Skip to content

A week at Fawlty Towers

I’ve spent the last week supporting an equipment trial at our Hampshire offices, so I’ve been living out of a suitcase at the same hotel I stayed at last week. The receptionist remembered me, and the fuss I’d made about the Sausage Incident, so I managed to negotiate for a colleague and me to get a free drink on the house on Tuesday night. Given the prices of the drinks there, the fact that I can’t put them through on expenses, and that it was my turn to buy them, that was a minor result. Moral – it’s worth making a polite fuss.

The next day, however, there was another “incident”. The fire alarm sounded at about 7am, then turned off, then sounded again, then turned off again. So it wasn’t clear at first whether it was a real fire (and hence an urgent need to evacuate) or a false alarm. There was no announcement, nor did any of the staff come around banging on our doors to tell us that no action was needed. I’d just got out of the shower when the alarm went off for the first time – I was dripping wet and only wearing a towel! I checked with my eye to the spyhole in the door, and I could see that my way was clear to the nearest fire exit, with no raging inferno in the way, so I decided that I had time to get dressed before re-evaluating the situation.  By the time I’d got my boots on, it seemed that the incident had been resolved – and my colleague then phoned my room to say that he’d spoken to Reception and they said it was a false alarm. Or at least he tried to – but the phone never rang in my room. When I checked later, it transpired that he correctly dialled the extension for Room 14, my room, but the phone in my room claimed to be on the extension for Room 16 which was on the other side of the corridor…..So the hotel had ballsed-up there as well, and we’ve no idea which room (if any) had my room’s extension in it!

It’s entirely understandable that hotels have spurious fire alarms on occasion – these things happen – but it’s how they handle them that really counts. A cascade system, sending the staff to knock on doors and tell people what’s going on, is standard practice in the industry. The hotel in Cambodia got that right, even though they didn’t even have a fire alarm, but when my colleague challenged the receptionist on the matter she seemed completely out of her depth. I was not impressed – fire safety and slick procedures have surely got to be absolutely core to hotel management? It shouldn’t be up to the individual guests to try to guess what’s going on, or to individually check with Reception and phone each other with status updates!

Oh well, at least there wasn’t in fact a raging inferno, and only my temper and sense of humour got frazzled!