By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 9/3/2008 4:59:11 PM ET 2008-09-03T20:59:11

If anyone knows hotels, it’s airline crewmembers. We often smirk at the way properties work, but then forget about them when we leave. I don’t.

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In my last column, I offered some lodging tips from an airline perspective. Now comes the fun part: pointing out the oddities associated with these hotels. Here’s my list.

1. Useless signs. I am in a hotel as I write this column. It’s a large room with the ceilings that are approximately 15 feet high. On the ceiling is an emergency sprinkler system with a sticker on it. I can’t quite read it, so I stand on the bed and jump closer to read this important message. It says, do not hang items from this fixture. Really? Considering that I would need a ladder to reach it, is it that necessary to tell me this? Another useless item is the one that the maids put on the toilet paper. It only ends up tearing the paper and gets thrown away with the shreds. I don’t really need it shaped in a triangle, thank you.

2. Soap it up. Now, I like the different toiletries in the hotel rooms, but find the size of soaps somewhat overwhelming and wasteful. Why would you give me a big fancy oatmeal bar of soap for staying only one night? Well, what about a several night stay, you might ask? No, the maid always throws away the old one and replaces it with a fresh bar.

3. The mini-bar. Ever check out the prices in the those drink treasure chests? Think they are steep here in the U.S.? Just do the math in the overseas hotels and you will become a teetotaler yet. If I ever do have a drink, I just make sure to replace it when I leave. Some of the mini-bars have automatic sensors that once the item is removed it goes directly on your bill. Now, that is somewhat silly as well because how many of you are going to actually pay for the item if you didn’t consume it? I know I’m not. What I usually do is bring the item down to check-out stating that I accidentally bumped into the mini bar knocking over the item in question. This is especially helpful when clearing a space for your items that need a refrigerator.

4. Connecting rooms. There is often a definite need for a connecting room option but do they have to have such a high gap under the connecting door? Unfortunately, this generally causes the ability to hear more of the unwanted sounds emanating from your neighbor such as bodily noises and/or functions, romantic interludes, conversations and the inevitable curiosity of your next door occupant at 2 AM saying, “Where does this door lead to?”

5. Bidet. Okay, I know it’s probably because I am male, but I never really got the hang of this item and in fact, for the first few years in the airline industry, I truly believed its function to be that of a shoe washer.

6. Elevator. Elevator behavior is always humorous to me. The occupants’ demeanor always changes once inside; no conversation and they are always staring up at the numbers. Once in a while I confound the others and face the rear of the elevator instead. Advertisers are getting clever by putting a television inside (naturally called a Televator), forcing you to watch their commercials.

7. Hidden charges. Hotels seem to be learning from the airlines because nickel and diming seems to be more prevalent these days. In my room I see eight different chargeable amenities, such as Fiji Water $6, Wi-Fi $20, and pay-per-view movies starting at around $10.

8. The sneak peek. Speaking of movies and charging, as you surf your way through the many TV channels you may land on a movie that is fairly recent. You watch it and after 10 minutes a big sign pops up telling you that you need to pay to see the rest. You’re fairly disappointed and continue to channel surf, when you reach the adult entertainment and get an eyeful. You watch a bit and the pay sign comes up more quickly than for the other movie, but if you switch channels back and forth your preview returns which allows you to see what happens in the end (or to whose end).

9. Suggested sales price. Go to your room closet and notice that often there will be a suggested rate for your room charge. Does anyone ever pay as much as they post? Is its purpose to make you think you got a great deal? The airlines usually pay for my room, but the posted price is always more than I would ever be willing to pay.

10. The wake up. Even though there is always an alarm clock in the room I always prefer the wake up call (in case I improperly set the alarm, or that the volume is too soft. One tip from many readers was to always check that your alarm clock hasn’t already been set by the previous occupant.

11. Turned on. More often in foreign hotels, you are confronted with a host of light switches, each operating different lights. You find that when it is time for sleeping you attempt to turn off all the lights, but never quite get the combination correct and end up performing a light show, but many times there is that one lamp that you have to actually turn off by hand.

12. Cushioning the blow. It seems to be either feast or famine with hotel pillows. One hotel gives you a single rock-hard pillow while another gives you eight. How about a happy medium?

I just got back from Beijing and the Olympics and one of the most unusual aspects of my trip was that among the hotel room toiletries was a condom. I have stayed in thousands of different hotels but this was the first time a condom was supplied intentionally. It even had the hotel logo on it. I was in a Communist country and was pleasantly shocked, to say the least.

Now, I am married and have little use for this item, but since the sink had many signs stating the water was not potable, I used it in a different way. If you’re like me you brush your teeth in the morning and don’t think twice about rinsing out your tooth brush. Many times I would do this with non-potable water and then catch myself minutes after the fact. Well, in an attempt to practice safe oral hygiene, I put the condom over the water faucet to remind myself not to use the water. The maid probably thought I was crazy, but it did the job. And if you’re at all curious, the condoms in China are same size as ours: one size fits all faucets.

Do you have any hotel oddities to share? Send them to me and let’s have a laugh and get them on paper.

James Wysong has worked as a flight attendant with two major international carriers during the past fifteen years. He is the author of the "The Plane Truth: Shift Happens at 35,000 Feet" and "The Air Traveler's Survival Guide." For more information about James or his books, please visit his Web site or e-mail him.


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