• Philip Bryer

A Chocolate on the Pillow

Companies who boast of saving money by cutting corners and stripping back the customer experience to the barest bone won’t get my business. The spreadsheet click ‘n’ shred culture – whether it’s people’s livelihoods or consumer comfort – is a pernicious one that’s gone far enough.


A US airline bragged that by removing olives from the drinks served in first class it managed to cling onto a comparatively paltry few thousand dollars, another went the full Uriah Heep when it saw the miserable few bucks it gained by razoring limes into 16 pieces rather than 10. It’s a practice that also cuts an inch off your legroom, five minutes from your spa appointment (so I’m told), and if, in their shabby pursuit of the last grimy buck, companies choose to confine the end-user to the cell of Little Ease then as far as their concerned it's tough titty on us and no returns.


No mas, pas plus, no more. I happen to like an olive in my cocktail, and I want a decent chunk of lime in my G&T, not a wretched, floppy sliver I can read the safety card through. Anything which can ameliorate the miserable experience of being on a plane should be praised to the skies. Fly with us, we’ll give you a treat. Where do I sign?


As far as hotels go, I want a big, soft bath sheet I can lose myself in. I find the drying process isn’t a comfortable one when attempted with a something the size of a tea-towel and the consistency of a potato sack. A fluffy robe and slippers mean I don’t have to get dressed three hours before I’m ready, or plug the kettle into the floor socket while naked; nobody wants that, I’m told. Give me branded toiletries in smart little bottles, not a gallon dispenser of generic sludge hanging off the shower tiles and previously pumped by who and God knows what.


Something in the room for the guest. That’s a nice touch. And I don’t mean plastic water cups that could be used as eyebaths or roach traps. Mrs B and I spent my fortieth birthday at a swanky hotel in Madrid; I remember feeling quite pleased with myself as the weekend also marked the third month that I’d been cigarette-free. Soon after we arrived, we were having a drink on the terrace when I decided to go up to the room to get the city guidebook. Gifts! We had been delivered of gifts! A bottle of sherry, complete with crystal glasses, and a box of chocolates. This had the effect of winning us over and I imagine lessening the likelihood of even the most querulous guest finding fault with the manager’s tie or the pot plants. I went straight back downstairs, relayed the news to Sandra, and sparked up one of her ciggies. “I’m not,” I announced in response to her most quizzical look, “about to ruin the perfect weekend and put myself through the wringer by jonesing for the nicotine”. And so began a run of several more years on the fags which concluded with a life-in-the-balance spell in hospital - I may have mentioned it – but that’s not the hotel’s fault. Only an ungrateful churl would look down at the tube coming out of their chest and trace it all the way back to a golden oloroso © Orson Welles.


Demand on olive in your drink. Say yes to a chocolate on your pillow. Say no to the scheming, deskbound salaryman who sniggers as he logs another niggardly initiative into Excel, draws up the proposal, sends out the emails, and – I can assure you – uses PowerPoint to present this grasping twenty-first century shithousery as a good idea.


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Mr Bryer? Didn't you write something about the spreadsheet menace once before?

Well remembered, indeed I did.

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