Rants & Raves

(Don Chance)

Hotels:  Do They Actually Stay There?


By “They,” I mean the people who design, own, and manage hotels.  I have to believe they don’t, because if they did, they would discover how poorly many hotel rooms are designed.  Now, I realize that some hotels are older and more difficult to renovate.  This is particularly true for downtown hotels in big cities.  The rooms are often small in the first place, and there just isn’t a lot of space to expand.  But it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to fix many of the problems inexpensively.

Take electrical outlets, for example.  In short, there aren’t enough of them.  Today’s traveler needs outlets for a laptop and a cell phone charger at a minimum.  Throw in a hair dryer (and don’t even think of using that bathroom outlet that says “razors only”), maybe a travel iron, and you have a severe outlet shortage.  Oops, I forget.  There is an outlet behind the bed, but you have to move the bed first in order to determine if there is a free plug available.  Nope.  Sorry.  A lamp and a clock radio are plugged in.  Too bad for the guest.  It’s either time & light or computer & cell phone.  Your choice.

How to solve this problem?  It’s easy.  You could start with installing more outlets.  It’s not a major job, but as a substitute or in the interim, there are two simple solutions.  Some hotels have begun using desklamps with outlets at their bases or desks that have outlets on them.  Others use powerstrips or multiplugs.  These are easy and relatively inexpensive solutions.

Side note:   I stayed in a hotel that recognized that it needed more plugs, but in something like 1970s fashion, it had installed one of the old-timey extension cords.  No, not a multiplug or powerstrip.  This was the rubber kind that can theoretically accommodate several cords but cries out “FIRE HAZARD.”  As if to add insult to injury, the hotel had several of its own devices plugged into this rubber extension, leaving the guest to either overload this extension or do without power.

Like I said:  Do the people who own these hotels actually stay in them?

And how about an adequate number of coat hangers?  They’re not expensive.  There ought to be enough for two people to hang a week’s worth of clothes, as well as one or two coats. 

Side note here:  I once stayed in a lodge in the Adirondacks in which the rooms had no locks.  When I inquired about locking my room, the people in charge said “Oh, we’ve never had a problem.  Everything is safe,” reminding me of what the people in charge said just before Katrina hit New Orleans.  But this same New York state hotel had the kind of coat hangers that are permanently attached to the hanging bar in the closet.  So, let’s analyze the logic.  You can easily enter into someone’s room (and it won’t be “breaking and entering,” it’ll be just “entering” – is that even a law?)  and steal any of the guest’s belongings that you would like.  Laptop computer?  No problem.  Purse?  Wallet?  No problem.  But if you’d just like to purloin one of the lodge’s nice coat hangers, forget it.  You could more easily steal the bed.

And what’s with hotels that still have giant television sets without flat screens?  For viewing, it’s not that important, but doesn’t it just scream “OUTDATED?”

What about that newspaper they put in front of your door?  USA Today?  Good choice.  It’s a national newspaper.  In Canada, the Globe and Mail, likewise.  But do you, almost surely an out-of-town guest, really want a copy of the Charlotte Observer?  Do its headlines on the acrimony at the last town council meeting and the new plans for a shopping center south of the city grab your attention so fast you can’t even take a shower without reading about them?

What about the mini bar?  I really don’t care that they charge extortionist prices.  It’s up to guests to make a rational economic decision.  That $4.50 Snickers bar can be had for half that price (still a bit high) a block down the street at a drugstore.  Or, a guest can simply decide that the convenience factor outweighs everything else.  But I have two problems with mini bars.  One is I cannot tell you how many times minibar charges have appeared on my bill when I did not take anything from the minibar.  How can minibar counters (is that what they call them?) make that many mistakes?  “Let’s see.  There is supposed to be one package of plain M&Ms and one package of peanut M&M’s.  I see one of each.  Let’s charge him for taking one.  He’ll never notice.  In the meantime, I have my mid-morning snack lined up.”

I said I had one other complaint.  This happened to me only once, but it should NEVER happen.  It seems that upon checking out of a very nice Atlanta downtown hotel I made the mistake of not examining my bill closely enough.  It was approximately what I expected so I paid it and checked out.  A few days later, I noticed a number of additional charges with unusual names, which fortunately I cannot remember.  An internet search then revealed that these items were products that one might use for a, shall we say, “intimate” experience.  In spite of what you might be thinking, I had not purchased these items and I had no intimate experiences during that trip.  Unfortunately, through my own tardiness, I had already submitted the bill to an organization in Atlanta that had funded my trip.  Then I had to explain to them that I had not used these products and that I would resubmit the expense receipt.  Again, what is the minibar counter doing?  Planning one heck of an erotic break?  To add insult to injury, it was very difficult and required multiple phone calls before I could actually get a “cleaned up” receipt, no pun intended.

Was this just an honest mistake?  Maybe.  But a fine hotel should not be selling products like this and if they do, they need to make sure their minibar counters are well-trained.  And honest.  Perhaps supervisors could pay surprise visits during breaktime.

What about security?  Most hotels are pretty good about it.  I stayed in a hotel recently (the same one with the out-of-date extension cord) in which the door did not automatically shut as I left the room and headed down the hall.  OK, I know there is the classic horror story, which is more like an urban legend, in which the guest is caught totally naked in the hallway with the room door locked.  Hotels with room doors that do not automatically shut would facilitate the quick return of these transitory nudists to the safety of their rooms.  This would be a great reason to justify doors that do not automatically lock, provided of course that this is a common problem and not just an urban legend or someone’s fantasy story.  Frankly, I think anyone who steps outside the room completely naked should be locked out as punishment.  So, I say to hotels, make sure the doors close when someone lets go of them.  There is no substitute for tight security.

I could go on and one.  And I will as I accumulate more ridiculous hotel experiences.  But all in all, it just amounts to something simple.  People who own or manage hotels, need to stay in them.  They need to note what the inconveniences are and fix them.  We are not talking major overhauls requiring millions of dollars.  Just simple solutions that at low cost make life more convenient for guests.  Even better would be to hire random people to stay in these hotels and tell them what’s wrong.  I’d be glad to do so.


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Last updated: May 27, 2012