Pilots and flight attendants spend an abundance of time in hotels. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of spending half my nights in hotels and resorts. I’ve also learned most of the pitfalls.
Therefore, without further hesitation, here is my list and some accompanying stories of sixteen things that can go wrong during a hotel stay…
Noise is a tremendous problem in hotels. As pilots, we require adequate rest. That can be interrupted by…
- Elevator noises
- Ice machine clunks and clanks
- Kids running up and down the hallway while their parents assume they have no responsibility to control them since they are on vacation.
- Housekeeping knocking on other doors with hard objects.
- Maintenance personnel with the handheld radio volume turned all the way up.
- Parties in adjacent rooms
- Other crews arriving yelling, “See you in the lobby in 15 minutes!” with no regard for others trying to sleep. Ironically, those same crew members whine and moan when people yell in the hallway when they are trying to sleep.
- A couple in the next room engaging in private acts.
- A group of people in the next room all engaging in private acts traditionally reserved for couples.
2) Key malfunctions
Anything other than a green light and a click when I swipe my key card causes my blood pressure to rise. Sometimes, it’s a long journey from the lobby to the room. Arriving to discover an inoperative key can be very frustrating. There are several things that can cause a key to fail:
- The key card might be bad for numerous reasons. If the clerk asks how many cards you want, always request at least two. One numerous occasions, one key has failed and the other one works just fine.
- Your key may have timed out. Most “non-airline” guests checkout of a hotel around noon. If the clerk forgets to program the key correctly, the blinking red light welcomes you back from lunch. If I head out for a meal or workout after noon, I usually test my key to make sure it is still working. If not, I can resolve it before coming back upstairs.
- You might be at the wrong room or even the wrong hotel. Think that could never happen? Read this story.
Lots and lots of hair… other peoples’ hair… particularly in the bathroom. If I collected it all, I could probably assemble a full wig about once a year. The quality of the hotel doesn’t matter. I’ve stayed everywhere from hotels with numbers in the name to five star resorts. All receive a failing grade for hair cleanup.
I’ve seen every kind of stain and blemish imaginable in hotels. Like the hair, finer hotels are not exempt. Although, to be fair, there seems to be more blemishes going uncleaned at the lesser establishments. If it’s white, yellow, brown or red, I suggest you don’t touch it and cover it up with a towel. If there’s too much of it, get another room.
The odor possibilities are endless.
If it stinks like cigarette smoke, do not fall for the “we have a special machine that gets the smell out of the room” promise. Yeah, maybe if it runs for a week.
6) Used protection
At a hotel in upstate New York, pulling back the sheets revealed a used condom lying on the floor at the base of the bed. I called down to the front desk and requested another room. The clerk was as surprised as me. How does housekeeping miss THAT!?
When I checked out the next day, the same guy was working the desk. He apologized for the umpteenth time and said, “I’ve got to be honest with you, sir. We have a policy that if you’re not satisfied with your visit for any reason, the stay is free. We have all kinds of people trying to take advantage of that policy. However, if you’d asked, I would have comped your room.”
I had already checked out and thought it was nice that he mentioned the comp. Since he swiftly and courteously resolved the problem, I was not comfortable taking the stay for free.
7) Belongings stolen
I hesitate to say this… but, I’ve never had anything stolen from my room. However, it happens all the time to crew members and other hotel guests. In addition to dumb luck, here are some precautions I’ve taken to keep my things safe:
- Always use the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.
- If available, always use the safe to lock up valuables.
- Hotel staff can spot an airline crew member from a mile away. They know we stay alone. So, if anyone is in the hallway when I leave, I turn and say “I’ll see you later…” into the empty room. Creating the impression that someone is still in the room will keep a dishonest housekeeper out. It may sound cheesy… but, I’ve never had anything stolen.
As a side note, personal security is also paramount in hotels. Never put yourself in a position to be stuck on the wrong side of the door with a person who intends to harm you.
8) Window washers
During the day at a high rise hotel, I leave the shades open. One morning, after showering, I walked back into the main part of the room to find a window washing crew reaching my floor. Something to think about if you like to sleep with the shades open.
9) Walking in on someone
Over the years, I’ve opened the door on three customers who were already occupying the room. One other time, I entered a vacant room but left when I saw suitcases on the floor.
The scenario never plays out the way it should in the average male’s mind. It is never a barely dressed attractive woman who extends an invitation to come in, enjoy a few cocktails and laugh about the the misunderstanding. My “victims” have been very large, hairy men who were extremely peeved by my presence in their supposedly private space.
I apologize, state that the staff gave me the key and suggest they always lock their door. One guy came out into the hallway and kept screaming at me as I
walked hightailed for the elevator. I suggested he call the front desk and stop yelling at me. When I returned to the lobby, the clerk was already holding the phone receiver a few inches from his ear.
10) Room not cleaned
I’ve stepped into rooms that revealed an obvious breakdown in communication between housekeeping and the front desk.
If the trash isn’t emptied and the beds aren’t made, I go back to the lobby and request another room.
A few times, I’ve been in rooms that housekeeping cleaned but forgot to put sheets back on the bed(s). In those cases, I’ve waited for a someone to come up and make the bed(s).
Once in Miami, the room looked clean until I entered the bathroom. On the top of a closed toilet, a handwritten note read “SO SORRY… IT’S CLOGGED.”
Dummy me succumbed to curiosity and lifted the lid to confirm the message on the note.
I promptly made my trip back to the lobby.
Although almost always false, alarms in hotels need to be taken seriously. To learn more on my thoughts on fire alarms, feel free to read this story.
12) Malfunctioning heaters
It is not uncommon to have an environmental system in the room that doesn’t cool or heat. Often, maintenance can perform a quick reset.
One winter night in New York, I fell asleep with the heater running. I started dreaming that my room was on fire. In the dream, I could smell the smoke but couldn’t see the flames. Then, I woke and realized the burning odor was real. I flipped on the light fully expecting to see smoke in the room. No smoke, but the heater was malfunctioning and emitting the pungent nauseating odor.
I had to open a window to help clear the smell. Not wanting to change rooms in the middle of the night, I tried to go back to sleep.
13) Water not draining
Sink and tub drains are often clogged in hotel bathrooms.
The sink doesn’t bother me as much as the tub.
It’s hard for me to enjoy a shower while standing in ankle deep water full of who-knows-what.
14) No hot water
I was reminded of this problem over the recent holidays. During the slow season, there are few guests in the hotel using any water. It takes a long time for fresh hot water to reach the rooms. I’ve turned the shower on “full hot” for as much as ten minutes before the ice cold stream mixes with any hot water.
I’ve also stayed when the hot water has been shut off during renovations. To be fair to hotels, management usually publishes a notice and turns it off in the afternoon. Unfortunately, when this happens, I usually miss the memo and need to shower that afternoon precisely in the middle of the shutoff period.
15) No cold water
Believe it or not, this happened once to my family while visiting Denver. All the water in the room was scalding… including the water that filled the toilet. According to the maintenance guy, an air pocket on a lower floor caused the issue. He went to the room below and flushed the toilet to resolve the problem. A day later, the hot water returned to all the fixtures and we repeated the process.
16) Nowhere to sleep
One busy night in downtown Denver, the hotel staff forced us to wait for rooms. It was during my 727 days, so three rooms were needed to accommodate us.
Being the flight engineer, I received my key last. It had been a full day of flying followed by a long van ride downtown. Waiting for the room added more time to the day. I was exhausted and frustrated.
The key worked on the first try and I stumbled into the odorless room. After fumbling with the light switch, I took a good look in front of me. I saw a bar area, a conference table and a bunch of chairs. Upon further exploration, I found the bathroom and a closet. But, no bed.
I called down the the front desk.
“Hi. I’m one of the crew that waited for a room. The one you gave me has no bed.”
“Excuse me? All our rooms have beds. We’re a hotel.” She sounded as annoyed with me as I was with her.
“Well, all I can tell you is I see a bar and a table and chairs. No bed.” I countered.
“I’ll send security up to check on it.” Apparently, in addition to breaking up disturbances in the hotel, the security guard could also produce missing beds.
“Okay. But, could you please send him with a key to another room?” I was trying to be proactive and save myself a trip back to the lobby.
A few minutes later, a gruff security man joined me in the hallway outside the room. After opening the door, he looked around, shrugged his shoulders and keyed the mic on his handheld radio.
“He’s right… there’s no bed. I’ll send him over to the other room.”
“Okay… we’ll have to see what’s going on there…” I heard the clerk say from a speaker that was turned up way too loud.
I’d love to hear some of your stories. Please comment below on anything I may have omitted from this post!
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