They are the homes away from home and a good or bad hotel experience can make or break a vacation. But when you start considering the number of people who stay at hotels and the number of guests who have bunked in your room before you, the mind starts to wander - and it can take you to some pretty gross and weird places.
If you think about hotel beds, for example, you might never want to sleep in one again. Then there’s housekeeping - how much do they see, and what do they know about the goings-on behind closed doors?
From maids to receptionists, concierge to kitchen staff, hotel employees have seen it all, and no one knows more about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans than these men and women. They’re not just the keepers of guests’ secrets either. Hotel staff have secrets of their own, such as cleaning shortcuts and industry tricks of the trade - secrets they’d rather guests were none the wiser to.
That said, it’s not all hush-hush. There are some things hotel staff would absolutely love to share, like how to best utilise the hotel concierge.Whether it's helping you figure out your itinerary, recommending a great date spot, or even hooking you up with some amazing experiences, the concierge is a one-stop-shop of useful info.
So here’s our list are 20 secrets about staff duties, the bizarre things they have encountered in guest rooms, and how to bag the best room possible, plus five things hotel staff would really like you to know.
Hotels rooms might look clean, but they can be some of the most bacteria-infested places you visit on vacation.
Here's the thing: Housekeepers have a ton of rooms to clean every day, and have to move like the wind to get them done between check-out and check-in. Sheets get washed daily, but blankets are usually only washed once a week, while the bedspreads barely ever get washed, unless they look visibly grubby.
According to the Huffington Post, you’d be amazed at which spots in your hotel room have the most germs, and top among offending items are TV remote controls and telephones. After testing a variety of surfaces in hotel rooms in Texas, researchers from the University of Houston, Purdue University and the University of South Carolina reported that along with the toilet and bathroom sink, the TV remote contained “high levels of bacterial contamination.”
Now that most hotels offer free Wi-Fi, the days of having to rely on pay-per-view for in-room entertainment are over. But if you still order movies straight from the TV, please know there’s a chance the hotel staff can tell exactly what you watched.
And if you think you can argue your way out of an extra charge by saying you “accidentally” selected the adult entertainment, be aware that employees will not only know what you watched, but they might be able to see how long you watched it. Busted.
It doesn’t matter how expensive your hotel, how beautiful the room or how comfortable its sofas and chairs look, think twice before taking the weight off your feet. According to The Independent, other guests before you may have taken off a whole lot more.
Many guests enjoy sitting around in the buff, and yes, some leave stains behind. Sadly, much of the time, the stains are basically just dabbed with cleaner until they can't be seen anymore. So never sit down without laying a towel or sheet down first.
At most hotels, maids must report any items they find left behind in a room after a guest checks out. If the items go unclaimed for a set period of time (perhaps 45 to 90 days), some hotels allow maids to keep the items they've found.
You might be wondering why hotels don’t just call guests to notify them about lost items found. The truth is, however, that too many staff have had their fingers burnt chasing guests, by blowing their cover when it turns out the customer was using the room for marriage-breaking activities, according to The Sun. Awkward.
As the saying goes, you don’t ask, you don’t get. Hotels have a ton of free amenities just waiting for the travellers savvy enough to ask for them. Since many of these items aren't found in the rooms, guests often don't even realise they're available.
Not only can you often get free toiletries from the front desk, including toothpaste and mouthwash, but you can also get other things for free such as stamps, sewing kits, night lights, extension cords, chargers and adapters, according to Business Insider.
You’ve read the warnings about the bacteria teeming on your hotel room’s remote control, but hotel maids have revealed that there’s another item in your room that's rarely cleaned as well as it should be: the cups and glasses.
According to oyster.com, glasses are often cleaned in the bathroom sink, with no soap, and dried with a towel, and studies have also shown that a common hotel practice is to clean glasses with toxic chemicals like window cleaner.
Just this month, hidden camera footage emerged showing cleaners at more than a dozen five-star hotels in China using dirty towels to clean toilets, cups and showers, sparking outrage on Chinese social media.
Housekeeping staff are on a really tight schedule and they’re often pretty exhausted. Although most hotels forbid maids from using the toilet in guest rooms, sometimes when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.
A number of hotel employees have publicly admitted that it’s common practice to use guest bathrooms when in a hurry, despite the rules stating not to. But providing they leave it clean, does it really matter, especially considering how many strangers have used the loo before you?
If you need to cancel a hotel reservation at the last minute, it’s most hotels’ policy to charge a fee. But there is a clever get-around to avoid being charged. Call your hotel and ask to push your reservation to a later date, one that's outside of the window in which you can be charged for cancellation. After a few days, you can then call again and cancel the reservation without any additional charges.
It's pretty sneaky, but if it works, it'll save you money.
Horror stories abound among hotel maids - check out a few of these stories from housekeeping staff. Most have seen more than their fair share of bodily fluids and evidence of illegal activities. Some have even found guests who have left this earth, and while statistics on their frequency aren’t easy to come by, hotel deaths happen all the time.
Individual hotel chains, businesses, and even industry bodies are hesitant to discuss the issue but a senior industry source confirmed to news.com that it was unlikely future guests would be informed if their hotel room had been the scene of a disturbing event.
That's something to think about the next time you sleep in a hotel bed. On second thought, best not.
If you arrive at your destination earlier than your stated check-in time, but you’d really love to have access to your room, simply try calling ahead and asking.
Most hotel guests are aware they can request an extra hour or two for a later check-out, but an early check-in is possible as well. By phoning ahead, your hotel will put your name down on a list of rooms that get cleaned first by housekeeping. This increases the chance of your room being ready by the time you arrive so that you don't have to wait around. Just make sure that the hotel doesn't charge you a fee for doing so.
If you’re someone who stirs at the slightest sound, and you’re looking for some serious peace and quiet during your stay, ask for a room on a higher floor.
Higher floors are quieter, and not only because they are further up from the street, but hotels also tend to book louder guests, such as "party" groups, on lower floors. Nevertheless, it's always a good idea to have a pair of earplugs handy.
Hungry travellers love a slap-up hotel breakfast and whether or not the price is included with the room rate can be extremely influential in their selection of a hotel or resort. But is that continental spread or plate of eggs and waffles really free? You guessed it: Of course not.
According to CNN, the cost of the meal is simply bundled into the price of your room. That said, it might still work out cheaper than taking the family to a nearby cafe or diner.
Most hotels are actually pretty accommodating in terms of upgrades, providing there's availability. All you have to do is ask nicely - and an extra tip never hurt, either.
Hotels are even more likely to upgrade you if you’re celebrating an occasion, too, like a honeymoon or birthday, so make sure you mention it. Not only will it likely increase your chances of an upgrade, but you might just find a special treat such as roses in your room or a dinner arranged by the hotel.
Also, if you're hoping to snag an upgrade, checking in toward the end of the day might work in your favour, as hotels will have a good idea of occupancy by then.
Don't be afraid to pit hotels against each other. If the listed price of a hotel room is scaring you off, remember that you might be able to negotiate the cost.
Calling up a hotel directly is a distinctly old-school approach in this day and age, but according to Consumer Reports magazine, shoppers got the best hotel rates by calling the hotels directly. But don't call the hotel's reservations number. Instead, call the front desk and ask to speak to someone in the hotel, who may have more flexibility to bargain than a reservationist does.
Among the many negotiating tactics you can use, mention better deals you've found elsewhere, especially if they're from a similar property, and ask if they can match the price.
Whether it’s late at night or you just can’t be bothered to leave your room - hey, we don’t judge - room service isn't always a good idea. According to The Daily Meal, there are certain things you should never order from room service. For example, in most hotels, the coffee for room service has been stewing for hours, so it’ll taste stale, old, burnt, and gritty. And fried, crispy, crunchy food will start to taste soggy by the time it reaches you.
When you consider the price mark-up on room service menu items, you’re likely to be left disappointed.
Many times when guests ask for a better room or an upgrade, the front desk will tell them that all rooms are the same. This isn't exactly true, and most travellers will know this first hand having found out the hard way - when your hotel room looks nothing like what was advertised.
In most hotels, there’s always another room with a better view, a nicer bathroom, or a bigger television. Corner rooms tend to have more floor space too. If you’re disappointed with your allocated room, stay polite and don’t be afraid to ask if a nicer one is available.
Fancy hotels want to offer guests a personalised experience and pride themselves on small details. But in order to deliver this high-end experience, some are willing to do a little snooping to provide it.
Hotels have always collected and logged info on guests, but they are now harnessing social media to get to know you better, before you even check in, according to Travel & Leisure.
Using information gleaned through social media, a hotel might decide to deliver the Wall Street Journal to your room instead of the New York Times, or make a point to recommend their excellent swimming facilities, because they already know you swim every morning. It’s supposed to be considerate but it does come off as creepy.
According to a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Applied Sciences, the no-show rate at hotels is between five and 15 per cent, which is why some hotels engage in the practice of overbooking.
While overbooking seems much rarer for hotels than it is for flights, the principle behind it is the same. For example, if a hotel has 100 rooms, and gambles on 15 guests failing to turn up, it will book in 115 guests, to try and ensure full occupancy.
Of course, once in a while, this will result in a hotel being overbooked and having to make the decision as to which guests get “bumped.” Guests staying for only one night are usually at the top of the list when hotels make this decision.
Hotels have different housekeeping policies, but standard check-out is usually around 11am and check-in is usually mid-afternoon. What that means is that hotel housekeepers have a small window to clean anywhere between 10 to 30 rooms. That could give them as little as 15 minutes to clean each room.
It’s because of this time crunch that maids are not able to clean as thoroughly as they'd like, and the result is that they might skip tasks such scrubbing the bathtub, washing glasses and cleaning under the bed.
The reason you get such a good price through third-party websites is because the rooms are often sold below their standard price. Not only does this mean you're unlikely to get any upgrades, but some hotels give the least-desirable rooms to guests who book via third-party sites because the hotel makes less money on those stays.
Plus, if the hotel gets overbooked, you're also more likely to get "bumped" before those who booked with the hotel directly.
Hotel concierge staff are a beacon of knowledge and can help fulfil a range of requests to make your trip that much better, but their services are woefully underused.
Ask them for recommendations for the best bars, restaurants, and other attractions in the area - they might even be able to give you some insider tips on how to make the most of your stay, such as when and where you're likely to hit traffic and which museum exhibits are worth visiting.
There are two types of people in the world: Those who tip well and those who don’t. You know which one you are.
The services provided by hotel staff are free, but tipping is always appreciated and likely to get you a better experience. But thanks to all the confusing tipping situations that exist, even well-intentioned tippers can appear cheap. That’s especially true at hotels, where you could easily interact with a dozen staff members in a day, all with different roles dedicated to ensuring you have a comfortable stay. This is why the Hotel and Lodging Association has put together a handy tipping guide for all hotel services, so you can avoid any awkward situations right from the beginning of your stay.
With so many rooms to clean and so little time, hotel maids will sing the praises of guests who are tidy and considerate.
To make a hotel maid’s job easier, make sure you put your rubbish in the bin, leave used towels in a pile in the tub or on the floor, and remember to flush the toilet (you’d be amazed how many guests forget). It's just common sense courtesy.
According to SmarterTravel, if you're looking to get tickets to an exhibition, concert, game, or other events in the area, ask your hotel's front desk for help.
Not only does the concierge know exactly who to contact, but they might even be able to get you a discounted price thanks to good relationships with brokers, or they may know season ticket holders who might not be using their seats.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll know that world-weary hotel staff have seen it all. These men and women are the eyes and ears of an establishment, and your attempts to be sneaky aren’t fooling anyone. But hotel staff are nothing if not discreet, and providing you’re not damaging hotel property or behaving in a disorderly manner and disturbing the peace, it really doesn't matter to them. They know how to keep a secret.
References: huffpost, msn, businessinsider, rd