Upgrade Me

I’m on record as being brand loyal to Hotels.com, which is why I find it so annoying that they constantly triple-send their email promotions announcing special savings, flash sales and secret discounts. But I guess I have no right to complain since they sometimes they save me a lot of money. Like last week when they had a “last minute summer sale” on Dublin hotels that prompted me to cancel my existing booking in favor of a much cheaper room at the much fancier Gresham.

The extra $30 bucks would have been reason enough for me to change, but I later learned from an exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland that the Gresham is where two men, who may or may not have been British Intelligence agents, were murdered by the IRA in 1920. And you’re just not going to get a slice of history like that at a Holiday Inn Express no matter how much you pay.


But this isn’t a post about the IRA, fascinating as that organization is. It’s about the low-stakes act of checking into room 4040 at the Gresham on Monday afternoon.

The 40/40 Club,” I quipped to the receptionist. “Like Jay-Z.”

It was a joke that was lost on her as she simultaneously wrestled with a malfunctioning desktop printer, answered one of five blinking telephone lines and attempted to locate a pen that actually had ink.

“I’m sorry,” she sighed once she hung up the phone. “Nothing is working all of a sudden.”

I shrugged. I generally have that effect on things, which is why I paid no mind at all when I got to the fourth floor and found the door to my room slightly ajar. I didn’t bother trying to figure out why that was. It was empty and everything seemed to be perfectly in order. I had more important things to do, like sit in the leather armchairs and enjoy the king size bed, full bath, and  flat screen TV. I was pawing the thick terrycloth robe and congratulating myself on using a coupon code, when the housekeeper opened the door without so much as a knock. It was hard to say which of us looked more surprised.

“Hi,” I said.

“Oh!” she replied. “Is this your room?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Did you just check in?”

“Yes,” I repeated.

“Just now?” she asked.

“Just a minute ago,” I confirmed.

“Hm,” she said. “Well if everything is ok then?”

I had no idea what her problem was. The door was a little unlocked, but everything else was just great. In fact, it would be even better once she left and I slipped into that robe.


I kid. I had several things to do before I could sit around in my pajamas and work my way through all the complimentary packages of cookies. For example, I had to eat dinner first. And go to the local pharmacy to ask them to order me a probiotic from the UK. And activate a local cell phone plan. And take fifty photos of the town’s most famous bridge. In other words, I had to complete the four-part ritual that I do whenever I get to a new country – or as I like to call it, “Settling In.”

A few hours had passed before I returned to the 40/40 Club, by which point I realized that I had somehow deactivated my key card. I headed back down to the front desk, where the staff on duty not only seemed unsurprised to learn that I was locked out of my room, but also appeared to have been fully briefed on the situation.

“Are you Ms. Halliwell?” the man asked. To the best of my recollection, no conversation that started with this question has ever ended well.

“Yes?” I answered. I didn’t intend it as a question, but I wanted to give myself as much leeway as possible in the event I had accidentally set the entire fourth floor on fire with a straightening iron.

“Yes, well we have you in Room 4040,” he said.

“Right,” I agreed.

“Well,” he smiled. “It seems you’ve checked yourself into into Room 440.”

“Correct,” I said.

He paused. “That’s not the same room,” he pointed out.

I cocked my head to the side, much like a Golden Retriever does when her owner fake throws a tennis ball in the backyard.

“So we’ll just go ahead and leave you in 440,” he said finally.

“Oh, OK,” I said. “I’m sorry about that. The door was open, so I guess I didn’t realize it was the wrong room.”

“No worries,” he answered. “We’ll just change your keys.”

“Well wait,” I said. “Is that the room I paid for? Or is that room different? Because I don’t want to put you out a nicer room or something.”

“It’s fine,” he said, even though his tone made it perfectly clear that it was not at all fine.

He handed me the new keys.

“Well I’m sorry again,” I said. “So Room 4040 then.”

“No!” he replied. “Room 440. The room you’re in now. Just stay there.”

“Will do!” I chirped as I got onto the elevator.


Out of curiosity, I decided to scope out Room 4040, if only from the outside, on my way back down the hall. Right away, I could see where I went wrong. The building was square-shaped, with Rooms 410-440 running along the perimeter. Then, in a corridor that passed through the center of the layout, there was a second group of rooms, numbered 4010-4040. It was an easy mistake to make, mostly because you don’t really expect there to be a group of rooms cut right into the middle of the building. I wasn’t able to let myself into any, but I’m almost certain that they did not have windows, much less leather furniture and terrycloth robes. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw that this section of the hotel was called The College Wing.

This, of course, was the bargain room I had booked. And I wouldn’t have complained if I ended up spending a night in the Gresham dorms. After all, you get what you pay for. But I’m happy that I channeled my inner Beyoncé on my way to the 40/40 Club. Like the great Queen Bey once said, Partner let me upgrade you.

  1. perfect, just perfect. And now you see why those other rooms were at a walloping discount. Loved that first photo, some part of me whimpered (that sound you make when baked alaska passes your table and you’re allergic to it) and wanted to be there.

    • you’re so sweet – thank you. funny story about baked alaska. one thanksgiving my boyfriend at the time told me that he was bringing a pie for dessert. “it’s lemon meringue,” he told me when he arrived and handed me the box. after dinner, when I opened it, imagine my surprise when i saw there was only half a pie in it. “did someone sell you half a pie?” i asked. and he was like, “well i figured there was only six of us, and you had made the apple, so i could just bring half. i kept the other half at home.” this is what you might call “a teachable moment.” and it’s a lesson that i hope he learned with me in the privacy of my kitchen, as opposed to the home of his girlfriend’s parents or a boss or something of the sort. when i got done with my lecture, all he could say was, “you think you’re disappointed… i thought i bought baked alaska!”

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