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ALL TIED UP
By Michael Matthews
July 19, 2007 -- A Do Not Disturb reader just wrote and asked what to give a front office manager as a present. So let's talk ties.

This gentle reader followed my sage advice and she started with the general manager's office to ensure that she was well looked after during her stays at a New York hotel. Some months ago, she was referred to the front office manager. Ever since then, on her monthly visits to The Sheraton, she has found herself on the Club floor with goodies in her room and a lot of groveling from the staff.

Thank you for following my advice, dear reader, but, no, a pound of Godiva chocolates as a present to the front office manager won't cut it. It's a nice thought, but not what's needed in this case. This is, after all, a man on the move.

The correct answer: Give your helpful front office manager an Hermes tie. Okay, so it's $150, but you've already gotten hundreds, or maybe thousands, of dollars worth of upgrades. Don't be cheap. Spring for the Hermes.

For reasons that seem to be lost in the silks of time, Hermes is the tie of hoteliers in the know. My friends who run the Carlyle, the Beverly Hills, all of the Peninsula hotels--and, for that matter, any respectable hotel around the globe--won't wear anything else around their preening necks. So go on, my dear, and splurge.

Your favorite front office manager will soon be promoted on the strength of his new neckwear and you will, unfortunately, be without a contact. You'll have to start again and, soon, we will have hundreds of Sheraton hotel managers wearing Hermes. Lord only knows what that will do to the cosmic balance.

Anyway, I'm still here at Big Sur's Ventana Inn and Spa, acting as the general manager. And, yes, I have been humble enough to accept a few gifts from well-satisfied guests. I've even been mentioned on TripAdvisor.com, which I gather is no mean feat.

But about those gifts. First, I received a book on the quaint houses of Carmel, a mega-rich enclave about 24 miles north of here. That was followed by a packet of dog biscuits for Millie. All my guests know Millie, my beloved dog. She is with me everywhere around the hotel. She gets biscuits and I get a book.

Then there was the couple I upgraded to the best hammock in the place. They gave me ten pounds of pistachio nuts as a token of their gratitude. Ten pounds! It seems that they have a farm that produces them and the trunk of their car is a veritable pistachio warehouse. Now my staff is bitching because they've all been eating them and their gentle internal plumbing has, well, er, backed up.

And can anyone tell me what to do with ten pounds worth of pistachio shells?

I have also gotten a couple of bottles of wine as a "Thank You." But did it have to be the same bottle of cheap plonk that I put in the guestrooms as a welcome present?

So far, no Hermes tie. But, then again, this is ultra-mellow Big Sur.

I went to our local post office the other day and Michael, the local postmaster, said "You must be Michael from Ventana."

I asked how he knew and he replied, "You're the only idiot from here to San Francisco who wears a tie. Everyone knows you!"

I gave a party for our local volunteer fire brigade last week. You know, the big spread: oysters, caviar, lobster, the best liquor. None of them wore a tie or wrote me a thank-you note. But if they get here when I really need them, then I guess that will be thanks enough.

Well, my friends, a book, some dog food, a couple of bottles of plonk and that's about it. No Hermes tie.

Oh, wait, one of the nation's great editors, the author of a number of fine books and a well-reviewed movie, did send me a gift from Sherry-Lehman, the greatest wine merchant in the United States. It was a bottle of fabulous Champagne along with a previously unknown gadget to open it. Thanks Chris, you are a gentleman, but an Hermes tie would have been just as nice!

Keep traveling and do come and see me at the Ventana Inn. I will be gone after Labor Day, my latest stint at day-to-day hotel management having ended in a hail of pistachio shells and dog biscuits.

I've decided to leave a couple of worn-out ties with the postmaster.
ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2007 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2007 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.