They’re apathetic. They’re never around when you need them. And they lie.
I asked what annoyed guests most about hotels, and that’s what readers told me. Properties whose employees are indifferent to your comfort, turn their backs on you, or bend the facts nettle you the most.
You’ve probably read about bothersome hotel guests lately. A few weeks ago, an online travel agency even published a survey on problem travelers, and it named “inattentive parents” as the most annoying hotel guests. But is that what really grates on your nerves?
No, travelers tell me. It’s inattentive hotel employees.
“It’s the bellmen who talk with one another rather than helping their guests carry luggage and open doors,” says Doug Devitre, an educational consultant based in St. Louis. “It’s the buffet service that seats you and leaves the bill without doing anything else.”
Turns out there are a lot of things that tick us off about hotels. And, fortunately, there are ways to un-tick us, too.
The most-cited aggravation, by far, is the hotel employee who doesn’t offer all the facts. Adam Dailey, an entrepreneur from San Diego, recalls checking into a hotel recently at 9 a.m. after arriving on a red-eye flight from California.
“They told me that no rooms were available,” he remembers. “Then I heard them say to each other a few minutes later that they were not full.”
Hotel insiders could offer any of a number of explanations for why they wouldn’t be able to offer Dailey one of the apparently free rooms. But that’s not the problem — the issue is that the front desk employees, with their careless banter, led him to believe they were not being entirely truthful.
Here’s something else that drives guests crazy: “Getting an old room when there’s a newly renovated room on another floor that is the same rate,” says Emmy Trinh, a jewelry designer from Vancouver. No one knows why some guests are sent to the good rooms and some are relegated to the ones in dire need of an update. Is it loyalty status? Luck of the draw?
It matters not. It vexes guests.
Furniture can bother visitors, too. Patrick Smith, an airline pilot whose book called Cockpit Confidential includes a section about hotel rooms, says anything from a toe-breaking doorjamb to an ergonomically hellish work space can drive a guest crazy.
But the most annoying thing of all are the little cardboard brochures that litter even the most upscale hotel rooms, Smith says. The ones that advertise everything from room service to Wi-Fi. They’re everywhere, silently ordering you to eat more, watch pay-per-view or save the environment.
“It’d be one thing if this laminated litter was placed unobtrusively,” he says, “but it tends to be exactly in the way.”
Why don’t you see more guest surveys about these obvious irritants? Maybe hotels don’t want to know. Cardboard ads are an opportunity to upsell their guests, so perhaps they’re indifferent if they annoy you.
Got a problem with a run-down room? Come back after the renovation, and you’ll be happier. And I’m sure I can find a revenue manager to explain the one about hotels that are booked solid, yet have empty rooms. I won’t bother.
Don’t get distracted by surveys that suggest we’re upset with other guests. We know who’s putting these bees in our bonnets, and it’s not other travelers.
How to respond to poor service:
• Speak up. Complain in the moment when something happens. Don’t wait until you get home to fire off a letter to the general manager. The only way your hotel can fix your problem is if they know about it.
• Keep your party smile ready. Be nice and friendly, especially when you’re inconvenienced. Employees are more likely to react defensively when faced with anger. And don’t forget to say “thank you.” “Hotel staff are always willing to help guests who are appreciative,” Trinh says.
• Don’t come back. The best way to show your displeasure with an inconsiderate employee or a room that’s not to your liking is to stop giving the hotel your business. Don’t forget to fill out the guest comment card and let them know why. For the most egregious cases, talk to your corporate travel manager about the hotel’s contract.