Hotel guests come in all shapes and sizes. Most, fortunately, behave like it was their own home, while others …
Hotel rooms division, otherwise known as "housekeeping", are the front-line workers who make sure your rooms are clean and tidy. They refill your tea and coffee, scrub out the nasties from the bathroom and vacuum the chip crumbs from in front of the television.
They've seen it all. The rock-star tantrums, the New Year's Eve party devastation and even guests who fail to check out because, er, they've already checked out in bed or the bathroom.
With the rise of sites like TripAdvisor, guests are quick to share their own tales of housekeeping horrors from cockroaches, food scraps, bathroom stains and smells and all kinds of things left (and found) in the bed covers. We've all seen the gut-wrenching black light revelations on TV and know that overworked housekeepers on a schedule are often tempted to cut corners or exact revenge on nasty guests.
Intrepid traveller and BBC presenter Michael Palin tells the story of a particularly memorable stay in China that did not require any UV detection.
"From the filthy, littered courtyard to the soulless concrete rooms with broken windows and the foul, doorless lavatories, Rongbuk Guest House is pretty much a hellhole."
"It's run by a bunch of monks whose minds are clearly elsewhere. The toilet was down a freezing corridor and just a slit in the floor. So many people had used it over the years that there was this stalactite of frozen excrement protruding out of it. A shame, such a spectacular location right next to Mount Everest."
But many times, these shocking tales are the leftovers from another guest whose habits are less than normal, bizarre even.
But what if the tables were turned and housekeeping staff blew the whistle on guests and some of their habits? You may be surprised.
For example, hotels everywhere are continually under threat from light-fingered guests whose creativity can be astounding.
Among items the Best Western hotel group reported stolen recently were a 20kg suit of armour, a two-piece leather sofa, a four-metre model of the Concorde supersonic airliner, a fully decorated Christmas tree, a life-size paper-mache mannequin, TV sets too many to mention and even a cigarette vending machine.
Another hotel's housekeeping staff was astonished to find all the carpet underneath a bed had been carefully cut out and removed. One shudders at the motivation.
A popular Melbourne four-star hotel lost an entire trolley of housekeeping supplies. Perhaps it was the same guest who dissembled the cistern and made off with the flushing mechanism?
Jackie, a housekeeper at a less salubrious hotel in Oklahoma, did a double take when she found seven nude guests in bed fast asleep with all the trappings of a wild night strewn around the room. Do I need to paint you a picture?
Patty, a head housekeeper at a major US chain says from her experience the filthiest thing in a hotel room is probably the ice bucket. Why? "People put all kinds of things in there and they are never cleaned, let alone sanitised."
Another former staffer from the US Quality Suites group offers this gem: never, ever use the coffee pot.
"I kept a special pen on my cart for extracting used condoms out of the coffee pots. I lifted so many from those pots I couldn't brew coffee at home without suffering flashbacks. Oh, and someone stole that pen from my cart!"
And these random acts of unverified nonsense, gleaned from chatrooms and forums:
- The fetishist guests who locked themselves in a hotel room for two days and left the suite sprayed with [poo]. Everywhere.
- The spa tub that would eject glitter for months after some guests had a wild night.
- The pranksters who made the bed with a live pigeon under the sheets.
- The hungover newlyweds who woke up, stark naked, to find their room service breakfast neatly set up, but stone cold.
- The guest who brought a live chicken with him and slaughtered it in his room.
- And, wait for it, the murder victim found *inside* the bed mattress after the room had been rented for two months.
Despite these tales of dismay, most guests are thoughtful, or try to be thoughtful.
Anna Voss, Hotel Operations Manager at Accor's busy Sydney Olympic Park properties offers this advice for guests who really want to be housekeeping-friendly:
- If guests are staying multiple nights, please refrain from leaving clothes/bags on your bed, please place them on a side chair/desk so the housekeepers can make the bed.
- Please do not leave multiple items all around the floor as it makes it challenging to vacuum. Shoes can be placed in one area or in the wardrobe.
- Items which are meant for rubbish, please place in the bins. Housekeepers will not remove items which are not in the bins.
- Please place your room service tray outside your door. Calling room service for tray collection is appreciated, just place the tray outside your door.
- Please always flush the toilet after using it. This makes it easier for housekeepers to clean.
- If guests bring their own utensils to the hotel, please make sure they are identifiable as sometimes guest's personal cutlery can look very similar to hotel cutlery and may be accidentally mistaken for hotel cutlery and thus removed. Once the cutlery is in the hotel system it can be very challenging to find.
- Please do not use guest room kettles to cook noodles or other foods.
- Tea leaves should be disposed of in the rubbish bin and not the toilet. Tea leaves are very hard to clean from the toilets.
- Please place toiletries back in the toilet bag or keep in one place to make it easier for the housekeeper to clean the bathroom for guests.
- If guests do not require to have their towels or bathrobes changed, please hang up following use to help conserve water. If you would like your towels changed, please place them in the bathtub or shower.
- On check out do not roll up your sheets and doonas/blankets, this makes it harder for the housekeeper to prepare the dirty linen. Place all used bath towels/face washer in the bathtub or shower.
Want to be a greener, 'small footprint' guest? Using fewer resources is something we are all concerned about, or should be. These little things come from guests themselves.
- Re-using towels is fine, but you don't even need to use the big fluffy ones. You can dry yourself adequately with a hand towel and hair dryer.
- If you are staying just a couple of nights, give housekeeping a break and hang the 'Do Not Disturb' sign.
- While it's OK to take bathroom amenities and soaps, use them. (This guest) always takes half-used bottles and uses them at the next hotel, leaving unopened ones behind. Opening a whole bar of soap just to wash your hands once is wasteful and thoughtless. Same with free water in bottles – open it, finish it.
- Turn off lights and air conditioning when not in the room.
Be a planet- and hotel-friendly guest. More tips at: http://greenkeyglobal.com/travel-green/