20 Secrets Hotel Employees Won't Tell You

Including the dark truth about that ice bucket.

hotels can overbook and pay for your room elsewhere

Hotel stays. Ahhh, they feel so glamorous, decadent, and full of wonder. Not only is there a big white bed to jump up and down on—and a wide range of intoxicants in a nearby cupboard—but you can also summon people to bring you food, make your bed, fetch fresh towels whenever you so desire. The truth is that all of those creature comforts blind us from the behind-the-scenes action. With that in mind, here are the top hotel employee secrets that no one is telling you about. And for more tricks of the trade, read up on the 20 Secrets Your Flight Attendant Won't Tell You.

You should check the hotel's online rate before calling.

hotel employee secrets

Hotels get a lot of their business via booking sites these days, which doesn't come for free. Some pay as much as a 25 percent commission fee. Your move: Find a deal you like, then call the hotel and ask to speak with a supervisor. Ask if you can get a better rate than the one your cursor is hovering over. Given the chance, many places will offer you a cheaper rate to book with them directly. And for more sweet hotel secrets, be sure to read up on the One Best Way to Get Your Hotel Room Comped.

They speed-clean your room.

hotel employee secrets

Standard check out is usually around 11:00am. Check in is usually in the mid-afternoon. What that means is that hotel housekeepers have a small window to clean anywhere between 10 to 30 rooms. That could give them as little as 15 minutes to clean each room, a process that entails changing used towels and linens for fresh ones, replacing glasses and coffee cups, checking and restocking the minibar, and getting rid of any trash. Given the time crunch, it's unlikely that your pristine-looking room would fare well under a blacklight. And if you're traveling soon, know these tricks for sleeping on any airplane. 

You get what you paid for.

hotel employee secrets

You scored a cheap hotel room on a website? Good for you. You should remember that the hotel staff knows that you got a bargain and will match what you paid with a commensurate room. By all means, get a incredible deal on a hotel room. Just don't expect the room, the view, or the amenities to be quite as incredible.

Your concierge's recommendations may have been paid for.

hotel employee secrets

Local businesses are working all the angles to get more people into their establishments and spending money. Consequently, they're not above incentivizing concierges to guide tourists and business travelers towards them. We're not saying that you should abhor their advice; but just be sure to see how it lines up with reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Remember: Trust but verify.

Not all stars are created equal.

hotel employee secrets

Here's another way that user-review apps are changing the way people select where they stay: Traditional star ratings are based on the number of amenities a hotel has, the size of the rooms, the number of electrical outlets they have, and so on. What they don't cover is the element that can make a stay great or an ordeal: The people who work there.

As a result, the star rating from guests on apps is becoming more important than the official star rating system. If the hotel touts a 4-star rating but guests rate it with one star, consider looking to stay somewhere else.

Yes, there have been deaths on the premises.

hotel employee secrets

Via natural causes or otherwise, people die in hotels—a fact that hotel staff are instructed to keep on the DL at all costs. This information is tightly controlled to both prevent bad publicity and "dark tourism."

Tip nightly.

hotel employee secrets

If you're staying in the same hotel for several nights, there's no guarantee you will have the same housekeeper; many hotels have regularly rotating crews of cleaning staff. So leave a tip for your housekeeper every day of your stay. A good rule of thumb is $5 a day for three-star hotels, $10 a day for four stars, and $20 a day for five stars. Why? Well, more stars typically means more amenities, a larger room, and ultimately more work for the housekeeper.

Be clear with your gratuity.

hotel employee secrets

Reddit user JustBeth22, a hotel maid who works at a four-star hotel in upstate New York, estimates that only 40 percent of guests leave a tip. If you decide to leave a tip, put it under the pillow and leave a note with it so it is clear who it is for.

If it's not on the menu, still ask for a kid's size meal.

hotel employee secrets

If you're bringing the kids, check that the hotel offers children's portions on the room service menu. If not, ask the kitchen if they will a make a child-size plate. They'll almost certainly accommodate you and probably give you a discount, too.

Independently-owned hotels aren't as pricey.

hotel employee secrets

Hotel chains have policies that make it tricky to drop the rate in an ad hoc way. Also, by choosing an independent hotel, you'll feel more plugged in to the neighborhood in which you're staying.

You can get what you want without asking for it specifically.

hotel employee secrets

Asking for a room upgrade while other guests are in earshot puts the front desk person in an awkward spot and will lessen your chances of getting what your want. A better tactic for snagging a more spacious room without paying more is to request a "corner room." Smooth.

You can get an upgrade by arriving early.

hotel employee secrets

That old saying about the early bird catching the worm may ring true when it comes to getting an upgrade. If you show up when rooms are being prepped and inventoried for the day and happen to get an accommodating desk agent, you just might be able to talk your way into a nicer room. And if you're looking for ways to spice up your new bedroom, consider bringing one of these.

Freebies are negotiable.

hotel employee secrets

One of the downsides of a hotel stay is the inescapable feeling of being nickel-and-dimed for every little thing. However, if you call up and request basic amenities in advance of your stay, you may be able to get them for free. At checkout, review the bill to be sure you've been given what you were promised.

It pays to be nice.

hotel employee secrets

If you travel to same location frequently, use the same hotel, and consistently turn on your charming side, you might notice some free upgrades coming your way.

Hotels sometimes "walk" their guests.

hotel employee secrets

The no-show rate at a hotel is around 10 percent. To ensure as many rooms as possible are occupied, many hotels will book at up to 110 percent capacity. That can lead to a situation in which a guest with a reservation is walked, meaning that the hotel has to fork out for a night's room and tax at another comparable hotel in the area. A guest is more likely to get "walked" if they booked through Expedia (or similar) for a deeply discounted rate, or if they are only staying for one night.

Sometimes it's "finders keepers."

hotel employee secrets

Generally speaking, it's policy that hotel maids must must report any items they find left behind in a room after a guest checks out. If the items go unclaimed for a certain amount of of time—weeks, not hours—some hotels allow maids to keep the items they've found.

"They're supposed to go back to the person who found them and anything they don't want is donated to charity, but usually the supervisors go through and take the good stuff first," said user Booboo_the_bear, a maid who has worked in several five-stars hotels, in a Reddit Ask Me Anything interview session, adding that she scored a hair straightener and a designer jacket. Another maid said that housekeeping staff often fight for the more expensive rooms or suites because better items are left behind for the taking.

You're ultimately paying for location.

hotel employee secrets

If you're planning on visiting a major city, think twice before paying for a room that puts you in the thick of it. While it's neat to be able to be a short walk away from, say, midtown Manhattan's major sights, putting a 6-minute subway ride (or, in other words, a 20-minute stroll) between your hotel and the beating heart of the city could save you a significant amount of money. What's more, you can discover a neighborhood you may not have seen otherwise. And who knows: You may even prefer hanging out there.

Oh, and about that bedspread…

hotel employee secrets

It's quite is possible that a hotel bedspread might only be changed four times a year. Or at least that's what Reneta McCarthy, a former housekeeping manager for a major American hotel chain, told CNN. And you're not even safe with a duvet that has a removable cover. McCarthy added that if there is a top sheet between the duvet and the bed, the cover might not be washed between guests. You're best off taking that thing off the bed before you get in it.

….and while we're at it, that ice bucket.

hotel employee secrets

People tend to cut loose when they are away from home, especially when a cornucopia of alcohol is within easy reach. Maybe that's why hotel housecleaning staff find a prodigious amount of vomit as they go about their duties. A popular receptacle for barf, it turns out, is the ice bucket. So maybe don't use it without a liner. Or just drink in the lobby. Just be sure you're staying at a place with one of the 20 Best Hotel Bar In America.

Complain intelligently.

hotel employee secrets

Even though the front desk is your point of contact when something goes away, most issues aren't caused by the folks staffing it. Outline your problem to whomever you get on the phone and then ask whom you should speak with to solve it. "Should I speak to a manager about this?" "Should I speak to housekeeping about this?" Most of the time, the front desk will either be able to solve the problem themselves or act as your proxy with the person or people who can fix it.

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