So it was so nice to spend four days on business last week at the Glasgow Hilton hotel and come back every evening to find the place spotless. I wondered how the housekeeping staff could keep a smile on their faces as I passed them in the corridor each morning.
But then I guess that’s my kids’ experience. Their mum — sadly, still always their mum — always makes sure the dead bodies are removed (that is dirty plates left to fester for weeks on end and washing that could walk to the machine).
Perhaps the cleanest bedrooms are the ones that no-one uses, like David Cameron’s or those in Buckingham Palace, clean because the occupants are busy travelling and never sleep in them.
When you’re busy travelling the last thing you need is an untidy bedroom so I’ve always found the hotels in London I’ve used to be smart and attractive and always tidy, at least until I get into them and kick off my shoes. My ability to destroy order puts me to shame, so I always leave a nice tip for my housekeeper when I leave.
Frankly, who wants to tidy up when you’re away from home? That sort of behaviour is obsessive-compulsive, like having a tidy desk at work — surely the sign of a sick mind.
But clean is nice, though achieving it is almost a full-time job. I’ve suggested at home on more than one occasion that we get a girl in to tidy up. My Best Beloved’s answer is: “Do I look like a boy?”
Cleaning is relaxing, she says. It appeals to her sense of order. In fact, she relaxed so much this weekend that yesterday she was fast asleep in bed by 9:30.
Then of course that old cliche springs to mind, of people with cleaners who tidy up before Mrs Mop arrives.
Perhaps they shouldn’t bother. A friend of mine runs cleaning businesses right around the capital. He’s told me some horror stories about things they find when they turn up to do end of tenancy cleaning (and worse). Most are too gruesome to repeat here.
And then there’s my brother in law, who used to work as a hotel manager: he has some interesting tales of guests’ parting “gifts”. Using the bath as a toilet is the least worst example.
My parting gift? As I say, I just leave a tip. But how big?
I was in Glasgow to “chaperone” a colleague over from the US. He’d brought along his good lady wife was having problems with tipping, and the fact that it isn’t compulsory in Britain. She wanted to tip everyone because that’s what you do in the States.
Like every Brit I thought tipping was just a nicety, but according to my colleague — who used to wait tables to help pay his way through college — waiting staff in America get taxed on the basis that they get a 10% tip. That means that if the tip is not forthcoming the STILL get taxed. And that means if patrons don’t tip, in effect, their waiter pays to wait on them.
No wonder they’re so insistent on a gratuity. I’ve even heard first hand tales of people being chased down the road for a $5 tip.
See, I thought the high speed service and animated delivery from waiting staff in US restaurants was all about positive attitude. It seems it’s more to do with getting you out and the next tip-paying customer in.
But recently from the very same US comes the best advice for acknowledging poor service, advice which I was forced to put into action recently.
It certainly beats a Victor Meldrew style rant, even if that gets more attractive a prospect every day.
After an indifferent yet expensive meal drawn out by sloppy service by inattentive staff — including one who talked to a friend over our heads while she dished out our meal — I asked for the discretionary 12% service charge to be removed from the bill, saying I would pay the tip in cash.
“Was everything alright?” was the immediate question, the first time it had been asked. Frankly, I had no time for the inevitable scene if I actually told them.
Instead, as a parting gesture, after I was sure that the rest of the family was out in the clear, I dropped a single, dirty penny into the tip cup.
I’ve now started to collect dirty pennies to leave as tips if I get messed around. You certainly get crotchetier with age.
So it’s a lucky thing Mrs B is still just 35. If she were as old and crotchety as me, I figured I’d have a pocketful of dirty pennies by now, or is it that she just wants more untidiness at home so that she can relax a little more?