Pet Peeve: Why Can’t Hotels Set Alarm Clocks Properly?

Reader Jeff writes,

[F]or all of the high-end hotels I stay in all over the world, why is it that so many of them can’t figure out how to set the right time on the room alarm clock?

I’m staying in the JW Marriott in Mexico City, and the clock is an hour off and nobody here knows how to set it.

And even worse is when they leave the alarm set to go off at some stupid hour, and we don’t think to check that and change it before we go to sleep.

For $400 a night and up you would think they would figure that out.

Being woken up in the middle of the night during your hotel stay is a huge fail, since fundamentally the basic thing you’re paying for is a night’s sleep!

Many of you will say “always check the alarm clock before you go to sleep, to make sure it isn’t on” but most people don’t, many of you will forgot, and that should be a basic item that the hotel takes care of because it shouldn’t be on to begin with unless you turn it on.

A simple item for a rooms task list is check that the alarm is turned off. And once you add that to the list, it’s easy to add “check that the time on the clock is right,” too. 

Full service hotels don’t just have housekeeping service rooms, they have a housekeeping manager go in and check the room and sign off on it before turning it over.  Someone should be looking for this, since an alarm going off in the middle of the night is such a simple thing that ruins a stay. And yet so few hotels seem to bother. This isn’t even a pandemic cut. It has been a known issue for many years.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. This whiney crap was discussed previously, sometime in months past. Generation “pussy” is always finding something to complain about.– Here is a suggestion (1) check the time on the clock when you check into your room,(2) if it is incorrect, reset the clock to the correct time, (3) make sure to check to see if the alarm is set to go off, and if it is, set it not to go off.(4) as a last resort, unplug the clock. See how easy it is to remedy the “problem” by yourself? Now, find something else to bitch about – as that seems to be your modus operandi…

  2. is there anyone who needs an alarm clock these days — who travels without a phone that you can use to see the local time and set alarm(s).
    one of the first things i do is UNPLUG the alarm clock.
    radios are a different matter.

  3. My biggest complaint when staying in hotels is the fact that they all seem to have godawful hard beds! Yes you are paying to sleep and yet we never seem to be able to sleep because it seems that every hotel owner buys the hardest cheapest piece of junk mattress they can find! I’m guessing that they buy the “firm” mattresses because they figure they will hold up longer and I am sure they do because no one can sleep in them. With all of the ultra plush wonderful bedding out there these days and all the hotels claiming to be “luxurious” you end up paying for a room with beds that you would think came from a motel 6 instead of a $250-300 a night Marriott. Twice in the last month I’ve stayed at Marriott and was not able to sleep at all. Sadly it isn’t limited to them, IHG, Hilton, etc seem to have same issue.

  4. You have to think with the quality of housekeepers, none of them know how work digital clocks, I got calls overnight all the time because of vacant rooms alarm clocks were going off lol

  5. @David Miller, yes, the problem is simple to fix. My problem is that as many times as I stay in a hotel, this problem occurs rarely but when it does, it really pisses me off for two reasons… One, I didn’t check the stupid clock, myself. Two, who the hell leaves an alarm set to some ungodly hour of the morning.

    After being woken up, I’m extremely vigilant for a while. But then it happens again, eventually after I inadvertently let my guard down.

    My best solution is to just unplug the damned thing, altogether. Now if hotels could provide convenient electric outlets that don’t require me to move furniture.

  6. UNPLUGGING THE CLOCK IS RUDE to the housekeeping staff who are on strict time limits to clean each room. Just double check that the alarm is off.

  7. It’s easy to say ‘fix the time’, but every brand and model of alarm clock is different, and usually has non-intuitive controls. And I agree it’s probably easier to just unplug it, if you can find the outlet, and if you can get to it.

  8. Jaybird – Have you ever set the alarm clock, say for 5 am, got up, got ready and before you left remembered to turn off the alarm setting ? That is the most likely answer as to “who leaves the alarm set”, after all – it could have been you.

  9. @Fauci, rude to the staff? They don’t have a phone or a watch? How about the staff being rude to the guests by leaving the alarm on set at 3am?

    If the staff really needs the clock, they should be able to verify that it’s set correctly with no alarms set.

  10. Fauci – what a stupid thing to say – “unplugging the clock is rude” – are you suggesting that, dependent on the time housekeeping takes to prepare a room determines just how well the room is prepared? And do not the housekeeping staff have watches?

  11. @David Miller, I never set the hotel alarm clock. I set two alarms on my phone and a backup wake up call. And, yes, I have woken myself up inadvertently with my own phone. My best solution is, “Hey Siri, Clear all of my alarms!” That works great.

  12. Jaybird – my point is/was, sometimes in ones haste to check out they forget to clear the alarm settings – not ideal, but understandable. This is why I say , check the alarm when checking in to your room.

  13. David Miller, my point was that I stay in so many rooms, my vigilance eventually wears down. I try to remember to just unplug the clock. I never set alarms, myself, so it’s not me.

  14. @ Penny
    Thank you for your well said brilliant post as I couldn’t agree more!.
    I’m forwarding it to others

    As for the poster who says we are complainers because the clock is set wrong and the alarm goes off I do not want to set alarm clocks at any hotel nor is everyone of them the same making some harder than others to reset.When possible keeping it simple I pull the plug from the wall.
    I also don’t want to empty trash cans or plastic bag towels when I need new ones. Yet I’ve been asked to at some hotels.
    I’m paying for service and a sleep experience not to go to work.
    If your happy to assist the hotel and maintenance for them and consider it your personal responsibility that’s respected and good on you.

  15. I just unplug the clocks. And use the clock display on my IPAD
    What irks me most these days is Hotel Housekeeping doesnt seem to vacuum like they used to…I never hear the vacuuming like i used to before the pandemic.
    Using a vacuum wand or dustbuster on the bathroom floor would be useful picking up left behind of my biggest gripes

  16. As far as hotel clocks, the biggest problem I have is often you can’t see the time from a sleeping position in bed. Clocks should face the bed so people can see the time without getting up. Unlike the photo of what looks like a Marriott room, some clocks are set up so they are pretty much fixed in position. In probably 2,000+ nights at various brands, an alarm going off that I didn’t set may have happened once or twice.

  17. This is an easy one … the staff don’t know how to set the damn clocks either. I like to know what time it is during the night; I wake up fairly often. I have taught myself to check the alarm before I go to sleep, it’s usually easy to turn off. Then I calculate how many hours the clock is off so I know what time it really is. For me that’s easier than picking up my phone to see the time.

  18. for David Miller … it’s obvious you don’t travel much or you would know that it’s often impossible to reset a hotel room clock. Next time you take a trip, follow your own advice and let us know, OK?

  19. huey judy – aw, you poor, know it all baby. I have traveled for years and I don’ t have a problem resetting a hotel room clock. I take my own advice when traveling and I don’t have the minuscule problem that whiners complain about. But thanks for sharing your knowledge concerning me.

  20. This is something that really annoys me and if some guy wants to say I’m whining, too damn bad. It’s right up there with leaving the drain closed in the tub so when you take a shower water pools. The hotel staff should check the clock as part of their housekeeping. Why the hell is it my job? At times in my career I’ve been traveling almost every week of the year, often multiple trips within the week and often internationally. Nothing like checking in late at night, having traversed multiple time zones, and falling asleep only to be woken at 2 AM by the alarm clock. On the other hand, I haven’t yet found the bed I can’t sleep on as long as it’s stationary. After years of practice, I still can’t sleep well in the lie flat seats, though (but I still appreciate them being there).

  21. DLF — You poor, poor mistreated baby. Oh, the pain, the indignity, the absurdity. It must be really, really tough dealing with these grave issues for all these years. Break out the cheese while he whines – or he will complain some more.

  22. Has anyone ever called the front desk for a wake-up call at, say 8am, only to be told it’s 8:30am?

  23. @Gary Leff, as I’ve always said, you have the classiest commenters of any of the travel blogs.

  24. David Miller – you’re a little bitch, and exactly why this happens. The hotel is literally paid to see to our needs. Not to give us work to do.

  25. Fauci – shut the hell up. Rude? Hell, if they’re lucky, they’ll find the alarm clock shoved in the fridge. If they’re unlucky, it’s in the toilet. Wake me up? Screw you, your toy is getting busted.

  26. Fred – When you are staying at a hotel, who wipes your ass, seeing that is one of your “needs”? The only true “need” I see here is you “need” to have your ignorant mouth slapped and your ass kicked.

  27. I’m just stuck on the fact that someone would actually use the hotel alarm clock. Seriously, I haven’t actually used an alarm clock since upgrading to a blackberry. Even my 80-year-old father uses his phone when he needs an alarm. Are we sure the alarm isn’t being set accidentally when the housekeeper dusts? (This is all to say that I don’t think the solution is to check if the alarm is set, but rather replace an alarm clock with a non-alarm clock)

  28. To help aircraft pilots and flight crews use the same 24-hour clock and avoid confusion when flying between time zones when staying at your hotel, I recommend adjusting your room clock to Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu Time).

  29. This is another reason why no daily housekeeping is a good thing.

    Hotel alarm clocks are also unnecessarily bright many times. I always unplug them.

    If housekeeping isn’t cleaning my room every day, they can’t plug it back in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *