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The Surprisingly Obvious Reason for the Cheap Hair Dryer in Your Hotel Room

Ohhhh...that makes sense!

“They’re all terrible!” exclaimed Jen Held.

Held, who lives in Buffalo and works as an SVP at a bank, regularly travels for both business and pleasure and said she doesn’t trust the “cheap” hair dryers provided by the four- and five-star hotels where she typically stays. Her solution to this conundrum is to bring her own hair dryer. The compact Drybar Baby Buttercup doesn’t take up a lot of space, but Held said it’s still a pain to have to pack it.

You might not expect much of this standard bathroom amenity in a no-frills hotel, but the reality is that even some of the most luxurious hotels proffer a less-than-luxe hair dryer despite providing myriad other high-end amenities.

At one of New York City’s top hotels, the Park Hyatt, rooms contain a basic Con Air. A similar tool can be found in the bathrooms at the super posh Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and at the exceptional The Setai in Miami, an odd contrast next to the otherwise upscale setup.

What’s in a Room?

There are, of course, far too many high-end hotel brands to make a sweeping statement about the typical hair dryer quality, but anecdotal evidence, personal experience, and interviews (as well as a number of hotels declining to participate in the story) strongly indicate the hair dryer pendulum swings to the lower side of quality.

Sharing space with plush, high-thread-count white towels, soft, velvety bathrobes, handy amenity kits, and sweet-smelling bath and skin care products lined up on a glistening marble countertop, the hair dryer all too often falls short of its surroundings.

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There’s always a brief moment of suspense for me: What will I discover in the pristine white hair dryer bag hanging from the bathroom hook or tucked neatly in a vanity drawer?

Usually, the discovery is disappointing.

The Lap of Luxury

Take, for example, the new Waldorf Astoria Cancun, unimpeachable in nearly every way. The five-star oceanside resort exudes refined luxury from the moment you enter the capacious, airy lobby. The luxurious vibes extend to the pristine infinity pool and inviting cabanas overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Guest rooms, all of which face the sea, are elegant but inviting; Stone and wood design touches create a warm, welcoming space, featuring Frette linens, a Nespresso machine (a major step up from the now-ubiquitous Keurig), and stylish furniture inside and on the balcony.

Soon, the well-designed bathroom will feature Aesop bath products. This partnership is coming soon to Waldorf Astoria bathrooms everywhere, a move which Dino Michael, the SVP and Global Category Head of Hilton Luxury Brands, says “further enhances the intuitively thoughtful experience guests find when staying at Waldorf Astoria properties worldwide.”

The only thing that doesn’t feel thoughtful is the hair dryer.

During an impromptu meeting at the hotel in January, Michael cited theft as a way of explaining the unfortunate hair dryer.

Apparently, even guests willing to spend $800 per night to stay at a five-star hotel can behave terribly.

But it’s not just guests stealing hotel property. Michael also explained, “Not all brands work for commercial use or have the longevity and durability in shelf life that we look for at our properties and are able to consider for a full collaboration across all of the properties.”

The 173 rooms at the Waldorf Astoria Cancun means 173 hair dryers (and presumably a backup stock should one break).

Some smaller luxury hotels, such as the 72-all-suite Hotel Wailea in Maui, aren’t concerned with theft or durability of the Dyson Hair Dryers provided in all the suites. Managing Director Markus Schale, responsible for the Dyson decision, said it’s as much about design as it is function.

“It is actually the best product out there, especially for the tropics where you’re in and out of the water a lot,” said Schale, whose assessment of the product was reached with the help of his wife.

The 15-room Amagansett hotel, The Roundtree, Amagansett, has equipped each room with a GAMA IQ, a professional tool with an ergonomic and compact design that the founder Sylvia Wong says is “aligned with the property’s overall mission of relaxation.”

At Le Meurice in Paris, one of the city’s finest hotels (with a nightly rate to support the luxurious stay), you won’t find a Dyson or an Elchim–an Italian brand featured in Puerto Rico’s Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve–but you will find an above-average hair dryer, a detail Franka Holtman, the hotel’s general manager, considered.

Upgrade Your Stay, Upgrade the Hair Dryer

Ocean-facing rooms cost more than street or courtyard-facing rooms. Corner rooms tend to be larger than other rooms on the floor, and the bigger the room, the bigger the cost generally. A sunken tub in the bathroom, in addition to a separate shower (and toilet room), can often command a higher price than a guest room without a porcelain bathtub.

There are often multiple room categories in a given property, and at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Fairmont Gold rooms (50 exclusive rooms with “elevated personalized service”) feature Dyson hair dryers. Guests taking the Dyson Hair Dryer with them when they go will be charged $750.

A similar experience—along with a Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer and Knours skincare products—can be had at Thompson Central Park Hotel, if you book a stay in the special category of guestrooms and suites. The 174 Upper Stories are about giving guests “the opportunity to enjoy luxury pleasures in addition to stellar service, thoughtful activations, and think beyond thread count,” said Steve Sasso, the hotel’s general manager.

These approaches—equipping some special category rooms with a high-end professional-grade hair dryer or charging guests for the item if it’s missing upon checkout—is not one Michael and his team have any immediate plan to implement. Asked about putting a placard in the bathroom, much like a mini-bar menu listing prices for salted nuts, chocolate, and gin, the executive didn’t use the word tacky, but the reasoning was along those lines. “We are always looking for ways to innovate the guest experience, and our property teams have been quite clever in anticipating the needs and wishes of our guests,” said Michael, adding that “luxury is about a truly seamless experience.”

A Dispensable Item for Many Travelers

Every hotel guest requires hand soap, towels, shampoo, and body wash. For many travelers, an in-room coffee maker is a must, and ample charging stations are increasingly essential.

But a hair dryer? It’s not an indispensable tool. It’s not the kind of thing every single person staying in a hotel uses. So, it’s highly unlikely the type of hair dryer a hotel provides is a deal breaker for most travelers. For some, a hotel website’s list of amenities proudly displaying the brand name of the fancy hair dryer (and flat iron) as Dorado Beach will be a bonus, not the be-all, end-all. And keep in mind that if you and your hair fall for the Elchim and you end up packing it to go, your total bill will increase by $250.

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