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Hotel Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones
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Hotel Babylon (2004)

by Imogen Edwards-Jones

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I really like this book. Is very funny ;) ( )
  westieheart | May 14, 2013 |
This book describes 24 hours in a five-star hotel in London. The anonymous author was a manager of such a hotel when the book was published, but it’s written from the point of view of a receptionist. The staff are fictionalized, but the author claims that all the incidents described had really happened, albeit not in one day. He also tells stories about celebrities observed by him or his colleagues in various London hotels. This book is highly entertaining, but a few of the tales related are rather vulgar, and there was a point in the beginning of the book when I wondered whether to continue reading it or chuck it into the wastebasket. I decided to give it another try and was glad I did, for it does improve soon after.

The best part of the book, besides its humor and general entertaining value, is that the author doesn’t spare anyone: guests, hotel administration, its staff, or even himself. It’s a real behind the scenes look. Often it’s not a pretty picture, and it wouldn’t have made such an enjoyable read if it hadn’t been so hilarious. Guests who have to be rich to pay for accommodations there steal all sorts of things, from hotel bathrobes and KitKat from the minibar, painstakingly filling the plastic package with something to make it appear full, to artwork and refrigerators. However, the hotel grossly overcharges the guests on everything, from rooms to continental breakfasts which aren’t complimentary at all and mineral water in the minibar. It also overbooks, just in case someone cancels, which apparently happens often, and so guests who paid for an extra day to be allowed to check in early may not find their room available when they arrive (lying that the person who currently occupies the room couldn’t leave on time due to food poisoning works; lying that the room is unavailable due to sudden plumbing problems doesn’t). The sound insulation is apparently nil – the author says he can hear an orchestra of snores of various timbres when he walks along the corridors at night – and if somebody has a night-long wild party in his room, but orders enough food and drink through room service, the staff just sends the neighbors ear-plugs if they complain. Rats, mice and cockroaches defy all attempts to eradicate them. In short, it’s seems much pleasanter to read about than to experience. My personal favorite tidbit was about rich Arab businessmen who apparently routinely smuggle live sheep into their suits and butcher them there, leaving blood all over the floor, but nobody minds because they tip the staff in Cartier watches and diamond earrings.

Working there doesn’t sound like a pleasant experience either. It’s stressful and seldom rewarding. (The author mentions being thanked by a guest for being upgraded from a room to a suite, due to overbooking, to which he replied, “My pleasure,” adding to the readers that it really was a pleasure because usually they only get the grief.) Long hours take a toll of relationships. At one point, seeing an oil millionaire from Texas deciding which of the two prostitutes to take up to his room, the author says he finds the scene depressing, adding that it’s probably because it reminds him that they’re “all prostitutes in the luxury hotel business,” kowtowing to every whim of the rich. So why do people choose to work there? The only thing I could think of, from reading this book, is money, for they make quite a lot in tips. (Employees who don’t get tips are practically all immigrants who don’t speak even conversational English and are often illegal to boot – hotels “turn a blind eye to doctored passports” and “see nothing wrong in sending someone’s wages into an account under a totally different name.”) But, perhaps, it’s deeper than that, because the author says that he decided at the age of six that he wanted to work in a hotel and apparently never changed his mind, but he doesn’t elaborate on what attracted him to this work then or now. He opens the curtain behind the operation of a luxury hotel and the experience of working there, but chooses to draw it over his more personal sentiments.

But whatever working or staying in such a hotel is like, the book is very enjoyable, informative and well-written. I decided that I’d like to read more books like this about other work environments, and then I found out that the professional co-author of this book (Imogen Edwards-Jones) wrote similar books after this one, in partnership with other anonymous sources. The one about a hospital ER was favorably reviewed on LT by an ER doctor. However, I subsequently found out that most of her books are very rare in the US, for whatever reason. Perhaps, the industries involved didn’t like the exposure. One reviewer on Amazon.con wrote that it’s best not to read the book on air travel shortly before taking a plane. ( )
1 vote Ella_Jill | Jan 27, 2012 |
I enjoyed this insider's story of a luxury hotel in London. There were several stories of strange or badly-behaved guests, as well as details about how hotels operate. Funny at times, tragic at others. ( )
  LynnB | Dec 26, 2011 |
Fast-paced read. Condenses experiences down to a fake 24-hour period. Some of the characters from the television series appear, as do some vignettes exactly. The narrator appears to be Charlie, but he works at the reception desk in the book. Interesting, but nothing unexpected, especially since seeing the show. ( )
  kimreadthis | Aug 4, 2010 |
I picked up the book at the English bookcrossing meetup and when I finally got around to reading it took me only 2 days. These Babylon books can't go wrong. I have to admit finding out what is going on behind the scenes in first class hotels was a bit less shocking than the book about air travel but that's probably only because there were fewer deaths. It's full with little anecdotes about the crazy/disgusting/illegal things famous/rich/rich and famous people do in hotels. How could it go wrong?
  verenka | Jun 13, 2010 |
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Dedication
For the "A" Team - Eugenie Furniss and Stephanie Cabot
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It was a big night last night, and Jesus Christ, do I feel like shit.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
At a top luxury hotel, the staff caters to every desire, from thousand-dollar-a-shot whiskey and bathtubs filled with Evian water to satin sheets, gorgeous call girls, and buckets of caviar. They also deal with guests who refuse to pay their astronomical phone porn bills, seduce the maids, fall naked out of windows, and even occasionally leave behind dead sheep in their rooms. It all makes for a busy day at reception, especially when one needs time to sneak a drink or a liaison of one's own, all the while lying to the guests about why their rooms aren't ready for check-in. In Hotel Babylon, one insider lets you discreetly peek behind the Do Not Disturb signs to view what can occur in a typical twenty-four-hour period in the life of a luxury hotel. The industry's secrets and scams are revealed in this world where money not only talks, but also gets you the best room, the best service, and a license to misbehave. (0-435-20135-X)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 042520135X, Paperback)

The manager of an exclusive boutique hotel (who shall remain nameless) exposes the low-life styles of the rich and famous.

And we're not talking just loud all-night bashes...

The anonymous author has encountered lavish drug parties, gorgeous call girls, naked guests falling out of windows, $9,000 bottles of wine, astronomical telephone porn bills, bathtubs of Evian, and on more than one occasion, dead sheep. And every dirty word of it is true.

This is a trawl through the decadence and debauchery of the ultimate service industry—where money not only talks, but gets guests the best room, the best service, and also entitles them to behave in any way they please.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

'Hotel Babylon' is a trawl through the highs and lows, the extremes, the tragedies, the miseries, the decadence and the debauchery of the ultimate service industry - where money not only talks, but gets you the best room, the best service and also entitles you to behave in any way you please.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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