12 Hotel Pet Peeves: Simple Steps to Ruin My Stay

Hotels succeed by helping their guests succeed. Fail at these simple tasks, pet peeves, and you’ll lose the loyalty of your business travelers.

Wonder why a property with great facilities and a competitive room rate in a good location isn’t getting the level of midweek repeat business it might expect and it may come down to something simple.

Mandatory Resort Fees

Hotels taking part of the room rate out and burying it in fine print is fraud. Consumer and the government get up in arms and regulate over airfare displays when already those are pretty clear and clean, it’s hotels where the worst behavior happens.

These are not optional charges, so they are part of the room rate. Not including them in the room rate is disingenuous. In 2012 the Federal Trade Commission warned hotel chains that mandatory resort fees may be illegal. Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas were sued over their resort fees. Some Florida properties no longer charge resort fees as a result of a settlement with that state’s attorney general.

Here’s the most absurd resort fee I’ve ever seen.

Billing Your Credit Card For Additional Charges After Checkout

When a hotel decides to charge you for something that wasn’t on your folio when you checked out, by just billing your credit card, they should have to email to let you know they are doing it and identify the item(s).

By all means, you should pay what you owe, but a huge pet peeve is additional (usually small) charges showing up on my credit card statement days later. If I didn’t comb through my statements I wouldn’t even know they had done this. And then I have to get in touch with the property to find out what this additional charge is even for.

If a hotel’s systems and processes are too poor to identify charges before checkout, they should at the very least proactively reach out to the customer to explain they’re hitting the card for more charges and send a statement detailing those charges. Don’t leave it to the customer to notice they’ve been hit, and then have to do research to understand why.

Six weeks ago a hotel billed me for the cash portion of a cash and points award five months after my stay. They reached out to let me know.

Each time I stay at the Hyatt Crystal City they tell me in-room bottled water is complementary for Diamond members and then they bill my credit card for it after I’ve checked out. They’re happy to remove the charge when called on it. But since it doesn’t make the final folio, it requires followup — which is more costly in my time and theirs than the actual charge itself.

Hidden Elite Benefits

Elite benefits shouldn’t be hidden and you shouldn’t have to ask to verify what they are or give a secret handshake.

Some hotels will treat guests, and especially elite members, better if they know what to ask for. Some Hyatt properties will let a Diamond member take breakfast via room service rather than in the restaurant but won’t actually say so. That’s been my experience over two recent stays at the Hyatt Herald Square.

Complimentary Diamond Room Service at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables

Either a front desk agent gives up the plot or you order it anyway expecting to pay and find it was taken off the bill. And then you need to ask each time you visit to make sure this unpublished benefit hasn’t changed. You read frequent flyer forums and blogs to discern the secret handshake.

Instead of, you know, just receiving a welcome letter outlining your benefits.

Although I suppose the plus side here is that when there are ‘secret’ benefits they’re actually cheaper for a hotel to provide since not everyone avails themselves. So it’s a tax on the poorly-informed, and redistribution towards the savvy frequent traveler.

Still, it would be so much easier if it were more straightforward.

Coffee is a Human Right

Hotels should have 24 hour coffee available and access to real milk and cream.

  • A business hotel needs to be able to provide coffee 24 hours a day.
  • There are lots of ways to do this: in-room machines, club lounge, lobby, and even room service.
  • The coffee needs to be drinkable, and that includes making it possible to get the real milk or creamer of your choice.

That’s just basics. Hotels without in-room coffee, and a lobby option, and that do not offer 24 hour room service are a complete and total #fail. Claiming to be an upscale or full service property, and aiming at business travelers, they’re completely missing the point.

I’ve been to too many properties where there’s no coffee before 6 a.m. That’s great, until:

  • You’re coming in from another time zone, and getting up at 4.
  • You have an early flight.
  • You need to get up early to work on a presentation.

Morning coffee can set the tone for the whole day, and entire stay.

The coffee bar at the Hilton New York JFK.. more than once I’ve shown up half an hour after opening to find no one working, this time I got lucky!

I once stayed at the W San Diego and rang up the “Whatever Whenever” line at 5 a.m. They were supposed to be able to get Whatever you want Whenever you want it. I wanted coffee at 5 a.m.. They told me no, coffee isn’t available until 6.

If there’s a coffee shop or coffee stand in the lobby, it needs to be open at its posted time. If the coffee shop opens at 6 then gosh darnit it should be staffed at 6… not 6:15 or 6:30.

The Coffee Stand in the Lobby of the Hyatt Herald Square Opened 30 Minutes Late Last Week, So I Went to Starbucks

A Hotel is For Sleeping

Walls should be thick enough not to hear your neighbor, or the elevator. And connecting rooms are for families traveling together. Please don’t assign one to me.

Natural light is great, but not when a guest is trying to sleep. A room should be able to get light, but also keep out the light.

And do not disturb means… do not disturb. If I’ve got do not disturb on, housekeeping shouldn’t knock on the door. Don’t call me an hour after arrival, either, to see how I like the room? If there was a problem, I’d have let you know. And if I’m off an overnight flight, I may be trying to take a quick nap so I can power through to dinner and adjust to the local time quickly.

Valet Parking Purgatory

A hotel should help get you on your way. If they can’t get your car out of mandatory valet parking within 15 minutes they shouldn’t charge.

Hyatt Regency Houston Downtown

Or better yet: a hotel can usually project its occupancy levels, and is aware of the conferences and events it is hosting. Staff appropriately relative to occupancy.

Only One Soap in the Bathroom

When I get into a hotel room, usually the first thing I do is wash my hands. I’ve been traveling.

That means unwrapping the soap. It goes into the soap dish beside the sink.

So in the morning I get into the shower and find there’s no soap and I have to get out of the shower and put the soap from the soap dish beside the sink into the shower? That’s an early morning fail.

An Executive Floor Room Is Not an Upgrade

Over the years the surest way to know I haven’t been upgraded is when I’ve received a sticky note on a key folio that says “You’ve been upgraded!”

If they have to tell me my room is an upgrade, if it’s not something I’m going to notice myself, then it isn’t an upgrade. And if they have to outsource it to a written note, because the front desk agent either won’t notice the room I have is better than standard or is going to be too bashful to tell me my room over the HVAC is an upgrade, then it isn’t one.

A simple corollary is that an executive floor room is not an upgrade. Executive floor benefits are. But especially if you’re entitled to those anyway, the room itself is rarely any different than one on another floor. Telling guests that it’s an upgrade doesn’t make it one.

If you aren’t going to upgrade me, I understand. Play by the rules, hotels sell out, or have too many elites and I accept that. But don’t lie to me and tell me my room that’s just like the others is special just for me because of my status.

Unreliable Airport Shuttles

An airport hotel needs to be able to reliably get you to and from the airport.

The whole point of staying near the airport is to get into bed as quickly as possible once you land, and to be able to sleep in the next morning and leave the hotel later than you’d have to if you were staying downtown.

If you have to wait half an hour for an airport shuttle, or you can’t rely on the time the shuttle will leave the hotel and therefore have to present yourself downstairs early to make sure you get a seat or don’t miss it, you give up that time advantage.

    The Shuttle End Times Came at the Sheraton Gateway LAX — These Were the People Who Were Left Behind.

And you’ve wound up trading a nicer place in a better location for a nondescript airport property — without the countervailing benefit of proximity (timeliness).

Not Enough Outlets

“This room has too many outlets” said no hotel guest, ever.

Older hotels often have no or very few outlets, and those that are available are badly placed. They’re in use for lamps, they’re behind the bed, or blocked by a large desk.

If a room is meant to accommodate two people then assume that both people need to charge a laptop, a phone, maybe a tablet or a wireless internet device, and an external battery.

There needs to be outlets available at the desk, and also by the bedside. Many people want their phones beside the bed. I only want mine there when there’s no easily visible alarm clock.

So there need to be multiple outlets, in multiple places, conveniently located.

You Have Late Checkout, But Keys Stop Working at Noon

I know not everyone has had perfect experiences with Starwood’s guaranteed 4pm late checkout for elites (outside of resort or convention hotels where it’s subject to availability) but it’s never been denied to me.

I especially value Hyatt properties where I find I’m nearly universally proactively offered late checkout when I’m checking in.

Clearly it’s part of their procedure. So when a guest says, “yes I’d appreciate a 4pm checkout” they should code the keys for a 4pm late checkout.

I’ll usually remind them to do this. But I don’t always. And every time I fail to offer the reminder I’ll go back to my room on my day of checkout at, say, 2pm and find that my key doesn’t work. So I have to go down to the front desk, where they’ll make me a new key, and then it’s back up to the wrong. This one doesn’t seen to be that hard to get right.

The Light That Won’t Turn Off at Bedtime

At midnight on a recent stay I wanted to go to bed, so I went about turning off the lights in my room. Only I could not figure out how the light on one side of the bed turned off.

There was a simple light switch on the other side. Easy. You’d think the lamp on the other side of the bed would work the same way. But it didn’t.

I walked around the room looking for light switches, and couldn’t find one that would turn it off.

There were two switches beneath the light, next to power outlets.

I tried each of them, and neither turned off the light. My first thought then was that the switches must control the outlets. Since they didn’t turn off the light. Flip the switch on the right, the light was still on. Flip the switch on the left, the light was still on.

It took me 15 minutes to figure out that you have to flip both switches in order to turn it off.

The last thing I wanted to do was deal with getting help from the hotel at midnight. Wait for help from the hotel at midnight. To turn off a light in my room. But I knew I’d need to, because as much as a part of me was wondering if I could just fall asleep like that, I knew it was a bad idea. I’d fall asleep, but then I’d be up in an hour. And sleep off and on through the night.

Hotel room design must be intuitive. Turning lights on and off in your home is iterative. Since you turn the same lights on and off over and over you train yourself in a way that it’s second nature. But each light in a hotel room is used once or a handful of times by a person approaching it for the very first time — every single day or every few days. Everything in a room needs to be intuitive.

What Are Your Pet Peeves? What Have I Left Off the List?

Are my pet peeves peculiar to me? What are the basic things hotels get wrong that keep you away from repeat stays? What are your must haves and pet peeves you’d like to fix?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I hope hotel chains are reading this, so much good feedback for them!

    My list:

    1. Other loud guests. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been woken or disturbed by loud people in the room next door, drunk/loud people in the hallways, slamming doors, etc. This ruins a stay for me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Hotels, please add better soundproofing when you build or re-model a property!

    2. Nowhere to hang things. I often see bathrooms with tons of empty wall space, yet no hooks or towel bars. They want us to re-use towels, but there’s nowhere to hang them properly so they can dry. Or I have sweaty gym clothes that I want to hang up and allow to dry before I pack them in my suitcase.

    3. Wifi that sucks. I’m still amazed how often the wifi is hard to connect to at all, or when you do connect, it constantly drops out. This is 2016 and we shouldn’t have these issues.

    4. Not enough power outlets, or they’re in hard-to-reach locations. Nothing worse than having to slide out the nightstand to reach an outlet behind the bed headboard and have to navigate all the dust, hair, and other grime in those locations. Gross.

    5. No one answers the phone at the front desk or on the guest service hotline. This is consistently a problem — the rare times I have to call down, it often just rings and rings and rings with no answer.

    6. Poor access to drinkable water. I don’t want a $10 bottle of Voss, thanks. Just give me several bottles of something cheap, but clean and drinkable — Dasani or whatever is just fine. Better yet, put some kind of filter in the bathroom next to the sink so I can drink endless amounts of tap water. It’s better for the environment, too.

  2. Hotels not having at least 2 foldable suitcase stands. Almost always there’s just one so with 2 travelers someone’s bag is on a chair, table, etc.

    My wife and I bring rubber bands to keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door handle (from which they usually fall off).

    I bring a small electric cord, battery backup powered alarm clock because I at least know how mine works!

  3. A room on the elite/concierge/club floor is an upgrade. The fact you can walk down the hall to the lounge with no trip in the elevator is an upgrade. That usually means you are on a top floor and no where near an HVAC unit either.

    I agree valet parking is usually garbage at busy hotels. The last thing I want to do is wait for my car when I want to leave. That’s why good hotels give you the number to call down and have the car waiting for you or a minute later so when you step out the front door the car is there.

  4. . I thought I didn’t have any hotel issues to comment about until I started reading the comments and was reminded of a few : ” oh yes that time… and that other time ..now that you’ve reminded me…” A bit fun to relate one experience : a resort had two large buildings about eighty yards apart .
    I called the desk to report the Wi-Fi was not working . The reply was ” It’s okay for you to go to the lobby of the other building and use the Wi-Fi there .”
    It’s just no use to fight it after hearing that logic .
    BTW I’m with you about the coffee being a necessity of modern life . It should be at least medium good coffee too

  5. I’m amazed how often I find slow-draining bathroom sinks. Housekeeping should proactively check and pour Drano every time the room turns over.

  6. I’m 100% with you on the coffee. We got tired of paying for room service coffee in Europe and bought a small coffeemaker in Amsterdam that we used in our suite at the Pulitzer and then in our hotel in Bruges. The cost of the maker & the beans was much less than room service & more convenient.

  7. i somewhat disagree with the “no charges after checkout” peeve. if the alternative is to visit the checkout desk before actually leaving the hotel, or worrying that you’re somehow shortchanging the hotel because you didn’t stop by the checkout desk to report that snickers bar you ate while you packed your bag, then i’d prefer the small charges after checkout.

  8. For me it’s making a commitment they can’t keep. If check in is at 4, and my room isn’t ready at 3:50, don’t tell me they need an hour and call me back in 2 hours. Likewise, if you’ve held my bag for me, and I ask if I can grab it myself since I need something and you say oh no, it will be up in 10 minutes and 45 minutes later I’m thinking you’ve lost it, that’s not good either.

  9. How come the people that answer the phone in room service and housekeeping departments in foreign hotels speak and understand English better than in most hotels in the U.S.?

  10. Bad pillows. Not replenishing the coffee items. No robe. Not having at least one truly comfortable arm chair, or a sofa. Palming off a bad room when a nicer room in your catagory is available. Agree with the one soap complaint.

  11. It seems that 9 out of 10 times my in-room coffee service is not fully replenished. Something is ALWAYS missing…cream, sugar, stirrer, regular coffee. Virtually every hotel seems to have this affliction. AAAAAAARRRGH!

  12. Flat Sheets as Fitted Sheets. AARGGHH

    I should not have to put my bed back together after untucking the comforter.

  13. My pet peeves are:

    1. Room with connecting door. I hate them
    2. Rooms where you put key card in slot and it turns on every light in the room, and then have to go around the room turning off a bunch of lights

  14. E-folios that don’t come automatically. At my firm we submit expenses electronically. I need to have the folio emailed to me. No matter what I do, I can’t get this to happen reliably. Even calling the hotel afterward and asking for one often results in a #fail. I recently completed expense reporting that required four phone calls to one hotel and three to another.

    A decent alternative would be to have folios available at the member website. Hilton is the only one I know that does this, and about one stay in five fails to materialize there. I always make sure they have my number, but it just doesn’t seem to make a difference.

  15. When you’re checking in (especially with a lady friend you want to at least try to impress) and the front desk comments how “you reserved the room with points.” Does it matter how I reserved the room? I think not. Does this information need to be broadcast? Absolutely not. Looking at you IHG.

  16. I completely understand why most hotels require you to insert a keycard in a holder to activate the electricity. But — I HATE when it shuts off every outlet at the desk when you remove it.

    I just want to be able to go to the gym while leaving my kindle or phone to charge. Is that so much to ask??

  17. Alex , most often , in my experience , you only need insert something inert of the same approximate dimensions to keep the power on . About six credit cards should do , or maybe something more disposable such as sky miles membership cards . Actually you can improvise with a scrap of wood paneling or Popsicle sticks if you are persistent .
    Keep Smiling

  18. Nick ,
    The lady should be impressed that you booked the hotel with points … and saved money for more champagne . Explain this to her if need be .

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