In the midst of my divorce in 2013, I found myself as an unemployed college student with two tiny humans to fend for. I didn't know where I would end up, but I knew I needed to get a job and get a new place. I can talk more about that later.
I ended up getting a call back from a downtown hotel that I applied at months ago and they wanted to interview me. Of course, I got the job because I'm a rockstar! Also, more on that later.
So, I am now a front desk agent and my mind is blown. Everything I thought I had known about hotels changed. Better yet, things I never thought to think of when staying at a hotel were now smack dab in my face. And, oh boy, there are some things I need to tell you about.
This article really is to share some habits I have had for a few years now, but they may be super helpful for those still a little antsy about traveling in this COVID-19 world we now live in. For me, nothing has changed about the way that I travel. If anything, I'm looking for more ways to be careful outside of not traveling at all.
You get what you pay for. I say this as a person who would like to be at ease when laying my head down. The last thing I want to do is bother a front desk agent about an issue late at night or three minutes after checking in. I worked at a four star property where nights averaged $220/night. I can speak for my property specifically--it was worth it. The less you pay, I am almost positive the more the quality of the room and cleanliness will deteriorate.
When deciding I want to book a hotel stay, I make sure to add some notes in my hotel booking. Believe it or not, these matter. Are you a light sleeper? Then add "away from elevator" (AE) or "high floor" (HF). Are you afraid of heights? Add "low floor" (LF). One that I always have to put is "no down pillows" because the feathers will have me sneezing throughout the night.
I am not sure why I have to say this, but I just gotta. Be nice to the people at the front desk. Of course, they want you to enjoy your stay, but when you are nice and treat them like the people you are, amazing things can happen for you. As a FDA, I can't tell you how many room upgrades I gave. And when I wasn't able to upgrade the a room for a wonderful guest, I gave out drink tickets for the bar.
Now, we head inside of the hotel room itself. And let me just say, if you aren't happy with your room when you look around, turn around and head back to the front desk. Don't mess up anything, don't put your bag on the bed. Just immediately head down and ask if there's another room type you can get into. Remember when you were nice when checking in? This is where it might pay off. You might get a room upgrade at nice charge or for a very small charge. But don't get your hopes too high because depending on occupancy, you might be stuck with what you booked. But, asking never hurts.
Okay, back to the room. I inspect everything when I enter a room. In the bathroom, I look to see if there's hair on the shower wall, anywhere around the toilet, the floor and the sink. I look for mold all over the bathroom, including the shower curtain. Also, once it's time to shower, look your towels over for hair.
In the room, again, I look for hair in and on the bedding, I look for stains (😳), and I make sure I'm comfortable with the pillows because of my allergies. I'm here to inform you that hotels rarely wash the duvet covers that are on the bed. Do whatever you need to with that information. They do wash the sheet set, though. I think.
I pack my own disinfectant wipes. And this is where my husband looks at me crazy. He's used to it now, but in the beginning he didn't know what was happening. I wipe down the toilet seat first because someone usually immediately be-lines for the bathroom as soon as we get in the room. I don't typically use the phone in the room but there have been a few times that I had gotten a call from the front desk. So, I wipe down the phone. I wipe down every single place someone might touch--doorknobs and places where someone may hold it open, tables and their edges, armrests on chairs, counters... I sound like a lunatic, right?
I wipe down the remote.
But, it doesn't stop there. Most hotel rooms have an ice bucket with a tiny plastic bag in it. I never use ice buckets. So, on top of disinfecting the remote, I also place it in that baggie. I can never be too careful with the remote.
Has anyone ever told you not to use the coffee maker? No? Well, now I'm telling you. Think about how often a coffee maker is suppose to be cleaned. Now think about how many of those are in a hotel. Now, I want you to tell me if you believe these are being cleaned on a schedule.
Which leads me to the glasses in the room. Now, I've never seen my housekeeping staff do this, but I've read about some being so fed up with their employers that they'd urinate in the glassware in the hotel rooms. So, my advice to you? Only use drinkware that's brand new. Most hotels place two or three plastic cups sealed in plastic in your room. Better safe than sorry!
I check under and around the bed(s) for any signs of bugs or trash. Once, while working, I went to inspect a guest room to help housekeeping out and discovered a condom wrapper under the bed. There was absolutely no way I could mark that room as "vacant-clean" before housekeeping came back through. Yikes!
Housekeepers are amazing! They have to deal with a lot, trust me. I've seen some things. But one thing I wish happened more but is impossible--I wish the carpets were cleaned more than once a year. I don't walk in the hotel room without slippers, or at least socks, on my feet. I advise you do the same.
I'm a pretty chill hotel guest thanks to my experiences behind the scene. I won't even ask for my room to be serviced unless absolutely necessary.
Do: Tip anyone who gives you great service. People working in hospitality don't make a lot of money just like others in the service industry. We just love people so much. If you don't have money to give out like you want, consider writing a review mentioning the employees by name. These reviews can sometimes be tied to bonuses. Lastly, if you have to catch a flight but can't take your unopened bottles of liquor or wine with you, write a note leaving it at the front desk. Most hotels will otherwise open it and pour it out.
Don't: Place your luggage on the bed. It's been rolling around airports and conveyor belts. Don't lay it where you want to lay your head.
Do: Check your bill for extra charges before leaving the hotel. Many minibars are equipped with sensors. The smallest shake could trigger a charge. You can also request that the minibar is emptied if you'd like to store food there instead.
Don't: Use front desk agents to answer questions that can be Googled. Hear me out before you bite my head off: If you patiently wait in line and finally get to ask me the best way to get to a destination, I'm going to Google it. I can't predict traffic. And I absolutely loved my guests, but every time they asked for the weather, they stood there while I Googled it. Again, something I can't predict. But, we do love giving recommendations on the best food spots or scenes to see.
I left the hotel industry completely in 2019 but gosh, I miss the discount. *silent tears*
I think I pretty much got this squared away, but if you are curious about something, hit me up by posting a comment. And if you've worked in a hotel, please leave some words below about your best or worst moments.