels across Asia, for some reason European hoteliers have failed to follow suit, preferring instead to offer us… body lotion. I have never in my life cracked open a bottle of body lotion in a budget hotel. What if I overly-lubricated my feet, slipped on that bright plastic floor and tumbled straight out of an un-barred window?

Next: the TV. Whilst it’s true that on-demand media is slowly usurping linear broadcasting, most hotels have finally cottoned on to the fact that decent wi-fi is esssential—so, if guests wish to watch Netflix or whatever, it’s safe to assume they will do so using their own devices. When they switch on the telly, by contrast, they want a quick fix. Perhaps it’s 6am and they want the news headlines and the on-screen clock. Or it’s 2am, and they’ve drunkenly crawled into bed with a kebab, and crave a bit of Family Guy. Or they’re in town for a wedding, and want to check the weather.

These people want to pick up the remote, press “1” or “3” or “7” and be entertained. What they definitely, DEFINITELY do not want is to have to navigate a bespoke “smart” TV menu that offers them the opportunity to peruse a slideshow of steaks available in the hotel’s underwhelming grill restaurant. Nor do they wish to stream media from a USB stick, because no-one, literally no-one, ever thinks to come to a budget hotel prepared with a USB stick full of media content to dock into the TV.

 

Oh, and dare I mention… the Bible.

Why is there a Bible in my drawer? Am I on Desert Island Discs? Why would a hotel which doesn’t see fit to provide coat-hangers or drinking water bother providing that? Look, I know that this is technically a Christian country—in the same way that Cheryl Cole is technically a singer. But, whilst it is charming hospitality to offer Bibles to Christians who actually request them, if a book must be left in my drawer, I’d prefer something less controversial, and certainly less evangelical. Perhaps something by Fern Britton.

Finally, please can we have adult-sized glasses for orange juice? Orange juice isn’t a shot. It’s very much a tall drink, I would say. There. That’s it. You get all my advice, for free. Everything’s premier but the price.