Friday, 16 September 2016

Liberty of London and Claridge’s: British Institutions

We finally saw the “Inside Claridge’s” three-part documentary by the BBC from 2012. I found out about this documentary whilst recovering from another disappointment by the ONLINE services of Liberty of London and decided to watch the Liberty documentary. My story is that when I first ordered from Liberty last year, I received an e-mail from them eight days later that the item was not in stock. I decided to give them another try a few months ago although based on the status “In progress (exported)” that hadn’t changed within 4-5 working days, I knew it was hopeless. I read from the other reviews that they do not have live stock. I’m no computer expert but I think there’s a software for that??? It seems the company is understaffed and so the last thing they want is nagging e-mails from people demanding what happened to their orders. I am for creative people but in this case I really believe someone experience in business should run Liberty. They are losing a lot by not improving their online sales and it’s so obvious with all their publicity effort how much they’d do for profit. So why not focus on what they already have and what will work? Anyway, I was right that the item I wanted was out of stock again and as an act of goodwill I was offered a complimentary next day delivery. Not wanting to have any more heartbreak ordering something for the next day that wasn’t available either, I asked if they’ve got a voucher I could use in store. A few days later, I received a £10 voucher (which I have yet to use) with a handwritten message from Eleanor Baugh, the customer services lady I’ve been speaking to. It was refreshing to see such an act from a company which system obviously has flaws but at least someone in the company cares.

Now on to what I thought of the Claridge’s documentary. I’ve never been to the hotel and I was really curious as to what makes it popular. I tend not to be intimidated by wealth (or intelligence), always remembering what my mother used to tell me when I got scared of my teachers, “they eat rice like you do” (or in other cases, potatoes or bread, or that they also go to the toilet like I do). I did expect that such a posh hotel would have nice enough normal people running it, and who joked around behind the scenes, still, I was amused watching them. I remember my husband’s story about a guy he knows who went to Fortnum & Mason wanting to buy beef mince so he could cook spaghetti for his girlfriend. There were lots of beef to choose from and all he wanted was beef mince, to which the staff asked, “is it for the dog, sir?” I thought that staff was a normal enough person who probably had beer afterwards with his mates and they probably had a good laugh, “today at work, I asked someone looking for beef mince...”

At one of the hotels we stayed in during our recent holiday, we could, but didn’t, ask for the services of a butler to help us pack/unpack our luggage. No, thank you, I’d rather handle my own underwear, sir.

Trouble is, we tend to have busy holidays and Claridge’s goal for one not to treat the hotel simply as a room for the night is exactly what we use hotels for. No point going somewhere without enjoying the people and the sights and instead spending a fortune on a bedroom. So in this case, luxury hotels like Claridge’s are what people think they are, for the wealthy who wouldn’t mind spending that much (up to £7k) on one night’s accommodation or those who will hardly ever leave the hotel during their stay or those who think eating a dinner with ants is all right and very posh (why not balut or farmed frogs?).

My amusement wasn’t limited to the grandeur that Claridge’s was, I also did some head-scratching whilst listening to some of the interviewer’s poorly-worded questions. Once the voice over remarked on a Rolls Royce pulling up and my husband said, “it’s a Bentley” (I forgive the female voice over, I wouldn’t know the difference myself). “Do you ever wonder when their last visit will be?” asked the interviewer about an elderly couple who have been staying at the hotel for years. She probably meant that maybe they’d be too old to travel in the near future but I really thought she didn’t need to ask that. Even Thomas Kochs, the general manager, seemed to have been taken aback by the question. I thought Kochs was charming, although personally I don’t think I would know what to say to a man who says it’s wrong to find salt and pepper on the table whilst your enjoying your dessert (even if apparently, that’s what manners call for, though at least I’ve learned that manners isn’t only about what you do, but what you say as well, BBC interviewer take note). He said he wouldn’t like to see someone with a muffin and Starbucks sitting in the lobby. It’s understandable that you should at least bring outside food up to your hotel room, although after watching the documentary I was tempted to sit in the lobby of Claridge’s and drink my Starbucks coffee in the lobby and see what would happen. Didn’t they get in trouble with a breastfeeding woman before?

It’s nice to enjoy these things at least once in your life, but to see other people live like this all the time, well, I’m glad I have more pressing things to worry about. My husband concluded that I wouldn’t want to stay at Claridge’s. I’m not really for fuss as there were more important things we cared about where I came from (people who didn’t know when their next meal would be, or people who didn’t volunteer to be caught in a war but saw that tangible things didn’t matter). Maybe I’m in the wrong country? I do love afternoon teas and so many things about England but there are certain areas of Britishness that I still have to grasp.

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