By a distressing coincidence, on consecutive stops during a recent trip to Europe, my wife Francie and I stayed in two good hotels, the Imperial in Venice and the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, that have fallen into the grip of something called the “Luxury Collection,” presumably pronounced Lug-zury. Alas, this collection seems to have hired a hyperactive PR man.

To start with, the room television sets have a station available called Preferred Guest TV which boasts that it’s “Engaging, Alive, Inspirational and Innovative… with a special eye to design, cuisine, wine tasting, cigars and music…” and mostly, of course, to the other hostelries in the Lugzury Collection.

The bathrooms are full of little blue boxes containing plastic shower caps, soap bars, and the like. Fine: it’s meet and right to have soap in a hotel bathroom. However, the soap and other little items are all labeled ULTIMATE WELLBEING, which seems a bit much for ordinary soap and shower caps. (Francie proposes that stickers be applied to the folded points of the toilet paper ends proclaiming them ORIGAMI’D FOR YOUR COMFORT AND PROTECTION.)

Prominent in each bathroom is a sign claiming that “many of our guests have requested that their towels be changed less frequently, due to their CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. Should you also prefer a larger interval as an environmental consideration, we shall change only the laundry which you have placed on the floor.”

I suppose that at least once a generation a starry-eyed traveler comes into the world actually believing that this bit of parsimony originates out of CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT rather than for the Lugzury Collection bottom line, but I have little expectation of meeting him/her. If he/she exists and will come forward, I have some Alive, Inspirational and Innovative transactions to propose at the race track or in commodity speculation.

The Champagne Brunch in the Imperial’s festive halls is not just a late breakfast but “a hymn to those who worship the extraordinary.” And chez the Lugzury Collection, lunch is not only lunch, it’s a Lifestyle Selection.

As a further delight for putting up in the Lugzury Collection hostelries you receive Points, which you can apply to the cost of your Lifestyle Selection Lunch and other benefits. There are degrees and degrees of Point goodness, like being elevated from angel to archangel. We are exhorted to “Aspire” to the highest grade. Maybe.

However, in the midst of all this tripe there is a possible fragment of redeeming social value: a dollar a night during your stay is contributed to UNICEF.

Sounds good! Photos of rejoicing children (doubtless chanting “Viva Lugzury”) are depicted in the flier that carries these comfortable tidings.

Alas, on further inspection it emerges that not the collection, but you, the guest, pay for this largesse. In fact, unless you tell the manager not to deduct the money from your bill it is snatched away, willy-nilly, without your authorization.

When I happened upon this scheme I told the man behind the desk that I would be delighted to contribute to that UN agency if the Lugzury Collection would contribute a like amount to my favorite charity. I was favored by a wistful, sardonic smile in return.

The saddest part of this discouraging situation is that many of the places in the Lugzury Collection are in fact perfectly all right. The Goldener Hirsch is a sweet little inn that I’ve stayed in for decades. In fact, you have a schnitzel for lunch there, like any other schnitzel, not an Ultimate Wellbeing Hymn to the Extraordinary Lifestyle Selection.

I’m all for elegance, particularly the elegantly simple, but the truly elegant isn’t self-conscious, and particularly not grossly and vulgarly self-conscious. In their heyday, elegant hotels let their amenities speak for themselves, not via sodden announcements in PR jargon. Everything human is cyclical, though, so perhaps in time we can look for a return to the more straightforward ways of yesteryear. ■