Since posting our hotel advice series, we’ve gotten a ton of questions. We thought we would take this time to answer some of them.
- How come housekeeping didn’t clean my room?
Probably, because you had your “do not disturb” (DND) sign on your door. Let’s take a minute to talk about housekeeping. Housekeeping is not a fun job and it is a hard job. Your ability to have a room is based on their ability to clean a room. Most housekeeping departments don’t arrive at the hotel until 8 or 9 in the morning. The housekeepers will be split up by floors and they will receive a list of all the check outs and stay-overs. This check out list will also include late check outs, so it is important to try and get a late check out the night before. Also, you have to leave your room at check out time on the day of your departure. You cannot just stay in the room because you feel like it. We need that room back and we will start bothering you, deprogram your keys, or we will charge you either a half a day or a full day’s rate, depending on when you decided you were ready to leave. Housekeeping will then go check the floors, they will see who has already left and who had a DND on their door. After that the cleaning begins.
It makes sense that they clean the checkouts first, so we can start checking new guests into those rooms, right? Good. Depending on how many rooms they have to clean, they may not get to the stay over rooms until much later in the afternoon. They don’t go from room to room in numerical order. Meaning, if you left your room at 9am and you came back at 3pm and your room is still not cleaned, that doesn’t mean that they skipped you or they aren’t going to clean your room. They just may not have gotten there yet.
On top of that, if housekeeping is really busy, they may not go back and check to see if you took off your DND. That means your room will not be cleaned. Remember, they don’t go check until 9/9:30 am, that’s plenty of time for you to get up and remove that sign. Housekeeping is not your personal maid. If you are worried that you missed your window, just come to the desk and tell them you would like your room serviced. If you want your room serviced at a certain time, come to the desk. In fact, if you have any requests for housekeeping, it is best that you talk to the desk. There is often a language barrier between the housekeeping staff and guests. Furthermore, it is not really housekeeping’s job to interact face-to-face with guests.
- Why do hotels still charge for wifi?
Because they can. That’s literally the only answer I have. I will say this, I, and a lot of my coworkers, thought it was ridiculous that you had to pay, so if you were nice to us, we would just give you access. Also, many hotels have locations on property where the wifi is free, such as the lobby. Lastly, many chain hotels offer free wifi for their reward members. The desk can sign you up for the rewards program while you are checking in. It usually just requires you to fill out a form and it’s completely free.
Keep in mind too, that a lot of the cheaper brands, such as Courtyards and Hampton Inns, will not only offer free wifi, but also free breakfast. They are also really nice hotels, so if you are traveling with a crowd, look into these hotels. They may not be 5 stars, but they are just as clean and you get more bang for your buck. You think it would be the opposite, but go figure.
- How much are hotel taxes?
Depends on the state and city. Our hotel had three taxes, state sales tax, city tax, and an occupancy tax. An occupancy tax, is just a tax the local government can impose because you stayed overnight in their jurisdiction. The amount of these taxes can vary greatly. Tennessee, for instance, shocks a lot of people because our sales tax is quite high. TN sales tax is 9.75% and that is because there is no state income tax. This is good for locals and sucks for tourists. Just be aware that the room rate is not the total amount, taxes will be added as with most anything you buy in the US. If you book your room online, it should give the total amount including taxes, before you put your credit card down. It may not be big and bold, but a break down of the charges or at least the total amount should be towards the bottom of the page.
One more quick thing on taxes. This might seem obvious, but you would be surprise. Lets say you are traveling for business and your company is tax exempt. Each state may have their own unique system for taking taxes off, so you need to call and check. Our hotel needed a federal or state tax exemption form. If it was a state form, it needed to be from the state of Tennessee. We would not accept a Michigan state tax form because you are not paying Michigan state tax, you are paying Tennessee state tax. And yes, it does matter what state it is from because each state is unique when taxes are concerned. Besides the form, you also need to present a credit card or check that has the name of the company that is tax exempt on it. We could not accept cash or personal cards. Why? Because you are not personally tax exempt, the company that you work for is. These were not hotel procedures, these were the rules of the state and if we got audited and we didn’t have all the correct forms, the state made us put the taxes back on your bill. Lastly, if you are tax exempt, you are only exempt from state sales tax, you still have to pay the city tax and the occupancy tax.
- What’s the difference between a hotel and a motel?
In a hotel, you access your room from inside the building. Meaning, when you get to your floor, there is usually a corridor with rooms located on either side. A motel you have to walk outside every time you leave and enter your room. Motels are usually cheaper and have less amenities.
- Are there really no online reviews I can trust?
I am not a fan of online reviews because of what I have personally witness. There is something that bothers me about someone who immediately returns from a trip and rates everything that they did. This is different than blogging one’s experience or giving generalized advice about a certain area or place. I feel in the case of an online review, people go into a tourist attraction, hotel, or restaurant ready to judge and because of that, the second that something doesn’t live up to their exact expectations, they are ready to throw them under the bus. If this is how you approach traveling, than you are missing what’s right in front of you and the randomness and unexpected thrill are sucked away.
All of this being said, if you learn how to read TripAdvisor correctly, I can see how it can be a useful tool. I just wouldn’t read the 5 star or the 1 star reviews. Stick to 4 and 3 stars, they tend to be a bit more realistic and honest. You also don’t have to read any reviews, look at the star average. If most of the reviews are between 5 and 3 stars, than it’s probably a good place. If most of them are 1 star, stay away.
I personally like to watch vloggers and read travel blogs by normal people, like me, that just love traveling.
- Do I physically have to check out?
No, you can just leave your keys in the room or place them on the desk. I would just make sure that you have checked your folio and all the charges look right. Remember, it is so much easier to fix these mistakes in house. Also, make sure you have all your belongings. As soon as we know you are gone, we will clean and put someone new in that room. Housekeeping will put everything they find from the pervious guest in our lost and found. Each hotel’s lost and found is different, but don’t expect any of them to just be a box behind the desk. Most of the time, they are cataloged and there is a process for getting them back. In our hotel, this process was a pain in the ass.
Housekeeping might not always check the dresser drawers between guests, which means your stuff could be up there with a new guest in the room. Therefore, you are not allowed to go back up to the room. We will have to send an employee up to retrieve them and this could be complicated, especially if the new guest is not in the room and there is a DND on their door. Before you leave every hotel room, do one last sweep and check everywhere.
- Can I pay for an early check in?
Maybe, depends on the hotel. Our hotel, and most of the hotels I have encountered, do not guarantee an early check in even for a fee. Just plan accordingly. Come to the desk, if they say you don’t have a room, have a plan for that. Don’t just wait in the lobby, it could take up to several hours before your room is ready. Pacing in front of the desk is not going to help you get a room any faster. The hotel will be more than willing to hold your bags for you and our hotel would even offer to call you when the room was ready. Just go out and have fun and don’t worry about your room.
- Be honest, is my hotel room clean?
Yes, as clean as a room that has hundreds of people sleep, have sex, bleed, and use the bathroom can possible be. Ok, that doesn’t sound very reassuring, let me start again. Hotel rooms, at reputable hotels, are going to be as clean as they possibly can be. Of course, if you go into a hotel room determined to find something, you will. Just how if I went into your house determined to find dust, I would. Every time you walk into a hotel room, you have a right to expect that that room is clean. You have a right to demand that the sheets have been changed, there is no hair left in the shower, the toilet has been flushed, the floor has been vacuumed, towels have been replaced, and the trash has been emptied. However, you need to keep your expectations realistic. Remember, you are not the first person to have stayed in that room, you are not the second, you are not the third, and you are not the fourth. Some wear and tear is normal and that doesn’t mean that the room or the hotel is dirty.
I know you all have seen those investigative stories on the news, where they go into a hotel room with an LED light and show all the stains. First of all, let’s be honest with ourselves, you know and I know, that hotels don’t change the mattress between every guest. No hotel, not even the most expensive and luxurious resort in the world, can afford to change the mattress or the pillows between every guest. Nor does housekeeping get on a ladder and scrub the ceiling. This is the nature of the hospitality industry. Remember, this is shared space. So yes, your room will be clean, but it won’t be brand spanking new.
If you are worried, here is what I would recommend. One, try not to use the bathtub or the hot tub. Hot tubs are just filled with germs and as for the bathtub, while housekeeping does clean them, remember, people from all walks of life have step in there and sat in there. I would just stick to a shower, but then again, I hate baths anyways. Another thing I do is, I don’t unpack. This isn’t because I’m worried about the drawers, it’s just I know there is nothing cleaner than the inside of my suitcase. On top of that, I don’t like people touching my stuff. This is not to say that housekeeping is going to steal your stuff, it is actually offensive to even suggest that, but housekeeping may have to move your stuff, so they can clean. Also, before you use the cups in bathroom, just double check them. If it looks like the last guest didn’t touch them, housekeeping may not replace them.
If you feel that anything is lacking in your room, just call the desk. Don’t freak out, we will fix it. Know too, that housekeeping will wash the sheets between every guest, but if you are staying for more than one day, they may not wash your sheets everyday. If you want your sheets cleaned, you need to call downstairs.
I know you have been waiting for me to bring this up, so here we go. Bed Bugs! Bed bugs are extremely rare, but they can happen, even in the nicest of hotels. While the hotel can control the level cleanliness from inside the hotel, they cannot control the hygiene of the people who choose to stay there. If a hotel gets bed bugs, it is usually because a guest brought them in. Housekeeping is trained to look for them and recognize them. They will usually catch them before a new guest is put in that room.
Don’t assume that just because you found a bug in the room, that it is a bed bug. Bugs are unfortunately a part of life. You can’t tell me that you have never found a bug in your house. Most hotels, our hotel included, regularly had an exterminator come and spray every room, but even with that, bugs could still get in. In the south, it gets really really hot in the summer and many bugs try to find their way inside, ants are the most common. We spray for them and that usually takes care of the issue, but you may see an ant. That doesn’t mean your room is dirty or that there are ants everywhere. Also ladybug season is a real thing where I grew up. Ladybugs just find a way inside and there is nothing you can do about it. They found their way in my house, my car, and of course the hotel. Ladybugs are harmless and they are not dirty bugs, they are just a fact of life in Tennessee. I once stayed at a different hotel in the state and they actually gave guests a piece of paper in their key packet that explained the ladybug issue. There are things you can do to help this. You can do your part and keep your room clean. If it is ant season and you spill a glass of orange juice, don’t just leave it there until housekeeping comes the next day, that is how you get ants.
If you think you have found a bed bug, call the desk and ask for a manager. That manager will come and check it out. They know what bed bugs look like. If it is one, they will be more than apologetic and take care of the issue and you. If they tell you it is not a bed bug, you need to believe them. If you still want to switch rooms, just ask. Saying that, if it turns out to be one and the manager acts quickly and goes above and beyond to make the situation right, don’t then go online and tell the world. That is how businesses get ruined and like I said, unfortunately, this happens. Also just because you found one in that room, doesn’t mean they are everywhere, it was most likely an isolated incident caused by the guest that previously stayed in that room.
If you are worried about bed bugs, you shouldn’t be, but if you want to check, just look at the crease of the mattress near the headboard.
- Is being a rewards member worth it?
Yes. Not only do you get things like free wifi, you start earning points and status. Points will eventually lead to a free night stay and that can be at any hotel within the brand. This can include some pretty luxurious hotels. For example, Hilton owns the Waldorf Astoria and Marriott International is one of the biggest in the world and it includes the Ritz Carlton and the St. Regis. Think about it, if you spend your whole work life traveling and stay exclusively with one brand, you will start racking up the points. I know people, that have collected 2,000,000 points from business traveling over a lifetime, that means that when they retire, they and their partner can travel the world and stay in hotels for free.
As for status, you get rankings for how many nights you stay with that brand. The highest for Hilton is a Diamond member and for Marriott it is a Platinum member. Once you reach top status, not only do you get extra points every time you stay, you also get better rates, complementary room upgrades when available, free advance high speed internet, guaranteed late check out, preferred room type, your own personal phone line, so you don’t have to call central customer service, and depending on the hotel, access to the executive lounge. Most hotels also offer a 48-hour guarantee, which means even if the hotel is sold out, you will still be given a reservation, as long as it is 48-hour beforehand.
It is definitely worth joining if you travel frequently. Just know, that just because you are a rewards member or a diamond/platinum member, that does not give you free range to be an asshole to the staff.
- Who should I tip?
This is up to you. I would tip anyone that goes above and beyond their normal job description. Our hotel only sold Pepsi products. There was once a guest that wasn’t feeling well and wanted Sprite. Our vending machine in the employees lounge sells Coke products and one of my coworkers went downstairs, got her a Sprite, and took it to her room. She deserves a tip.
Bellhops and “free” shuttle drivers always should be tipped. If someone helps you take you bags to your room, tip them. As for housekeeping, you don’t have too. It is nice, but no one will hold it against you if your don’t. However, if you have done something to your room that requires more cleaning than is normally expected of housekeeping, tip them. Examples, you get sick and throw up in the bathtub, your young child wets the bed, or you spill an entire bottle of red wine of the floor.
Here is what I wouldn’t do. Don’t just throw money around thinking that you will be treated better. Don’t hand the front desk $20 at check in thinking it will get a better room. In fact, the desk probably won’t accept it because that’s a bribe and they will usually assume you are “one of those people.”
- You said “the font desk controls your stay”, what do you mean by that?
The front desk is the heart of a hotel. They can make your stay as good as you want it to be. Even if they say all the rooms are the same size, they know that one room is just slightly bigger. They can put you in a corner room or right next to the elevator, they have to ability to upgrade you, give you free wifi, hand out complimentary breakfast, and interact with other departments for your benefit. This is why I said, the nicer you are to them, the nicer they will be to you.
- Is my credit card information attached to my room key?
I get this question a lot, and the answer is, it depends on the situation. If you can use your room key like a credit card, then yes it is. This is common at big resorts and on cruise ships. If all you can do with your room key is unlock the door, than no it’s not. Our room keys were cheap and we regularly reused them, which is why we appreciated when you gave them back to us.
- What is an appropriate complaint?
Anything that the hotel has the power to fix. Examples: you have no hot water, housekeeping didn’t clean your room, your room service order arrived cold, there is hair that doesn’t belong to you in the shower, or your a/c doesn’t work. Bad complaints: you don’t like the color of the walls, the prices in the gift shop are too expensive, the Christmas tree, in the lobby, is not to your liking, or we don’t get a certain channel on the TV. Those are things that the front desk and many of the other hotel employees can’t do anything about, you are just complaining to complain.
- What did you personally find to be the most annoying things that guests regularly did?
There were three things. The first is one, is one that I’ve already mention, and that is when guests arrived unprepared. This, of course, can be not researching where you were going, like, the people at the airport that got mad at me for the lack of taxis. You have to look at this from this desk’s perspective. If it is a really busy day, I just might not have time or be able to leave and call a bunch of taxi services until I find one and no, it is not my job to stop what I am doing and get you a ride.
This could also mean not researching the culture. A lot of people think well, America is America. No, it’s not and every region may have a different way of being. In the south, we are borderline obnoxiously polite. I was raised that every adult was to have a title. Meaning, even if you told me to call you Nancy or Joe, I was expected to call you Ms. Nancy and Mr. Joe. I was also taught that I was to always say “yes ma’am” and “no sir”. I, and my fellow southern coworkers, would address guests like this and sometimes they would think we had an attitude or were being sarcastic because in their eyes, no one actually talks like that to strangers. So, it is annoying when you get looks or attitude from someone when you were just addressing them in the way you were taught.
Another part of being unprepared often happens at check in. You know that when you check in, the desk is going ask you for your ID and a method of payment. So, come to the desk ready, it was beyond annoying when a guest came up and had to search through every bag to find their stuff. This was worse if there was a long line, in the amount of time it takes you to find your ID, I could have checked in four people. On top of that, not having your confirmation number. You don’t need it, but you should always know exactly where to find it, just in case. Our computer system was 30+ years old and it was a pain in the ass. Your name very easily could have been spelled wrong or if you write your name with a space or an apostrophe, our system couldn’t process that. If I couldn’t find your reservation by your last name, the confirmation number was the only other option. I would just create a folder in your email, therefore all your travel information is readily accessible.
The second thing was a self righteous and entitled attitude. You are not special. You are not the first diamond/platinum member I’ve met. You are not entitled to an upgrade, you are entitled to the room you booked. Mistakes are bound to happen and things just might not go your way. That doesn’t mean you get to come down, bang on desk, and demand a manager, because you are a diamond/platinum member, and it is just unacceptable that the salad you want doesn’t come in a half size. Furthermore, how dare room service just not make you what you want. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But that is a true story and not an isolated incident. Just calm down and please know the hotel employees are not you servants and no, you personally are not paying our salaries.
Third, guests that just don’t listen. The front desk will tell you all the necessary information at check in. I know you just want to get up to your room, but you should listen to the desk for just one minute. It is really annoying when we tell guests that the elevators are around the corner on the right and then they immediately turn left. It is really annoying when we take the time to explain how the wifi works and then the guest calls back down 30 seconds later to ask how the wifi works. It is really annoying when we tell a guest that breakfast ends at 9:30am and then they come and yell at us at 10am because they, “were unaware that breakfast ends and someone really should have told them.” Just listen to the speech that front desk gives at check in, they aren’t saying it because it’s fun, they are saying it because it is for your benefit.
Thank you guys, once again, for the positive feedback. If you have any more questions, just leave us a comment.