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 Do Not Disturb by Michael Matthews

michael December 8: Are You Safe in Your Hotel Room? Yes, But...
The clock on the bedside table read 2:38 a.m. There was somebody in my hotel room. I heard him pick up my money and move across the room towards me. I felt him standing over me. My eyes were tightly closed, feigning sleep. I heard the click of the door closing behind him. It was 2:41. Less than three minutes had passed. It seemed like three hours.

November 17: Go Westin, Young Hotelier
Regular readers of this irregular column know that I have spent most of my hotel career at the top end of the pyramid. But circumstances change and I recently checked in at two Westin hotels in one month. I must admit that there really is a Heavenly Bed at Westin. But, please, no more ads about the Heavenly Baths because they are not.

November 10: Be Safe. Go Local.
The Amman bombings, at a Hyatt, a Radisson and a Days Inn, are by no means the first time that U.S. hotels, albeit owned and staffed by locals, have been the site of a terrorist attack. This raises a chilling question: Are guests safe in a U.S.-branded hotel overseas? The answer is not particularly reassuring. I say be safe. Stay at unbranded local places.

September 29: In the Loo Without a Logo
Wherever you look in a hotel room these days, something is branded. This is especially true in the bathroom: L'Occitane, Bulgari, Aveda, Penhaligon, Neutrogena, you name it. It is never-ending. But there is one bathroom item that never has a logo. In fact, it's never even named, let alone mentioned in any promotional material for the hotel.

September 1: Why I've Never Been Knighted
A Royal visit to a hotel is a much-practiced affair. During the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip to Fiji, everything was going according to plan. Suddenly, every sprinkler on the 170-acre hotel estate went off! Her Majesty's blue dress was plastered to her body. Her hair was bedraggled and matted to her face. There went my knighthood.

July 14: The World Is Flat. I Know. I've Been There.
The world is flat. I can prove it because I recently stopped for a night in Sweetwater, Texas. If you don't know Sweetwater, you needn't bother. It's truly awful. It has a major intersection on Interstate 30, six truck stops and just four places to stay: a Comfort Inn, a Holiday Inn, a Ramada Inn and a Motel 6. I took the Holiday Inn. Big mistake. Let me tell you why.

June 2: Hotel Blues: Scuffed Shoes and Wrinkled Shirts
I have tried everything to get a decent shine from a hotel. That includes placing money inside the shoe in hopes that this might convince the minion, buried in the bowls of the hotel, whose sole (no pun) job it is to polish shoes all through the night, to put a little extra effort into polishing mine. It doesn't work.

April 28: The Pumpkin Eater, the Ragman and the Hong Kong Hotel
When Royalty visits a hotel, regardless of their stature in the hierarchy of all things Royal, it is an event. The entire staff is briefed on protocol, buttons are shined, the hotel is cleaned and the red carpet is laid at the front door. At that door, the General Manager, in his newest Armani suit and Hermes tie, stands ready to greet the Royal Potentate.

April 7: Hoteliers Become a Nation of Shopkeepers
Napoleon Bonaparte once called the English "a nation of shopkeepers." Sadly, that maxim can now be applied to hoteliers. Wherever you stay now it seems that everything in the hotel is for sale. You can buy the mattresses, the sheets and the towels. The desk and bedside lights are for sale. A mid-priced chain is selling showerheads, too.

March 17: Five Hundred Shower Caps Later
I was at The Westin San Juan to give a speech recently and was charged $21.95 a night for "resort amenities." Highway robbery! When in Cairo at the Sheraton, my partner and I were "forced" to sign up for the Starwood Guest Rewards loyalty program--and we were charged for it! We were told it was a "government order"!

March 3: The One-Year Review: Soaps, Clocks and Hotel Tales
I have yet to find a hotel room that has a clock radio that I can set simply and then sleep soundly in the knowledge that it will go off on time. The triumph of the impractical high-tech clock-radio got me to thinking about all the other things in hotels that confound us. And, these days, there seems to be more unnecessarily complicated gadgets than ever before.

February 17: Keep It Simple: Of High-Tech Clocks and High-Tech Hotel Wizardry
I have yet to find a hotel room that has a clock radio that I can set simply and then sleep soundly in the knowledge that it will go off on time. The triumph of the impractical high-tech clock-radio got me to thinking about all the other things in hotels that confound us. And, these days, there seems to be more unnecessarily complicated gadgets than ever before.

January 27: Yodeling in Chicago: A Perfect Hotel With Spotless Chandeliers
Most of the world's great hoteliers, past and present, have been Swiss--and most of them from the German end. This is a story of one particular Swiss-German expatriate hotelier, Hans Willimann. He's been general manager of the Four Seasons Chicago since the day it opened in 1989. Many surveys rate it as the best hotel in the United States.

January 6: The Best of the Best Hotel List
I thought for this column we would do something a little bit different. Namely give you my Best of the Best List for 2004. What do I consider "the best"? It is those hotels and resorts, eateries and bars that I've personally enjoyed most over the past year. The qualifier, of course, is that I must have been to each at least once in the past year.

These columns originally appeared at joesentme.com.

Copyright 1993-2005 by Michael Matthews. All rights reserved.