Check-in, Cheque-out

Rishi Piparaiya | Updated on August 14, 2014

Not for sale: Toiletry is no longer a ‘return’ gift

Rishi Piparaiya

How high-end hotels tend to offer low-end hospitality

Lately, I’ve checked-in to hotels catering to high-end leisure travellers as well as budget business travellers. And what a stark contrast it has been.

I took a short break at one of the Middle East’s most luxurious resorts. Each guest villa, in the heart of the desert, was a sprawling Arabian palace, complete with its own temperature-controlled private pool, Mumbai-flat-sized bathrooms, cinema-like televisions, an Einstein-flummoxing coffee machine and ceramic toiletry (your butter-fingered columnist sadly dropped and broke a lovely little conditioner bottle). The resort boasted splendid restaurants, a world-renowned spa and an array of exotic leisure activities. At a base room rate of $600 per night, this was extending my retirement plan by a few years, but what the heck… I am a BLink columnist now.

A few weeks later, I was dispatched to London for a ‘training program’ (yes, apparently my boss believes there is still some stuff I don’t know) and was booked at the no-frills ‘Express’ category hotel of an international chain. Having been an avid collector of UK visas for two decades, I don’t expect much from London hotel rooms. In a city where Tihar Residency-style cells go for £300 a night, this £115 room in its heart seemed most suspect.

As I swiped open the door, I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. The room was bigger than expected and had a fullsize bed, a two-seater couch and a functional work desk. A clothes hanger stood in as a substitute for a wardrobe and basic business traveller essentials, such as complimentary Wifi, TV, ironing board, hairdryer and coffeemaker were all there. Neither toiletries nor room service was offered, but helpful notes around the room assured me that if I were to dash across to the reception, I’d get anything I require. The breakfast buffet stayed unchanged during my stay — scrambled eggs, baked beans, sausages. Standard. Delicious. And free.

Time whizzed by without a fuss: no laundry, no extras, no lost keys and no special requirements. When I checked out, a four-line itemised bill was presented. Night 1: £115, Night 2: £115, Night 3: £115, Total: £345. A hotel hotline connected me to a cab company that whisked me to Heathrow. I paid, I left, I was conquered.

After a most indulgent weekend, I also checked out of my lavish Bedouin retreat. My heart sank as their industrial printing press spewed out page after page of invoice. Room service, lunch, desert safari, drinks, dinner, breakfast, lunch again, phone calls, falconry show, dinner yet again, still more drinks, taxes, service charges, charitable donation to save some turtles, other extras, other charges, other extra charges — their solar calculator crashed twice, despite the bright sunlight. As I scanned the sheets with trepidation, I came across a $10 entry, tucked away. “What’s this charge for?” I politely enquired — more out of curiosity than the meaningless impact it had on the overall bill. “Sir, we found a toiletry bottle broken in your room and that’s chargeable.”

Lately, I’ve checked-out of hotels catering to high-end leisure travellers as well as budget business travellers. And what a stark contrast it has been.

Rishi Piparaiya is the author of Aisle Be Damned (rishi@aislebedamned.com)

Published on March 14, 2014

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