Give Me Low Tech and High Satisfaction.
By Ian Jarrett ~ The Grumpy Traveller
Tuesday, 19th July 2005
The Grumpy Traveller loves the simple pleasures in life – like an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock and a tech-free mini bar in his hotel room.

A very pleasant weekend spent in Melbourne, Australia – which really does live up to its reputation as one of the world's most liveable cities – was topped off by the experience of staying at the Crown Towers.

I could list here at least half a dozen good reasons for staying at the Crown but that would sound too much like a free plug, so I will content myself with just a couple of observations.

I loved the old-fashioned alarm clock. I didn't need to call housekeeping to programme it. All that was required of me was to turn the hands to the hour I wanted, and then flick a single switch to ‘On'. No rocket science required and I wasn't losing sleep about waking up in time to catch my early morning flight.

A recent survey by Hilton Hotels in America found fewer than one in five guests said they relied on a hotel's alarm clock when travelling. Most brought their own alarm or ordered a wake-up call.

Little wonder when some hotel rooms are being turned into temples of high-tech that have more in common with the flight deck of a jumbo jet.

At the lavish, money-no-object Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, rooms are stuffed with so many high-tech goodies that guests are required to operate a portable touch screen panel to control seven different room amenities.

Never mind that if you manage to work out how to turn off the room lights at night, you then need a diploma in orienteering to find the way back to your bed.

Or that soundproofing in rooms is so poor that you are likely to hear your neighbour's plasma television tuned to CNN, or perhaps hear vigorous nocturnal activities when the couple in Room 620 becomes bored with the world news.

Fortunately, the Emirates Palace has complimentary drinks in the room so you don't experience any of the challenges faced at the Grand Hyatt in Dubai, which has one of those annoying mini-bars that registers as soon as you take something out.

The revenue-generating Grand Hyatt mini-bar must charge even if you only look at an item. I spent 20 minutes trying to check-out the hotel while explaining that I hadn't availed myself of an assortment of mini-bar items that I hadn't even noticed were there.

"How many toys did you take, sir?"

"Toys? None."

"It says two here."

How many bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin?


"It says two here."

As I waited for my account to be sorted out to my satisfaction, I had visions of this fiendish computer hidden in the depths of the Grand Hyatt.

"Was that guy in room 1301 tempted by a chocolate bar? Let's charge him for almost being tempted."

"He looks like someone who might want to take home a present for the children. Let's bill him for the toys."

"Is he a gin drinker? Sure, we'll charge him for two bottles."

When I checked out of the Crown Towers in Melbourne last weekend the mini-bar account was spot on. I owned up to a packet of potato chips that wasn't on the account – and within a few minutes I was on my way to the airport – on time and with no hassle.

That's what I call a good guest experience.

IAN JARRETT is based in Fremantle, Western Australia from where he travels frequently in Asia on assignments for travel magazines.

He is a member of the BamBoo Alliance, a group of leading travel writers in the region. He can be contacted at ianjarrett@mac.com
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