Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Turning In the Troublemakers

I don't smoke, except maybe once a year when I might score a nice big Havana and I sit out back in the desert, acres away from anyone else, and puff away in the sunshine. Once a year, I said. Way out in the Sonoran desert.

Even so, there are people who would object to this on environmental grounds. A good friend of mine, a splendid fellow who is kind to all things animal, vegetable and mineral, used to occasionally smoke a pipe. He was strolling one summer day through the delightful Brookdale Park in the People's Republic of Montclair, N.J., when some red-faced termagant accosted him and ordered him to snuff out the pipe, as it was "destructive to the trees."

Around the same time, my wife and I inadvisedly took a "tree orientation" tour organized by a community group in the same park, with the idea that we might learn something. Instead, all we got was a scold about people who trim tree branches around their homes. The woman who ran the tour said they were guilty of "arboricide," which evidently is a crime in the People's Republic of Montclair.

But I digress, as usual.

My friend's pipe -- which he kindly long ago abandoned under the endless scorn that rained upon him -- came to mind today when I read the following press release from a public relations firm that represents the Swissotel in Chicago.

I'm all for smoke-free hotel rooms. I hate people who smoke in hotel rooms.

But I get a little creeped out when a hotel run by the Swiss -- who, uh, had some issues about whom to "turn in" during those ... um, unpleasantries of World War II -- basically brags about paying off a staff member "who has caught a smoker."

Here's a press release just received from one Empower Public Relations, which represents the ever-vigilant Swissotel Chicago. Rat out your guests. Read it for yourself:

The $250 Cigarette

As Illinoisans begin to clear their lungs after the state-wide smoking ban, Swissôtel Chicago is guaranteeing a smoke-free stay. On December 3, Swissôtel instituted a strict policy, fining any smoking guests $250. The hotel is so committed to a smoke-free, healthy environment that any housekeeper who turns in a smoker actually receives a monetary award.

“The health of our guests and staff is of the utmost importance to us, and we will do whatever we can to preserve it,” says Nicole Jachimiak, Director of Marketing Programs and Public Relations. “We have asked our staff to help us with the smoke-free program to guarantee that our rooms are always 100 percent clean and fresh.”

When a guest is caught smoking in a room, that room is shut down for the day in order to have the carpets, drapes and all linens washed and shampooed. Only after the smoke and tobacco smell has been eliminated will Swissôtel open the room. The $250 fine covers the cost of closing the room for 24 hours.

Please let me know if you would like to speak to Nicole Jachimiak about this smoke-free program or a member of the staff who has caught a smoker.


Swissôtel Chicago offers 632 luxuriously oversized guestrooms and suites and 32 meeting rooms, which can accommodate up to 500 people. Designed by noted Chicago architect Harry Weese, the all-glass triangular hotel, wedged into the confluence of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, has fabulous wrap-around views from Navy Pier to Grant Park.

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