Maybe a hot drink could help me relax, I think, after checking into my hotel room. But there is no teapot, only its base lying haphazardly on the nightstand.
“Oh, that’s a shame,” the disinterested receptionist sarcastically responds over the phone, before rejecting my request to have one sent to me. “Use the sink.”
How can you make a cup of tea with tap water? “Use your imagination,” she barks before hanging up.
In the midst of a staffing crisis in the hospitality industry, you might think I’m being reprimanded by a dishonest employee who has slipped through the interview net.
In fact, they use it specifically to offend, because I’m in a hotel that proudly describes itself as the worst in the world, where customer service is non-existent, condiments are thrown at dinner, and hotel basics (towels, toilet paper , etc., only stand out by their absence.
Antonia Hoyle, centre, visits Karen’s hotel in Barnet, north London, which opened last month.
Karen’s Hotel in Barnet, north London, opened last month as a subsidiary of Karen’s Diner, a restaurant chain famous for insulting its customers. First released in Australia in 2021, it arrived in Britain the following year.
The name Karen has become synonymous on the Internet with the type of middle-aged woman who complains about everything and routinely asks to “speak to the manager.”
Therefore, accusing people of being ridiculed while eating at a restaurant that bears that name sounds like a shady business plan.
But so far the brand has amassed 1.6 million followers and its videos have had 3 billion views on TikTok, where children, parents and grandparents flock to upload photos of themselves while waiters known as ‘Karens’ They say to go to hell.
There are seven branches in the UK, and celebrity fans include broadcaster Davina McCall, who described being called a “stupid bitch” at the Manchester branch last year as “hilarious”.
So maybe it was just a matter of time before Karen’s expanded its business to overnight stays. But who will be attracted to this masochistic chaos?
“Anyone who not only wants to be roasted during the day, but also feels the need to be roasted all night,” says Paul Levin of Karen’s Diner. By “roasted” he means “comically abused,” a form of “escapism” that he considers Karen’s underlying appeal. The only prerequisites for guests? Tough skin and sense of humor.
I don’t have any, unfortunately. Sensitive, socially awkward and conflict-averse, I don’t joke and rarely understand jokes. Being interrupted is my idea of a nightmare. But could facing my fears head-on be the solution? Could my £189 one-night ‘Karen Experience’, including dinner, finally toughen me up and teach me to laugh at myself more?
My heart is pounding when I arrive at the reception. After several minutes of waiting, a sullen girl with ringlet curls, baggy pants, a frown, a red apron with “Farah” scrawled on the front, and dirty sneakers finally emerges.
I venture into the bathroom and scream: there’s a huge spider perched on the shower soap dish and fluffy legs are lining the shower tray.
My room looks like it was turned over by a five-year-old with a sugar high.
One of the three Karens who will take care of me during my stay, walks me to my room with a grunt. ‘Move, Grandma!’ “She,” she barks as she walks up the stairs with my luggage, before asking, “Do you want help?” I nod hopefully. “I don’t give a damn,” she says, brushing past me to open my door.
Inside, my room looks like it was turned upside down by a five-year-old with a sugar high. The lamps are knocked down and bags of milk and coffee are lying on an unmade bed. A roll of toilet paper has been thrown over the mirror and a hideous brown blanket with a Karen emoji printed on it (a graduated blonde bob not unlike mine, I realize with horror) has been thrown to the floor.
I venture into the bathroom and scream: There’s a huge spider perched on the shower soap dish, and its long black legs aren’t immediately obvious as fake. Fluffy hair (from the fake tarantula, I hope) lines the shower tray, along with empty shampoo bottles.
The toilet lid is up, a cardboard tube of toilet paper has been dumped into the bowl, and the faucets are stained with soap. I’m pulling out the tube when the phone rings. It’s Farah, with, above all, a knock-knock joke. ‘Hey, who’s there?’ Asked. ‘A zoo where there are only dogs. What’s it called?’ My mind goes blank as she yells “a Shih Tzu,” and before my stressed brain gets the punchline, she yells, “FUCKING LAUGH.”
Nervously, I blurt out that I have no sense of humor. ‘I can say. You have a slapped ass face,’ she says.
As I prepare for dinner, I receive a flurry of additional calls, including a joke about me being in a nursing home and a request for me to take a shower “because it stinks like fish and we have clients.” Is this funny? I’m not sure.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that I will be a target for my gender, age (45, ‘dementia is already kicking in’) and class (‘posh t***) when someone slams on the door so hard I jump out of my skin. .
This time Farah has brought a companion, Ashley, sarcastic in a black crop top, leggings and Crocs. The couple leers at me from my door, apparently only here to say that I need my roots back.
Guests certainly don’t get short shrift here, but in an age of narcissism and non-existent customer service, maybe it’s better to be trolled than ignored, even if George, my third ‘Karen’, calls me a ‘pervert’ when I accidentally touch her elbow. and I throw the toilet paper I asked for across the room.
Of course, there’s a fine line between pranks and abuse, as the franchise has discovered to its cost. Last year, Karen’s Diner apologized to an Australian family after a waiter called a father eating at the restaurant a ‘pedophile’ and asked if his 14-year-old daughter, who was called ‘tart’, had an account. on the porn site. Fanatics.
Walking into a neon pink and purple 1950s-style restaurant, I’m told my ruffled red dress looks like a cabbage.
Swearing may be widespread, but it is not overly encouraged, insists Levin, who admits, however, that “young, nervous Karens swear too much for laughs.” If they do it frequently, we stop them.’
Despite the foul language, he says that families make up 40 percent of clients and that “if you have young children and the parents think it’s responsible, well, that’s up to you.”
Body shaming is prohibited, but fashion sense and grooming choices are fair game.
Walking into a neon pink and purple Fifties-style restaurant replete with alternative slogans (‘Vegan? Get a life’, ‘Don’t ask about our day. We don’t give a damn about yours’), I was told My red ruffled dress looks like a cabbage, while the £13.95 Karen’s Pathetic Single, a burger served with fries, is unceremoniously plopped in front of me, along with sachets of ketchup landing on my head.
Customers are forced to eat in personalized paper hats (mine says “Birth certificate says ‘expired'”) and, once I finish my (admittedly tasty) burger, I’m told to crayon a picture of Karen, an activity I find reassuringly calming until Ashley takes it away from me and breaks it.
“At your old age you can’t color correctly,” he shouts. “You’ve been on this earth for about 100 years.” I later found out that Ashley is 17 and Farah is 19. No wonder they think I’m older.
However, I become increasingly desensitized to insults, and when cleaners Chantelle and Louise, both 43, and Mary arrive at the restaurant to celebrate Mary’s 60th birthday, my mood lifts in the company of others. women, especially since Mary is now the designated “oldest b.” **chap.’ When she jokes that the beautiful long blonde haircut she’s insulted for is a “midlife crisis,” Ashley says, “It’s not midlife.” It’s the end of life.’
Louise good-naturedly replies that Mary is, in fact, a cool “gangsta granny.”
—She sells drugs outside the municipal property, right? Farah jokes, perhaps unprepared for Mary’s return: “Actually, we are all recovering addicts. We are from Cocaine Anonymous.
Having established that they aren’t joking (it is that kind of place, after all), I learn that Mary, who has been clean for almost three years, once only had six months to live. In fact, the end of life.
Insults can cut to the bone, but that only makes the women’s laughter louder.
As they corner us for an impromptu fashion show (I’m forced to strut in front of Grandma We Love You from St Winifred’s School Choir), I realize that, as sexist, immature and wildly inappropriate as the digs are, They have broken down rigid social boundaries and created a sense of intimacy. Against all expectations, I’m having fun.
Or was it… I return to my room to find my pillows gone, an iron in place ‘to keep me warm’ and more fake spiders everywhere. At 9 pm there is a loud knock on the door that causes my loudest scream so far. It’s Farah and Ashley with a custom drawing of me as ‘Anton’ full of gray hair and a ‘Karen cut’. Maybe I have Stockholm syndrome, but I feel strangely moved.
Exhausted by hours of insults, I get rid of the milk cartons and coffee bags left under the duvet and finally fall asleep, wondering if maybe my skin is thicker than I thought after all.
When I leave the next morning, there’s no sign of my trio of torturers, my Karen Experience apparently cut off at dawn. I give her the key back and when the receptionist at her place tells me to have a nice day, I feel a little disappointed.