16 Tips On How To Be A Better Hotel Guest

While most of the travel horror stories we cover on Consumerist involve airlines, the hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns and flophouses of the world are no stranger to regular readers. But one reader writes in to explain that the best way to get good service from hotel staff is to just be a decent human being.

“I have worked in hotel management for about 10 years now,” writes reader CW, who has experience managing both the front office and housekeeping. “Between my daily observations of guest behavior, and the hotel-related stories that I have read on Consumerist, I have determined that many people are either oblivious or heavily misguided when it comes to most things hotel.”

Thus, CW decided to craft the following cheat sheet for everyone:

Arriving
1. If you are arriving at a hotel that has a valet and doorman service, pull your car up and exit it, leaving the keys in the ignition. Allow the doorman to remove your bags from the trunk (unless you only have 1 or 2 small bags that you can easily and quickly remove and handle yourself), and allow the valet to take your car. This allows you to get into the hotel most efficiently, and does not hold up the cars that may be queuing behind you. If there is no one behind you, feel free to make small talk with the doorman – he’ll appreciate it.

2. If you are driving, and the hotel does not have a valet or doorman, please proceed directly to the self-parking area. Most hotels have an entrance directly off the parking garage or lot. Do not leave your car right in front of the doors – this is extremely discourteous to those who arrive after you!

Checking In
1. Do not bull-rush the desk. If the agent is on the phone, it may be a sensitive conversation with another guest. If the agent is working with a guest at the desk, there may be sensitive information being passed around. If the agent is typing fervently on the computer, he or she is most likely completing something that needs to be done before she can check someone in. Please wait back a respectful distance – you will be called over as soon as the agent is ready. Rushing up to the desk, plopping your bag or purse down, and drumming your fingers will not get you helped any sooner.

2. When the agent asks how he can assist you, all you have to say is “I’m checking in under Tom Smith”, or something similar. You do not have to say “I am here with the XYZ Company convention”, or give any other extraneous information. This just wastes time. Please do not just say “Tom Smith.” The agent asked how she can assist you, not what your name is. Also, do not just throw your confirmation on the desk and not say anything at all. This is just plain rude.

3. Most of the time, agents will confirm your bed type (a king, 2 doubles, etc.), but they might forget. Remember, they are people too. If your bed type is important to you, and the agent did not mention it, ask about it before you head up. Inversely, if you do not care about the type of bed that you have, let the agent know. This can be extremely helpful if the hotel is over on one bed type or another!

4. If there is a line, remember that you are not more important than the people in line ahead of you. The agents are working as quickly as they can to move everyone along – you will get your turn! If you have a super-important meeting to get to in 15 minutes, maybe you should have planned your time a little better.

5. Every hotel in every city will require a method of payment. Even if you prepaid your room and tax, and intend on charging nothing to your room, you WILL need to put something down for incidentals (things charged to the room). This is the one rule that NO hotel will break – don’t even ask!

6. If you present a debit card at check-in, YOUR bank WILL put a hold on your account for the amount authorized. No, we don’t like it either, but it will happen. We have no way around this – we promise. It is also up to YOUR bank to release these funds – calling the hotel will not really help at all.

During your stay
1. Please do not make a total mess out of your room. Housekeepers are under very strict time-limits to get each room cleaned, usually around 30 minutes per room. The messier you have left your room, the more likely it is that something will be missed when they clean it each day. It is also just plain rude.

2. If there is a problem during your stay (no hot water, housekeeping issues, noise complaints, etc.), address them to the front desk – politely. To be frank, if you come down yelling and cussing and causing a scene, the agent will do the minimum to quiet you down and get you away from the desk. And, yes, the staff will be talking about you behind your back. If, however, you state your issues in a straightforward and polite manner, you will usually be amazed by how you are compensated. We will want you to return, and will do what we have to to make that happen. This point I cannot stress enough.

3. If you call down to the desk, or any other department, and your call goes unanswered for a bit, please understand that so many people can only answer so many lines while also speaking directly with guests at a time. No one is ignoring you or the phone. Simply wait a bit and try again, unless it is an emergency, in which case you should press the button on the phone for security.

4. Relating to the last point, please pay attention to the labeled buttons for the different departments on your phone, or, in lieu of that, the printed extension sheet. The bell desk or guest services will remove your bags for you at check-out. Room service or guestroom dining will handle your in-room dining needs. Not every call should be routed to the front desk – this is one of the bigger reasons for calls not getting answered right away!

5. If you are in a non-smoking room, do not smoke. If you do smoke, housekeeping WILL notice, and you WILL be charged (usually at least $250). You might think you’re being crafty, but the smell of smoke in a non-smoking room stands out like the sorest of thumbs. And yes, it does take a large amount of time and effort to get the room smelling fresh again.

Departing
1. If you do not need a copy of your receipt, or if it was slipped under your door and everything is correct, and you do not need assistance with your bags or transportation, you can just leave. It is that simple. You do not need to call the desk and say “This is Ms. Smith in room 1010, we are checking out.” Really – you can just walk out. You can even take your keys with you!

2. When the agent asks you how your stay was, be honest! Telling the agent that everything was fine, and then going home and writing a scathing review online or trashing the hotel via the emailed comment card helps no one.

3. If you do have a complaint when you are checking out. . . not every complaint warrants compensation. I have actually have guests tell me something along the lines of “I read that if I complain at a hotel, you have to give me something.” That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. If you are not immediately offered compensation, ask about it (once again, politely). You might not be offered a free night, but you will probably be given something.

The Bottom Line
If you carry yourself like a self-important jerk, you will be remembered as such. You will cause unnecessary stress for the employees with which you interact. You will have accomplished nothing, except for maybe in your own mind. The staff will want to get you the heck out of the building as quickly as possible.

If you carry yourself like a person, and recognize those around you as people, you will be remembered highly. Sadly, you will have proven yourself to be one of the dwindling minority. The staff will be tripping over themselves to ensure that you leave with positive memories of your stay.

Thanks to CW for sharing with the rest of the group! If you have a particular insight into a specific industry and think Consumerist readers could benefit from your experience, let us know at tips@consumerist.com