Impertinent Questions Still in Search of Pertinent Answers

I wrote the following questions in some of my earliest columns in the period from 1990-2000.  So far, no pertinent answers have been forthcoming:

  • When will hotel decorators provide a bedside light that will allow me to read in bed?
  • Hasn’t hotel segmentation become market fragmentation?
  • Why do hotels have so few female and African-American hotel managers?
  • Why do hotel bars serve gin and tonics in the same size glasses as whiskey sours?
  • Is it beyond American technological genius to design a blackout drapery that really keeps the morning light out?
  • Isn’t it annoying to find a lamp switch up near the bulb or on the wire somewhere behind the furniture?
  • Am I the only one who can’t distinguish between the shampoo and skin lotion containers after I step into the shower?
  • Was Charles Kuralt (CBS “On The Road”) right when he advised frequent travelers to pack a large safety pin (for room drapes that never meet), a rubber sink stopper (for bad bathroom plumbing) and two 100W bulbs (to improve dim guestroom lighting)?
  • Has the hotel industry taken a hard look at the boom in cruise-ship business to discover what they are doing right?
  • Does anyone take a bath in a hotel?

Incidentally, these questions originally appeared in the Cornell Quarterly, World’s-Eye View on Hospitality Trends (Northern Arizona University),, Hotel Interactive and Hotel-Online.


My new book “Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York” will be published before the end of the year.  The circumstances that enabled many of the thirty-two hotels featured in this book to survive more than one hundred years are both surprising and unexpected.

If you want to reserve an autographed copy, send me an email with your mailing address.  I will notify you the when the book is published and available.

In 2009 Stanley Turkel, published his classic book, Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry.  It contains 359 pages, 25 illustrations and 16 chapters.  It also has a foreword (by Stephen Rushmore), preface, introduction, bibliography and index.

Ed Watkins, Editor of Lodging Hospitality wrote, “The lodging industry typically doesn’t spend a lot of time considering its past.  Some may find that odd since compared to many other businesses (computers, automobiles, aircraft), the hotel business is one of oldest if not the oldest, in the history of man.  That changed recently with the publication of….. Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry, a fascinating and entertaining series of profiles of 16 men who author Stanley Turkel argues were the builders of the modern American hotel industry.  That’s significant because due to the efforts of these titans (and others, of course), the American style of hotelkeeping long surpassed the European tradition that reigned for centuries.

Some of the profiles contain cover names (Hilton, Marriott, Johnson, Wilson) familiar to even casual students of hotel or U.S. history.  Sadly, just one of the pioneers covered the book (John Q. Hammons) is still alive and active in the industry.  To me, the more interesting tales cover hoteliers about whom I knew little before reading this book but now have a great appreciation for their contributions.

The most compelling story focuses on Kanjibhai Manchhubhai Patel who Turkel identifies as the first Indian-American hotelier.  K. M. Patel arrived in San Francisco in 1923 and soon began operating a small residential hotel in the city.  The rest, as they say, is history; Today, Indian-American hoteliers dominate the industry with their trade association, AAHOA, recently surpassing 10,000 members.  As Turkel says, this community represents a true American success story.

 To order the book, go to  “I heartily recommend it.”

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