Survey results: Readers tell which hotels go that extra mile
The Top 10 Overall
1.Hôtel Ritz, Paris 94.0
2.Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 93.2
3.Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay 91.9
4.The Oriental, Bangkok 91.9
5.The Greenbrier, West Virginia 91.5
6.The Regent, Hong Kong 91.4
7.Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Maui 91.3
8.Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida 91.2
9.Four Seasons Resort, Nevis 91.1
10.Halekulani, Oahu 91.0
World's Best Service by Region
1.Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay 91.9
2.The Oriental, Bangkok 91.9
3.The Regent, Hong Kong 91.4
4.The Peninsula, Hong Kong 90.4
5.Raffles Hotel, Singapore 90.3
1.Hôtel Ritz, Paris 94.0
2.Villa d'Este, Cernobbio, Italy 90.3
3.Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin, Venice 90.1
4.Four Seasons Hotel, London 88.6
5.Hotel Ritz, Madrid 88.2
Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific
1.Ritz-Carlton, Sydney 89.4
2.The Regent, Sydney 85.4
3.Hotel Inter-Continental, Sydney 83.7
4.Hayman Island Resort, Great Barrier Reef, Australia 83.2
5.Sheraton on the Park, Sydney 83.2
Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas
1.Four Seasons Resort, Nevis 91.1
2.Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands 88.6
3.Caneel Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands 87.7
4.Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 86.4
5.Peter Island Resort, British Virgin Islands 85.8
1.Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, Maui 91.3
2.Halekulani, Oahu 91.0
3.Lodge at Koele, Lanai 90.9
4.Manele Bay Hotel, Lanai 90.4
5.Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii 90.3
Continental United States and Canada
1.Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas 93.2
2.The Greenbrier, West Virginia 91.5
3.Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida 91.2
4.Ventana Inn, Big Sur, California 90.6
5.Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco 90.2
Mexico and Central and South America
1.Ritz-Carlton, Cancún 89.9
2.Four Seasons, Mexico City 87.9
3.Las Brisas, Acapulco 87.5
4.Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires 81.3
5.Hotel Nikko México, Mexico City 80.1
Africa and the Middle East
1.MalaMala Game Reserve, South Africa 89.0
2.La Mamounia, Marrakesh 87.3
3.Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town 85.2
4.Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa 84.6
5.Governors' Camp, Masai Mara, Kenya 84.0
How far can one man push the nation's most accommodating hotel?
By Jack Spicer
I am not Jack Spicer. I am actually a decent guy, meek and apologetic. Jack is my alter ego. He's pushy, difficult--the polite term is particular. Jack gets what he wants, and he wants like there's no tomorrow. He is a hotel concierge's nightmare. I, on the other hand, feel bad asking for the free shoeshine. But I was tired of saying "please" and "sorry." I wanted to release my inner Jack. And I knew where we had to go: the Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas, rated the nation's top hotel for service in T&L's annual readers' poll.
Good service means getting what you want when, where, and how you want it. Great service never makes you feel guilty for asking, even when you're out of your spoiled mind.
Putting the Mansion to the test, Jack and I subjected the staff to demands realistic and ridiculous. Then, for the sake of comparison, we checked into a mammoth chain hotel--let's call it the Gargantua. Here's how we fared.
Mansion "And to whom am I speaking, sir?" asked a silky Belgravian voice when I dialed the 800 number. Half the Mansion's desk staff have British accents, the others a honeyed Southern lilt, and all of them use correct pronouns. The clerk pretended to recognize my name, though I'd never stayed there. "Oh yes: Mr. Spicer," she said brightly. She'd be happy to fax me directions and a map. "Look forward to seeing you," she said, and I believed her.
Gargantua It too had an 800 number, but this one led to a phone bank in Nebraska. The operator didn't seem to know a thing about the hotel or the city it was in. "We've got, like, a hundred locations," she said. I asked for directions. "I really have no idea, sir. I've never been there." Oh well. She seemed nice.
Mansion For guests like Jack, a hotel stay begins long before check-in. Ten days prior to arrival I called the Mansion with a list of demands. "I'm gonna need figs," I told the night clerk. "And dumbbells, twenty-pounders, by the bed. Don't forget the Sunday New York Times. Plus, I'm allergic to down." He took it all in stride. I felt like a clown provoking a Buckingham Palace guard. Other items I'd need upon arrival: unwaxed dental floss; volume two of Peter Guralnick's Elvis bio; a Brita jug (for filtering tap water); and how about tickets to next week's Elliott Smith concert?"No problem, Mr. Spicer." At the Mansion they never say "no" unless it's followed by "problem."
Gargantua "Uh, hold on, lemme get a pen," said the concierge. He said his boss would call me back. An hour later the boss rang: the dumbbells would cost $29.95, the Brita jug $20--he could get them both at Target--but they'd have to see about the rest. Fine, I agreed, but why the charge for the dumbbells?Don't you have spares in the gym?"Yes, but they're for the gym." What am I going to do with two 20-pound dumbbells when I leave?He had no answers. On the upside, the bedding was synthetic, so my allergies were safe.
Mansion Eight days before check-in I sent a fax to myself, care of the hotel. I didn't write "Hold for future arrival" or anything on the top, just sent it to Mr. Spicer. When I got there it was waiting in a pretty peach envelope.
Gargantua Sent a fax to myself there, too. Never heard from me again.
Mansion I hit the ground running as soon as I pulled into the drive. On the ride from the airport I'd heard some great bluegrass singers on 89.3 FM. Could the valet find out who they were?"No problem," he said. Twenty minutes later the station's playlist arrived at my door.
Gargantua Same station, same request. By the following morning they'd managed to find out the station's call letters, and offered to look up the phone number.
Mansion All my advance requests had been taken care of. Except the figs. A handwritten note informed me that "our chef was regrettably unable to locate fresh figs, as they are not in season just yet." I loved the just yet--as if they'd done everything in their power, but they simply couldn't rush Mother Nature. (I thought of the director in The Truman Show, cueing the sun.) The rest was in place, down to the dental floss. Of course the real question isn't so much "Can they get it for you?" as "How much will it cost?" The Mansion ended up charging face value for the tickets, the Times, and the book, and nothing for the jug or dumbbells (which I left behind), or the floss.
Gargantua In my room I found a fruit bowl (no figs) and an issue of PC World magazine (not what I'd requested, but informative). They hadn't bothered with the rest. I pictured the staff discussing me and my ridiculous demands: Maybe if we ignore him he'll just go away quietly.
Mansion First thing I did was write a memo to my executive producer in Berlin. I don't have an executive producer in Berlin, but that wasn't going to stop me. I asked the concierge to have it translated into German. She brought it back in an hour. Later I took the German letter to the night concierge. "Can I get this in Japanese?" It was under my door by morning. Then I took that letter to a third concierge and had it translated back into English. A few phrasings had changed from the original, but it was still pretty smooth. They billed me $45 for the whole procedure and never once asked what I was up to. (Great service means never having to explain yourself.)
Gargantua "We don't...er...we can't...uh, nobody here speaks German," said the desk clerk. But wait, she remembered--they had a sous-chef from Austria. Günther was on the case--he even worked for free. The translation was a bit rough but it did the job. As for the Japanese, they just laughed. "Gosh," was all they said. "Gosh."
Mansion I'd thought about requesting an absurdly expensive wine, but that would have been too easy. Instead I had them hunt down some Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris--a little-known, hard-to-find Argentinean brand that costs about $6 a bottle. They couldn't locate it anywhere, so the sommelier sent an assortment of other Argentinean wines, all far superior (and more expensive). Later I found the Lurton at a liquor store half a block away. Maybe the sommelier was trying to teach me something.
Gargantua Joey at the concierge desk said he wasn't able to purchase liquor from "outside vendors." But he offered to send up some Turning Leaf, the house Chardonnay. "A very good brand," he said. I passed.
Mansion At 10 p.m. I rang the front desk. "I've got this stain on my shirt," I said. "And I have a client coming in thirty minutes." It was ketchup. I didn't mean to spill it. But they had it back in time, and pressed to boot. Cost: $7.
Gargantua Ketchup again, and this time I meant to spill it. At 10 p.m. I called housekeeping and got a busy signal five times. Finally someone picked up. They could have it back by the next evening. "I need it by ten-thirty," I said meekly. The operator sighed and sent up a jovial woman who looked like Nell Carter. She examined the stain, then me, and said, "I can take care of this, baby. Just you watch!" I got the shirt back in record time. Cost: $0.
Mansion By checkout time, I'm sure the staff was sick of Jack Spicer. I know I was. I had a long list of additional requests--tank of helium, 20-sided dice, Raisin Bran without the raisins (but not Bran Flakes, I hate those)--yet I couldn't bring myself to ask. Not that they wouldn't have complied. I'm afraid they would have, and my hat's off to them.
En route to the airport, I couldn't resist one parting shot: leaving a notebook on the floor of the cab, then calling the Mansion to ask about retrieving it. Mary, the concierge, was as patient as a priest at confession. "I'm sorry, Mary," I said. "My notebook's been lost in a cab. Can you help?" She could, and she did. It was mailed to me within the week.
I hadn't the heart to tell her the notebook was blank.