in Politics

On hotels, hangers and humanity

I’m working out of London for a couple of days, and although I’d posted I wouldn’t be blogging, I couldn’t resist a rant about hotels.

I’m not sure what it is, but it has always seemed that hotels make judgements about me.

The first is that I want a single bed to sleep in, and one spare. In a way it’s been helpful. I could spend the time before meeting colleagues for dinner last night carefully mulling over my choice of bed. And tonight I might sleep in a different bed, just to mix things up.

But that’s probably just one step shy of a rock and roll style room trashing though, so I might reconsider.

The second is that I obviously want to pay well over the odds for communication with the outside world. At the moment I can pay 55p a minute to make a local call, 75p a minute to call home and £17 a day for internet access.

£17 a day?! That’s more than most people pay in a month, if they don’t get free broadband. But I’m wise to their games, so I’m just using my phone to tap out a long rant.

The third and final annoyance is their total and utter conviction that I’m determined to bankrupt them through my compulsive theft of hangers.

I have never stolen anything, let alone a hanger, in my life – the worst I have ever done was, aged 7, receiving some Dennis the Menace stickers that I think may have been stolen. They adorned my lunch-box and gave me daily bouts of guilt that forced me to give up packed lunches at school.

But somehow hoteliers have me down as some sort of clothes storage kleptomaniac, as if I’d steal the wardrobe if it weren’t fitted, and console myself with petty hanger theft. You can get 3 for a £1 on St John’s Road so why would I pay £70 a night to steal £2.67 worth of hangers?

I know I’m not alone in this. I Tweeted last night and received a fabulous response from @agentoffortune expressing his relief that he was not the only one seen by hotels as “a bourgeois yet gullible net freak with a penchant for celibacy and hanger theft”.

But I’m determined to be positive, so I shall finish by mentioning somewhere that I think got it right.

Towards the end of 2006 I stayed in a fabulous hotel in Folkestone when there for a friend’s wedding. It was set-up by a couple of guys who simply felt they could do better. And they did. Internet was free, you just connected to their wifi network (they’d lend you a cable if you needed). They didn’t have mini-bars, but there was beer and wine in the lounge, as well as home-made cake and you were invited to help yourself. And every wardrobe had proper hangers.

And bizarrely, I didn’t steal a single hanger, and didn’t abuse the free booze although I probably did have too much cake. Basically, their guests were treated as responsible adults and, unsurprisingly, behaved as responsible adults. It was a fantastic hotel, and if you ever need to stay in Folkestone (or want to see how a hotel can be well run) I would recommend the Hotel Relish.

I wish I could disclose I’d been paid for that, but sadly I feel compelled to praise them, two years later, simply because it was the last place that didn’t assume I was a petty thief.

And this is going to prolong my rant because it fits in with something I’ve been increasingly thinking recently; that we are all human. Nothing very profound in that, you might say, but it seems that a lot of problems in this world are caused by people who either expect something different of others, or try and portray a different image of themselves.

I’m frustrated because a hotel chain’s assumption I’m a potential hanger thief has left me having to deal with fiddly hangers.

Is Sir Fred Goodwin a greedy banker because of his personality, or because we’ve created a society in which bankers are expected to be like that?

And is Gordon Brown floundering because he’s useless, or because we have created a system where politicians have to appear all-knowing and infalliable and he can’t keep that appearance up?

It seems the public expect politicians to be muppets, and politicians portray themselves as super-human – when it would be much better and healthier for everyone if we recognised that (Kermit and Clark Kent aside) that we are human beings and sit somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

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