8 Things About Hotels I’d Love to See Changed

breakfast in bed

I’ve worked in the service industry since I was sixteen years old and realize how hard the work is, and how much the people who work in it are undervalued and generally underpaid. On a recent trip I stayed in quite a few hotels, a different one every day for a week, and realized they could be doing a few things that would make things more pleasant for guests, as well as make life easier for the good people that work there:


1. Put amenities in large refillable bottles.

I’ve stopped taking home those tiny bottles of shampoo and body lotion. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I’m no longer that cheap and don’t mind spending a few dollars every couple of months to buy my own. I suspect most people that take them aren’t merely using them as travel-sized bottles for their carry-ons. I’ve always wondered what happens to those little bottles if I use them once. Do they get refilled, or tossed away? I assume they’re tossed, so I no longer bother to use them and bring my own. But for those who just have carry-ons, let’s all make the switch to using large refillable bottles.

2. Give me a checklist with checkboxes asking me what level of service I want.

I am sure there are people out there that like it when someone knocks on their door in the morning, asking if they’re in there so they can clean the room. And I am certain some people like it when they’re watching television and relaxing in the afternoon and someone stops by to see if they need the minibar filled, then thirty minutes later, another person comes by to lift the top of the sheet from the bed and fold it down, otherwise known as ‘turndown service.’

For those people, and for those of us who don’t use all twelve towels in one day, give guests a checklist when they arrive, asking them which services they’d like and which they don’t need. Then the service staff doesn’t have to worry about bothering guests and guests don’t have to worry about the staff coming into their rooms at all hours to put a chocolate on the pillow. Personally, I’d rather they leave a whole stack in the room upon arrival anyways.

3. Put instructions for connecting to the Internet, clearly stated, in each room.

If there’s anyone out there that doesn’t want or need to connect to the Internet when traveling, that’s great. For the rest of us, it’s our lifeline. I cry if I can’t get connected to the Internet. When I check in to a hotel, I’ve probably spent the morning battling lines at the airports and flying all day or night, and I’m not in the best shape to remember a gazillion details or verbal instructions or passwords.

To save me a call to the front desk, and to save the person at the front desk from receiving the same call they probably get from 98% of the guests five minutes after they land in the room, put a plastic-laminated sheet near the desk that tells you 1) What the charge is for Internet connectivity, 2) How to get connected, and 3) What the networks and passcodes are.

4. Decide whether you want to charge a gratuity or tip, but not both.

I always thought a tip and a gratuity were the same thing; a gesture of cash in exchange for good service. That’s the way it is in America, at least, and I’m fine with that. (Actually, I think it’s not such a great idea—but that’s for another post.) So how come whenever I order room service, on the bill are lines for ‘delivery charge’, ‘gratuity’ (added automatically) and ‘tip’?

As mentioned, I get the fact that a tip is a tip. And as far as I know, ‘gratuity’ is just another word for ‘tip’. As someone who rarely orders room service unless I have a very early morning flight (and believe me, anyone that has to deal with me first thing in the morning deserves something special), I understand that room service is a pain in the patootie for everyone involved, hence the marked up prices and appropriate charges associated.

Room service menus usually state something along the lines of “A service charge and 18% gratuity will be added to room service checks.” That’s fine and I’m down with that. So why is there a space on the bill to write in an additional tip? Or if not, why is the waiter hovering for a few minutes too long after they bring breakfast? (It can’t be because they want to spend more time with me.)

If they’re not getting that 18%, that’s just wrong. (However I was under the impression that the hotel got the delivery charge and the waiter got the tip. If not, why are they separated out?) If the servers merit their worth, pay them that or include that in the bill.

5. Get rid of the tips for bellhops.

They work hard, but I often found myself scrambling for small bills to hand out to everyone who touches my suitcases. But as much as I tried, I would sometimes find myself single-dollar(s) deficient. Why not raise their pay and up the price of the room a few bucks and reward those gals n’ guys for working so hard? Or for those who think that people won’t work hard unless they’re tipped (although I’d like to give them more credit than that), put a checkbox on our bill* when we leave for us to write in an appropriate gratuity. Or tip. (But both would be kind of a stretch.)

6. Put a coffee machine in every room.

The greatest joy in life is waking up, slipping on a bathrobe, and drinking coffee without anyone bothering you. I live for that moment every day. And when I check into a hotel and see a stocked coffee bar, I want to hug it and take it to bed with me. (And yes, I would buy it room service for breakfast in the morning.)

The coffee is usually just okay, and I know one can order an Aeropress or Handpresso and schlep that along. But as much as I would like to consider myself an annoying coffee snob, at 6:45am, I’m just happy to have something strong and warm in bed with me. (And I’m not talking about a plastic coffee machine…)

Even better is that you could make a deal with one of those capsule-taking espresso machines and sell the capsules as part of the minibar. I’m not a huge fan of some of the coffee that comes out of them, but I am certain that at least one company would love to have their machines featured in rooms for guests to try. What a marketing coup!

7. Get rid of the minibar service charge.

I understand why the prices are so high in the minibar; it’s usually late at night, or you’ve had a long day, and it’s just not feasible to go out into the night to find a 2 ounce bottle of whiskey. But what I don’t understand is the 10% service charge added. Does the housekeeper get that money? If so, that’s fine. But I doubt it. (And I’m happy to be proven otherwise.)

If not, just include whatever “service” goes into the work that’s done filling up that lil’ fridge that the hotel has to cover. Why is it separated out? (And please don’t say that it’s to cover the extra costs associated with stocking the bar. If the $45 for a half-bottle of California Chardonnay isn’t covering the costs of that bottle, I’d switch to another wine.)

8. Keep up the good work with the fantastic bed and comfy sheets.

I love how hotels have dialed up their sheets and bedding. In fact, I stayed at one place and the sheets were so good, if I wasn’t such an honest sort, I would have stripped the beds—at the risk of making the coffee machine jealous—and taken them home with me.

A few times I found it hard to get out of bed, and each night the idea of diving in to those lovely sheets and terrific mattress made all the difference in the world. As someone who spend nearly 95% of his time in his hotel room in bed, thanks for thinking of me.



*Yikes! This one is probably going to rile a few. As stated, I want those fine young men and women to get compensated for their hard work. Lifting luggage certainly isn’t a walk in the park nor is standing out in the heat or freezing cold. And I would likely tip them even more if I could just write in an amount to add to my bill.

**For those eagle-eyed readers who point out the bottle of water on the nightstand, I don’t usually drink bottled water but like visitors who come to France and ask me “Is it okay to drink the water?”, I had the same questions about water in the states. But in spite of any reservations, I refilled it with water from the tap.


146 comments

  • What a GREAT list – yes, yes, yes! The Hanover Inn (NH) started putting the shampoos in reusables (they use the wonderful Molton Brown line) several years ago and it’s so fantastic. No more waste of little bottles. The minibar…does a bottle of water really need to be $5? Or how about INSTEAD of bottled water (the free one is always a nice touch), a simple water filter in every bathroom? Free drinking water! The internet…get rid of charges…really…in this day and age, wireless should be accessible in every room! And yes to the sheets and duvets and pillows…keep ‘em coming.

  • I agree that the in-room coffee maker is a brilliant idea. However, I’m much happier when I find one that ISN’T situated in the bathroom and doubly thrilled when I find in-room coffee service that offers REAL creamers, not powdered awfulness.

  • I am with you, especially with the coffe, the minibar charges, and the comfy sheets!

  • Belinda: I actually don’t mind paying for Internet, since it likely costs the hotel something. But I was recently at a hotel and the charges were—get this, $38 per day. Yes, really. That was robbery, I thought.

    Erin: That powdered stuff is pretty icky, but to put real milk in the room is likely difficult. In Mexico, they had creamer in the refrigerator (for free) to use. When I travel, although it’s not my favorite, I sometimes bring along little packets of powdered milk they sell in French supermarkets. Although the rest of the day, I drink espresso, my morning coffee really needs to have milk in it.

  • I stay in hotels a lot and can agree with a lot of these points. Especially about the tipping and extra service charges. I try and stockpile dollar bills before traveling, but there’s inevitably times when I have none and feel bad for whoever the person is who’s getting shorted.

    One thing I disagree with is the small toiletries. Some hotels are much better than others on this front in terms of quality. I always take them if they’re nice (such as from the W with Bliss products). I almost never have to buy my own small bottles or go through the pain of refilling small bottles with my own products. It’s also a great marketing tool as I’ve purchased the full size of some of the products after I’ve used them several times from the small bottles and loved them!

  • Here in the UK, the meanest B&B provides what’s called a courtesy tray, with kettle, teacups, teabags, coffee powder, etc; it is even more ubiquitous than a private bathroom. I hate that Continental hotels don’t have them; always have to pack my travelling kettle. Only stayed in one US hotel with a coffee maker, but then you couldn’t make tea in it, or you could, but it tasted of coffee so was disgusting! I want tea first thing and can wait until breakfast-time for my coffee!

    The chain we mostly stay in, Ibis, does now provide free Internet, but doesn’t have a mini-bar. And it is supposed not to change the towels/sheets unless you want them to, but in practice it always does.

    We don’t have bellhops on this side of the Atlantic – you carry your own bags to your room!

  • Great points, David! I’ve stayed in a couple of hotels recently (in Laos, of all places), where the shampoo, conditioner and body wash were all in lovely ceramic bottles – which is a great idea. They look so much more stylish and attractive than plastic bottles, and it’s reassuring to know that the hotel isn’t going through piles and piles of plastic bottles each week (though they could always be filling them up from little plastic bottles….).
    And completely with you about good beds and comfy sheets – I still remember a hotel we stayed at in Thailand five years ago that had the most divine bed I’ve ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with. I’d go back there just for that bed….

  • Great list. Some critical perspectives:
    1. Minibars – hotels are not making much money on minibars and some hotels are starting to get rid of it. Its more of a service rather than profit centre. The margin on the items are astronomical but not enough is sold to generate meaningful profits.
    2. Higher salary, no tips: tricky. Are tips disclosed for tax purposes? Increasing salary means more taxes plus perhaps less incentive to work hard, maybe??? Lots of politics behind this one…

    On bottled water, something interesting. Last year Starwood Hotels passed an internal policy where all hotels are required to buy local bottled water, if available. So no more Evian/FIJI Water in US.

    Those small bottles are not so practical. Its more than enough for one wash, but perhaps not enough for two

  • While there’s no doubt that the little mini-toiletries were a coup for some marketer, especially when people take them with them and remember the name (if you think back, those things started out with little-known brands – “luxury” brands that people might not have otherwise bought, and it introduced those names to a public that wasn’t familiar with them), the biggest reason behind them is, unfortunately not so pleasant. The changeover to minis from reusables that used to be in hotels, many years ago came after incidents (likely just urban legends, but you never know) where previous guests had topped bottles off with anything from bodily fluids to noxious chemicals. The throw-away minis became de rigeur simply to prevent such occurrences.

    The interesting thing I’ve found with internet service is that the more you pay for a hotel room, the more likely it is that not only will you have to pay for internet service, but you’ll have to pay stupidly high premium for it. Most inexpensive motels and hotels of the 1 and 2 star variety offer internet for free – hit the 3 and 4 star level and you suddenly, despite paying far more for a room that might be prettier and bigger, but otherwise serves no additional function over that in a lesser hotel, have to pay ridiculous prices for connectivity.

  • I love the idea of leaving an opportunity to tip on the bill. I always feel awkward when tipping a bellhop, like it’s demeaning somehow.

    Is the “tip” as distinguished from “gratuity” meant to give you the opportunity to leave an additional tip if the service was truly exceptional, or if you’re just feeling more generous than the 18% automatic gratuity allows? If so, I think they should clarify with “additional tip” or “additional gratuity”. Otherwise, it sounds a little like they’re trying to con you into giving more.

  • Good points. The crazy charges for minibars and room service drive me crazy, as does finding the internet connection instructions. The refillables are a good idea…if they’re firmly attached somewhere like a dispenser. Otherwise, I see people walking away with them, shame to say.

    I also tip maids (and ever since reading Nickel and Dimed, I do so quite generously–and was surprised that many people leave them nothing) and have the same problem with having enough small bills. I often skip the bell hops for the simple reason that I don’t have tip money…well, that, and I’ve got a single rolling bag.

    My own personal insane request would be that they put some cleaning wipes available somewhere. I saw something on germs and, er, bodily fluids in hotel rooms and have been bringing a small pack of wipes with me to clean door knobs, remotes, etc. I can’t say it’s made me not get sick, but I do use the room a little more soundly!

  • Dan: While it’s true that a person (ie: guest) could put whatever they want into a large refillable bottle, since they presumably don’t toss those little bottles if they’re full, it’s likely the same could be said for those little bottles, too. You just don’t know what’s in there. I bring my own stuff from now on. And you’re right about the less-expensive hotels offering free internet, while the big ones ding you.

    Three-Cookies: Tips are supposed to be taxed; if the front desk person is paying taxes on their salary, the rest of the staff should be doing the same. There’s likely plenty of arguments for and against taxation (and I’d love to add my 2 cents to that one..) but the reality is that in the US, folks are required to pay tax on tips. Whether they do or not is another question..

  • Yes! A big, resounding yes to all these suggestions. We just stayed a few days at the Villagio Inn in Yountville, CA, and I was delighted to see a Nespresso machine with at least two each three types of capsules. Sadly for us, though, we love our tea first thing in the morning and my pet peeve is that even when tea bags are provided, there’s no kettle but rather a carafe to do a pour-through of nowhere-near-boiling water from a coffee-maker. Which always tastes just enough of rancid coffee oil to destroy the tea. I love the Brits with their courtesy — it often has some nice cookies (biscuits) for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

    Something really annoying we’ve noticed over the past few years is how impossible the bedside lighting is for reading, and this is as poor at the higher price points as at the lower. Really, I don’t think it’s for hoteliers to make judgements on what I want to do in bed in the privacy of my hotel room — if I want to read, damn it, could I get a light that’s not four feet away and at an absolutely useless height and wattage?

  • Having worked in the hotel industry, and also as an event planner, I am sorry to say that for the most part, these “tips, service charges, gratuities”, etc. listed on your bill are not passed along to the staff. Only when you actually pass cash to a hotel employee (or a server or bartender at a catered event) can you be sure that it’s theirs to keep. This is unfortunate, and a practice I have always taken exception to. Nevertheless, it is the norm.

    David, I so enjoy your blog and follow it religiously. Your tongue in cheek humor is a hoot, and I always enjoy your description of the French people and their idiosyncrasies. Cheers!

  • This post is just one reason why this is one of the best blogs ever.

  • I stayed at Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe in September, they had big bottles of everything and had a note with them that said that if you love the product you could buy it in their gift shop. Very smart. They didn’t come into the room except when the guests weren’t there (granted this is a small place, but still, it was a nice touch.) They also had a brita filter in the fridge for you to refill. Pretty awesome. Oh, and a French press, variety of teas, and coffee.

  • I would like to add removing the ridiculous $45.00/ night parking fee. Please just add that to the room fee and don’t tell me! In Seattle, staying at the Sheraton downtown, our bill for parking our car was a staggering $55/day!

  • One hotel I stayed in had dispensers (similar to the ones that dispence hand soap by public sinks) in the shower carrying shampoo, conditioner, and liquid soap. This seemed to me like a great idea simply because of all the plastic waste it must reduce. It would also save the housekeeper much time as they certainly wouldn’t need to be refilled too often.

    And as for the gratuity for the room service waiters, the 18% that’s automatically tacked on there probably goes into a pool for all waiters who worked in that position that day (or week) to share. And even then they probably won’t see it for several weeks until it comes on their paycheck. That’s why they’re hanging back that extra minute, hoping you’re extra pleased at the sight of something on their tray and slip them a couple bucks. . . because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

  • As someone who put herself through college and a few years after working at hotels (in all departments), I’ll address your points:

    1. Put amenities in large refillable bottles.
    I’m not entirely sure I get your point here. :) If every single room in a hotel has large refillable bottles, the cost of your room is going to increase HUGELY. Not only are we talking about the cost of the bottles themselves, plus the product in them (which will be much more attractive for people to take, now that they’re full sized and full of product), the time and staffing for people to refill all those bottles (usually 4 per room – shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer) will be astronomical. Either they will have to refill them in the room which will slow down housekeeping or they will all have to be removed and replaced every day. Multiply that by the average 300 room hotel and you’re talking thousands of dollars in cost that is added to your room.

    2. Give me a checklist with checkboxes asking me what level of service I want.
    Housekeeping knocks on your door in the morning because they HAVE to get rooms made up in time for the next round of incoming guests to check in on time. It always amazed me that people would turn away the housekeepers in the morning and tell them to come back later, but those were the first people who would complain because they couldn’t check in on time (or early) because there weren’t any rooms ready. Hotels prioritize room cleaning so that people checking out that day (room turnarounds) are done FIRST and staying guests are done next. If you’re checking out that day, be prepared to let housekeeping come in the first time around.

    As for the rest, if you don’t want bar service or turndown service, tell the front desk when you check in. They can tag your room with housekeeping and you won’t be interrupted.

    3. Put instructions for connecting to the Internet, clearly stated, in each room.
    This I agree with. :)

    4. Decide whether you want to charge a gratuity or tip, but not both.
    The hotel gets the delivery charge to pay the salaries of the people dedicated to room service, the cost of the carts, the cost of dish covers, etc. The “gratuity” goes to the room service crew (the delivery server, like most servers, has to share his tips with other room service staff). A tip on top of that is not required, but there’s room to add it just in case your delivery server gave you extraordinary service and you want to add more. Most people don’t – and my advice is that if you want to add more to someone who went above and beyond, do it in cash, so he doesn’t have to split it with bussers and the setup staff.

    5. Get rid of the tips for bellhops.
    Never gonna happen. My advice? Before you go travelling, make sure you have at least $20 in $1 bills handy. Annoying, but there you have it.

    6. Put a coffee machine in every room.
    I agree here 100% :)

    7. Get rid of the minibar service charge.
    Also agree. Just roll everything in together.

    8. Keep up the good work with the fantastic bed and comfy sheets.
    AMEN. Hotel beds and sheets have gotten so much better.

  • Spot on, David.

  • I agree – particularly with the coffee. It drives me nuts when I’m in a fancy hotel across from London’s Hyde Park and I either have to get dressed or send for room service coffee.

    Another pet peeve – again in the UK is the internet charges. They charge 15-20 GBP per day for the internet. Not only that, they make it a pain to use my iPhone and my computer because there is no wifi. I started carrying a travel wifi router to overcome this. I would prefer that they just add the outrageous 20 GBP to my bill and provide free wifi throughout the hotel.

    The last thing that I want to do after a 12 hour work day is have to dink with the internet setup.

  • Great list. My pet peeve? Tipping when someone corrects something that should have been right in the first place. If the hair dryer works, then it comes with the room. If it’s broken and you have to wait for someone to bring up a new one, then you’re expected to tip that person. I’m all for tipping for personal service, but this one baffles me.

    The improvement in mattresses, sheets, and pillows in recent years is truly great. Now if only they could ban polyester from all towels…

  • I could NOT agree with you more about your first two points. Having travelled extensively for work as well, the wastefulness of constant servicing, refills of small plastic bottles, and unnecessary laundering bothers me to no end and there is no reason for it. I’ve seen lately some hotels include signs in the bathroom urging you to put towels on the bathroom floor that you want changed, but everything is still presented as optional. If you had some sort of “opt-in” system, like letting housekeeping know yourself if you need servicing and not just assuming that everyone needs everything every day, it would no doubt save hotels tons of time and energy and help the environment in the process!

    And re: the point above about people stealing large bottles of product, one idea could be to even install the refillable bottles in some kind permanent fixture like the showers in gyms of the olden days or in-sink soap dispensers in public bathrooms, though perhaps a bit classier. It would be a one-off cost, but savings would come by being able to buy in bulk and housekeeping not having to re-stock nearly as often. And the cheapskates among us can still bring their own small bottles and refill them if they still need a souvenir.

  • not the grammar police but is the title of this post a little off? i think it should be “i’d” instead of “i’ve” but i dont know i am still on my first cup of coffee

    Oops! You’re right. I have an appointment with an eye doctor, but it’s not for a few months. I need new glasses (or a new brain), so thanks… dl

  • I too have been a frequent work-traveler for extended durations of time in all sorts of places. On one such trip I stayed at the Four Seasons in the French Quarter followed by the scariest, and moldiest motel in Mississippi the next night. Falling asleep in a cozy, comfy bed knowing there will be good coffee in the morning really does make travelling for work so much more tolerable.

    With respect to bottled water – the EPA has more stringent drinking water quality standards than the FDA and with more teeth to enforce them. Does the water in L.A. taste the greatest – surely not. However as a rule of thumb, tap water will be consistently more regulated than bottled water anywhere in the U.S..

  • Agree, agree, agree, agree. I was particularly struck by the person who mentioned tipping the housekeepers. I always make an effort to do this because I feel they often get overlooked – deliberately or not. Recently in Jordan, I sought out the housekeeper to give him a [small] tip in the morning, and when we got back to our room in the evening there was a tableau on our bed of artisticly manipulated towels – several swans and a big, upstanding loveheart in the middle! The best bit was that he had intertwined one of my scarves that I’d left lying around into the loveheart. Some things you just can’t pay for!

  • This is absolutely BRILLIANT.

  • #6 – Can we please have kettles in the room instead? Because you can make tea or coffee with a kettle, but you absolutely cannot make tea in a coffepot (yes, I was that desperate in NYC. I spat it out and threw the rest down the sink!). In-room kettles are standard in the UK and fairly common on the continent, but damn near impossible to find in the US. :(

  • I agree with most of what you’ve posted, although many of the hotels I use already follow a lot of these practices. I know when I was traveling as part of my job, many of us would bring back the mini-bottles of toiletries and someone in the office would take them to homeless shelters. This was before the restrictions were in place for carry-ons, but it still seems like a good use of the those bottles.

  • re: the internet, yes, I agree, they should make it easier by leaving a laminated card in every room letting you know what the network name, password, and daily charges are.

    I’m deaf, so I have my own set of frustrations. Since room service and other hotel services don’t have direct numbers and you have to dial a number from the in-room phone, I can’t call them through telecommunications relay services for the deaf, so if I need anything, I have to walk down to the front desk myself. I wish they’d provide some sort of web-enabled service that lets guests send text messages to the front desk, Housekeeping, room service, etc.

  • I agree with all of your points, especially coffee and shampoo. I used to stay at Radisson hotels regularly for business travel, they provided an in-room capsule coffee machine beginning with an N which was heaven, though only 3 capsules, so I would pack a few extras from home just in case.
    I recently stayed in one of the Soho House hotels in London (Chiswick), although a members-only hotel, they do allow non-members to stay too, and at reasonable rates (for London), they just don’t publicize it much. I loved that there were full-sized shower products, a full-sized french press for coffee, a proper teapot, homemade cookies, and best of all, a half pint of fresh milk in the fridge.

  • I am with you on the little bottles (and every other point!).
    The issue addressed about raised costs for bigger bottles can be addressed by securing the bottles in the shower.
    I have stayed in hotels where the shampoo/shower gel was installed like the soap dispensers in restrooms and attached to the walls. You have shampoo on hand, it can be refilled, no waste.

    The coffee machine is such a nice touch. And, as you said, a marketing idea!
    Maybe some more hotels could pick it up.

  • Not to pile on the gripes, and mine may be a small frustration, but I frequently travel for business and am charged a $16-20 “amenities fee,” including a paper, use of the internet, and use of the gym. However, frequently this internet only includes Ethernet (really? it’s 2011!), I read the news on my iPhone, and never have enough room to pack my gym clothes. In addition, I use a MacBook air and am without an Ethernet port (a few hotels have tried to tell me that I am just unable to find it and have sent someone up to show me where it is). If this fee is just for the amenities described, why am I unable to opt out? No, I don’t want to work out. Make my room key unable to access the gym, just as it is unable to access the room next to me. Etc, etc. I’ve paid for my room, which I expect to include the amenities of the hotel building, why do I have to pay extra?

  • I typically pack my own shampoo, lotion, etc and take the small bottles daily and bring the stash home and donate them to our local homeless shelter. The shelters love these items because they are greatly appreciated by their clients who are constantly on the move.

    When it comes to tipping room service I have always assumed that the “tip line” is part of all receipts in a hotel or restaurant and doesn’t need to be filled in when a gratuity is already on the bill. I will tip if I ask the waiter to come back with more of something, especially when I forgot to ask for it when I place my order.

  • As Erin stated above, I really wish they wouldn’t put the coffee maker, coffee, and condiments in the bathroom. It’s kinda gross.

  • What it really comes down to for me, especially since we stay at very good to extremely nice hotels is that I just don’t want to be nickeled and dimed for everything. If I’m paying $300-500 a night for a room I want to feel like I’m getting value for my $. Don’t charge me $10 for internet, raise my room rate and absorb the cost. If you’re going to require me to valet park, please don’t charge me $68 a day (yes, this was a charge I got last year). I’m not cheap, but I don’t want to feel like everything is an added charge.

  • David, in case you’ve never seen these, amazon.com sells GoToob containers for travel that are the “cats meow” of travel gear! A bit pricey, but leak-proof, soft, label-able (is that a word?) Just search Amazon…they are on my “what I’M lovin’ right now” list!

  • Turn down service is also completely unnesscessary. :)

  • You know, I never even thought about all those plastic bottles before. I always opt for the don’t wash my sheets unless I stay for a week and all the other energy saving options. The reality is that I just want to be left alone!
    I guess because I have such sensitive skin I never use any of the products in hotels, but now that I think about it…
    What a waste.

  • Someone upthread already mentioned donating the small bottles to homeless shelters. After I amass a few hundred (I know, I know) bottles, I pass them off to a friend who works with homeless teens.

    When I would travel in other countries, I’m always impressed when they had mini-refrigerators in the rooms. Here, in the US, I never saw them in the Hiltons/Marriotts/similar hotels in the large cities; smaller cities, yes. I would often have to rig up the ice bucket for refrigeration if there was none. And back when there were minibars, it was tricky trying to remove everything to fill with your refrigerated items (real milk for coffee) and then going back to put things back so that no one will charge you for them.

    I also can’t stand having coffee machines in bathrooms, especially when I need to make coffee after my husband does his morning rituals.

    Sheets are getting thinner — yet keep me warm. Love that. On the other hand, I still have no idea what those decorative “runners” / “accents” on the beds are for. I will make a point to make sure I don’t get them.

    I try to tip well. Thanks to everyone who said that cash gets to them faster. I had no idea. But the “gratuities” vs. “tips” was what made me stop tipping on room service. I also assumed that gratuities on the bill meant “service compris”.

    If possible, I usually make my requests on the websites of the hotels when I book a room, e.g., rooms as far away from the elevators as possible (I hate hearing the bells and low hums of the elevator and the people talking outside of my room).

    Above all, I check travel sites and yelp for reviews of hotels before I book. It’s valuable knowing what other people complain about so that I’m not surprised / not that angry. In turn, I pass on my tips and observations (e.g., don’t stay in the west rooms facing the trash area, or you’ll wake up 4:30am in the morning on Thursday, which is trash day).

  • Great ideas! I am wondering if the reason why they don’t have coffee machines in the rooms is because of fire regulations. I used to work for a corporation in Dallas and even though the building was new and state of the art, the fire marshall nixed coffee machines in all of the break rooms :(

  • A great big Amen to all eight – I love feeling taken care of at a beautiful new space, but I don’t want to be fussed over.
    And I, too, vote for the wall-mounted dispensers on the wall of the shower. I’m trying to switch over to all solids in the bath, but I keep seeing those three-spouted beauties and being tempted to stay on the liquid side forever…

  • I’m glad you mostly drink tap water.

    If you’ve any level of concern for the environment or international peoples, I’ve got to urge you to never buy a drop of Fiji Water again. Fiji Water bought exclusive rights to the fresh water on the islands, and the locals have to buy water from the company; they’ve propped up a military dictatorship that allows them to continue this access. Mother Jones has a thorough analysis of the company’s deplorable behavior: http://motherjones.com/politics/2009/09/fiji-spin-bottle?page=1

  • “I still have no idea what those decorative “runners” / “accents” on the beds are for.”

    I think it’s just to add some color to the bed. A lot of hotels have switched to white comforter covers because people associate white with clean (and indeed, it is easier to spot dirt on a white cover), but an all-white bed looks rather stark.

  • SEJ: Since I live in “The Land of Bottled Water” (considered the largest market for bottled water in the world) I really try not to drink bottled water, especially from water shipped from far, far away. This I think was the first time I had Fiji water. It’s something I would never order but was handed to me when I was teaching a class and I was very thirsty so I took it. But at least I refilled the bottle a few times.

    Kathryn: I know it’s a pain, but am wondering if you asked someone at the front desk if there was a mobile number you could text requests to. Sometimes the concierge carries a hotel phone with her or him and perhaps they’d be willing to pass along notes.

    Angela + Erin: Am not sure what’s wrong with putting the coffee maker in the bathroom. Many hotels are space-challenged and it’s not like microbes can crawl up out of the commode and up onto the counter and lodge in the machine. If that was possible, I’d be reticent to use my toothbrush! ; )

    janele + Bunnee: Wouldn’t it be more effective to go to a 99cent store (or get them on sale) and buy big bottles of soap and shampoo and donate them? It’s kind of a pain carrying all those little bottles and I’m always afraid they’re going to open up in my suitcase. Or is the small size better to give to people for other reasons?

    melissa: I don’t think they’ll ever put tea kettles in rooms because they are likely not as safe as a coffee machine (well, I think they are but am sure the insurance companies don’t like the idea of people boiling water…) Plus Americans don’t drink tea as fervently as they drink coffee. They have those tiny immersion heaters which work fairly well, I think. Although they’re not ideal. (Neither are those capsule machines, though, but I’ve made peace with them.)

  • I recently stayed at an established hotel in San Francisco, just off Union Square, which allowed me to opt out of housekeeping services on a daily basis. For each day I chose to forgo housekeeping I received a $10 voucher that could be used in the hotel restaurant. The vouchers could be used one at a time or combined — so at the end of my stay I enjoyed a great dinner that was well worth the total cost but tasted just that much better with a $30 discount!

  • SO true! Especially the Internet one. Its never easy!

  • excellent post. i really hope someone in the hospitality catches wind of your recommendations. i’m also wondering if the bed you loved to dive into was at the grand velas ;)

  • I’ve noticed in a few of the chi-chi hotels we have stayed at the past few years (and that, I assure you, is very rare) that the little bottles are refilled. I occasionally take one or two for emergency backups, or if they are particularly nice and I want to hunt down a retail version.

    As for the mini-bar, we have never used one, except to house our own perishables. Occasionally we leave something behind, and imagine the confusion when the next guest confesses to consuming something that wasn’t supposed to be there!

  • Hi David! I hope you enjoyed Austin.

    I am with you 100% on the gratuity issue. I actually love ordering room service, but the already-added 18% PLUS the tip line makes it confusing and socially awkward to the point where I feel uncomfortable. About the coffee issue, I’ve noticed a trend in hotels doing away with coffee makers, so I ordered a little appliance called a “Hot Shot” which heats water instantly. I haven’t used the Hot Shot yet, but it’s small enough to fit in a carry-on and I plan on taking it the next time I get a good deal at some hotel that’s too fancy for an in-room coffee pot.

  • Kudos. Astute and accurate for the times.

  • Great comments. Bedding trend – great. Gratuity plus tip, wtf?
    My main gripes are not being able to see to read and no water from the shower head. I’m thinking a marketing a small kit for travelers with a 150w incandescent bulb, a non-restricted shower head, and maybe a small refillable bottle for a late night libation. Would you buy this from the Sky Mall?

  • I usually tell the front desk upon arrival that I don’t want any maid service during my stay and that works 90% of the time. I just don’t like people in and out of my room.

    At the Ace Hotel in Portland they have large refillable bottles of shampoo, soap and conditioner and I recall they were in pumps bolted to the wall so it wouldn’t be possible to snag them. I appreciate that!

  • I’m with you! Going to a hotel is supposed to be relaxing, but often leaves me feeling a little perturbed! I’d like to add bathroom drawers. If you are staying longer than a couple days it’s annoying to have all your toiletries overtaking the counter space.

  • SAJ – Amen to that. As a native Fijian I couldn’t agree more. Fiji Water should be boycotted as they are indeed assisting the military dictatorship and causing our people harm in more ways than one.

    As a Hotelier I agree with most of David’s point except the re-fillable option – which although would be fabulous is not practical logistically & financially.

    Thanks for an awesome blog David which is greatly appreciated here in the Fiji isles.

  • Re: Tips/ gratuities:
    1. It’s likely that your room service waiter is only getting a portion of the gratuity. It’s probably getting split with other members of the kitchen staff.

    2. I think the idea of the gratuity/ tip distinction is that the 18% is the baseline for offering a service that’s a convenience for you and an added hassle for the staff (not unlike similar gratuity charges assessed by restaurants for large parties of diners. It’s to make sure the staff doesn’t get totally stiffed.) The tip is discretionary- your opportunity to acknowledge service that’s better than minimally passable, and to express appreciation directly to the guy who showed up to bring you breakfast without you having to change out of your fuzzy bathrobe.

    3. Someone else pointed out that salary/ wages are taxed, but tips may not be. Of course you’re supposed to declare them, but lets be honest, most people do not declare all the income they get from tips. It’s one of the ways people in the service industry survive. I actually go so far as to deliberately tip in cash whenever possible so the person providing me a service can pocket every penny if they so choose.

  • Many years ago I stayed in a hotel in Boston that was ‘green’. So over the tub/shower were dispensers with shampoo/conditioner/body wash. Over the sink soap/hand cream and body lotion. They did provide a small bar of soap and a request that you use towels more than once.

    In the lobby by the lifts were bins for glass/pastic/cans and paper. Apparently in the first year they saved over $1million!

    If I could just have taught them not to shut the windows and switch off the vicious aircon they would have saved even more money!

    I also detest the promise of tea/coffee making facilities when all that is provided is a coffee filter. Love the Ibis hotels in the UK with a proper ketlle and mugs – shame they don’t have them in Europe.

    BTW have you access to the currrent BBC show with Michel Roux trying to turn a group of people into decent service staff? It is a fascinating study into all that is wrong in the UK – but nice to see how some of them blossom and grasp the concept that service can make or break a restaurant

  • Number two made me think of David Foster Wallace’s essay about his cruise ship holiday, and how creepy it is when you come back to find your room cleaned and a chocolate on your pillow… every time you leave the room.

  • Great list…I do take the little bottles of soap and lotion, and I save them in a box at home and donate them to a local homeless shelter…they are very much appreciated.

  • As an ex-road warrior, I so agree with every single word you said. Boo on the high end hotels who forgo the coffee machine. And just leave my room alone, one trip a day is sufficient unless I let you know. And as far as tipping the guy who brings me my chicken noodle soup with a glass of wine at night when I’m already in my jammies, I tip. I want him to remember so that the next time I request room service, it’s prompt, right and for the convenience, i’m okay with it.

  • I for one would love to see hotels add a little mini market in the lobby with actually useful things instead of tacky post cards and overpriced coffee mugs with their logos on it. What a great service it would be if they offered things like juice, crackers, milk all at reasonable prices. I know the bottom line in a hotel is to make money, but the best way to do that is to provide valuable services to their customers. With three kids, it is so frustrating to drop $20 so my kids can have a bowl of cereal, with milk and a glass of juice for breakfast. Or to have to eat some nasty free “continental” breakfast that is day old bagels and congealed eggs. The hallmark of hospitality is service.

    And I am SO with you on the tip thing. You check into a nice hotel – you tip the valet who parks your car, the bellhop who takes your bags, the wait staff, the housekeeper, the bellhop who takes your luggage out for you, and the valet who brings you your car. Wouldn’t it just be simpler to charge me a little more and pay their staff better?

  • #4 and #5 make me so glad I live in Australia, where people get paid a good enough basic wage that tipping isn’t a part of the expectation. I’m so much happier controlling my own luggage and things anyway!

    That said, I think I’d willingly go for tipping if it meant that hotels in Australia had free internet. Almost none of them do, it seems…

  • I love staying at the Fairmont Hotels – at least in Canada. They are not allowed to take “tips” (that little something extra). They must have seen your list somewhere lying around. You don’t get a mini bar stocked unless you ask for it to be. They all have coffee pots and a variety of coffee and teas. If you belong to the President’s Club (which is free… you just need to bother to sign up) all internet access is free and usually wireless service all over the hotel. I could go on and on and on. They do have the little bottles of shampoo and I do appreciate how many of the NH hotels refill theirs with a lovely product – but, I do believe these little bottles are refilled at the Fairmont. They are not sealed. After staying at the Paliser in Calgary so many times, The Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper and the Banff Springs… all in my lovely home province of Alberta… with the Hotel McDonald in my city – I can’t praise them enough. And, I do not work for them or get any discount for singing this song. I really like NH when I travel Europe and find their quality of service “usually” exceptional (unless they have just bought out a hotel and are still retraining lazy staff) :)
    But, I do not travel for work. I only travel for pleasure… so, probably have not hit the huge variety of hotels you have.
    :)
    Valerie

  • David, I’m totally with you on this one : “The greatest joy in life is waking up, slipping on a bathrobe, and drinking coffee without anyone bothering you. I live for that moment every day”.
    Love it :)

  • People need to tip the maids! My mother is a maid at a hotel and is rarely tipped, though she definetly works harder than bellhops and room service servers. I don’t know if its just a Canadian/American problem, or if its everywhere, but a couple dollars wont hurt you. My mother comes home tired each day, it is not an easy job.

    Its a very small thing you can do, and trust me, its much appreciated :)

  • If you’re going to have ethernet, then provide cables long enough so one can surf while lying in bed. Those desks are rarely comfortable. And honestly, wifi throughout isn’t all that difficult to arrange.

    It seems to me now that even higher end hotels are going the plastic and cardboard way for coffee cups and such. I long for the days of real dishes and real glasses.

  • Great post- and didnt realize that tip and gratuity are not necessarily the same thing!

    And as someone who works for that fairly well known coffee company that dons a siren and star adorned crown..good coffee in each room with a press or pour over melitta and kettle gets my vote! Next time you are in Seattle, just send me an email, I’d love to arrange a tour and cupping!

  • I love the hotels that use large refillable bottles. However, I do collect those little bottles. I save them up until I have a large bagful of the lotions, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, shower caps, and sewing kits and take them to my local safehouse for abused women and children. They really appreciate it. They really need it.

  • Regarding the bottle soaps– there is a non profit organization working with the hospitality industry to collect these soaps ‘In an effort to prevent needless deaths from occurring, Clean the World distributes recycled soap products, along with appropriate educational materials, to impoverished countries worldwide, and to domestic homeless shelters.’ You can check their listing to see what hotels or b&b’s are participating
    http://www.cleantheworld.org/default.asp

    Always a great conversation here on your page David. Many thanks.

  • To the people that said that big refillable bottles aren’t practical – they’re the norm here in Japan. I’ve seen them in the States too, here and there. Usually there’s a dispenser on the wall that has shampoo, conditioner, and body soap. It’s totally possible to brand them if hotels want. Cuts down on waste, and labor too I think. Just top them off if they get, say, to around half full.

  • I hate needing a crowbar to get into bed and between the sheets. Please use fitted bottom sheets so that when the guest pulls out the tucked-in top sheet, they don’t have to remake the bed. Also, a hot water pot for tea or cup-o-soup would be nice with a couple of nice tea bags to go with it. A ceramic (not plastic) mug makes tea or coffee taste so much better.

  • coffee, coffee, coffee. I can’t agree more. and if they want t set up one in my bedroom at home at the same time, I wouldn’t say no! x

  • Tadu: It just doesn’t make sense to drink water shipped from halfway around the world when most of the time, there’s a decent local water or tap water is available. The city of Paris is trying to wean people here off bottled water, which is a challenge, but I’m glad they’re taking it on.

    Alexandra: I tip maids if I stay longer than one night, which I believe is sort of “the rule”. Most work pretty hard and I’m sure are not well paid. (I tip them even at all-inclusive hotels.) But I once got an envelope on my bed with a note requesting a tip which I thought was a bit tacky and when I checked out, I told the hotel they should raise the price of the room and pay people better. (And I did leave a tip.)

    Coren: When I worked in some restaurants, tips were split amongst the staff; cash or ones left on credit cards. One place I worked eventually did away with tips, added a service charge, and paid everyone more to even it all out & equalize the difference between what the kitchen staff made as opposed to the dining room staff.

    In the case of room service, I thought the ‘service charge’ was meant to be the amount that was paid for the ‘hassle factor’ of the additional service provided, and that the tip or gratuity was for the staff member(s) that directly provided the service.

  • You can find citrons at the local New Season’s Market in Portland. I see them all the time in the winter.

  • I hope I don’t have to spend as much time in hotels as you do, but if that is the case, then I would love to see them switch to ceramic floors, give out more towels, better coffee, etc. Your comments and observations are right on the money (as usual with you!) :)

  • i definitely think new and young hotels are starting getting these things right (or better) -it’s mostly a problem with old establishments stuck in ideas of how it should be. I often stay in a hotel in London called the hoxton, which apart from the interior design always makes me think they really have got things right, and though it’s not my favourite hotel, is incredibly user friendly and seem to have taken your whole list to heart. tea and cofffe in every room, fresh milk for free in the fridge, free (and super fast) internet and all local calls charged as normal (not the super crazy hotel prices), all things you might want normally stacked in a minibar is available in the reception for normal shop prices and the mood is very casual . the tipping system in the US always freaks me out -personally the worst for me is SLOW internet, and bad A/C – and i hate when the sheets are tucked under and your feet are like stuck in a sleeping bag!

  • oh and one more hate: rooms where you have to unplug the Tv or Fridge to find a power outlet. why is so hard to understand that most people need at least 2 outlets for phone and laptop???

  • As a tea drinking Australian, I expect to find a kettle in my room – it is standard in hotels here and in a lot of Asian countries as well. I am not sure what the danger is as most Australians have been brought up boiling kettles and making tea. apart from that I reckon your guidelines are pretty good.

  • Hello David, I hope you’ll have the chance to visit Asia, especially SouthEast, and you can get to try our hotels. I will not say more except that your list will be the shortest ever, if there will be anything to complain about.
    I love your blogs!!

  • Simian: I actually found some of the older, established hotels have made themselves ‘hip’ on this trip by offering recycling bins in rooms, good sheets, and several other ‘green’ touches.

    But I was surprised at how over air-conditioned all the hotels (and airport and stores) were on this trip. I was in Texas and the outside temperature was literally 40ºF and no matter what hotel I check in to, the AC was set at a frosty 65ºF. Am not sure why anyone would turn on the AC when it’s that cold outside, as I know it’s very expensive to run.

    Priscilla: In the states, a lot of hotels likely have to worry about people burning themselves so they have to make things as safe as possible. For similar reasons, a good many hotels have windows that you can’t open which is unfortunate during warmer months since you have to rely on AC, which is really noisy when you’re trying to sleep, as well as not being very ecologically efficient.

  • I read or scanned most of the comments and didn’t see a mention of the new Keurig machines for coffee or tea. We stayed at a hotel in DC where there was one in the room. Instant hot water, slip in your little sealed cup of whatever you wanted, and in seconds you had a warm, comforting drink.

    Yes, the A/C is a huge problem. In this $300 a night hotel, the noise was loud, and there was a faint odor. After I returned home, I was sick for 2 months. Did I pick up a “bug” from a unit that was not properly cleaned or serviced? From then on, if there’s any odor in the room, I ask for a change before I unpack.

    We could all complain about hotels here, but oh, my gosh, France has some of the worst! Staff is rude, elevators tiny, rooms dark with few windows, noisy, and more negatives. However, the Nevons in L’isle sur la Sorgue has the most delightful owners, at least when I was there. Makes up for every bad hotel.

  • As a guy from civilized, continental Europe ;-), I live in a country where restaurants, hotels and similar business units display “All included, prices & taxes”. Really what you will pay.
    When service has been great (or even simply fair), I would live an extra “tip”. When very basic or bad, I would not leave any extra.
    The US system for restaurants and hotels is a maze for customers like me. You start from a displayed price, sometimes quite reasonnable, then you end up with a bill that is 20 or 25% higher, adding taxes, gratuities, tips, service charges or whatever. I don’t find this customer friendly, it is simply unfair and illogical.
    I mean, a meal in a restaurant is basically 2 things: food & service. Plus extra costs to pay for the owner, like taxes, rent…
    No need to get a MBA to combine it in a clear, “all included” price” (and indeed, by law, all restaurants do this in my home country).
    I don’t mind paying an extra $20 when my pharmacist brings me medicines at home in the evening, This is an extra offer to his job, and he should not do it for free. But the “added gratuity & tips & charges” mean you would consider service in a restaurant is something “extra” to their standard offer? This is simply ridiculous and illogical!
    Agree with most other remarks.
    One point where the US now clearly beats Europe is bedding & sheets, I have no idea why, but it seems most US accommodations, including B&Bs or low cost chains, made a lot of effort in this area these past years!
    ..

  • I just wanted to say that I love your blog, David.

  • Marie B: I dunno, I have to disagree a bit about hotels in France. Usually the ones I’ve stayed in, either at the lower end or ‘chain’ hotels (like Ibis or Campanile) are clean and pretty friendly. Perhaps in cities like Paris, there’s a wide variation but if you leave for other parts of the country you can find well-run hotels still owned by families. Of course, those are disappearing but I’ve had pretty food luck. So far.

    (Although it was funny a few years ago I was staying in a small hotel near the Rhône with a bunch of American pastry chefs, and one was shocked that the croissants served at breakfast were previously frozen and the yogurt “wasn’t from a local farm.” Um…)

    Djinnz: Yes, it doesn’t really make sense. However that’s pretty much the way it is in the states and people are reluctant to change. There is an interesting proliferation of tip jars, everywhere from dry cleaners to DVD rental places. I guess I always feel that if people aren’t making enough money, prices should be increased to ensure they get paid enough. Leaving it to random chance doesn’t seem like a better choice.

    Ulrika: Thanks! : )

  • One of my biggest hotel pet peeves (besides the one you mention) is that sticker they put in the bathroom about how much they care about the environment, and do you, dear guest, know how much water and detergent is used every day to wash all the hotel towels of the world, and would you, dear guest, help us do something about this and let us know if you are willing to use your towel another time by putting it on the towel rack?
    Yes, I, too, find it ridiculous to get a clean set of towels for every single shower so I always dutifully hang the towel on the rack instead of throwing it on the floor, which would be their cue to replace it.
    I travel quite a bit and it´s NEVER happened that they leave the old towel on the rack: I always come back to find all the towels changed. Why be so smug about that ´caring for the environment´ thing when you don´t practice what you preach?

  • For many years the Hotel/Motel industry has always defied common sense when it comes to what travelers need. I just assumed as a “guest” I am usually stuck with what ever the hotel thinks they can get away with as far as charges and service. I’ve sat through city Plan Commission meetings as neighborhood supporter and listened to some really outrageous justifications by Hotel/Motel executives for what they think they can get away with.

    In Kansas City the major areas for Hotels are also located in, thanks to Developers, “Improvement Districts”. The short explanation of which gives Developers and large commercial property owners their state and city taxes back in return for things homeowners have to do on their own and a portion of their employees state taxes returned to the developer’s pocket. Areas around convention centers also have extra taxes on hotel/motel and restaurants. I seem to remember Atlanta has the highest tax on this at over 22%, I’ve forgotten the term for the tax and google was not my friend when I tried to search for it. 10 years ago Kansas City’s downtown district was tacking on an extra 17%. I don’t travel much any more and I don’t miss the guess the extra charges game.

  • So true, David. As a recently retired road warrior, I remember when Starwood started the focus on beds with their Heavenly Bed installations, complete with comfy duvets and enough pillows. Previously I only found them in European hotels, and not many of those. I’ve noticed a slight improvement in electrical outlet access as some places now have a power strip on the desk. I travel with an extension cord for my CPAP so I don’t have to unplug either the lamp or the clock radio for it, and a 3-way tap to support my laptop and rechargers at the desk. But fooling around down at the outlets in back of the desk is not fun. Finally, amen to the early post about decent reading lights at bedside – I can’t be the only reader out there!
    Wonderful blog, David, I’m hooked.

  • I’ve worked in hotels for years and enjoy what I do. I’ve worked in every single department in a hotel (including upper management). After working as a general manager for a very tightfisted owner, that experience has turned me off of ever wanting to work in management again – and I’m currently a guest services trainer bouncing between hotels owned by the fellow I work for. That said, I have some knowledge of the level of service and amenities that usually go into a hotel, and its customer service.

    I’ve been lucky enough to work in some wonderful hotels, and the misfortune to work in some absolutely craptacular ones. In my experience, a lot of hotels (especially here in the US) are part of a chain (but independently owned and operated), and so there are requirements that each owner must meet, and consistently offer to their guests.

    An example: the coffee machines and tea kettles… in the US, most of the mid-level chains are required to have just a standard 4-cup coffeemaker in the rooms. The chain makes this a requirement, but doesn’t tell the owners/operators what KIND they have to have in there. Most times, it will likely be your basic, cheapie 4-cupper in the room. Keurig and Senseo? Those are fairly new to the hotel/motel world and most likely won’t be a regular thing in the rooms until maybe 10-15 years down the line. (I might be exaggerating, but there’s your example.) Tea kettles? Not in Starbucks/coffee-addicted America… unless you’re lucky enough to be in a high-end hotel that has them. And even THEN – there’s the issue of guest use. I work in a hotel now that offers single-serve coffeemakers in the rooms, and the guests we get here (of all ages) call our desk constantly saying that the carafe is missing from their coffeemaker – never mind that there are laminated cards in the room with directions explaining how the coffeemakers work.

    Housekeepers – I’ve stayed in hotels that have had the envelopes from the housekeepers too, and thought it was tacky… but a lot of places have them. I wish they would pay them a decent rate – as far as I’m concerned, they have the hardest job of anyone in a hotel and should be paid more than a front desk clerk. My rule of thumb when I travel is that the housekeepers get paid $2 per day for every person that is staying with me; if it’s 2 of us and we’re staying 5 days, they get $20 when we check out. I don’t suggest that for everyone, but I do that because I know what they have to deal with. Another thing too – I don’t leave the tip in the room. I have no way of knowing if a supervisor/inspector is checking the rooms and taking the tips (which has occurred often enough), and I always want to make sure the housekeeper/s responsible for our room gets that tip s/he earned. A comment card or letter praising your housekeeper/s is also appreciated, especially in hotels where they value employees that go the extra mile for their guests.

    One more thing… Loyalty programs… strongly suggested. Wyndham Hotels has an especially great one (ByRequest) that offers free Internet (along with bottled water, drink and snack of choice) – other loyalty programs offer similar deals. Get with one – even if you only stay once, it can save you a heck of a lot of headaches. (With ByRequest, the wine and beer offerings doesn’t hurt either!)

    Sorry it’s so long, but I just wanted to add something to the discussion. :D

  • I can’t say if this is true in every city, but where I live, the shampoos, soaps, conditioners, creams, etc that are opened and left behind in hotels get donated to a local homeless shelter. These are then given out to people when the shower. Hopefully all places did this, but I imagine that’s not always the case…

  • I worked at a posh hotel in Kentucky that offered very high-end shampoo/lotion/soap in the bathrooms, in tiny bottles (except the soap was in full-sized bars). Wondering if I could maybe snag a random unused or slightly-used bar or bottle from housekeeping, I asked what happened to them after a guest checked out. Turns out everything, used or not, was donated to local homeless shelters, where they were hugely appreciated, as many have already noted.

    I bet many hotels in the US do in fact donate those tiny bottles, rather than throwing them out. Maybe ask the front desk next time you check in.

  • I am all for the mini shampoos, etc. I bring my own in a small plastic bottle… my hair does not do well with changes. Then I put each gift from the hotel and its daily replacement, into my bag and take it home to drop off at one of the charities that work with the homeless. They are very apprciative. I use the first soaps but the rest join the shampoo.
    As to the tea. You can’t make tea in a coffeepot, even if you could get it to boiling, which you can’t. For years I have carried a small electric kettle when I travel in the U.S. Though lately that has been limited to auto travel

  • Regarding your comment about your toothbrush, they have done tests on toothbrushes which have shown that they usually test positive for fecal matter, less so when you flush with the toilet seat down. So you really don’t want to have a coffee maker or any other food/drinks in the bathroom.

  • One property I worked for went from being a Wyndham to an Intercontinental a few years ago – which required all new toiletries. The hotel donated the Wyndham toiletries to local shelters. To my knowledge, this is becoming common practice in a lot of hotels, especially when brand requirements include a complete overhaul/update of the toiletries.

  • Being a bell-hop is a bit like gambling. Some guests truly enjoy your services, come to again and again during their stay, chit chat with you on entering and exiting the hotel and stick a 5, 10, 20 or even 100 dollar bill in you hand when they check-out. A good guest is like winning the jack-pot.

    I’ve managed the Guest Services (bell, concierge, drivers) staff for 5 years of my career in hospitality and in this position (even as a woman) I’ve had to fill in on many occasion and or spend time working side by-side on busy days or for big events. It really is a fun people oriented job, but the sad part is that the guest services staff likely make minimum wage, because the financial structure of the hotel assumes them to be a “tipped” position.

    I say it is like gambling, because one day you may make wonderful tips and actually make a decent wage and others you just scrape by. When I travel I use the bell staff if I can, talk to them, ask them for recommendations, history of the area, whatever and tip generously, because I know it can make their day. Bell-hops often have families to feed and frankly, if their wage was purely paid by the hotel they’d make maybe $2 to $4 an hour more in their daily wage, but would lose out on the tips, which actually make for a decent wage.

    As for Room Service — those same guys that bring your food have to walk back around the hotel fetching trays from hallways, so when it comes down to foot-work they do much more than your average server. And they also have off and on days — one day 25 people want breakfast at exactly 7:30 AM (an impossible feet for one guy with one elevator) and the next day no one orders at all. Room Service employees also make a servers wage, and so they also depend on tips to make a living. If you don’t want to give them a tip, don’t order room service (the gratuity, like others said, is split between staff).

    I think that there has to be a way to have refillable containers for the soaps and such and I am in fact pretty sure I stayed someplace in the last few years (maybe in San Fran) that in fact had a dispenser in the shower. At my last hotel (privately owned) we indeed found that many conservation measures, while upfront a change in how things were done, ultimately saved money and sometimes even time, contributing to a better bottom line.

  • You are so right about the folks in the service/food biz working hard for little money. Long hours, hard work–especially when others are off on holidays–and poor pay. I think that applies to most cookbook authors, too! People seem to imagine that you just wander into the kitchen and create a recipe once in a while when the mood strikes. Maybe if more knew the real story, fewer would be aspiring to write their own cookbooks some day!

  • There are a number of B&Bs in Santa Fe that are really top notch. And then there’s Ten Thousand Waves, where the room comes with a pass to their outdoor hot tub, free wi-fi, microwave and fridge, tea and coffee (and a cold filter for Santa Fe’s already delicious tap water.) No tiny bottles; they put full sized Yuzu or Hinoki shampoo, conditioning and lotion in each room. You can buy them in the gift shop (and I always do.) There’s no room service. You can get sandwiches, salads, and ice cream in the gift shop, or they provide the phone number to the local service that delivers delicious food from a number of excellent restaurants. Since food is one of the main reasons to go to Santa Fe anyway, I appreciate the ability to get it delivered to a Japanese spa halfway up the mountain so I don’t have to change out of my kimono and drive down to town.

    That came out as more of an advertisement than I’d intended. Apparently it’s time for vacation again.

  • As for the shampoo, soaps, lotions, etc. we donate them to a local ministry that helps those who are homeless or unemployed.

  • Alison: I still don’t understand who gets the ‘service charge’. If a bag of crackers in the minibar is $5, who get’s the 10% ($1) service charge? Does the staff divide that extra dollar, or does the hotel pocket that? If the hotel takes that, why not just charge $6 since it’s all going to the same place (the hotel) anyways.

    And as you mentioned, since the servers depend on those tips, it seems to me that it would be better just to include that tip in the bill as well, in the same manner as the gratuity that the rest of the staff splits, so that they would be assured of getting that amount for their work. Wouldn’t that make more sense?

    Nancy: Ha! I met someone who was really surprised we didn’t all fly first class. I’ll let you digest that for a minute ; )

    KosherCorvid: I went there once and it was indeed, an exceptional place. Thanks for reminding me…now I want to go back!

    Andrea: I read something where they scanned the home of people with babies and there was all sorts of…um…stuff, everywhere. Even in the kitchen and other places where you’d least expect it. (I just assumed all parents scrubbed their hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds after handling their kids or their unmentionables.) Luckily, I think, we’ve developed a resistance to a lot of that stuff. But I’m staying out of the homes of anyone with a baby. And away from shopping carts. And door knobs.

  • @Kate, I work in city planning/development and what you’re describing sounds more like incentives to get hotels developed rather than for operations of the hotels. Usually, this is to encourage developers to actually develop hotels in places where it’s not financially feasible to do so, because the city or whatever has decided they need it to bring additional money to the city (in the form of tourism expenditures, etc). The convention center taxes are used to either fund the tourism development offices or construction of the convention center. If this doesn’t exist, the cities don’t really get taxes, because the sales tax goes to the state (for the most part.)

    @Klary–agreed on the sticker! What annoys me about it is that it’s very clear the only thing the hotelier really cares about is 1.) making itself seem green for p.r. purposes and 2.) saving money on laundry/utilities.

    After reading the comments, it reminded me of another thing…I really like it when hotels have disposable cups. While it counters the green trends, those reusable cups don’t get sanitized. (After my cleaning wipes comment, I should say I’m not a germiphobe, just with hotels!)

  • David, David, David, I am a New York, Jewish grandmother who has worked in the hotel industry my entire life. I could answer every one of you “problems” but it would take too long, so I’ll try to make it quick, and I’ll forward your post to my General Manager. We use little bottles (in the bathroom and for condiments) for sanitary reasons. Yes they are wasteful and very expensive, but we wouldn’t want our guests getting sick in any way from sharing. Also, if you don’t want anyone to disturb you in your room, kindly place the privacy sign on the door. You can call when you need something and no one will bother you. And if you would like extra chocolates, just ask and we will bring a bowl full. The converse is also true. If you have your privacy sign all the time, you might miss a lovely amenity delivery — but that’s your choice. As far as tipping goes, just tip what feels right to you. If you are okay with the amount added to the check, that’s fine. Some people, however, are very generous. Just like the Ladies and Gentlemen I work with bend over backwards and do back flips to please guests at the hotel, there are guests, (quite a few, thank goodness), who really, really appreciate what we do for them The line on the check for an additional gratuity is for them. And finally, all of your wishes could come true if you stay at my hotel company, (the BEST one in the world). We have a data base where we list all of your preferences and we fulfill them each and every time you stay — except of course the little bottles — I think they are staying. Happy travels, Linda