One of the best parts of international travel is discovering that all cultures do things slightly differently. This is also one of the worst parts, since you end up asking “Why doesn’t everyone do this?”
First, let’s have a counter-example, since it has now happened to me on two continents in the past week. A lot of the hotels I’ve stayed in lately have beautiful stone or faux marble bathroom floors. While this would make my wife extremely happy, these surfaces are extremely slick when they are wet. I am now beginning to assume the Fall of the Roman Empire was due to marble bathroom floors. The floor here in KL is stone, and I slipped this morning – not much, but enough. The floor of my huge walk-in shower in San Francisco (actually in Burlingame) was faux marble and it was really slick. Why did I have a huge walk-in shower? Because when I checked in, the receptionist put me in a handicap room. Now, think of the irony of dying from a fall in a handicap room. This would not look good on a headstone.
Go back to the cheap floors. The clumsy (and splashy) among us will appreciate it.
Now, the proper examples. The first time (and only time so far) that I went to Taipei, there were two rather unique features in the hotel. One, there were rubber ducks sitting on the tub, which a sign around their neck that said you should adopt them. So, I have two Taiwanese ducks at home somewhere. (They’re not as tasty as Peking duck, but they’ve lasted longer.) From a business standpoint, a more important feature – that every hotel should do – is that when the bellman called a cab for you in the morning, he gave you a business card. On the business card was the hotel’s name and address, in English on one side and Chinese on the other. So, when you finished at work, you could hail any taxi and just hand him the card. Brilliant.
I’m in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (actually, in Petaling Jaya – which is like just telling people you’re the Dallas Cowboys when you’re in Arlington) this week, staying at the One World Hotel and I was very happy to find that I have a minibar in my room. Then, I was distressed to find it was empty. Barren. I had never actually seen an empty minibar. (It looks a lot like a refrigerator.) When one of the maids came to bring more bottled water (free and apparently unlimited bottled water – I’m looking at you, every American chain hotel on the corporate list), I asked her about it. First, I apologized and told her that I assumed it wasn’t her department, but then I asked, anyway. She pointed out the card titled”Why is my minibar empty?” which I had missed. Hey, I’m jetlagged. Plus, it was right next to the order form, so it was easy to miss. So, I read the instructions, after she patiently explained it to me. The system at One World Hotel is simple – they fill the minibar with what you order. That’s what had confused me – usually the order form is your sordid confession of what you drank the last night of your stay, when you’re so stressed you drink all the vodka and finally eat the $7 Toblerone. The One World has figured out there’s no sense in having four cans of Heineken in every minibar in the hotel if only so many people actually drink it. There’s an order form that’s an actual order form – it’s not for what you did consume – it’s for what you will consume if they just put in the minibar – just fill out the form, order what you think you need for your stay, and drop the form off at reception. They’ll deliver it. Why doesn’t everyone do this?
I also give the One World Hotel credit for having random stuff I’ve seen in other hotels, but not usually all at once. In my room, I have a robe, slippers, an iron and ironing board, a safe, a scale and a flashlight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a flashlight before, and as a basic security tool, it’s a pretty good idea. They also have a thermostat that will display in F or C, depending on what you want, which is great since I forgot my portable thermometer again, and I can’t do the math in my head. That’s a pretty good list of stuff for a hotel that I selected solely because it was next door to where I will be working this week.
I’m thankful that most places have just started writing the WiFi password on your room key jacket without waiting to be asked. It saves a phone call. I’m surprised more hotels don’t just have open WiFi (thank you, Best Western in Hondo, Texas), but I suppose now that they’ve finally chased all the homeless people out of the parking lot, they don’t want to start chasing out the homeless people stealing WiFi and checking email to get their intersection assignments. I do wish more hotels would just have a WPA key so you could create a profile for the location and it would always log in – the software I use creates a profile anyway, so just storing the password would save time. Having to enter a password on a web page is tedious, especially when you can’t always get the page to load. From last week’s four nights in two different Embassy Suites, I appreciate that Hilton has a partnership with AT&T (and admits it) so I can logon to their WiFi with my home AT&T credentials, since I usually lose my room key jacket with the password eventually. Also, kudos to the One World – my laptop was still connected this morning. At most places, the connection automatically drops after some period of time.
The receptionist at the One World Hotel specifically told me the password provided would work for up to four devices – it’s nice knowing there is a limit, since I always wondered. Since I have my mobile phone (no connection other than WiFi since I can’t find Sprint here), my iPad (WiFi only) and my laptop (WiFi), that’s a good number. It also means I don’t have enough devices.
The receptionist did one other thing that every receptionist in the universe should do – even if it’s bullshit. She asked me “smoking or non-smoking floor?” and when I said “non-smoking, please”, she said, “Let me see if I can get you a better room.” Now, for all I know, I have the smallest, crappiest room in the hotel, but when I first walked into it, I’ was pretty sure it was better than the one I almost got, and I was very impressed with it. Marketing genius.
I miss the rubber ducks.