BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
10 Telltale Signs Your Hotel is a DISASTER
Staying in a hotel is supposed to be a treat, not a waking nightmare of unanswered complaints and shabby surroundings. These 10 signs are early warnings that you may have checked into Hotel Hell. Notice one or more of the problems here? You might want to spend your money elsewhere—and we'll show you how to make a drama-free escape should you need to.
The Check-in Equipment is Ridiculously Outdated
Is that a Compaq Deskpro you see the front desk clerk typing on? Or, worse, is there no computer at all? Really bad omen.
"If the computers have green screens and they look like they're from the '80s, that's usually a sign that not a lot of money is going into that hotel, and obviously those management systems aren't designed to streamline the process," says Jacob Tomsky, author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality. "That's a good indication the service is going to be a little outdated as well."
Maybe you're okay with the hotel's service lumbering along, but if an employee writes your credit-card number down on a piece of paper rather than swiping it into the property management system or a credit-card reader, that's a security breach waiting to happen, says Reneta McCarthy, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Worst-case scenario: Your info is stolen and distributed, which could ruin your finances in addition to your vacation. "With Payment Card Industry Compliance, hotels are not allowed to keep credit card numbers, except secure and encrypted," McCarthy says. "If someone wrote your number down, who knows what could happen. I have had my credit card number stolen from a hotel in Eastern Europe and they started purchasing furniture on it!"
The Lobby Has Seen Better Days
A hotel's lobby should be the "face of a property," Tomsky says, so if the sight of stains on the upholstery, dirty carpeting, and sagging furniture makes you wrinkle your nose in disgust, brace yourself.
"If the hotel really doesn't care about their own face, then you can expect it to get possibly worse from there," he says.
The Towels Are in Rough Shape (Literally)
Sandpaper-like bath towels aren't just unpleasant; they're a sign of neglect.
"Towels are heavily used items, obviously, in a hotel's career, so if they're scratchy, if they're hard, if they're thin, that's an indication that they've been overused and that they haven't been replaced in quite a while," Tomsky says.
The Carpeting is Wrecked
Little touch-ups in a room are fine - but note that emphasis on "little." When large swaths of carpets get involved, it's a problem.
"Usually hotels will want to renovate and keep a uniform carpet," Tomsky says. "But oftentimes, if there are spills - and people act like animals in hotel rooms, there are always spills and stains—you can see the little off-color squares, that's when they're actually cutting out carpet and re-pasting it in. That can be an indication that this hotel is just doing minor fixes than trying to increase the overall experience."
There Isn't Enough Staff on Hand
That feeling of futility when you desperately need an employee's help and all you see is tumbleweeds blowing past isn't only annoying in the moment. If you experience it once, you can expect more of the same throughout your stay.
"When a hotel decides to lower their bottom line by cutting down on staffing, that's usually the death rattle for a hotel and management," Tomsky says. "So if you walk into their lobby, and there's four people in front of you, only one desk agent, and you look around, and you can't see another employee, that's a good indication that that hotel has given up providing prompt service."
The Bathroom Requires an Exorcist
Quickly checking to ensure your bathroom has basic things like a clean toilet, a mold- and mildew-free shower and tub, and an overall clean smell could prevent a world of hurt later.
"Since hundreds of people have slept in the room before you the last thing you want to see is evidence of a previous guest, like hair and toothpaste splatters," McCarthy says. "If the room is not properly cleaned, that means it has also not been properly sanitized, which could mean that if the previous guest was sick that there may still be viruses or germs on the surfaces in the room which could make you sick."
The Staff Seems Irritable or Overwhelmed by Basic Requests
If you're in a truly terrible hotel, it probably isn't the employees' fault. The roots of poor service can run deep, with consequences that ultimately impact your experience.
"If an employee ignores me at a front desk while they finish talking to another employee or finish up a personal phone conversation or a text they are writing, without acknowledging my presence and letting me know that they will be with me in a minute, I get put on alert," McCarthy says. "This is a sign of poor training and may indicate that they management of the hotel does not place importance on excellent customer service. Just because it's a budget hotel does not mean that the guest should expect inferior service."