What’s a Hotel Fail for You?

hotel bell

hotel bell

Just as first impressions are important in business and personal relationships, so are they important in setting the tone for a hotel stay.  That impression starts the minute you walk into the lobby, if not before, and just like with your interpersonal relationships, first impressions are usually spot on.  Throughout a stay, however, a hotel has numerous opportunities to impress or fail and often this is what separates the so-so hotels from the really great ones.

Here are a few things that I think are hotel fails – do you agree?

  1. Lines.  Lines are a fact of life.  But when there’s a line all the time, or the line moves so slowly that people start to get restless (in a not so happy way), it’s a sign of a larger problem.  If the lobby is always full of lines, it’s a staffing issue.   When I see only one or two front desk staff trying to juggle 10-15 people, it tells me that hotel management doesn’t care about its guests’ time.  Sure stuff happens, and every property has unexpected issues, but we all know hotels for whom those unexpected issues have become standard operating procedure.  I’ll choose to stay elsewhere.
  2. Failure to make eye contact.  When I come up to the front desk to check in, I want the front desk person to take their eyes away from the computer screen for two seconds to say hello.  Greeting me and making me feel welcome is part of the hotel experience.  When you don’t look up to acknowledge me, or worse, when you just mumble that you want my credit card, you’re telling me that my money is important, but I’m not.  The same holds true for any visit to the front desk (just especially irritating when I’m checking in), the concierge, bellman, etc.  If you’re on the phone a quick second of eye contact conveys to me that you’ll be with me as soon as you can and you care about helping me.  If you don’t care about me, after all, why should I care about spending my hard earned money with you?  My credit card can work just as well with your competitor down the block.
  3. Inordinately slow (inoperative?) elevators.  It shouldn’t be that complicated to get to my room.  When I see people waiting on a bank of elevators without one appearing for long periods of time, it again tells me that you don’t respect my time.  I expect elevators to be in working order, expeditiously moving people among the hotel floors.  When I see the some elevators never come to the bottom floor it makes me wonder what’s going on.  Yes, I’m anxious to get to my room, but I also understand a reasonable wait time.  I just ask that you make it as easy as possible by having all elevator banks working.
  4. Mumbling.  Didn’t anyone learn how to enunciate?!  Many hotels now have standard verbiage that is used to greet every guest, whether it’s an internal phone call, a call to the concierge,  or to reservations.  I understand that you want that as a part of your image and branding.  Okay, that’s fine.  But when it’s mumbled by your operator or other employee, I’m left wondering just who it is that I’ve called.  More important that training your staff on the special branding message is training them to speak slowly and enunciate so they can be understood.
  5. People sprawled in the lobby.  I know that group bookings can be a lucrative part of a hotel’s business, but do they have to sprawl all over the lobby?  Countless times I have seen guests bobbing and weaving around people sitting or sleeping on the floor, fighting with bags that block  all ingress and egress, or trying to get past bags stacked so as to block the front desk.  I can’t stay at your hotel if I can’t get in it!  The easy solution is to find a group leader and ask them to resolve the issue, but if they can’t – or won’t – you need to have a policy in place for the rest of your guest.
  6. Trainees.  Everyone had a first day on the job.  We all had to take time to learn skills that we now take for granted.  I understand the need to train new staff members by having them work alongside your best employees.  That’s a sensible training solution.  But training at peak check in/check out periods is emphasizing training over customer service.  I’m not going to get crabby with a trainee, as I really do empathize, but at some point, you need to get someone to take over and complete the transaction so you don’t have lines all over the place.  And it’s not fair to the trainee either!

I’m sure there are others that have slipped my mind, but these are the annoyances that I see most frequently.  How about you?  Did I miss your particular hotel fail?

Photo credit:  SXC


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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

6 Responses to “What’s a Hotel Fail for You?”

  1. August 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    The absolute worst for me is when I walk into my room and it hasn’t been cleaned properly. You get what you pay for in terms of how updated and high-quality a room is, but even in a cheap motel, the room can be spotless. If I walk in and there’s still trash in the can or hair in the tub or dust on the TV, I consider it a huge hotel FAIL.

    And the same goes for the lobby – if your staff couldn’t be bothered to dust the fake plants or make sure dirt isn’t collecting in the corners of the floor, it makes me wonder where else you’re cutting corners.

    • August 20, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      A bathroom that isn’t spotless is a real pet peeve to me. And just gross when it isn’t.

  2. August 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm #


    1 – When I’m standing at the counter being ignored while employees talk a few feet away. I understand that sometimes you need to give someone instructions but when you see me walk up, stop for a second and acknowledge me and say you’ll be right with me. Don’t pretend I don’t exist.

    2 – When a counter has multiple stations, all staffed, and there is no indication of which you should use and no one looks up to give you direction.

    • August 20, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Sometimes it’s less about money and more about training and service attitude. A simple glance and acknowledging smile can go a long way.

  3. August 18, 2012 at 12:32 pm #

    I would say improper housekeeping…one of my pet peeves. I hate coming back to a room that’s not been made well!

    • August 20, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Yeah, that is just nasty!

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