I’m not long back from a short vacation in Europe.
I should point out right up front that I was born in Europe and grew up there before moving to the USA in the year 2000, where I have been ever since, which I believe adds important context here.
I have to say that I had a wonderful “holiday” in France and the United Kingdom as we refer to vacations back in the Old World. Except that is, when it came to ice cubes and ironing boards, or the lack thereof.
You may or may not have noticed that Europe has been basking in an extreme heart wave this last month the likes of which they rarely see and this after a truly miserable and wet spring. Therefore, it would not seem unreasonable one conjectures to be brought a drink with ice in it when one felt the need to re-hydrate. Alas no. In Europe, the ice cube has yet to be invented, at least to be available in any numerical amount. At one pleasant establishment I asked after receiving a glass of tepid cola for some ice only to be told that someone else had “already used it.” Does Europe have just one single cube that gets passed around in this fashion? One half expects to hear “I’m sorry Mr. Norwood but Mr. Smith is already using it.” At another fine French café, my request was met with sheer amazement, after all, it was only 91F with 100% humidity, and lest we forget, no car comes with AC in Europe as standard, it’s an optional extra. In yet another bar I was brought a second glass with 3 ice cubes in it and a pair of tongs with which to collect the slippery yet highly desirable little quads and transfer them to my other glass… and woe betide me if I was to make a mistake and let one drop to the ground; it would be tantamount to denying another poor US tourist the potential of such luxury.
And so onto the UK, where the concept of a traveler wishing to iron their clothes is still, it seems an alien concept. Unfortunately, we Americans are not like the French, we can’t just get up and throw on our clothes like the French who always seem to look good even if they just slept in them. No, we would look like we had just slept in them.
Searching your hotel room in the UK for an iron and board does not take long however, since the average room size is 12 by 4. “There’s something in the way when I open my hotel door,” “yes sir, that’s the bed.”
Just like ice on the Continent, asking for an iron and board in the UK is met with an equal amount of surprise “I’m sorry sir, but room 12 is using it.” Surely, there can’t just be one! In one hotel I called housekeeping to ask for an iron to be sent to me room only to be told “It’s in your Armoire Sir.” My what? An Armoire it turns out is a lower draw in an old wooden two door cabinet, just large enough to hold a miniature ironing board of about 2 foot by 1 with little foldout legs of about 4 inches each. What on earth was I supposed to do with this? Granted, it fit with the proportions of the tiny room itself, but come on now.
Two things we all take so much for granted here in the USA seem to be completely unachievable in Europe. But why? Surely they must know that a good many tourists from across the pond will come each year to enjoy the sights, the history, the people and culture? Surely they must have traveled on occasion to the USA or Asia Pacific for that matter, another place that seems to have mastered the ability to provide ice and ironing on demand, but alas they still can’t seem to work it out.
Ok, in the USA, perhaps we’ve taken it too far. You get ice unless you specifically ask not to receive it and a typical cold drink contains 99% ice and 1% actual drink.
Look, it’s 2013 and in today’s modern world we are all totally obsessed with the customer experience, our “customer experience” in fact, and to get every other “mod con” in your room but no iron and board is just failing to deliver, in what would seem a very small way, on a good one. Isn’t a hotel meant to be your home away from home, and how many homes these days don’t have irons and ice?
It’s not about been quaint or parochial it’s just about a customer service opportunity missed.
Of course, I will be back in Europe as soon as I can. I love the place.
What’s your point of view?