Frequent traveller: Surprise surprise

28 Nov 2013 by BusinessTraveller

In which our correspondent is bemused by the weird and wonderful items a traveller can find in their hotel room

Sometimes, when checking INTO a room, I am surprised to find something unexpected waiting for me. On a bad day, it might be someone’s leftover picnic in the minibar; on a good day I may come across a welcome card from the manager or a platter of treats from the kitchen. (One hotel in Kuala Lumpur left me a giant jar of butter cookies, and I had to hide it behind the curtain to stop myself eating them all.)

It’s always nice to discover a little extra something, especially if you are a regular guest, but I have noticed some hotels are getting more creative – and not always in a good way. On a recent visit to Chongqing I was welcomed with, of all things, a large pretzel accompanied by a bowl of pink paprika cheese spread. Just what I wanted to tuck into at bedtime.

Kimpton hotels provides lonely solo travellers with a goldfish in a bowl, while at a luxury resort in Thailand, my wife and I were kept company by elaborate works of “towel art” – turtles and elephants with toenails and eyes made of rose petals, created daily.

The best was in a suite in Dubai, when I found a framed reproduction of my LinkedIn profile picture on the coffee table. If that wasn’t weird enough, when I examined it I found it was made entirely of chocolate. I may have a sweet tooth, but I’m not so into eating my own face.

I do always like it when I return after turndown to find the curtains drawn, slippers laid out, some classical music wafting from the TV and the next day’s weather forecast on the pillow. Some places have started going to even greater lengths to send you to bed happy – on recent trips I’ve discovered everything from rubber ducks and scented candles in the bathroom to Kodak fun cameras (not sure what fun they expected me to be snapping on my overnight stay for one) and personalised business cards with the room’s phone number printed on them.

Illustration by Ben Southan

Frequent Traveller ©BenSouthan

And it doesn’t end there. These days, minibars seem to come stocked with far more than the requisite mini bottles of vodka, bags of peanuts and overpriced mineral water. While rummaging for a pack of M&Ms, some of the things I have encountered include chilled eye masks, silver packs of pre-mixed pina colada, wasabi-flavoured popcorn, instant porridge, energy pills and hotel-branded baseball caps – yes, that’s really going to set off my business suit.

The boutique hotels take it even further. Last year, when I went through a stage of booking trendier places – what my wife refers to as my midlife crisis period – I was greeted with CDs compiled by the in-house DJ (party for one?), and “love boxes” containing blindfolds, handcuffs and edible panties – the mere thought of which sent me straight back to my Marriott gold card.

One colleague discovered a slightly more downmarket treat in a London hotel the other week – a Pot Noodle. To add insult to injury, he was charged for it, despite not having touched one since 1990.

It isn’t all about what the hotel leaves for the guest, though – occasionally we leave things for the hotel, albeit accidentally. I’ve forgotten to pack countless adaptors over the years, not to mention toothbrushes, razors and the odd jacket, but sometimes people abandon things on purpose.

According to Travelodge, 20,000 books were left on its premises in 2012, 7,000 of them being EL James’s 50 Shades of Grey (I bet they would have got a lot more out of a “love box”). It also found more than 76,000 teddy bears, a TV soap script and a pilot’s training manual.

Harder to fathom were reports of maids stumbling across false limbs, dentures, breast implants, the keys to a Bugatti sports car and a £50,000 Rolex watch – all items surely that the owners would have been at a loss without? (Though why people as wealthy as some of these were staying in a Travelodge, I don’t know.)

Talking to a five-star hotel manager I know quite well, he told me how common it is to uncover big sums of cash – sometimes stashed under the mattress, or in a shopping bag in the wardrobe. Staff are obliged to guard it for a certain period of time but if it goes unclaimed, they are allowed to keep it – how’s that for a nice tip?

What wouldn’t be so fun is if they were to discover adult toys under the sheets, a live shark swimming in the tub, or even a python coiled up in the corner – all things that have apparently been left by guests with a peculiar brand of forgetfulness. Now, where did I put my glasses?

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