Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Home in the Hotel

The best service providers offer their customers a choice. When traveling there is a choice of dining options at a restaurant, choice of seating on an airplane, choice of car categories at the rental counter and choice of rooms at the hotel. Each tries to cater to the myriad tastes and preferences of the traveling public while making each feel as if only their wishes are the ones to be met, for the most part with casual, everyday success. There is one instance where hotels at least, have failed miserably and that is the feeling of being at home.

I'm one of those that refers to my hotel as "home" after a few days on the road; as in, instead of when I get back to the hotel it's "when I get home tonight." Still, no matter how well appointed and plush any room I've ever stayed in, from the Crown Plaza to the Shangri-La, no matter how modern the technology may be in places like "Le Meridien Cyberport" none of them really evoke the sense of being in one's own bedroom. I have appreciated luxurious mattresses, fine furnishings, spectacular televisions and high-speed internet. I have enjoyed some of the best in high-end toilletries but I have never in my years of traveling experienced the one thing that truly transforms the hotel bed in to the bed at home.

Fabric softener.

SCENTED fabric softener to be more precise! I'm not hypo-allergenic. My family over the years has used Gain, Tide and Cheer for the wash and never anything but Downy April Fresh for the rinse cycle. When dryer sheets came along we went with and stayed with Bounce. Less popular and more economic brands have come in to the mix based occasionally but our trifecta has typically been Tide, Downy and Bounce with Clorox thrown in to the mix for whites.

As in bed linens. High volume chain establishments up to and including cruise lines have tons of laundry to go through and uncountable gallons of water to pay for, process and be accountable for in today's green society environment. Linens have to be mass-washed and sterilized as much as possible since it is certainly not cost effective to toss them in the trash after every guest. Industrial strength detergents and bleaches are used daily; if any fabric softener is brought to bear it is most assuredly as non-scented and hypo-allergenic as everything else down in the laundry room or at the local service contractor. Despite knowing uncounted hordes have slept on these linens no traces of them must be left behind. No scented detergents or softeners, either, less someone break out in a rash or other untimely reaction.

A recent cruise vacation I went on found the room to be comfortable and the queen-sized bed to be plush but the near razor sharp top sheet alone was enough to make me wonder if it wasn't some form of disposable paper. I just returned from a business trip to Florida and the linens at my hotel were certainly softer than those on board ship. I was still aware, however, that "cool and crisp" meant lifeless and hard edged.

I don't know if fresh cut flowers might help, a little Lemon Pledge on the furnishings maybe, or what it will take for the big chains to understand and find an affordable way to bring a little home to the hotel experience. I do know where I can find it, though, if only there were more of them. A bed & breakfast.

Gotta go.

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