No recent story has generated more hate mail than my investigation of hotels that don’t change their sheets between guests.
I use the term “investigation” lightly, since the topic was so well-covered by my colleagues that I simply reviewed some of the previous articles, told a few of your stories, and added my two cents — which is that a vast majority of hotel always change their sheets.
That didn’t go over very well with some of my readers.
“You apparently fancy yourself a crusading journalist a la Woodward and Bernstein,” scolded one hotel executive. “In fact, you’re at the vanguard of your own self-styled movement of coach-potato journalism.”
The executive went on to say that the sheet-changing story was nothing more than a myth, and berated me for not including any examples.
“I have worked in the lodging industry for 35 years and have never — repeat, never — heard of hotel, whether a budget or luxury establishment, that didn’t change it sheets between guest stayovers.”
I’m not going to embarrass this executive by naming him in my story, because it turns out, he’s wrong. But he makes a valid point. Why didn’t I include any real stories from hotel guests? And why not let someone from the industry address this issue?
Well, I did. In the online version, I linked back to a story on my site in which a woman complains about unchanged sheets on her bed. But it happened at a budget motel, where, as I say in the story, these things are thought to take place from time to time.
So was that just a single incident that made for and interesting story? Hardly.
Carolyn Golaszewski, a flight attendant for a major airline, wrote to me after the story appeared to say the dirty-sheets problem was widespread.
“Over my career, I’ve stayed in many a room that were not clean,” she told me. “Sometimes our layovers are less than nine hours so there’s no time to mess a room up. It’s still disgusting that I may be sleeping in a bed not made over. So to make sure it’s cleaned correctly I strip the bed I’ve slept in. I know it doesn’t help me but at least the next guest hopefully gets clean sheets.”
Michael Lynch, another hotel executive with more than three decades of experience, said the dirty sheets are likely just housekeeping errors, and aren’t done intentionally. And they can happen anywhere, “no matter what type of bedding or hotel.”
“It is, and always will be, buyer beware,” he added. “No industry can provide a 100 percent guaranteed clean product to its customer base. This is true from apple orchards to zebra ranchers.”
How about an example? I’m working on a changed-sheet case right now that is so disgusting, I can’t bring myself to publish all of the details. (Warning: If you are easily offended, stop reading now.) It comes to me by way of reader MA Schulman, who was a recent guest at a full-service hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla.