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Saturday 5 April 2014

How hotels manage to infuriate their guests

Just the other day I drove up to a hotel in Perth in my rental car. It was early evening and I was only staying briefly: I had a dawn flight to catch the next day.

The first thing that struck me was that the hotel did not have any parking. But the guy at the front door assured me he would valet park the car for $40 a day, but with an additional $30 charge should I actually want access to it. Or there was a car park down the hill that would charge $30 overnight. 

I opted to put a couple of dollars into a parking meter down the street and to walk around 40 metres - saving of $68 on the hotel's first option and of $28 on the second option. 

Now call me old fashioned, but I recall when hotels used to be in the hospitality industry. They wanted to cosset their guests and make sure they were looked after. 

Now many hotels are looking to gouge their guests as often as possible - and often at a ridiculous nickel and dime level. 

Take wi-fi charges. Wi-fi access is offered free by hotels in many parts of the world as a service to guests. Just about any guesthouse or cafe in Asia offers it as a matter of course. 

Yet this same Perth hotel wanted $25 a day for wi-fi  - and the Sydney hotel I was in the next night wanted $24.95. It is gouging on an extraordinary scale. 

The owner of a hotel in Launceston tells me that high-speed ADSL2 costs him $500 a month for the hotel - just $17 day over his entire property. 

Just work out the profits being made by hotels charging $25 or more a day when they could avoid all the irritation by simply building in an extra 50c charge on each room night.

Then there is the turndown service and evening room check (changing used towels etc). That used to be pretty standard in all luxury hotels. Now you need to ring down before 6pm and request a turndown service. 

The same with the "clean, green" scam, where unless you put your used towels in a specific spot each day or they will be recycled for use the next day. Hotels says they are helping the environment. They are also offering a lesser service and saving themselves heaps of money in washing costs. 

Other hotel tricks that grate: 

# Having $200 taken from a credit card as a "guarantee" - and then being told on checkout it will be refunded "within seven working days". 

# Charging for a daily newspaper (something that used to be a gesture of goodwill). 

# Bottles of room-temperature water in rooms for which the hotel wants you to pay $8.50 or more. 

And don't even get me started on mini bar charges ($7 for a small packet of crisps was the most recent outrage).

And sometimes I wonder if the people who design hotel rooms have ever had to stay in one. 

There are the power sockets that are impossible to find, or so close to the ground that most plugs will not fit. 

There are bedside lights that require you to get out of bed to turn them on and off. 

There are bedside alarm clocks that are fitted to shine a light directly into your face as you attempt to get to sleep (and then emit a shrill tone and wake you at 5am because the last occupant of the room had an early flight to catch). My tip: Use your iPhone as an alarm and pull these things out at the socket.

Then there are the luxury hotels that use the cheapest possible toilet paper, or save costs by offering small, cheap bath towels. Or dirty cheap shower curtains that cling to your body.

Then, of course, there are the ludicrous check-in and check-out queues at even the best hotels; staff in serving roles (hello Sydney hotel) without even basic language skills and hotels that want to charge for use of their business centre simply to print out your boarding pass. 

Throw in hard pillows, air-conditioning remote controls that demand a degree in aeronautical engineering, windows that will not open to let in fresh air and ridiculously complex showers in which you risk scalding yourself while setting the temperature.

And rooms that are not ready by the 2pm check-in time; when the same hotel wants you out by 10am.

Oh, and curtains/blinds that do not shut properly, elevators that are too small and too slow and plastic coded room keys that fail, necessitating a walk back to reception and another wait for that slow lift and for the receptionist to finish their private conversation.

It's a good job I love travelling so much!  


  1. To be fair about the towels thing, it does save the hotel money but it's also actually better for the environment if the hotel does less laundry.

    You have definitely hit on three of my pet hotel hates: inaccessible/inadequate power points; hard pillows; and sealed windows. That last point is so annoying, I think hotels with unopenable windows should have a star taken off their ratings.

  2. Bugger! Lost comment when trying to select profile to publish, can't be arsed typing it all again...

  3. Small, thick cups that don't hold enough for a decent cup of tea.

  4. Oh, I SO hear you Winsor. I travel a lot for work and am frequently frustrated at having to 'trade off'. 'Do I book the apartment hotel that has a TV in the bedroom or the apartment hotel that has a proper shower?' Why can't I have both? They are fairly innocuous requirements. The new 'in your face' clock radios are shockers so I too have turned to the phone. And don't get me started on wifi. Almost all hotels in Europe have free wifi or a modest charge of a few Euros. I just refuse to pay.

    Why is it so hard for hotels to understand that if they genuinely listened to their guests and made some changes, they may end up with loyal customers? I provided feedback to a hotel in Canberra that I couldn't stand those stupid catering coffee cups and suggested supplying coffee mugs. And they did! Now I stay there on a frequent basis.

  5. Ha! Just read the comment above mine about the coffee cups. Seems I'm not the only one!