7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Hotels

Posted by - May 25, 2011 | Category: Hideouts

old hotel

When I travel for pleasure, I’d rather part with the perks than part with my dollar, so I usually gravitate toward middle-of-the road budget accommodations.

Luxury hotels in Monaco?  Too lah-di-dah.

Skinflint shacks in the sticks? Too bad-boy on the skids for this traveler.

Inexpensive hotels or private rooms in hostels?  Pull up a chair and let’s talk — I like the cut of your jib oh safe and economical one. Not dorms though. Dorm is a four-letter word in my book. But that’s a whole other post entirely.

When I travel for work, however, I tend to stay in swankier digs with a higher star rating (who knew there were so many different rating scales?) Anyhow, it’s on the company’s dime, and they tend to frown on their employees washing their skivvies in the sink. And who am I to argue with that.

I did some math, and over the past 3 years, I’ve spent one full year in hotels. One full year. And that’s just for work. That’s not counting vacation time when I’ve stayed at “pensiones”, hostels, B&B’s, motels, and even the odd wigwam now and then when nature called.

So I like to think I have a pretty good frame of reference.

In that year, I’ve noticed a lot of exceptional hotel practices, and a lot of just plain odd, head-scratching hotelier behaviour as well. Since the bulk of my time was at the Sheraton and Hilton variety, not the Motel 6’s and Econo Lodges of the world, this post is about those upper-end hotels. (Although I do have plenty of info on how to find cheap accommodation too!)

Here are the worst hotel habits that I’ve encountered:

Poor Hotel Habit #1 – Telephones: Operator, Can You Help Me Place a Call

Hotel Telephone

You’d be surprised at the number of hotels that can’t get their own phone systems straight. At a Holiday Inn in Toronto recently, when I pressed the button clearly marked Wake Up Call, I was directed to their reservations call centre. I think it may have been in India as I’m pretty sure I heard a “chai walla” in the background. When I checked out, they even tried to charge me for the call.

At the same hotel I got a fast busy signal when I called room service. Once or twice, no problem.  But busy signal for twenty minutes?  Busy cooking up excuses why they could not answer the phone no doubt. Perhaps a carrier pigeon would have delivered better results. Of course I would have probably eaten the pigeon I was that hungry. So maybe not such a good idea after all.

Poor Hotel Habit #2 – Internet: LAN-locked LAN-lovers

Old computers
Image by eurleif via Flickr

Pretty fly for a Wi-Fi. Sorry, just wanted to work that in there somewhere.

I like to multi-task, which is doublespeak for lying in bed, watching TV, and surfing the net on my laptop – the “lazy man’s three-way” as I like to call it. That’s pretty hard to do if there is no wireless connection. Having to run a LAN connection to the other side of the room is just not cool. I feel like I’m on an episode of Frontier House.

The Sheraton chain is a major culprit in this regard. Yes, Sheraton Presidente San Salvador, Estoy hablando con usted.

Poor Hotel Habit #3 – Hidden Charges: Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

money sign

Hotel tax, convenience charge, gratuity, local tax, room service, mini-bar, hospitality fee, tourist tax, internet access fees, charges for local phone calls – it all adds up, and it’s annoying as heck. One hotel tried to charge me 5 bucks a day for a newspaper I never asked for. At least buy me a drink if you’re going to put me over a barrel.

It’s worse than advertised airfares these days — you see what you think is a great deal, but then the “plus, plus, plus” really kills the vibe.

Poor Hotel Habit #4 – Temperature: Running Hot and Cold


The water’s too hot, and the room is too cold. At least that’s my experience in the nicer hotels.  Why is there even a ‘boil” setting in the shower? I’m just trying to clean my junk, not sterilize medical equipment. And how about a programmable digital thermostat that works? I ask not much.

Poor Hotel Habit #5 – Laundry: Getting Taken to The Cleaners

Woman doing laundry in Chennai, India
Image via Wikipedia

When you stay in a hotel for an extended amount of time, you need to do laundry. It’s just one of life’s necessities. And hotel laundry prices are out of control. Pricing always starts with “highway” and ends with “robbery”. I’ve been at hotels where it cost $6 to get your socks cleaned. I’m pretty confident my socks didn’t cost that much.

Poor Hotel Habit #6 – Photos: Seeing is Believing

Choosing your hotel is a lot like internet dating. It’s very rare that what you get in real life looks better than the internet profile. Sometimes on that first encounter you are pleasantly surprised, but more often than not, you’re formulating your exit strategy shortly after exchanging hellos. That’s why I like Trip Advisor so much. You can get real photos from real people, not some Photoshopped promotional image.

Poor Hotel Habit #7 – Signs: Do Not Disturb Means…Well…Do Not Disturb


Vintage Do Not Disturb Sign

When I was in the Philippines, I had to work overnight to mirror the business hours in North America. At least once a week at the Makati Shangri-La I would get a phone call that went something like this:

MSL: “Sir, we noticed that you have the Do Not Disturb sign on your door, but we need to get in to clean your room”

Me: “So you saw the sign and figured it was still okay to call? I already left a message at the front desk to clean my room at night.”

MSL: “So you don’t want your room cleaned?”

Oy. Do Not Disturb means Do Not Disturb in every sense. You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

Can’t get enough of what’s wrong with accomodations these days?  Micheal over at GoSeeWrite.com posted an excellent article titled The Hostel Owners Guide: The How To’s…Please! that will have you shaking your virtual fist even more.

What are your hotel pet peeves? Any annoying hotel habits that you have experienced? I’m sure there have got to be some I missed…

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64 comments - add one
  1. I agree with the importance of having trustworthy pictures before-hand, although, last time I went to India the hotel my friend booked for me had absolutely terrible reviews on TripAdvisor, which made me quite worried when I left, just to find out the reviews were completely wrong and the hotel was great, wifi in every room, clean, awesome food.

    1. TripAdvisor does have some misses from time to time, and there are more than a few posters on there that somehow have a horrible experience at EVERY hotel they stay at. Still, I do like perving at other people’s pics…:)

  2. Dude this had me laughing and nodding my head in agreement the whole time. You said what most think about hotels. Loved the humor! 🙂

  3. Great list, I remember staying in swank hotels for work, those were the days, hehe. I hate being charged for WI-FI. Hate it. And yeah the laundry fees were pretty ludicrous. But on company dime, I didn’t much of it at the time.

    One other annoyance of mine is room service with included gratuity. Actually any ‘included’ gratuity just annoys me. I am firm believer in I get to decide what your service is worth…

    1. That drives me nuts too! The gratuity is usually about 15% on the check, and then the poor fella stands around hoping for more. I talked to some of the workers at one Sheraton, and they said that anything that is on the check gets shared among everyone in the kitchen, but any cash they get to keep…

  4. You’ve managed to capture all the reasons why I refuse stay in pricey hotels. I’d rather a $12-per-night shack built on a foundation of cockroaches, just so I can be pleasantly surprised by the small luxuries: “Oh look — the toilet water is only a little bit yellow. And what’s this? An actual DOOR on my room? Sweet luxury! What a bargain!” It’s honest, at least.

    What creeps me out about hotels? Bedside-table Bibles.

    And I can never sleep peacefully on hotel beds without thinking of a documentary I saw once in which they performed a hygiene experiment by collecting dead skin from a high-end hotel mattress. It was a lot of skin, FYI.

    Sweet dreams.

    1. Hee hee…I saw that documentary too. I also saw that episode of Dateline where they did the white light test on the sheets and mattress to see exactly how clean they were. They found plenty of skin, plus blood and other “human liquids”…

  5. Got a good laugh out of this. #6 reminded me of when we booked a place over the internet in 2000 for our wedding in Tuscany – the photos were *way* off from reality. With three weeks to go, we drove around and found a new place. After that, I never trust photos & expect the worst when I book online.

    Never understood the more expensive the hotel is, the more outrageous the wifi fees are.

  6. I too much prefer the middle-of-the-road for my sleeps: simple (nay cheap) pensiones and private room hostels, but occasionally I’ve found myself at an uppity hotel.

    What gets me is that inexplicably, the former (cheapos) nearly always have free wifi in the room (not just the lobby), while the latter uppities charge an arm ‘n a leg for it.

    Go figure…

  7. Haha loved how funny this was! And I totally agree… The Do Not Disturb thing sounds cultural. When I was in Singapore, at a super-fancy hotel, I asked them to book me on the next flight they could get me on, NO MATTER WHAT. They were so scared of doing something “wrong” that when the next flight was full, they’d leave a message asking if I wanted the following one. Yes, I want the next one. “Oh, that one is now full, would you like the next one”? YES… Drove me crazy!

  8. This is a great post, and laugh out loud funny. Right on…a thermostat that works should be a no brainer. I’m with you Wifi is essential and it should be free.

  9. Spot on stuff! Over the years, I’ve traveled a lot for work and often lived out of hotel rooms.The worse is when they don’t put an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom and then you run out when you need it most. For all that money paid – they can afford to put an extra roll! Now I always check.

    1. That’s so true — no one likes that sticky situation.

      I do like it when they make a fancy design out of the TP though.

      Or when they put that cardboard thing over the toilet seat with something ridiculous written on it like “Sealed for Your Freshness”. Like I expect to find baked goods or something in there… 🙂

  10. Great post!

    We recently stayed at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur that would let you have a maximum of one extra pillow. An extra towel would cost 10 RM per day. You could have the use of the hair drier for one hour only…

    1. Okay now THAT is ridiculous. I would have to have a come-to-Jesus chat with the hotel manager. Please feel free to name names. I’m all for hotel-McCarthyism…

  11. My pet peeve in any place i sleep is NOISE! I’ve been astounded in some hotels and guest houses in Asia where even the staff YELL UP AND DOWN THE STAIRWELLS to each other, lobby TVS ARE BLARING, and so on. I realize I may have to bargain with European guests.. but STAFF and OWNERS too ?! hmph.

    1. That drives me nuts too! I was in a hotel in Montreal for almost 2 months, and you could hear the elevator ding, the wheels on the housekeeping cart, and my all time favourite — doors slamming! No fun…especially when it’s the staff.

  12. Great list and I love your anaology of “Choosing your hotel is a lot like internet dating” so true. I’m also with you on the ridiculous prices of laundry. It’s robbery.

    1. Hotel booking engines should have a more advanced booking feature.

      Quiet hotel? Check that box
      Free wi-fi? Check that box
      Inexpensive laundry? Check that one too…

  13. Fantastic post and you are so right about everything. I had a good laugh and could relate to every one. The Do Not disturb sign went out the window in China as well. We’d put it up but they’d always clean our room. What’s up with that?:-)

    1. I’ve been thinking I should take some of that ‘Crime Scene — Do Not Cross’ police tape with me when I travel. Maybe that would keep them out of my room…

      And a very big THANK-YOU for the compliments!

  14. This is a great list! I find that the swankier hotels charge for internet access when some of the more budget hotels don’t. Those hidden fees really annoy me. In Hawaii most hotels charge an additional “resort fee” on top of the outrageous room rate.

    Well I could go on and on . . . enjoyed re-living hotel stays reading this post 🙂

    1. Funny I’m going to Hawaii in a couple of weeks and have noticed that too! Also, lots of of those VRBO-type condos (there are 6 of us — thought it would be cheaper to rent a condo) charge exorbitant cleaning fees. I saw one that had a $275 ‘cleaning’ fee! Clean out my wallet fee!

  15. Wow, I thought these were only problems in South America and Europe, where we often struggle to find a perfect room. Our pet peeve would have to be thin walls…can’t stand them. Worst experience was probably at the uber-swanky Wynn in Las Vegas (relative to the price paid, I should add)…we were in the suites wing and could hear the shower from the room upstairs, the housekeepers in the hall and only one out of three elevators was working for a week. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the money.

    1. I should have had thin walls on this list! Just like Lash above, noise drives me nuts. If you remember, I carry sleeping pills and ear plugs though in my Travel Toiletry Bag. But if you’re shelling out the money, you’d think they could pad the walls with it.

  16. Seriously to #4! I don’t need my skin burned off!

    I don’t know what it is with Starwood hotels, but I was at a Westin where the Valet phone button went to Room Service. Luckily, the one marked Room Service went there also, but still!

  17. So true about the laundry – although I do think that these pricey hotels tend to cater towards corporate customers who will simply charge the exorbitant prices to the company’s credit cards anyway.

    And having the pay for a wifi? That is SO the 90’s – when are they going to learn, eh?

  18. We hear you. We were just having a conversation about how maddening the resort fees at many hotels are. Here is an example of something that just made me want to blow a gasket:

    Wynn / Encore used to have no resort fee, but one had to pay 17.00 to use the gym / spa (they are stoopid nice, so we didn’t mind). Okay, so on our last couple visits, the resort now charges a 20.00 (ish) resort fee that cover the gym and internet. However, to use the spa, it is now 40.00 a day. You do the math. Insanity.

    I know, I know, the concerns of the fortunate to be sure. 🙂

    1. You better believe we tried! They certainly were wishing they had not put out the “complimentary”dried fruits and trail mixes. Breakfast and lunch, anyone?

    1. And what gets me is that so many hotels don’t even have wi-fi in the room even after you have paid for internet. WTF? (F stands for frig — I don’t take kindly to cussin’) 🙂

  19. I worked at a hotel and our phone system always went down. It was frustrating for the guests and for the staff because the system was so old (like a 90’s Dos program). Getting it fixed meant having to contact tech support to come out, and that usually took a few days.

  20. Every hostel I stay in has free Wi-fi. Every “real” hotel I stay at makes you pay extra. Ridiculous. On that note, I’ve had people that work at hostels be amazingly helpful while people at the fancy places are sometimes a little too pretentious while answering my questions.

    Great article, will definitely be sharing it!

  21. This post was worth it for this line alone: “I’m just trying to clean my junk, not sterilize medical equipment.” 🙂 I’m waiting for the day when hotels will ALL realize that reliable, fast, wi fi should be standard.

  22. I have stayed at lots of hotels where they had WIFI but their network was so out of date that it could not be used. I even recall paying for WIFI at a hotel so I could get some work done only to find out that the WIFI network would not allow me to create a VPN connection.

    Two years ago on a trip to Austin TX I remember working in the parking lot of the neighborhood Starbucks one night. The Ramada hotel I booked had WIFI but the webpage which they directed guests to for authentication did not support my 64 bit OS.

  23. Oh, hotels. The internet thing really pisses me off, although they are getting better at it. Confusing phones are still confusing, though. I put a do-not-disturb sign outside my room in Toronto when I was, erm…entertaining a hottie from Taiwan. I didn’t get disturbed, but the cleaning lady looked pretty traumatised when we emerged. He was very responsive… Ahem.


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