It’s obvious as soon as you enter the guest room at the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf that they’ve spent a lot of money making the rooms modern and sleek. Flat screen TV, stylish furniture, aesthetic bathroom, even an iHome iPod clock radio all contribute to a visual delight, sure to appease the well traveled or weary guest seeking the comforts of a modern home.
But when you actually start DOING things in the room, you quickly find it’s a case of design for its own sake and not for meeting people’s needs or goals.
First, I’ll get this out of the way. The TV was a snazzy touch, but I didn’t turn it on once during my four days. In San Francisco, there’s way too much to do to have time to watch TV. That said, had I wanted to watch TV, I would have been hard-pressed to watch any channel containing the number 7.
OK, where to start. How about the iHome clock radio. The clock was set 10 minutes fast, so I thought I’d be able to easily adjust the time. Bad assumption. I scoured every surface of the device more than once and could not find a single control to set the time.
Is was not until my last night, when, obsessed with figuring it out, I started to turn a small thumbscrew on the back. As the screw loosened, so did a metal plate underneath it. And then, voila, the plate came off, revealing the controls to set the time. Why? Why hide these BASIC components of a clock? I just don’t get it.
More on the clock. I docked my iPhone before bed, noted that it was charging, then went to sleep. In the morning, my iPhone’s power was at 10%. Sometime in the night, it simply stopped charging.
Then I noticed an outlet in the base of the nightstand lamp. Great! A feature of the room I can use. But no, the outlet was astonishingly too large for the standard prongs of an iPhone charger. That’s right – something with standard prongs kept slipping out of an outlet.
So, pretty much the whole nightstand area was a fail, unless you count its ability to keep my phone and glasses off the floor.
The bed and pillows themselves were really rather comfortable. But they stack the bed with a pyramid of shams that I prefer to not use. (I mean, who else’s heads have been on there, and do they really change the shams?) So, I piled them up on a chic chaise lounge. Next day, housekeeping mounted them again on the bed. So I again piled them on the chaise. Finally it seemed housekeeping got the hint, and for the remainder of the stay kept the sham sculpture on the chaise.
Now, we move on to the bathroom, which was beautiful but was a calamity of uselessness. It packs more usability issues per square foot than should be permissible by law.
After an evening of traveling to get to the hotel, I had to, uh, empty the bladder. I literally jumped back and yelped when I flushed. It was one of those suction-type toilets that could probably suck down a toddler. The effect was startling. And, grossly, it splashed drops of toilet water all over the place. Ick. From then on, I learned to shut the lid before flushing, lest I get splashed or inadvertently sucked down.
And when you’re finished sitting on the toilet, it really helps to have taken some yoga classes so that you can reach the toilet paper. The holder is about a foot off the floor, and placed behind the toilet. It’s a terribly awkward twist, and I was seriously worried about pulling a back muscle. Why put it there, when higher up and on the other side is an unused wooden façade of the vanity?
Let’s talk about brushing your teeth or taking a pill. When I do these things, I prefer using a cup or glass for the water. Yet in this 21st century bathroom, I could not find a cup. I did finally see them in the main living area, seated in front of the $5 bottles of Aquafina. Why put the glasses there? If I’m going to spend $5 on a bottle, I’m going to drink it from the little thingy they designed on the bottle to fit my mouth. Put the glasses where people are going to need them – near the bathroom sink. I purposely left my used glass sitting near the sink. When housekeeping came, they removed that glass and gave me a clean one – near the bottled waters. Eventually I tried a trick and left my toothbrush in the glass. Housekeeping left that one alone, but still replaced the missing part of the glass couple near the bottled water.
The shower was unfortunately not exempt from being almost unusable. First thing I did was try to grab the glass shower door knob so that I could slide the door to the left and reach the shower controls. But oh, how the door did not budge. Then I paid closer attention and noticed that the door was not really a door, but a glass panel that was affixed to the ceiling and the base. The door sliding knob was really just something to hang a towel on. But metal knob on glass door…that’s an affordance I’m used to everywhere else in the world. It makes the door slide back and forth.
So…I had to get into the shower in order to turn on the shower. This might not be as much of a problem if it were a traditional shower where I could run the water in the bottom, get it to the right temperature, and then set the diverter to shower mode. The problem with this fancy shower is that the water sprayed down from a square plate-looking object in the center of the ceiling. So the very instant that the water is turned on, it’s raining down on your arm – whether or not you’ve managed to instantly find the right temperature. So, for me, that meant getting doused with ice cold water on my arm, then having to either reach through the cold rain or sneak my arm around it to adjust it warmer. By my fourth day, I kind of figured out how to get close to the right temperature in a split second and then withdraw my arm before the water totally got me.
Thing is, I shouldn’t have to learn these kinds of tricks.
Then, we run into the problem of the water coming straight down from overhead. It makes cleaning certain body parts that are, say, on the underneath sides of ourselves rather impossible. I found myself performing certain ballet moves or yoga positions to try to get the water to reach the right places. Oh, it’s great for hair and shoulder washing. But pretty useless for everything else.
Oh, and because the shower door isn’t a door at all, water splashes all over the floor and even onto the bathroom door (which is a double pocket door, not one with a knob, and I never could get the two panels to meet in the middle; good thing I was solo).
If you use the hotel soap and leave it in the wire soap dish, the next day, it has bluish grill marks on it.
If you have wet things – as I did, having come from a whitewater rafting trip and had two wet swim suits, water socks, water shirt – forget trying to hang them anywhere, as there aren’t any towel bars (except for one in the shower that they use to hang the bath mat towel). There’s that shower door knob, plus a twin knob mounted inside the shower door. But that’s it. The Hyatt’s modern bathroom places all of the towels in cubbies. I’m not sure what a family of four would do after swimming in the hotel pool. How would they dry four swim suits? And how about four towels? If the Hyatt wants me to conserve by reusing my towels, shouldn’t there be a place to hang them? I’ve stayed at some lesser hotel chains that have a retractable line in the shower that you can pull out to hang your wet things.
Remember that outlet that was too large for the prongs of a standard charger? Same thing in the bathroom. One of the two outlets was too large for the prongs of the hair dryer or electric razor cord. Simply bizarre.
I’m sure there are other details I’m leaving out, such as their placing the coffee maker not by the source of water but instead hiding it in a dresser drawer that I came to use for my socks.
If I think of them, I’ll fill them in later.
Sitting near the TV was a book titled “Welcome Home.” Feeling curious, I opened it, thinking it was the guest services directory. Instead, with delicious irony, I discovered it to be a catalog of the all the chic items that you can purchase. If you liked all the useless accoutrements so much during your stay, why not buy them for everyday use at hyattathome.com?
I say go for it. Just make sure to hone up your yoga skills ahead of time.
The morning I checked out, I called the front desk to request a taxi. They sold me on their limo service for $55 including tip. I went down, printed my boarding pass and waited for the limo. Then, the front desk told me the limo was in an accident, and I’d need to take a taxi after all. The 20-minute difference (had they just called the cab for me to begin with) nearly caused me to miss my flight.