Even the movie ‘The Dictator’ has lessons for hotels

You either love it or you hate it. I had the pleasure of seeing “The Dictator,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s newest movie, recently and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it is — a slapstick piece of risible nonsense. Yes, it’s crude, and yes, the jokes require an IQ of no greater than 80 to process. But I was never expecting some grand contribution to the dramatic arts. If you can switch off reality for an hour and a half, then you’ll be laughing nonstop.

The story of “The Dictator” portrays the eccentric tyrant, Admiral General Aladeen of the fictional rogue North African state Wadiya, who travels to New York City for peace talks at the United Nations. Most of the humor in this raunchy “fish out of water” tale plays around with common stereotypes held for Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong-Il and their ilk as well as terrorists like Osama Bin Laden.

Between talks of secret nuclear programs and anti-Western and anti-Semitic remarks, Aladeen still had time to insult the hotel industry. When he first arrives in New York City, amidst unpacking in his 85 luxurious suites, Aladeen inquires about connecting to the Internet. His chief advisor promptly replies that it’ll be an additional $20, at which point the Wadiyan dictator scoffs and compares this surcharge to his own malevolent actions.

Forgive as I cannot remember the exact line, but this gag thrown at hotels sent an uproar of laughter through the theatre. For the joke to hit its mark, it had to poke fun at something nearly universally understood. And what’s understood is that an additional hotel fee for Internet access is highway robbery.

Now, this is a problem. If it’s universally understood that there will be surcharge for Internet access, then a guest will likely make alternate preparations before arrival to avoid the needless fee. They’ll download all necessary files and emails beforehand, or they’ll map out the closest free Wi-Fi carrier.

But this can also work to your advantage. If the expectation is to be charged for Internet connectivity, then imagine a visitor’s surprise when you offer it for free!

I contend that offering free wireless Internet is the only way to go. Even today, and with “The Dictator” as proof, free Wi-Fi is still an excellent opportunity to impress guests with superior service additives.