One Simple Test to Know If a Hotel is Bad

In 2010 I took a trip to the Philippines where I spent my first and last night in the country at the then-Intercontinental Manila. Using my Royal Ambassador status with the hotel chain I confirmed an upgrade to the Presidential suite there on both stays.

The room had a piano, a kitchen, and a sauna and the dining room table sat twelve.

It was a little rough around the edges, though, like the whole hotel. There was dust in the corners and marks on the carpet. And I decided to test out a theory. Since I’d be returning in a week I left a few items I didn’t mind losing hidden in the room, but not well hidden. If they moved the curtains at all the jig was up. A week later I was back and collected my stuff, all still there.

A week ago I wrote about hotels putting wall-mounted toiletries in the shower. I’m not a fan. I don’t believe the dispensers are really cleaned by housekeeping.

Worse than that I had just stayed at a property where they didn’t even get refilled. There was no bath gel when I checked in. I didn’t say anything, there wasn’t any bath gel before I checked out.

Well I’m back at that same Marriott Courtyard and wouldn’t you know I was assigned to the same room. So what’s the first thing I did? Check the bath gel. Empty.

When housekeeping doesn’t ever look (let alone clean) behind the curtains, or replace the toiletries, after a minimum of the week I gave them in both instances it’s not a very good or well-run hotel.

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, 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. Is the Courtyard moving to this type of toiletries versus the mini Paul Mitchell bottles?
    I’ve caught several different hotels not changing my sheets when requested. I always put a mark on the sheet and check to see if it’s still there when I return to see if they did indeed change the sheets or not.

  2. I understand wanting the dispenser cleaned and refilled. Totally reasonable. But using the wall mounted dispenser instead of tons of tiny bottles and bars of soap is so much more environmentally friendly. I wish more hotels would go to these.

  3. Couldn’t they just make the dispensers harder to get into (like need a “key” or device to get in so the majority of people couldn’t without breaking them)?

    It wouldn’t fix the refill issue, but I’d think it would solve the “yuck” factor and make everybody happy.

    If you sealed it electronically and had a connection to “report” whether or not it’s been opened, you could easily enforce a “check for refills every time” with the staff while adding a layer of confidence the guests weren’t mucking with it.

  4. I like the wall mounted ones. Better for environment more convenient for me. Plus it’s freaking soap I’m not critically concerned if the soap dispenser is cleaned bc it dispenses soap. They work just fine in public restrooms and so long as there is soap in there I’m good

  5. I don’t understand the need for cleaning the wall mounted dispensers each time a new guest uses the same hotel room.
    Are you saying the hotel should empty the soap/shampoo inside the dispenser every time, clean the inside, and then fill it up again with new soap/shampoo?
    IMHO that’s a little too ridiculous to expect and it kills the point of having wall mounted dispensers.
    Public restrooms and gym shower facilities work just fine with wall mounted dispensers that are not being cleaned every time someone else uses them, and I don’t see why hotel rooms cannot be the same.

  6. I think more hotel should incorporate the dispenser system. Business have to think of more ways to go green. But they have to make sure it’s refilled everyone. I’ve never had a problem, but if mine was empty I would be pretty passed because by the time I find out I would be wet and naked…..

  7. You can add “poop left on toilet seat by previous guests” to the list of what constitutes a bad hotel. That was the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown East. And, yeah, it wasn’t a one-off thing but happened during separate stays that were months apart.

  8. You hire illegals at sub-min wage to clean rooms you don’t get impressive service. True in all countries. Really it’s more a function of quotas. Maids at rez inn get, what, 20min per room? Maids at Four Seasons probably an hour per room.

  9. Stayed at a CY this week. My wife said the shampoo was too minty and there was no skin lotion. I like the mint shampoo. I went to front desk and they had the old non-minty shampoo and skin creme.

    Dispensers were filled.

  10. Until the day dirty people put bodily fluids in them….. Nope, just stick to the good old fashioned mini bottles and bars of soap

  11. Soap is terrible for your skin, but a lot of men just don’t care about skincare. The pH of soap just wreaks havoc on skin drying it out like nobody’s business.

  12. You could just bring your own soap, and save both staff time and environmental degradation.

  13. I don’t understand this obsession with the little bottles.
    For starters, they are bad for the environment. Second, if you are worried about something being in the dispensers that doesn’t belong there, you probably shouldn’t use the little ones either – most aren’t sealed, so same risk…
    Lastly, dispensers have been used in Europe for decades and they’ve got it down pat – many hotels use large squeeze bottles with a ear side – they are sealed, easy to check and replaced when empty – all potential problems of dispensers solved!

  14. First World problems. Honestly, if that’s the worst thing you have to worry about–whether soap bottles are full–you have it pretty easy.

  15. @Deborah King – full? there was no soap, not just for my stay but in the same room on my NEXT stay.

    Soap is actually not a first world problem, but I am nonetheless very fortunate overall.

  16. @Deborah King….. Are you a dirty girl that doesn’t bathe or use items to cleanse yourself when you do?

  17. We just spent the weekend at The Gwen, a Starwood property in Chicago. The shower had clear plastic bottles of bath gel, shampoo and conditioner. They all appeared and felt clean. I know this is a higher end property, but seems to me all housekeeping has to do, whatever the hotel level, is a visual inspection and wipe down when needed .

  18. I bring my own toiletries in refillable bottles and a few Clorox wipes. This way you are ready for most anything.

    I traveled for two decades in my job and used to take the small bottled toiletries and soaps home with me and give them to my local homeless shelter. They can always use them!

  19. For all the “don’t worry” posts, let this haunt your imagination while you use the wall mounted soap/shampoo the next time.
    If guests have access to the liquid inside, there is nothing to prevent them from adding their own “personal” liquid if they so choose.
    Ever since I heard the stories from maids who said guests put used condoms in the in-room coffee maker, I have 1) quick using in-room coffee makers, 2) have a suspicious view of all things inside a hotel room.

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