Few of us are willing to spend $150 on a pair of trousers without trying them on. And yet we’re perfectly happy to shell out double that sum on a hotel room sight unseen.
Yes, on arrival you might feel compelled to complain when realizing you’ve been put in a shoebox overlooking the car park just above the fryer vent from the kitchens. But the damage is done; the make or break weekend stalled on the hard shoulder of romantic expectation.
A new approach is required. The more expensive the hotel, the more effort required before pitching up. On booking, ask about the room you are likely to be given. Does it have a bath or just a shower? Is it noisy? Is there a view?
Mr Rosenburg is happy to accommodate you in the Presidential Suite. We hope you will be comfortable
Most likely, you’ll be fobbed off and told that it’s all charming. So don’t stop there. Ask for the hotel manager’s email and then tell him how much you are looking forward to staying at his hotel.
“I would be most grateful if you give us the best possible room… .it has always been a dream to stay at the…”
Make early contact
I know this works. As a reporter on Britain’s Sunday Telegraph in the early 1990s, I was sent to New York to write a story about an opera singer. I had spent three years working there about ten years previously, when I had no money. Back then, I would often walk past the Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue and gaze longingly at its upper floors.
So, on being dispatched to the city, I faxed the Pierre’s general manager and told him the truth: I was coming to New York for a couple of days, had booked the cheapest room possible at the Pierre and if there was any chance of an upgrade I would be forever grateful.
“Ah, Mr Palmer,” said the girl on reception when I checked in. “Mr. Rosenburg is out of town this week but received your fax and is very happy to accommodate you in the Presidential Suite on the 29th floor. We hope you will be comfortable.”
It never ceases to amaze me why hotels don’t upgrade guests as a matter of course when they have rooms to spare. After all, it doesn’t take much longer to clean a big room than a smaller one.
I now ask to be upgraded as a matter of course and it seems to work, especially if you arrive just before dinner, when they are unlikely to get a superior room booking.
Court the concierge
Something else to consider is establishing a relationship with the head concierge long before you arrive. Email and ask him to book a table at the fancy restaurant you have always longed to try, and seek any other advice that might come in handy.
This worked a treat for me when I was dating my second wife. I took her to the Hotel Splendido in Portofino as something of a deal-sealer. Bingo. I had done my schmoozing of the manager and the concierge to such an extent that both of them greeted me as if I were a regular, and a high-flyer to boot. The future Mrs P. was suitably impressed.
Get the best table
Likewise, before going up to your room, head to the dining room and introduce yourself to the maître d’. Have a good look round and then ask him to reserve you the exact table of your choice. This works wonders if you are travelling as a couple or with a friend, or, indeed, on your own, when you may prefer to be tucked away in a quiet corner. The maître d’ will be delighted with your interest.
The same attention to detail is needed if the hotel has a spa. It’s no good waiting until you get there to book full-body massages at the over-subscribed hour of 6pm. Sort it out long before you arrive. Make sure the spa fits into your schedule rather than the other way round.
Luxurious hotels are fiendishly expensive. Getting value for money is not so much about being demanding, but about leaving absolutely nothing to chance.