If you’ve stayed at a “nicer” hotel (figure 4 stars or more), you may have gone back to your room after dinner and found that your bed had been turned down and a chocolate (or sometimes a mint) had been left on your pillow.
The story behind how that tradition started almost sounds like an urban legend. And who knows…maybe it is. But I can’t find one, not even ONE, alternate reason for having a chocolate on your pillow.
Apparently Cary Grant (he of North By Northwest, To Catch A Thief and many other classic films of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood) was staying at St. Louis’ Mayfair Hotel (it’s now the Magnolia St. Louis, a Marriott Bonvoy Tribute Portfolio Hotel). He visited there often in the early 1950s and for this particular trip, he had booked the penthouse suite. A woman was meeting him there (he was married to his third [of what would be 5] wife at that point, but that didn’t seem to matter).
According to the legend, the woman apparently arrived at the suite before Grant did, and she discovered that he had laid out a trail of chocolates for her. It started in the sitting room, continued into the bedroom, across the bed, and onto the pillow. It’s been described as something like a “seductive ‘Hansel and Gretel’ breadcrumb trail.” (A letter was said to have been left on the bed, but what it said, as well as the name of the woman [and if his idea, ahem, worked] were never revealed).
Anyway, the manager of the hotel liked the idea (it’s assumed he heard about it from whatever hotel staffer had to get the chocolates and laid them out) and started putting a chocolate on the pillow upon arrival as one of the Mayfair’s standard amenities.
Hundreds of other hotels borrowed the idea, which eventually turned into “a chocolate on the pillow” during turndown service.
Different hotels have a different take on the tradition. Some still give chocolate, although some places give mints instead (or an Andes Candy kind of thing that’s both chocolate and mint). Of those that give chocolate, we’ve experienced the gamut, from waxy, generic chocolate-flavored crap to some amazing morsels. Back in the late 70s, Walt Disney World used to leave embossed chocolate coins on the pillow (don’t tell anyone but it was cheap waxy crap). We’ve also gotten chocolate-covered strawberries next to the bed and maple candy in Canada. We got rose petals on the bed once, perhaps for our anniversary? It was messy. 😉
Of course, with the advent of coronavirus, who knows if chocolate on your pillow, or even turndown service, will continue. If it’s gone, it will be one more thing that’s missed.
But anyway, that’s how the tradition is said to have started.
Featured Photo: Marriott
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary