A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday.
"It's like robbery. It is robbery!" He wasn't so much angry as he was disappointed. Hurt even. This was in the early 2010s and I was staying at a luxury boutique in the central North Island. The hotel manager I was chatting to seemed on the cusp of tears. Relatively new to the industry, the toll of the ceaseless thieving was showing on the poor man's face. I was unsure if he wanted me to hug him, it was breakfast time and a hug would've involved putting down my cutlery, removing my napkin and sliding out my chair so I could stand up. So no hug, but I did listen.
"People think those little bottles of shampoo and body wash are a free-for-all, but they're not! It would be like me going into their home and taking all their soaps!"
I held my tongue about the fact that a person paying to stay in hotel who takes a tiny bottle of shampoo is not really in the same ballpark as a stranger walking into someone's house and rummaging through the bathroom, but hey. The man was baring his soul.
I'd forgotten about this oddly emotional conversation until the news, a couple of weeks ago, that some major hotel chains around the world (including Marriott) are doing away with the tiny bathroom bottles. The initial reaction from many hotel amenity enthusiasts was of shock. Stories were shared on social media, double question mark cries of, "How can they do this?" were made and, for an hour or two, there was considerable upset in the travel world.
I say "an hour or two" because as much as I like those bottles of shampoo, body wash and moisturiser, I never really felt the need to take unopened ones. Half-used? Absolutely. But swiping unused amenities always seemed a fraction cheeky. Maybe not break-down-in-tears-in-front-of-a-guest-at-breakfast-time kind of cheeky, but cheeky nonetheless.
The real reason the tiny bottles are disappearing is also the real reason I believe any backlash will be short-lived: it's not because the hotels are being cheap, it's because of the environment. Unlike my dear wounded hotel manager all those years ago, many hotels regard the taking of amenities by their guests as a given and not as theft. Towels and dressing gowns? Theft. Tiny bottles in the bathroom? Yours to use as you choose.
The issue is the waste, not just of the plastic packaging but, ironically, from the guests who half use the amenities and don't take them with them.
As soon as a hotel cleaner sees a partially used, thumb-sized bottle, they know it's going straight in the bin. In a more environmentally conscious world, this no longer makes sense.
Like the baby cans of Coke or the miniature spirit bottles you get on planes, hotel amenities are darling little things and that's why people like them. But if helping save the planet means a large, wall-mounted reusable and no more cute bottles, I can do without the cute bottles.
I've had it with sparkling water
Not long ago I stayed at a hotel where the restaurant pours sparkling water unless you specify you want still. How hilarious that sparkling water is the default. I know it's trendy but I genuinely don't like it. Tap water is fine by me.
My wife, sweet thing that she is, loves the bubbles of sparkling water. So she allowed her glass to be filled (I declined) and then half an hour later, the waiter gave her an unasked-for refill. So two glasses of sparkling water, neither of which we'd requested, but as said, both of which were happily drunk by my wife. Crucially, both drunk with the assumption they were complimentary.
It's a good thing she enjoyed them, because when I saw an itemised breakdown of our total bill, the restaurant had charged what looks to be about $6 per glass of bubbly water. Sure, it's only $12 extra, but just as restaurants don't charge for small bread baskets that may appear in addition to your ordered meal, nor should they charge for a version of water you never said you wanted. Mayhem!
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's 7 and writes the music and travel blog RoxboroghReport.com.