A Sweet Way to Get Great Service

Travel tip: Pack this, and airline and hotel personnel will bend over backwards for you.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a secret weapon that will woo customer service agents faster than Cupid’s arrow: chocolate. Mimi Almeida, a frequent traveler in her role as director at All Performance Associates, LLC, says she always carries chocolate and a smile. Together they have saved her numerous times. As she walks into a tense situation with a customer server staffer, she leads with the line, “Do you like chocolate?,” then reaches into her bag.

Almeida’s weapon of choice is Trader Joe’s Chocolate Passport label, which is high quality, individually wrapped and inexpensive. As she says, “Not a bad investment if it gets you out of overweight bag fees, moved up into premium economy, or to your destination on an oversold flight! And bringing a smile to someone else’s face is a big plus, too!”


Travel tip: Request the seventh floor or lower in a hotel for fire safety.

Unless you’re obsessed with a view (and plan to spend enough time in your hotel room to enjoy it), ask for a room on a lower floor of your hotel. Fire truck ladders generally reach 100 feet, which is approximately seven floors. Even if you do not require a window rescue, you’ll be glad about your choice when your escape is a short trip down the stairs from the sixth floor instead of the twenty-sixth.

What are the chances you’ll be in a hotel fire? Unlikely, perhaps. But then the chances are actually quite high, if you’re a business traveler, that you’ll experience a fire alarm on a trip and need to evacuate. In which case, you’ll also appreciate your low floor. I love this pilot’s first-hand account of the irritation of multiple hotel fire alarms.

Unfortunately, this tip isn’t fool-proof. On a recent stay in Seattle, I opened my sixth-floor room’s curtains and looked down. Beneath me there was no street, just the roof of the hotel’s giant ballroom. Oh well. I didn’t lose any sleep over it.


Hotel Solution: One Way to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Travel tip: There’s a simple tool in your hotel room that will close up that irritating gap between the drapes.

Have you ever noticed that hotel room drapes seem universally unwilling to close fully, so that there almost always is a gap between each side. That’s not the end of the world…until you’re trying to sleep in and the sun pours through. Good morning! Not.

The ever-resourceful Carol Margolis, author of Business Travel Success and the Smart Women Travelers blog, gave me this ingenious tip: Use one of the clip-style hangers from the closet to “clothes pin” together the drapes before you go to sleep. Problem solved.

Phone Charger Panic

Tip: When you forget your charger, borrow one from the hotel lost and found.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Anthony Melchiorre, whose Travel Channel TV show Hotel Impossible kicks off its fourth season in January. He mentioned that one of his favorite hotel tips is this: When you’ve forgotten a device charger, ask the hotel if they have one in their lost and found. I had already been well aware of this trick, but something happened later that day to broaden its value.

I met colleagues for an after-work drink in New York’s Algonquin Hotel lobby bar (where coincidentally, Melchiorre was once general manager). One friend was in a panic because her train ticket home was on her iPhone app, yet the phone’s battery was dead. With Anthony’s tip top-of-mind, we flagged down the maitre d’. Several minutes later he delivered an iPhone charger. A happy ending: One glass of wine later, the phone was recharged, the train ticket was restored and we all went on our merry ways.

Hotels these days have a plethora of left-behind devices, cables and chargers. See if you can hook into their storehouse before you panic when you leave yours behind. And the lesson I learned from this episode is that you don’t need to be a guest of a hotel: The lost-and-found stash holds true for bars and restaurants, too, especially in hotels.