Sting Operation: Hotels Not Following Enhanced (Or Any!) Cleaning Procedures

In 1874 Stockholm’s Grand Hotel became the first in Europe to change sheets in between guests. Unfortunately there are hotels in modern times where this idea didn’t seem to catch on.

Surely in the pandemic era, where hotel chains are promoting new cleanliness standards, cleanliness councils, and local cleanliness managers that isn’t happening, right? Oh come on, yo already know the answer to this question and it’s scary.

Several years ago shared a hotel housekeeping confession:and memes don’t change just because circumstances do.

Inside Edition reprised an earlier sting operation where they checked into hotels and left marks on pillows, television remotes, thermostats and other areas of the room with washable sprays and gels that show up under UV light to see whether cleaning procedures are being followed.

They checked back into the same rooms the next day to see whether sheets had been changed and high touch points had been cleaned. Two hotels utterly failed, and one hotel partly failed – enough so that you wouldn’t want to stay there.

At the Hyatt Place Times Square, the markings appeared on bed sheets and pillowcases, which “Inside Edition” said shows the linens were not changed between stays. The gel was also visible on the TV remote, the report said.

…When it came to the Hampton Inn Times Square Central, the producers found invisible markings on the sheets and a pillowcase, the remote and thermostat.

…The sheets had been changed at the Trump International Hotel, but one of the pillowcases had not, the show alleges. The TV remote didn’t appear to have been wiped and an invisible handprint left on a surface as part of the test remained.

Credit: Inside Edition

Hyatt and the Hilton property owner are appalled, while the Trump hotel denies the report. Update: A Hyatt spokesperson offers,

We are deeply concerned by the situation. When we learned about this, we promptly contacted the hotel’s owner and required them to take swift action to address this.

Our Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment has been developed with input from experts from organizations including Cleveland Clinic and Ecolab.

We have no tolerance for hotels that do not comply, and we are taking decisive actions like requiring Hygiene & Wellbeing Leaders at every property and working with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council on GBAC STAR accreditation at all of our more than 900 hotels.

Are housekeepers cleaning the coffee pot? Were the same cleaning items used in the bathroom used anywhere else? It used to be that I didn’t really want to know. Now I do..

One Beijing hotel was caught a few years ago using the toilet bowl cleaner on the room’s drinking glasses. I’ve heard over time that this is common. And do you really think TV remotes get wiped down?

Aside from the loyalty program the primary value of a chain hotel is the brand and the trust they’ve built. Most people believe that corporate standards will be enforced. And that may even be more true than it isn’t, but it isn’t often enough to matter.

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. As awful as this is, I always wonder how many hotels they did this to in order to find the 2-3 offenders that make it on-air.

  2. I take wipes with me and always have to clean the remote and other items. I Never – Never, Ever would have thought the sheets and pillowcases were not changed.

  3. I am not at all surprised and I assume that this is representative of hotels and motels in general.

    In fairness, however, I wonder what results might be if they randomly checked private residences, regardless of socioeconomic status, for cleanliness standards and practices.

  4. Even if the sting operation had to visit thousands of hotels to find the only 2 or 3 that didn’t adhere to practices, it is a great idea!

    It should (hopefully) force all hotels to re-examine adherence to practices in their hotels.

    Honestly, it shouldn’t be difficult to assign one specific employee the quality control task and go to each room with a follow-up checklist to ensure that all potential surfaces are sanitized.

  5. When a downtown New York Hilton or Hyatt hotel has a room rate less than $100 to $200 per night, do you really expect them to sanitize your room and supply fresh, laundered sheets and pillowcase?

  6. Repeat , probably serial , offenders. Either the hotels are being ripped-off by the housekeeping staff…in which case their sorry arses should be kicked out..or this is money-saving in the COVID era (…if it doesn’t pre-date it).
    In either case the consumer is defrauded.
    It’s beyond disgusting.

  7. The pandemic isn’t bad enough for business and articles like this make recovery almost impossible. Do you want every business to go bankrupt?

  8. I will admit that I never considered hotels wouldn’t be changing the sheets between guests. That’s just disgusting.

  9. As Gary pointed out, hotel chains and brands need to drive the cleanliness part home. Beat the hell out of that horse.

    If they fail the cleanliness test and people stop trusting hotels, we have options in 2020 that we didn’t have in 1990. If I gotta go through and pre-clean my room, I might as well save the inconvenience and get an Airbnb in a neighborhood I prefer.

    Even with status – hotel lounges are closed, amenities are limited, etc, so cleanliness guarantees are LITERALLY the only differentiator between a hotel and a random Airbnb (which offers better location options, more space, lower pricing, and possibly more amenities) these days.

  10. What Inside Edition didn’t say is how many hotels they visited that cleaned properly. I bet they went to more than three. Regardless, this was happening before. In fact, they did this a couple years ago. The idea that any hotel would suddenly be cleaner than before is absurd. I can’t believe people fall for all the marketing-speaking of the big hotel chains. After all, the vast majority of the chain hotels are run by franchisees or the franchisee’s management company contractor. Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt really can’t do anything. Heck, Hilton and Marriott can’t even get their properties to offer an actual breakfast benefit that is uniformly executed. What makes anyone think they can uniformly re-train housekeepers? But regardless, the real problem always seems to be the limited-service hotels, which ironically probably get more use and wear-and-tear than full-service hotels since many of the limited-service hotels have full suites with kitchens. When I stay at those hotels, I always re-wash all of the plates, silverware, cups, etc.

  11. “Hyatt and the Hilton property owner are appalled, while the Trump hotel denies the report.”

    This is so incredibly on brand.

    Also, @Ron, the cleanliness standards of my home are based on the fact that I am the only one sleeping in my bed, and I’m OK with some degree of my own germs. And I’m presumably paying $100-200+ every single night in order to have a fresh, clean room. If you consider my mortgage and other home expenses, I could easily throw in a housekeeping service every single day for that cost and pay them to clean everything.

  12. This is why I always bring a washing machine and dryer with me whenever I travel.

  13. Inside Edition should pledge to keep doing this, or have a live reveal to drive traffic. This would also help drive the message to hotel brands and franchises. This would put the hotel industry on notice that the full power of the media will be doing these sting operations nationwide. Why don’t CNN and NBC and the like join the party too?!

  14. Inside Edition should also try this “sting” with airlines, restaurants, and other businesses promising improved cleaning. Cleaning takes time and effort and possibly exposes the workers to greater risk. People tasked with cleaning aren’t getting paid more. What do you expect is going to happen?

  15. This is why travel at this point just isn’t safe. The things you trust to be done for you may not be done, which puts you and your family at risk. As much as it pains me to say this, we all need to just stay home until there is a cure, unless you don’t value your safety.

  16. while the Trump hotel denies the report

    And that is so typical. Stand out in a thunderstorm and deny it is raining. What a pathetic person/company/brand.

  17. Like the boss, Trump Hotels only gives lip service to actually doing things, in lieu of actually doing them.

  18. I can’t help but think this Inside Edition report was just another way to bash Trump even though he divested himself of the Trump International brand while he’s president. They just included Hyatt in Hilton to try to not make it as obvious.

  19. As consumers maybe we should all carry a pen and light so we can keep the hotels honest. I make a mark on my pillow before I check out, you check it with your light when you check-in. And as far as the housekeepers go, it’s a management problem if the housekeepers are not doing their jobs correctly. Management and corporate should be punished not the low paid housekeepers who are struggling to meet their own needs, rushed to do a job in a specific amount of time, etc.

Leave a Reply

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