Hotels Resist The Urge To Snooze Though Wake Up Calls

A special circle of hell is reserved for hotels that fail to rouse their guests with a promised wake-up call. Technophobic travelers rely on the traditional front desk ping; programming the ubiquitous hotel room alarm clock is a weighty task many find more complicated than filling out taxes or setting a VCR, according to a 2005 survey. Hotels are noticing that missed wake-up calls are their Achilles Heel, and some are taking corrective action.

From the New York Times:

Hilton, Marriott International, W Hotels and Wyndham Worldwide are introducing, or have done so, alarm clocks they say are easy to use. Crowne Plaza Hotels, a brand of the InterContinental Hotels Group, guarantees wake-up calls in the lodging industry version of the Domino’s Pizza guarantee — one night free if the call fails to come within five minutes of the requested time.

Global Hyatt permits members of its Gold Passport loyalty program to personalize wake-up calls with a greeting recorded by a family member or friend. The Four Seasons Hotels chain offers iPod docking stations so guests can be awakened by their own favorite music. “Inspirational” calls that awaken guests with a proverb or thought for the day are offered by W Hotels, as well as the Muse, a New York boutique hotel owned by the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group.

And defiantly bucking the trend toward automated wake-up calls, an actual person calls guests in Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental Hotels, and in many independent hotels. The Adolphus, an opulent Old World-style independent hotel in Dallas that was built in 1912, even sends a security person to a guest’s room if three wake-up calls are ignored.

We enjoy the sense of false grandeur delivered with a wake-up call, but still rely on our own devices. If the phone fails to ring, our trusty cellphone and iPod are set to jar us back to reality, ready to suggest that perhaps a complimentary breakfast could make amends for the missed call.

Guests, Running Late, Wake Up Hotels [NYT]
(Photo: daniel_cosman)


Edit Your Comment

  1. the cultural icon says:

    so how does that ipod alarm work? you would have to sleep with earphone in your ear wouldn’t you? I’ll admit, me and my ipod don’t know each other very well so maybe the answer is something obvious.

  2. k8supergrover says:

    At the hotel where I work we send a bellman if you don’t answer 2 calls and we always offer an additional call 15 minutes after your first request. A good idea is to actually go down to front desk, or stop by on your way up to your room for the night and watch them either write it down or program it in to the computer.
    And if they miss it, milk it for all it’s worth. They should at the very least cover breakfast and a cab to your “meeting”

  3. k8supergrover says:

    oh..and we have the ipod things to. you put it into a slot in an alarm clock with speakers on it and it somehow activates at the appropriate time with the music being played by the clock speakers. It’s pretty neat.

  4. Amy Alkon says:

    Your iPod rings out loud, as does your cell phone, even if you have it on silent.

    K8Super, let us know where you work, because I’m staying there.

  5. Pelagius says:

    The iPod must have a little speaker in it just for the alarm. I use mine on a regular basis as backup.

  6. Black Bellamy says:

    Having worked in the hotel business for over a decade I can tell you one thing: If you’re so dependent on a wakeup call that it will be a major disaster if you don’t wake up to make your meeting, BRING YOUR OWN ALARM CLOCK.

    I cannot be more clear. As soon as you ask for a wakeup call from the front desk you are putting your welfare into the hands of a system that features fat fingered clerks who will punch in the wrong room room number, people who won’t be able to read what the other guy wrote, lists that get lost, computers that go down, etc etc.

  7. Murph1908 says:

    I travel for work rather often. I never rely on the wake up call, nor do I rely on the hotel-provided alarm clock. I always do triple coverage with the wake up call, the clock, and my cell phone.

    I have had one of the 3 fail on occasion, but I have never had a triple failure.

    The alarm clock in the room sometimes seems more undependable than the call. I am always paranoid about volume levels of the buzzer, accidentally setting it to music when its tuned to static, or other error due to unfamiliarity with the unit.

  8. I just take my alarm clock with me. I know how to set that one.

  9. How hard could it be to pay someone to write a computer program that lets the employees input room number and time requested on a simple interface, and tie it to the switchboard? I’ll even go one further and say they could add a selection of pleasant morning mp3s to make the wakeup call more pleasant.

  10. hoo_foot says:

    Technophobic travelers? Bringing your own alarm clock is nothing new. Most, if not all, experienced business travelers know the importance of bringing your own alarm.

  11. J_Sensei says:

    I always use my DS. I typically travel with it, and it has a pretty decent alarm on it. I’m particularly fond of the countdown on it, so you know how much time you have before the alarm. This comes in handy when you’re switching time zones, and you don’t feel like changing the clock.

  12. k8supergrover says:

    I work at a highend hotel in Toronto. We rock. Yes, we occasionally miss alarm clocks, life is full of human error, but we make up for it if at all possible. There are computer programs that do automated wake up calls but computers go down and people press the wrong buttons. When that happens at my hotel we go door to door (which is awkward but we take it seriously)

  13. bbbici says:

    I agree, if it’s imperative that you get up at a certain time, bring your own alarm.

  14. startertan says:

    I’ve been to a few hotels in my short lifetime and I’ve never had a problem with wakeup calls. *knock on wood*

    If I had something really important I’d use my cell phone as backup but most of the time it’s not that critical. I like the hotels that let you program the wakeup call via hotel phone. That’s always nice and unless the computers go down, it’s your fault.

  15. dustinkyle says:

    my wife and i stayed at the grand hyatt in Dallas for the first night of our honeymoon. We had to catch an early flight overseas the next morning, so we needed to wake up early. They have the Ipod dock alarm clocks there and for the life of me i could not figure out how to set the clock (it was daylight savings that night and i needed to make sure that it would wake us up at the right time). I called down to the front desk, and they had no idea, they called the maintenance people, they had no clue, so finally they sent up a brand new clock with the instruction manual. So after an hour and 15 minutes of comically trying to figure out a damn alarm clock, how did it work. The thing was already set to the new daylight savings standard and set itself automatically. Technology = smarter than me…and about 12 other people.

  16. Falconfire says:

    DS alarm IS really great. It gets more and more annoying the longer its ignored.

  17. velocipenguin says:


    I do the same thing when traveling. Hotel employees can’t be trusted, cell phones can be flaky (I had one that would occasionally forget alarms), and I can turn off alarm clocks in my sleep if I’m exhausted enough. Using all three ensures I’ll be awake at the right time.

  18. k8supergrover says:

    The other thing you can do is if you have to be somewhere to meet someone is get that person to call you. But really, I would say my hotel has a 99% reliability rate over the last 5 months (that I’ve been working there)

  19. wesrubix says:

    This problem is stupid. The last hotel I stayed in (in Germany–you know in Europe, where things make more sense) had a TV, and a button on the remote that said “wake up call.” And you just entered what time you wanted to wake up. The TV showed me a confirmation message: “your TV will turn on at the time you have entered.” And that was it.

  20. Steel_Pelican says:

    The first 2 rules of business travel:
    1.) Never trust the airline
    2.) Never trust the hotel

  21. jamesdenver says:

    Newer cell phones have alarm clocks on them. (like the Razor). I use that at home and on the road, except overseas where it doesn’t work. Never had a problem except when it’s been my mistake.

    In Munich last fall at a small hotel the same guy that worked late was there until 6-7am. The last day I just tipped him in advance to come knock on the door in order to catch my flight

  22. JohnMc says:

    Man, this is a sorry post. Look, YOU and you alone are responsible for getting your tush up and out of bed. Me I use a laptop alarm clock. Just set it and forget it.

    Lifehacker has mentioned several good alarm programs in the past. If you are a roadwarrior type then you probably already lug a laptop. So why complicate your life with another couple of ounces stuff?

  23. Consumer-X says:

    I mostly stay at Motel 6’s. Even if the front desk fails to make a wake up call, the noise from the hobo’s fighting over discarded pizza in the dumpster out back usually wakes me up at 4:30 am sharp.

  24. Dibbler says:

    This just happened last week at a Holiday Inn Express. I requested a 7am wake-up call and luckily I woke up right around 7am and laid there in bed waiting for the phone call. It never came… Those alarm clocks they provide look like they cost $3 each in bulk and are impossible to set with any confidence.

  25. orielbean says:

    I love Four Seasons, they have great service at the Houston location. The wake up call is nice, along with the Financial Times paper.

  26. I also meant to say:


  27. orielbean says:

    JohnMC, if you travel a lot, it can be hard to make yourself adjust to sleeping times, especially when you gotta be up early for a client or sales meeting. You pay enough for a friggin room, this shouldn’t be such a problem for the staff.

  28. ab3i says:

    @Steel_Pelican: You forgot rule 0.5) Never trust the towncar/cab to show up on time

  29. beyond says:

    I cant stop looking at the kitty. Whats this post about again?

  30. RandomHookup says:

    I used to travel tons and would usually double team the wake-up call. My two biggest problems — clock radios with AM/PM confusion (either theirs or mine) and radio stations that are nothing but static at really early hours (but were there when I programmed the alarm).

  31. humphrmi says:

    @Black Bellamy: I’m also dependant on a bed. Should I bring one of those? Curtains? Toilet paper? Geez, every business now has to say “if you REALLY want what we are supposed to provide you, you provide it!” Whatever happened to just providing service in the first place. Cripes.

  32. Saboth says:

    My cell phone alarm clock (with vibrate) has yet to fail me. It actually has just as many options as my alarm clock at home (minus radio). Most everyone has a cell phone. Problem solved.

  33. MENDOZA!!!!! says:

    whats up with all the cat photo posts on the ‘Rist these days?

  34. SarraJK says:

    Worse than not getting a wake up call you’ve asked for is getting a wake up call you didn’t ask for.

    I was staying at a hotel for a wedding with my family (including a toddler), and both mornings we got a call at 5 am, waking the kid and ruining my morning.

    This happened the second morning, despite the fact that I asked the front desk specifically *not* to wake us.

    The manager was apologetic, but that didn’t get my any more sleep.

  35. acambras says:


    You new ’round here?

  36. gabi says:

    If you have a mac laptop you can set it to start up on it’s own at any time you want pretty easily. Go to “energy saver” in system preferences and click “schedule.” The ensuing start-up beep and brightness of the screen is usually enough to wake me up, but if you feel like getting fancy you could make it so iTunes opens at startup and starts auto-playing.

    Also, KITTEN! OMG! Soooo cuuuuuute!

  37. drjayphd says:

    In re: photo’s file name

    Well played, Consumerist. ;)

  38. zundian says:

    My wife and I stayed at the Hotel Burnham in Chicago and called for a 7am Wake-Up call at around 9pm the evening before, wanting to beat the morning rush hour traffic. We never got it, and when we called the front desk after getting up at slightly after 9 and realizing what happened, were informed that the desk clerk from the night before had written down the wrong room number and had given someone else on our floor quite the rude awakening instead. They placated us with free stuff, but I’m not sure I’m ever going to stay at a Kimpton (Klimpton?) hotel again. Not because of the missed wake-up call, but because of the other adventure we had with them…

    We had originally booked a room at the Hotel Burnham for an anniversary weekend package, complete with bottle of wine and box of chocolates (aww). When we arrived at the hotel, we were told that they were overbooked, but that (after a bit of complaining) we could have their “showcase room”, an upgrade from our original room, so we were fine with it. We get upstairs and proceed to do start doing anniversary-type things when we get a call from the front desk. Apparently the hotel manager had gotten a call from the VP of Kimpton hotels telling her that he wanted his/our room ready by 4pm, and would we consider giving up the room, or she might get her fired?

    I was understandably upset about this, said I would get back to her and hung up. 10 minutes later there’s a knock at the door, and the hotel manager behind it, pleading with us, offering a free room at another hotel owned by Kimpton a few blocks away, along with comping of our valet parking, free breakfast, a taxi to the other hotel, a free night of our choice at the Burnham in the future (when they missed the wake-up call) and finally a refund of all money paid up to that point. My wife took pity on her, so we agreed to her terms, packed up and got to the other hotel, at which point the new hotel’s front desk had no idea what we were talking about.

    15 minutes and a number of calls between the two hotels later it was FINALLY all cleared up, and the entire weekend had officially been ruined. Thanks Kimpton!

  39. Matthew says:

    @SarraJK: That does sound lousy, but I respectfully disagree that it’s worse. I’d much rather be awakened unnecessarily than oversleep for a flight, meeting, or whatever was important enough that it merited a scheduled wake-up call.

  40. JohnMc says:


    I hear what you are saying. But you know when you oversleep and miss that appointment does the customer CARE the reason why? Most I would say do not. Woody Allen was quoted — “Success is being able to show up on time.”

    That’s why when I am on the road I fire up my trusty IBM laptop, Set the onscreen alarm and set the music to Steppenwolf, Chicago, et. al, Something long and loud. The front desk clerk is making $8-10/hr. For them no big deal. For me, I could be missing a $2-3million sale.

  41. Soldrak says:

    You know a smart hotel would introduce a Gentle Riser concept technology. This alarm clock would gently raise the lighting in the room (to mimic the rising of the sun) and have gentle but rousing music (in the form of birds chirping, a gentle breeze) and finally if the guest still isn’t awake, with an actual spray of misty water on the bed… hehhee

  42. benko29 says:

    the best way to make sure you have the hotel room clock radio alarm set properly is to fiddle with it for 2 minutes before going to bed, set an alarm for the next moment, and let it go off. that way there is no doubt with respect to AM/PM settings, alarm loudness, and radio tuning. then set your time for the morning, and sleep easy.

  43. oldnumberseven says:

    I work in a hotel, as well. Our phone system, will ring the room for 6 rings, if the call is unanswered, will wait 5 minutes, then ring again. The system will do that 3 times, then there is an alarm at the desk if the call is still unanswered, then I set another call for that room, and if they do not answer the first set of rings, I go up and knock on the door. After that, I give up. What drives me crazy is the number of people who ask for wake-up calls, then ignore them.

    On case where I gave up; a kid was staying at the hotel and was feted the night before by the local college wrestling team. The car service shows up to take him to the airport at 3:30 a.m. Well the kid didn’t answer his wake-up call, so, I set it to ring every five minutes, and I knock on the door while the wake-up call went off. No answer. I did this every 5 minutes for about half an hour. The driver from the car service said a half hour was all she was obligated to wait. So, we left it at that. I told the person that came in at 7:00 a.m. and left it at that. I heard from my co-worker the kid didn’t wake up until his father called the hotel at noon from the airport at home.

    My thoughts are I will do everything I can to get you up short of coming into room. If you are a heavy sleeper, or jet-lagged, well, let me know, and I will do what I can to help you. But, please answer that wake-up call, please do not turn the ringer off on the phone and still expect a wake-up call, please do not use a dial-up connection and expect a wake-up call.

  44. synergy says:

    You don’t need a Razr to have a cell phone with an alarm. The first phone I ever got 7 years ago which was about 10 years old (hey it was refurbished) and weighed about 5 times what my current one does had an alarm. It’s nothing new to cellphones.

    Granted, not everyone has cell phones no matter what Consumerist commenters think, but really it’s not that hard to bring your own. Hell, use the alarm or timer on your digital wristwatch or buy a small alarm and bring it from home whenever you travel.

  45. synergy says:

    @synergy: Whoops, I meant my first phone was 2-3 yrs old and hence technology from 10 yrs ago….

  46. MajorXP says:

    Sounds like a great business plan….create an online site that you can register and request a wake up call..

    ….o..wait..that’s been done already too..


  47. outsdr says:

    I work at a hotel, and I have also dealt with a number of guests who have slept through their wake up calls, then claimed that they never received one. Our phone system, however, does log when a wake up call is not answered. We went through a period of time where a number of guests were trying to get discounts on their room for not receiving a wake up call…

    The strangest request I ever received was from a gentleman who explained that as he was a heavy sleeper, could someone please be sent to his room to shake him awake?

    We declined that request.