NEW YORK (AP) — If you think you're a picky hotel guest, check out the pet peeves of Anthony Melchiorri, who critiques hotels for a living and hosts a new show called "Hotel Impossible" on the Travel Channel. Melchiorri is freaked out by dirty grout, hates Internet fees and always checks hotel rooms for something he almost can't bear to name.
On the show, which airs Monday nights (10 p.m. ET/PT), Melchiorri advises hotels on how to improve everything from facilities to service to decor with a goal of increasing sales. He's brought his in-your-face, can-do assessments to properties ranging from Gurney's, a historic beachfront inn in Montauk, N.Y., in the Hamptons, to a boutique hotel, The New Yorker, in Miami's artsy MiMo district. This week, he visits the Purple Orchid in California wine country.
Melchiorri has been in the hospitality business for 20 years and has helped reposition storied Manhattan hotels like the Plaza and the Algonquin. But he hasn't lost touch with what the average traveler experiences in those first few minutes in a hotel, and he shared that process with The Associated Press.
THE LOBBY: "When I walk into a hotel, I want the illusion that my stay is going to be perfect. I want to see the bellman greet me. I want to see that the paint isn't chipping. I want the front desk to engage me, treat me like a person, so that I know any problem I may have, they will take care of me. By the time I get to the elevator, I'm already starting to be comfortable."
BIGGEST FEAR: "As soon as I walk in the room, I put my luggage in the bathroom because that's the safest place away from any insects. I say insects because I don't even want to use the word. Now I inspect the bed. I'm looking at the seams of the mattress and headboard, end tables, the side of the bed. Let me be clear: Most hotels don't have bed bugs. I have never found a bed bug in a hotel. But I never put my luggage on the bed, ever. And once I realize there's nothing living in the bed, I look for a metal luggage rack and put my luggage on that." (Metal repels bed bugs; they prefer wood.)
THE ROUTINE: "I bolt the door to the room, and if there's an adjoining room, I check the door to make sure that room is locked. I cannot tell you how many times people have walked in on me. I also look in the shower, sink and tiles for dirty grout. I can't get in a shower with dirty grout, not even in my own house. It freaks me out. Then I open up the ironing board, I make sure it's functional, I look to see that there's no water in the iron and I put it in a corner of my room so it's ready to use. And then I unpack. ... I have a plastic liner from the drycleaners and I put that in the drawer first."
THE EXHALE: "Now that I know my room is clean, I can forget that I'm a germaphobe. I can forget that I didn't want to touch the remote control. If the hotel does its job, and gives me the illusion that it's perfect, then my defenses go down. But if there's a dirty hallway or a light bulb is out or an employee was rude to me, then my cootie-ometer is up."
PET PEEVES: Rooms that don't have enough electrical outlets; alarm clocks that go off at 4 a.m. because the maid didn't turn off the previous guest's setting; hotels that charge for Internet. "The Algonquin Hotel was famous for hosting a lot of writers. When Dorothy Parker was sitting there at the Algonquin Round Table, and she needed a pen, she got a pen for free. Today we write using the Internet. Why should I charge somebody for the Internet if I don't charge them for a pen?"
THE PHONE CALL: "I once implemented a policy at a hotel that every single guest be called by the front desk within 10 minutes of being in the room to make sure they didn't need anything. But then I started getting complaints from people. 'I just got in my room, I was in the bathroom, I thought my wife was calling! If I need you, I'll call you!' So I stopped the phone calls to guests."
NOTHING FANCY: "I really enjoy three-star, limited service hotels like Holiday Inn Express and small boutique hotels like Kimptons. You get your free Internet, your mini-mart, your free breakfast, the room has a beautiful mattress. It's everything I need. The service is not intrusive but a lot of times, I don't want to deal with anybody."
ONLINE REVIEWS: "I find online reviews to be very accurate. I use them every single day. If there are 100 reviews, then you go through them, and I always check the four terrible reviews just to make sure there's nothing that's unacceptable to me. If you're an educated consumer, you can make your own decisions about whether the person who complained about a mushy strawberry in the fruit basket should be taken seriously. I mean, really? You have bigger problems in your life."