Breakthrough YouTuber Jim Chapman eats bad eggs and flashes staff as he investigates the privileges and perils of business trip stopovers
My name is Jim Chapman and I stay in a lot of hotels.
In this instance, I am very tired. After nearly an entire day of travelling, all I want to do is check in, shower and sleep for sixth months. I’m in New York and my hotel doubles as one of the city’s hangouts for the uber-trendy. As a result, there is a real buzz about it, amplified by the ‘vintage-industrial-chic’ décor. Dim orange lights, dark wooden floor, mismatched furniture, exposed pipe-work and, when I get to my room, a smell of feet.
As a YouTuber, I think I have the best job in the world. For those of you who don’t know what a ‘YouTuber’ is (possibly the majority of you), allow me to explain; I have my own YouTube channel on which I post regular content to an audience of around two million people, and growing. I am my own producer, I think up all of the videos, I film them, edit them and upload them. Because of this, I get to talk directly to my audience and we have a unique relationship that you don’t find in the world of traditional media. One day I may be broaching topics such as gender equality, the next I might be waxing my armpits because someone dared me to on Twitter.
One of the very best parts of my job is getting to travel around the world and experience new things. Often on these trips I will have the opportunity to meet the people who watch me online, but I spend a lot of my time in hotel rooms. Not having to make your bed, cook your own food or do any washing up is a real luxury, and I don’t take any of it for granted, but I have yet to have the perfect business-trip hotel experience.
So I set myself a mission, for myself and on behalf of every other person who travels a lot: to find the formula of the perfect business-trip hotel. It has required a lot of travelling, working from laptops on terrible Wi-Fi and ordering countless over-priced, undercooked eggs from room service, but here I present to you my findings.
I have categorised the types of hotel and the amenities they offer. The way I see it, there are four main classes of hotel (it’s probably much more of a continuum than a set class system, but this will never work without arbitrary rules):
1. The Quirky Boutique
These are usually run independently, in super-cool cities, and often have a small number of equally small rooms. And because of the few guests, you can expect great service. To maximise their appeal in tourist-packed locations that are saturated with bigger, cheaper chain hotels, they will sometimes theme rooms, or add artwork that scares the hell out of you in the night, or wallpaper made of suede.
In my experience, these boutiques employ a near-genius use of space, with hairdryers that fold into compartments you didn’t know existed until you have to do a panicked frisk of the room, because you’re wet-haired and running late for a meeting.
On the downside, you will rarely be able to order a club sandwich to your room at 2.30am. That doesn’t sound like a big problem, if it wasn’t for jet-lag, where you often find yourself hungry and sleepless at strange hours. At times like these, you have two options: Eat everything in the mini-bar, consuming two and half weeks’ worth of salt and sugar in one sitting, or put your clothes back on and venture out into a new city in the early hours.
Speaking of loose ends at odd hours, a decent gym is an important addition to a hotel. Unfortunately, in my experience, establishments like this often don’t have a gym at all – and if they do, it usually consists of a mat, a skipping rope, a choice of two weights and your imagination.
2. The Bog-Standard In’n’Out
Cheaper and more industrial, these hotels are perfect if all you need is a place to rest your head for the night.
The rooms are usually a big square with a bog-standard bed, dressed with a very thin plain white quilt. The late-Nineties décor is like a youth hostel. The food, although 24-hour, is often terrible and arrives at your door suspiciously quickly.
In this kind of hotel, any free time that I have is often spent as far away from it as possible.
A further piece of advice: when you enter the bathroom in the middle of the night, don’t pull the disabled person emergency cord thinking it’s the light. An alarm will sound, and a stranger will bust into your room while you’re puffy-eyed, with your penis in your hand, attempting to relieve your bladder.
3. The Luxury Five Star
Very rarely I will be lucky enough to stay in a luxury five-star premises. Clearly here, the service is second to none, the food is exquisite, the towels and dressing gowns softer than clouds, the bath will be like a swimming pool and the swimming pool like a minor lake.
Staying in a place like this would be most people’s first choice. The only issue I have is that when I fly or travel, I will do so in tracksuit bottoms, a snapback and an old shirt or hoody. Usually, by the time I arrive at any hotel, it’s safe to say I am not looking my best. Checking into a place where the majority of the guests are rocking Tom Ford while I am in leisurewear and smell like plane food is awkward. The staff remain friendly, but after they have just been in the presence of Rihanna (I actually saw Rihanna in the swimming pool of one of these hotels once… I wasn’t allowed to swim near her), they are hardly going to want to lower themselves to some guy who looks like he’s about to die.
4. The Generic Four Star
The kind of hotel I am most often put up in is the generic four-star establishment. It’s very hard to find any complaints with these. They have all bases covered adequately; a solid menu with room service, fresh bottles of water every time you re-enter the room, mini shampoo and conditioner and shower gel, free Wi-Fi.
I just find it all a bit corporate. By keeping everyone happy, they tend to lose their personality.
Quite regularly, when I’m at hotels like this, I will be visiting some sort of YouTube convention. These usually take place in a convention centre attached to the hotel, so the people who watch my videos tend to stay there, too. This used to be great because I could simply pop out and spend time with them. But YouTube has grown so much recently that the last event I went to had a capacity of 18,000 people, and security don’t like us leaving our rooms unless it’s for our scheduled meet and greets or stage performances, because of the sheer volume of people they have to contend with. It’s a shame, because the reason I go to these events is to meet as many of my subscribers as possible. The end result is cabin fever and, when the hotel is at capacity, a two-hour wait for food.
Another word of warning from personal experience. Because these hotels tend to be so large, the staff have a mammoth task to clean all the rooms, and they do their jobs mostly via muscle memory. So when they knock at the door and you don’t answer within 0.6 of a second, they come in anyway. As a result, I have accidentally exposed myself to women on both coasts of the US.
While writing this, I have realised hotels are fun regardless of what type you find yourself in. You have the privilege of taking advantage of the finer things in life, such as leaving your room in a mess to return and find it spotless with a chocolate on your pillow. So although I have yet to find the perfect experience, I have realised the things that come as standard make hotels enjoyable.
But, to conclude, here’s the formula for the perfect hotel:
- The charm and charisma of the small boutiques.
- The menu of the luxury hotels.
- The efficiency and gym facilities of the generic four star.
- No foot smell.
- No people walking in when I’m naked.
If you find it, let me know!
(Images: David Goldman at Belgraves, A Thompson Hotel)