Do Not Disturb



March 3, 2005 -- We have just passed the first anniversary of my attempt to amuse and educate you and generally vent my own feelings about the hotel industry. It's been a great year. Happy anniversary, y'all! (I'm British, but my bride is from Texas!)

It has been a fun year and I've covered many topics, from bed bugs to soaps. I am honored to have picked up so many loyal and, I might add, opinionated readers. To those of you out there who have kindly written, please be assured that I love your E-mails and do attempt to reply to them all.

Certain columns this first year produced very few responses (the bed bugs one) whereas others (the state of hotel soap and the best hotel bars) produced a goodly amount of comment. I guess it just goes to show that we are all clean and certainly not abstemious.

A recent column on hotel gadgetry really struck a cord. It seems that all of you are like me and can no more set a typical hotel alarm clock than fly a rocket to the moon. One hundred percent of my E-mails indicated that hotel alarm clocks, in their present form, are just too difficult to set. Most of you, me included, lie there in a cold sweat, semi-conscious, wondering whether the damn thing will go off on time. Many of you wrote that you've given up on hotel clocks only to be awakened at 4:00 a.m. because the alarm was set to the previous guest's requirements!

Well, help is on the way.

John McManus, president of Magellan's, that extremely fine store for all your travel needs, wrote to say that he sells a very simple, sturdy and lightweight travel alarm clock. It sells for just $9.85. Apparently, the alarm gets more and more insistent with its ring until it eventually awakens you--and you slam it off. And at that price it doesn't really matter if you leave it behind. At least the maid will be getting up on time.

Kendra Walker, a public-relations supremo from the hallowed halls of Hilton, wrote that Hilton is currently rolling out a simple, foolproof alarm clock throughout its family of brands. She then went on to say that the new clock was so terrific that it has a patch cord in the back so that you can connect your MP3 player, laptop or CD player. Wait a minute. It's starting to get complicated already. But I will have to check into a Hilton just to try this simple electronic marvel.

Other hoteliers, including the folks at Crowne Plaza hotels, wrote to say that they have a simple alarm system: You simply phone in the time that you want to get up and an electronic system calls at the appointed time. They even give you a guarantee that you will get your wake- up call. But they didn't say how you were compensated in the event you want to make a claim.

Another reader said that electronic wake-up calls are great--until there is a power outage in the middle of the night. Then the machine suddenly wakes you up an hour later--or however long the power may have been cut off. In other words, it's a matter of caveat emptor when using a hotel's electronic wake-up system.

And still another reader wrote to say that the Evergreen hotel in Taipei has a great alarm clock. But she hastened to add that instructions are in Chinese so she couldn't work it. To be honest, I am not going to Taiwan to test it.

Over the course of the year, I also discussed my preference for two shower taps (one hot and one cold) rather than these newfangled, one-handle, computerized shower systems. Sadly, I am informed that two-tap systems are now illegal in many places because the local government nanny is frightened that we might scald ourselves or that we are incapable of telling the hot tap from the cold one. Give me a break.

Finally, the people at NextTV wrote to say that their new hotel system has just one remote control and that even I could probably work the clicker. We'll see.

And on the matter of in-room television and movie systems: Did you know that 95 percent of movie revenue comes from the naughty, naughty movies? And that the average viewing time is eight minutes? By the way, "adult" movies now appear on your bill as "room service"--which, in most hotels, is decidedly slower than eight minutes!

My sincere thanks for your support over the past year, I get a great kick writing this--as does my Texas bride, who delights in correcting her British husband's English.

And remember: Forget what the logo on the top says. Just tell them, "Michael sent me!"

This column originally appeared at

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