Choosing wisely: Tips to Avoid a Hotel Horror Story

Some hotels can give the outward appearance of comfort and luxury—beautiful landscaping, fresh paint, stonework—all these elements work to pull in customers, luring you into the foyer. I have fallen captive to many a pleasing aesthetic, and sometimes pay the price.

Over the years I have learned there are a few red flags that should tip me off to a potentially less than pleasing stay, although every once in a while I am pleasantly surprised.

Before you pay, evaluate the stay

Arguably, hospitality and comfort are the two most important elements of any hotel stay. Comfortability can be harder to determine before you see the room, but hospitality is one of the first things I gauge with any stay.

At a recent hotel stay in Boise, Idaho, I was suckered in by beautiful perennials and the sweeping, arched porte-cochère. After exhaustedly stumbling up to the front check in desk, I slumped tiredly against the counter and smiled at the front desk attendant and requested a single room for the night.

The attendant stared me in the eye for a moment before asking what name my reservation was under. I explained I didn’t have one and asked if that would be a problem. The mostly empty parking lot outside made me assume it wouldn’t, but she snapped at me, letting me know that ‘yes, it would be a problem and she would see if she could fit me in.’ I felt like an inconvenience, but weathered the storm anchored to my post at the counter while she typed on her computer.

After a minute she told me there was a single room available, but it would have to be cleaned first, and it would be more convenient for them if I just took a room with double beds. Frowning I stated the obvious. There was only one of me. Huffing, she booked my room and directed me to the lounge to wait for my room.

This should have been enough to send me fleeing back to my car, but exhaustion had muddled my brain and all I wanted at this point was a cocktail and a bed.

Linens—always opt. for cloth—or not

Based on the pleasing exterior, I had assumed the inside would match but as I sunk into a chair in the lounge/restaurant/cocktail area and reached for my napkin I recoiled when unidentifiable crustiesbrushed against my skin. I cast the offending linen to the side and reached for another from across the table. Although relatively clean, the linen was threadbare and loose threads tickled the skin on my legs. I started getting nervous about the potential state of my room.

Cloth napkins, to me, are generally a sign of an upscale establishment, but at this point I was wishing I had gone across the street to McDonalds where at least the disposable napkins were sure to be sanitary.

After the front desk attendant let me know my room was ready I grab my key and wandered down the dim hallway.

In-house laundry care?

If it wasn’t for the loud thumping noise next to my room, I might never have been aware of the root of the problem for this particular hotels linens and maybe would have chalked it up to a bad load. This, however, wasn’t a case of a bad load of linens, but bad linen care.

The partially open door to the laundry room exposed ancient industrial machines and generic laundry detergent.

I shuddered picturing my sheets and slowly turned to face my fate.

Beware of poor linen care

The quality of linen servicesshould refer to two different things. The first thing to consider is the specific qualities of the material—if they are soft or durable.

Additionally, you can expect that hotel linens will become severely soiled, especially over time which is why the second consideration in the quality of linens will be the actual quality of the cleaning.

Bacteria and fungus is a huge concern for me, and so are viruses. My neurosis lead me to look up linen care and I learned linens should be treated with Zinc oxide nano particles to prevent the spread of Staphylococcus aureus and KlebsiellaPneumoniae bacteria—gross. For the safety of hotel guests, it is important to have a specialist who will ensure that your linens are completely hygienic if not sterile, and not just a worn out laundry room staffed by minimum wage employees with no laundry care training.

I probably don’t need to tell you I didn’t sleep under my covers and kept my clothes on during my stay.

Now I have learned, if a front desk attendant is disgruntled and rude, chances are they don’t love their job for a reason. This is always the first red flag.

I also take my time before checking in to a hotel now as well. I peek my head into the restaurant—if there is one—and talk to other travelers, casually asking what the rooms before handing over my card.

Also, when in doubt I’m not afraid to ask hotels is they hire a linen service or take care of laundry in-house. Don’t be afraid to do the same, especially if you’ve noticed other warning signs.

About Author: Jillian Schumaker is a freelance writer, blogger and outdoor enthusiast. Currently she works with Linen Services and spends her time writing about travel experiences in the western United States.

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