“Hi, can we get a replacement room key? We’ve lost ours”
“Of course. I’m afraid that’s a fine of 3000 Forint (£8.52)”
“Oh, right. Sorry, I think I misspoke. English is my second language. I meant to say that we would like another room key because there are two of us and one key isn’t enough”
“Sure, no problem! Where are you from, anyway?”
“Super cool! D’ou venez-vous en France?”
Lying isn’t clever or smart. Unless it is. Anyway, you shouldn’t do it. But if you have to, make sure you compensate the world by taking karmic retribution into your own hands.
Very recently – and keep in mind this sentence might upset some people – we checked into a hotel which didn’t offer free breakfast.
Now, I’m not a breakfast snob. If a hotel wants to just leave out nothing but a big, beautiful jar of Robertson’s Golden Shred and a loaf of best of both, I’ll take it. You know what, I’ll even be fine with absolutely nothing. But there’s one thing that steams my clams: A hotel that offers breakfast but doesn’t include it in the price of the room.
Everyone knows that 90% of the reason someone stays in a hotel is the complimentary breakfast buffet. And the other 10% is that it’s nice to be near other people but not talk to them. If Airbnb manages to somehow add those two notches to their belt then hotels will go the way of Ask Jeeves. You know which way I’m talking about. South. The Basement. All the way down to the devil!
Anyway, the first morning of our stay arrived and we strolled over to breakfast. Crude, abrasive signs barked out “Breakfast: 1000 Forint (£2.86)” at us from every direction. And I mean, every direction. On our left, on our right, above our heads. They were even on the ground staring up at us. Granted, that was probably because I got drunk the night before and ripped a lot of the signs down in a stormy, passionate rage but still, you don’t expect to see that sort of stuff on the floor.
Another sign greeted us, this one said “PAY BEFORE MEAL” and it was provocatively placed on that little podium where the host stands. Except, no host was standing there.
You picked the wrong time to nip off for a poo, my friend! We’re about to get a (thoroughly deserved) free breakfast. Laura and I smiled at each other, nodded a nod of relief, and sailed on through. We stepped over the threshold and a playful splash of light welcomed us in.
It was perhaps the most spectacular buffet area we’d seen in days. Morning cuisine graced every surface. Eggs, cold breakfast meats, fruit that I don’t even think has been given an official name yet, and the inimitable morning sushi. I decided to start with the exotic fruits. Since day one, I’ve been a firm believer that a starter and desert should sandwich every meal.
I grabbed the tongs and went to work.
But then it dawned on me. Something was wrong. Something was really wrong. There were no plates. I frantically started storming around, knocking stuff over and pushing innocent bystanders in bushes. Like a more chaotic version of Hugh Jackman in that film Prisoners when he first realises his daughter has been kidnapped.
Then I saw it: a small window in the wall. I strode over and saw a man smiling a knowing smile at us.
“I have the plates” he said whilst managing to sound carefree and spiteful at the same time. “They’re 1000 Forint”.
We thought we’d got away with a free buffet but no. They’d got us, we hadn’t got away with anything. We begrudgingly paid, ate our eggs and sushi and had a bloody nice time. But our delightful morning was tinged with sorrow. Paying for a hotel breakfast isn’t something I’d wish on LUCIFER HIMSELF. The pure injustice of it all had me racking my brain for a solution. That’s when I realised, we just paid for the plates. There was no asking for the bill or paying at the entrance, all we did was pay to acquire two plates. This was a solvable crisis:
“Let’s put our plates in our bags and then bring them back down in the morning”.
There’s not a lot of dignity in taking a plate from a restaurant.`It doesn’t make you feel good. I’ve done it in Wetherspoons before but not one of the fancy ones and also, their new plates are really nice.
People shouldn’t pay for a hotel breakfast when they’ve already paid for a hotel room, that’s a fact. So when I started surreptitiously constructing my lunch out of items from the breakfast buffet (ham and cheese croissants) under the table and then wrapping them up in takeaway napkins, I did it for karmic balance.
Later that day, we walked to Vorosmarty Square right in the middle of Budapest when we noticed a “History of Communism Walking Tour” about to kick off. We looked at each other and nodded a nod of mutual understanding. There were about 40 people on the tour. Enough that the tour guide wouldn’t remember whose paid, but still enough that we can hear what he’s saying.
Hide in plain sight, that’s what I say. I said that once.
There’s only really one key rule to “tour-jumping”: Be overly attentive. Don’t just listen, look like you’re listening. Nod a lot. Say “hmm” in an audible, surprised, eager way. Ask questions, but most importantly, give many compliments.
The White House
“Wow, what a great tour” is a good one. “This is the best day of my life”, “Hey, I never knew that about Stalin!”. Maybe even try to start a chant. Your brazen push for attention will convince the guide that people who didn’t pay surely wouldn’t make such a show of themselves. All of a sudden, you’re more innocent than the innocent. Also, your compliments towards the guide are restoring karmic balance. You’re doing a nice thing by praising him. He feels good, you feel good. You and karma are back on track.
That next morning, I got up early and washed up our plates in the bathroom. Is there dignity in it? No. Does the idea of getting one over on a big hotel corporation make you feel better about the lack of dignity? No, again.
I placed the goods in my backpack and we steadily headed to breakfast, cautiously avoiding the clanking of the plates, painfully unaware that a carefully placed jumper between the two would have solved the problem. We strolled down the stairs, past the gold-digging signs, past the empty host’s podium, and sat ourselves down in a corner just out of the way enough to finish off the last of our plate smuggling unnoticed.
We walked over to the buffet, hands adorned with the freshly washed plates of yesterday. Although today, a hotel employee was standing at the front of the food. This definitely wasn’t the case the day before. I smiled a “Please stop blocking the Korean Melon” smile at him. He smiled back, then all of a sudden, he went in for the kill. Just like La Roux.
“Where did you get those plates from?”
Shit. I looked around wildly for an excuse. I decided to just look confused and repeat what he said. But slowly and with a question mark at the end: “Plates?”.
“Yes, plates. Those are the Friday plates. The Saturday plates are eggshell. Yours are alabaster white”
He turned away and started speaking rapid Hungarian into a radio. I expected the worst. He was for sure calling security or the police. Most likely the police.
You know when you go to a festival but only buy a Day ticket and think, you know what, those weekend wristbands look exactly the same as mine. Then you turn up the next day with your yellow wristband and everyone else has a blue one.
He turned back to face us. I was sure karma was going to get its retribution. But no, not today:
“I’m so sorry for the mixup. Let me just change these to Saturday plates”
“Oh…right. Yeah, please do”