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20 Secrets Hotel Employees Won't Tell You

They could give you an upgrade—if you know what to ask for.

Hotel stays seem like the epitome of relaxation. Who hasn't dropped their bags and immediately jumped on the huge, white bed, or snuggled up in a fluffy robe, or broken into the mini bar (hey, we don't judge!). You can also summon staff to bring you food, make your bed, fetch fresh towels, or whatever you so desire. But the truth is that all of these creature comforts blind us from the mind-blowing action behind-the-scenes. Here, we reveal the craziest hotel employee secrets that no one is telling you about.

They speed-clean your room.

hotel employee secrets

Standard check-out is usually around 11 a.m. while 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. According to, that could give them as little as 15 minutes to clean each room, a process that entails changing towels and linens, 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.

They barely wash the bedspread.

a couple laying down on their hotel bed

It's quite 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. Your best bet? Take it off the bed before you get in it.

They often find vomit in the ice bucket.

wine glasses

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.

Former hotel worker Christophe Lambert told Yahoo Canada that it's the most offensive place in the hotel room. "So the vomit buckets, AKA the ice buckets, I wouldn't use those unless you have a liner and this is regardless of the calibre of hotel you're staying at. Just don't touch it," he warned.

They might give you a cheaper room rate if you call.

hotel employee secrets

Hotels get a lot of their business via booking sites, 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, reports TripSavvy.

Their concierge's recommendations may have been paid for.

Beautiful hotel receptionist standing behind counter talking to unrecognizable male guest smiling

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 with referral fees. We're not saying that you should ignore their advice but maybe take it with a grain of salt. Be sure to check how their recs line up with reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Remember: Trust but verify.

Their star ratings may not be totally accurate.

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 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.

They could get you a room upgrade—if you know what to ask for.

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 you want. A better tactic for snagging a more spacious room without paying more is to request a "corner room." According to the Daily Mail, rooms that are on the corner are slightly bigger than other rooms but are not categorized as a pricier room or suite.

They might offer extra perks to guests who check in 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.

They could provide free amenities if you ask in advance.

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.

They are likely to give repeat guests special treatment.

hotel employee secrets

If you travel to the same location frequently, use the same hotel, and consistently turn on your charming side, you might notice some free upgrades coming your way. It pays to be a return customer (and a kind person, in general).

They sometimes bump guests from their rooms if the hotel is overbooked.

hotel employee secrets

Have you ever been booted from a flight because it's been overbooked? Well, it can happen at hotels too. According to The Points Guy, some hotels may intentionally oversell rooms to "maximize profits in the face of inevitable no-shows, just like the airlines."

This can lead to a situation in which a guest with a reservation is "walked," meaning that the hotel has to pay 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 online travel agencies) for a deeply discounted rate, or if they are only staying for one night.

The housekeepers occasionally claim lost-and-found items.

hotel room service

Generally speaking, it's a normal policy that hotel maids 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 Reddit user Booboo_the_bear, a maid who has worked in several five-stars hotels. She added 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.

There have been deaths on the premises.

hotel employee secrets

People die in hotel rooms way more often than you think—whether of natural causes or otherwise—and 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" from those who may want to stay in a hotel, or even a room, where a celebrity has died.

"Hotels go to great lengths to not release room numbers, especially in the case of a celebrity death," reported the Huffington Post. "This prevents dark tourists and whackjob fans who want to stay exactly where their hero/ine died. Room numbers end up becoming public knowledge thanks to 911 tapes or court papers, but you will never hear of a hotelier discussing a specific room and such topics."

Housekeepers should be tipped every night.

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.

They can't always find 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.

They can usually make a kid's meal, even if it's not on the menu.

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.

They will give you what you pay for.

hotel employee secrets

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

There might be a cheaper room at a boutique hotel nearby.

hotel employee secrets

Independently-owned hotels aren't as pricey as hotel chains that 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.

They charge more for a central location.

Brooklyn Bridge Secret Spaces in Landmarks

If you're planning on visiting a major city, think twice before paying for a hotel in the heart of town. While it's neat to be a short walk away from, say, midtown Manhattan's major sights, being a six-minute subway ride (or, in other words, a 20-minute stroll) away from the tourist area could save you a significant amount of money. What's more, you can discover a neighborhood you may not have seen otherwise.

They don't mind kind complaints.

hotel concierge on computer

Even though the front desk is your point of contact when something goes awry, 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?" or "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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