a telescope in a room with windows and a city view

Did I get my Kevin McCallister moment? No I didn’t. Did I jump on the bed… maybe.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a big fan of the “look at me” experiences of the internet, but this one is funny, and more about a trend relatable to many travellers than about me, myself. It all started with a 15 hour flight, a late night, an early morning and a $3,600 room upgrade.

I landed in San Francisco for a work related function a few weeks ago, and after a delayed flight was overjoyed to reach the Fairmont San Francisco. Atop Nob Hill, it’s one of my favourite areas in the city and one with ridiculous views to boot. The week before travel, I received a confirmation that my stay had been booked into a standard king room, for one night. Lovely. I’d hoped to get there early in the day but delayed flights shut that down fast.

I arrived, looking like a character from the Walking Dead into the grand old lobby about 10PM and made my way to the standard check in line. If Tony Bennett had been standing next to me, he may have proactively offered some spare change.

A kind front of house person said the standard pleasantries, took my ID and then said “and we’ve upgraded you to a lovely suite, I’m sure you’ll like it”. Now, I’ve been upgraded before, rarely, but I have – and it typically means a room with a couch in it, or perhaps a slightly better view. It’s always nice, for whatever reason it happens and for the most part, it’s nothing to write about.

Without thinking twice, I said thanks and headed to the tower elevator.

a sign on a wallAs I approached the end of the hall, I started laughing, the way a crazy person does as they’re alone and staring at walls. Why? Because after passing the relevant numbers, I came to the stark realisation that my room number 2211, was in fact the “Tony Bennett Diplomat Suite”, and its door was unlike any other in the hallway. It was one of those where everyone else is at the side of the hall, and you’re in the far end, no need to turn left or right.

I tapped the key card, turned the gold handle and immediately the Borat inspired “king in a castle” scene played out in my head over and over.

Before we go inside, here’s why this is funny and a fortunate “fail”…

a room with a desk and chair and a large window with a city skyline in the backgroundEvery business traveller on earth can relate to this. The rule of thumb for business travel is that you only get suite upgrades or flight upgrades when you either a) don’t need them b) can’t use them or c) are travelling solo. For me, this was basically an “all of the above” answer, though one with endless joy and amusement at that. Why? It was 10PM, I had just come off a 15 hour flight and I needed to be up and out to prepare for a work function at 8AM. I barely had time to walk around the place!

So what could a $3600 per night suite actually be? Well, insane, apparently. Two living rooms, three bathrooms, a master tub, a gigantic bedroom,  panoramic views of San Francisco from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Airport. It’s the kind of place where someone has a cloth draped over their arm, and you hand them a bit of chewing gum and they smile while elegantly tucking it away.

a room with a bed and a couch a table in a room with a chandelier and chairs a room with a desk and chair and a large window with a city skyline in the background a room with a table and chairs It was a genuine freaking palace, and an elegant and understated one at that. There was an area for entertaining foreign diplomats or rockstars, a separate dining room, fridges, which I’d imagine would typically be stocked with fine champagne and rare juices, and just about everything else you could dream of, including a massive golden telescope. After all, there was lots to see, voyeur or not!

a couch in a roomIn the morning, I was half expecting Tony Bennett to be standing next to my bed crooning me out of my sleep, saying something like “hey kid, welcome to my pad, enjoy the place”.

Now keep in mind, all of this was teased in front of me, in the most comically amazing and depressing ways.

a telescope in a room with a view of a city and water a table with a view of a city and a tall building I barely had time to walk around it in the morning before I had to sharpen up, pack up and head out the door for good. I couldn’t even enjoy breakfast in bed, which I inevitably would’ve done in a robe, while taking each croissant in a different chair.

This was a pleasure I won’t soon forget, and a level of luxury I may never see again, and I just wish with all my might that I had been with my wife, and that we were staying for a week, where we could  invite everyone we ever knew for canapés and cocktails nightly, just to say we did. As you do, right?

So how did all this Tony Bennett upgrading crooning happen?a room with a table and chairs

Apparently, the person who checked in the block of rooms had a bit of fun with the front desk, and let them know that I was an ultra VIP, hugely influential influencer who parts seas and turns sunny days into rain at the drop of a finger. We all know that’s not true.

To the best of my knowledge, it was all said in jest, but some of it may have been taken seriously. So there you have it, if you want a $3600 per night suite upgrade, have someone else check you in and have them spit a bunch of bullshit about how important you are. It just may work : ) I’m totally kidding here, but who knows.

Going back to the main point of this article: it’s easiest for hotels to give the best upgrade on short stays, since they’ll require the least amount of tidying and the risk of missing out on an actual $3600 per night booking is low. I got incredibly lucky, I may never experience this level of luck again, but the Fairmont and Tony Bennett will forever be my first two thoughts when I land in San Francisco.

I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco, but I left a massive hotel suite virtually spotless and I so wish I didn’t.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Hahaha I work with them all the time in film production. It’s not surprising, they get a lot of vips there with pseudonyms so it wasn’t surprising they upgraded you like that because they took it for face value what your travel coordinator told them. Some VIPs are not greedy and like simplicity so they upgraded you to show off their hotel to you an out of town guest. It’s apart of their hospitality style and unpretentious in a way.

  2. I’d prefer it if the suite had a lighter beige carpet. I know that sounds ungrateful but… if it makes you feel any better with the current carpet, the suite looks slightly dated.

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