October 2008


Feeling Slightly Demented

Whenever I’m in Britain, I always feel like something slightly off.

I spent last night at the Holiday Inn Bristol Filton, a hotel located somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the vicinity of Bristol.

It’s the kind of hotel with a “pillow menu”.

That didn’t stop them from being British, and providing me with plenty of warnings about my bathroom. The first warning was a little sign outside the bathroom on the door frame, warning me about the step between the room and the bathroom—an unseemly high step of no more than half an inch. Compare this to my One-Time experience at Rotterdam’s Bazar Hotel, where there was a substantial unmarked step that almost killed me, twice. Secondly, I was warned that the heated towel rack might be hot—this was a big and bold sign right next to the aforementioned towel rack. Finally, for my safety and comfort, I was advised that the bathmat should be secured inside the tub and that the shower curtain should be inside the tub before taking a bath.

Really, this stuff only happens in Britain—as I noted earlier this week, Britain is somehow more paranoid than America.

Due to scheduling issues, I arrived at the hotel before lunch, and due to its middle of nowhere location, I was trapped at the hotel, subject to its whims and its restaurant. Now it is a fact that I have long debated which is better: American restaurants that drop your bill on the table about two minutes before you’re finished eating, or Germany where you have to beg for the bill and then still wait 10 minutes before the wait staff distains to bring it to you. Much to my surprise, the upscale, fancy dancy Holiday Inn changed the parameters of my internal debate.

One is required to pay for one’s meal before it’s made or brought out to you.

The woman who brought me my drink and my bill apologized, just as I refused to pay until a more appropriate time. The hotel must be somewhat out of place with its surroundings because the woman assured me that many regulars (her suggestion, not mine), come by for a drink or meal and then dash off without paying. Honestly, it didn’t look like that kind of neighborhood to me, nor did the other customers look like the type to me. I guess in Britain, appearances can be deceiving.

I was forthright in my refusal to pay, even as she offered to take a credit card from me to place a hold, although I was going to pay cash. As I explained to her, I’ve been to many places, and the only restaurants that have required me to pay before eating are fast-food restaurants. I even explained that a few months ago I was in Turkey, eating in sidewalk cafes, and in such a place I wasn’t required to pay until after the meal was over.

Her response: “I didn’t like Turkey.”

Good for her, I thought.

Meanwhile I figured out a way to defer payment: I asked to see a written copy of the hotel policy. I doubt that she’d gotten that request before, but she assured me that she could get it. Instead she brought me my food and demanded payment. After eating my salmon and watercress sandwich (which wasn’t half bad), I stood up to leave, and I asked for my copy of the policy.

She’d decided against getting me a copy since I’d already received my food and paid.

7 comments to Feeling Slightly Demented

  • Alice


    That’s all I can say.


  • Gee, you could have just flashed her a 50-pound note or something (though 20 probably would have done the job) just to prove you had the money to pay.

    Still… *shrugs*

  • Oh I remember the Bizzare er… Bazar hotel. LOL

    Re: signs… Welcome to the nanny state.

  • OMG. It seems this story can be summed up in three letter words and acronyms from the above comments.


    Maybe some four letter ones would be better?

  • It turns out there’s a good explanation for the policy: the staff is incredibly slow. I know somebody who waited 20 minutes to order and didn’t get noticed until he switched tables. He was actually happy to pay first because he was afraid he was going to have to walk out if they were that slow in bringing him his bill.

  • Oh, so that makes so much sense! I have found that to be a huge problem here in Hungary. It takes ages to flag a waiter down to get anything, especially the bill. But what if you decide you want something else while eating – like a dessert? Then what happens?