Hotel Pet Peeves and Needs from a Road Warrior.
By Corbin Ball
Saturday, 23rd June 2007
As a professional speaker and consultant my travels cover about 130 days per year and have strong feelings on what constitutes the ideal hotel stay.

For you hoteliers out there that wish to improve our stays, please take notice! For you fellow travelers out there -- please send me your thoughts and I will update this online file as they are received.

The Sleeping Room:

A hotel visit should be welcoming, comfortable, upscale, designed for business, and have my needs taken care of quickly but unobtrusively.

The bed:

  • Provide a variety of pillows (foam, fiber, feather – soft and hard). Please cater to our individual preferences.
  • Provide layers of bedding. Often a single sheet is too cold and the feather duvet seems like it was rated for a Mount Everest expedition. Let us choose!
  • Lose the printed bed spread that is not changed with every cleaning. You just don't know what has happened on it!
  • Many alarm clocks are way too complex. We should not need a degree from MIT to be able to set them!
  • Make it possible for the alarm clock to be placed in either side of the bed. At home, my alarm clock is on the right side of the bed… I like to replicate that when I travel.
  • I use the telephone wakeup call as a backup. I prefer the automated "key-pad" setting option as being faster and more reliable than dealing with a person for this.
  • Provide enough light to read by (on each side of the king bed) and that is easy to find the switch to turn it off, preferably a large switch at is base. A dimmer switch is ideal.
  • Keep the dual-line bed phone simple – too many features discourage use. In general, all technology in the guest room should be immediately intuitively obvious on how to use.
  • A great bed comforter
  • The practice of the hotel housekeeper tucking the top sheet and blanket under the mattress.  When I pull the blanket and sheet from the mattress so that I can get into bed, the bottom sheet comes out with it and I have to get down to re-tuck it in or I end up sleeping on a loose sheet.
  • Have the housekeeper check that any alarm on the clock is in the "OFF" position. I was awakened three times in a row during hotel stays where the prior occupant apparently had a very, very early flight -- or a sick sense of humor.
  • An easily accessible outlet near the bed (that I don't have to crawl under the bed to reach) is useful.  I use my cell phone as my alarm clock and I like to be able to re-charge it overnight and have it nearby to turn off when it sounds.
The bathroom:

  • Please provide a night light! We should not have to be assaulted with glaring light when we get up to use an unfamiliar restroom during the night.  The two best options I have seen are the lighted shaving mirror (this works great as a soft nightlight), or the automated nightlight built into mounted hair dryers. However, a simple $5 dimmer switch would work just fine.
  • While I am on the subject though, please provide a lighted shaving mirror.
  • Mounted hair dryers (with adequate heat and flow) are much better than scrambling around trying to find the dryer in the drawer or bag, unwinding the cord wrapped around the handle, finding and available sockets,  and plugging in the ground protection plug the right way into it!
  • Provide enough surface space, ideally a shelf, on which to put your toilet items.
  • Do not wrap the soap in bullet-proof saran wrap that is as difficult as CD wrappers to take off. Make it easy to use!
  • Better yet, provide bulk soap and shampoo dispensers which are easier to use and less wasteful.
  • Provide flat corner shelves standing height in the shower. I regularly use a razor and shampoo – it would be nice to have a place at standing height to set them.
  • Provide simple to use shower controls. I was recently drenched with cold water in a luxury hotel in Dublin because of ambiguous shower controls.
  • Maximum hot water temprature should be no more than 120 degrees Fairenheight (49 degrees Celcius). The scalding risk is high with unfamiliar controls.
  • Provide a show head that is adjustable and can be directable.
  • I love super-sized towels – it is a cheap way of providing a sense of luxury.
  • Of course, absolute cleanliness is a minimum requirement.
The desk:

  • Women can't put make-up on by feel. Why are hotel rooms and bathrooms always so poorly-lit? Yes to dimmer switches at night, but we need dressing-room- bright the rest of the time please. Eyeliner is tricky stuff…
  • I have to disagree with you, Corbin, about the mounted hair dryers. They tend to be very compact and suck long hair into the intake!
  • A shaving/makeup mirror in the bathroom.  Too few hotels - even new luxury hotels - have them.  I can't reach the big mirror (I'm short, and nearsighted).
  • Quality sundries including razor, shave cream, toothbrush & paste, hairbrush, comb, a real shoe shiner besides the normal array of toiletries.
  • Both rain shower head and hand held; shower separate from deluxe bath
    Skip folding the toilet paper into little points. Have the housekeeper use the time to disarm the clock radio (see The Bed section).
  • No to "luxury" touches like frigid cold marble bathroom floors. That's a huge turnoff during a middle-of the-night visit. I'd rather have vinyl, or even linoleum - not as elegant, but a lot warmer on the feet. (I once stayed in a luxury hotel in December where two of the bathroom walls were exterior walls. You could have frozen ice on their expensive marble floor.)
  • Why on Earth doesn't every hotel have strong grab bars by the bathtub in every bathroom, to assist in getting in and out of the tub? Much cheaper than the lawsuit from the guest who slips and breaks a leg.
  • Also, why isn't every hotel offering guests the option of having towels/sheets changed every other day, instead of daily?
  • No bathroom fan!
  • OK, would you store the extra toilet paper roll in the closet on the other side of the room, in a little bag with a witty saying that made you wonder what was in the bag?
  • No hook in the bathroom for your pajamas or robe.  So you have a really high-style sink but you have to flop your clothes on the wet counter
  • Cushy towels!
  • Have lighting in the bathtub/shower area.  It can feel like being in a dungeon once you pull the shower curtain.
  • I have stayed recently at two hotels that encourage towel re-use to save the planet, but don't include enough towel racks to hang your towels on! Pottery Barn style cupboard storage, or funky hooks that don't allow the towels to dry just don't make sense.
For road warriors, a working office is essential part of the guest room experience. Here are some of the basic requirements.

  • Provide a desk that is ergonomically correct to use with a laptop – I other words, standard keyboard height.
  • I really like the two-level desks, where the botom level rolls out to provide more space
  • Provide an ergonomic (Herman Miller Aeron-like) chair with height adjustment capabilities.
  • Provide easily accessible power. Four open plugs at a minimum and accessible form the desk top. We have lots of gadgets (phones, computers, i-Pods and more). We need to plug them in to recharge and we don't want to go crawling under the desk to find them.
  • Provide an adjustable reading light with the switch on the base.
  • Provide free Wi-Fi and/or wired broadband internet access. I know the luxury properties out there are still trying to keep this a profit center but this is becoming a utility such as lights and water. Don't nickel-and-dime us to death with these add-on charges!
  • Make this internet easy to access. Opening my browser and clicking "OK" is all that it should take.
  • I like to use a security cable for my notebook computer. I would be nice to provide a hook near the desk to secure this to (or a desk that allows a security cable to be threaded into).
  • A dual-line phone would be nice, although I tend more and more to use my cell phone.
  • A business center to print out documents is nice, but ideally web printing options to printers on each floor should be available.
  • I would like to see other hotels follow the lead of Gaylord's iConnect (redrocketinc.net/html/gaylord/demo2.html) – putting a thin-client flat-panel computer screen and keyboard in every guest room (linked into the hotel server via
  • Wi-Fi or high speed data lines).  For minimal or no cost, guests can log-in, surf the web, check their web mail, etc. The hotels can build this into property management system for guests to make dining reservation reservations, wakeup calls, guest satisfaction surveys, concierge services, folio information/checkout and more. Event information can included including branding, agenda and tradeshows. Hotels can use it to up-sell guest on hotel features, theme park entrances, and charge for advertising space. This system is cheap to implement, quick to payback, and offers substantial benefits to hotel guests.
  • Don't charge me an exorbitant local phone call charge to connect with your off-property internet support staff! It ads insult to the injury of being charged exorbitant rates for your WiFi.
  • Speaker phone on desk is a must
  • Stop wasting money on phones with push buttons for services (since they all roll to operator whenever I call) -one call is all I should have to make
Entertainment center:

  • Please make the remote control easy to use. The On/Off switch, channel and volume switch in particular should be easy to find.
  • Put the TV on a swivel that makes it easy to see from the bed and the desk – this will become more difficult to do as flat-panel screens are more widely used, but this will need to be worked out.
  • I hate the annoying repeating musical announcement that is often used when you turn on the TV! If we want to use the premium services, we will find them without the audio assault.
  • Provide a socket to plug in my iPod or other MP3 players into the entertainment sound system.
  • Provide video and audio plugs so that I can view my video or video or camera images.
  • Please have a SLEEP button on the TV remote control.
  • Love flat screen HD TVs

  • Choose an iron and ironing board that are easy to use. I like the iron with the spring-loaded retractable cord. The iron release switch should be in the front of the board where you would naturally place your left hand.  Also, provide enough AC plugs – especially at the desk and in an area to be used for the iron.
  • Use normal sized clothes hanger hooks. Most of us are not going to steal them. Please stop treating us like criminals by using those small, hard-to-use hanger hooks.
  • Provide an easy-to-set digital safe large enough to place a notebook computer in. A nice additional touch is to provide a power outlet inside so that you can securely store and charge your computer at the same time. It would be nice if this is a counter level rather than having to crawl on your knees to access it.
  • Provide a full size mirror.
  • Not only do we agree with the small-hook hanger problem, we need more hangers. A three-day conference with dinner/banquets, tours, etc. stretches a girl's wardrobe and all its various bits. Five coat hangers in the wardrobe just won't do.
  • Lighted closet when opened
  • More hangers!
  • Spray starch
  • A second luggage stand would be nice - especially when the room is double occupancy.
  • Another earnest request for more rod space and more hangars. Two women on a business trip for a week are doomed to triple-pile clothes on a hangar.
General Room:

  • The thermostat should be simple to use and in a location that is easy to find.
  • Please provide a coffee maker – preferably on a table or ledge just outside of the bathroom.
  • Make the coffee fitler packs easy to open and clearly designated cafinated or decafinated. This is picky, but I prefer the round ones that fit nicely into the coffee maker.
  • Windows that can be opened are ideal.
  • Make sure the door automatically closes (and locks with an audible click) when you leave the room.
  • Give guest newspaper options.
Check-in/Lobby/Public Space:

  • Always, always, always provide a floor-length mirror.
  • An electronic "do not disturb" or "clean please" sign activated by a button inside the room; no door hangers or need to make sure no one is looking
  • Motion activated discrete floor lighting when getting out of the bed during the night
  • A light bright enough to read by -- at least 100 watts -- beside the bed and/or next to the chair is mandatory.
  • Don't feel you need to turn the TV or radio on during turn-down service. After spending the day in meetings, coming back too a quiet room is much preferred.
  • An ottoman with the chair, or even a comfortable recliner chair so I can put the feet up that just walked 20 miles of convention center, gets major brownie points.
  • Those of us that keep socks on our feet -- especially white ones -- know how clean the carpets are. Shampoo 'em occasionally, will ya!
  • If you're going to deliver a paper outside my door, please do it quietly.  It's not nearly as appreciated when I had to be awakened at 4 am to get it.
  • No Smoking Rooms (and floors) should be strictly enforced. "No Smoking" should mean no trace of smoke smell to the most sensitive of noses... Ideally, that no one has ever smoked in that room.
  • If two guests are assigned to the room, provide two luggage racks.
  • "Power on" settings operated by room key that are common in many international locations should be standard in US (or motion activated)
  • Want feedback on staff performance?  Give us "Service Bucks" - cards to hand to staff who go ABCD - Above and beyond the call of duty
  • Integrate housekeeping staff with maintenance - no excuse for burned out lights.
  • Clean the heat/air-conditioning filters regularly and dust occasionally so I don't wake up with my eyes swollen shut!
  • An earnest request that every hotel room in the country switch to compact flourescent lights - they are cooler, they are better for the environment, and they are a hugely impactful energy savings measure that has no impact on the guest experience. Folks, this technology has evolved since the 1970's even if the hospitality industry hasn't.
You only get one chance to make a first impression.

  • Keep the check-in line to a minimum. Provide self-service kiosk as an alternative to waiting in line.
  • Also, kiosks providing airport check-in services are a nice touch. 
  • Welcome people with sincere friendliness. A smile and a friendly greeting will go along way.
  • Hoteliers should greet people using their name whenever possible. These are a few of the peeves/needs I immediately came up with. What are yours? Please send them along and I will update this article accordingly.
  • I like never waiting for elevators; never having to push the elevator button
  • Get the room reservation right
  • I absolutely support diversity in hiring, but please -- in the U.S. have your front desk staff (and telephone operators) speak English well enough to be understood.
  • To the hotel that elected to turn the water completely off from midnight to 5:00 am (and I arrived at 1:00 am) -- not letting people making reservations know this would be the case is as bad as it gets. I feel fairly strongly that flushing and washing my hands is something I'm paying for no matter what the time of day or night. Having the plumbers banging around during that time only made it worse.
  • The groovy vibe in the lobby included really loud music - so loud that you couldn't hear the reservation desk staffer during check in.
  • In high style, form and function should go together, and at this property, stuff looked good but nothing worked.
  • Directions - driving, shuttle, taxi - to your hotel provided regardless of how I book a stayGet your frequent stayer program profiles to match what people REALLY want - one to one marketing.  My room gets no paper, and doesn't get turndown service, and I need a late check out always.  Don't try and customize room for me - way to hard and costly.  Just set my profile correctly for centralized service. 
  • Please don't make me have to prove that I not only provided the Master Account information, but am really on it! 
  • And don't need to produce a credit card as incidentals are included.
Update note:
This article hit a nerve with many readers. I received dozens of email messages of support and additional "peeve" suggestions. Thanks specifically to Judi Joubert; Leonore Jordan, CMP, Joe Davis, Howard Reichbart, Cynthia Elliott, Melissa Hart, Marge Anderson,Teri Elliott Jarvie, Candy Adams, Danne Neill, Jon Regas, David Fletcher, Beth Cooper-Zobott, Mickey Wright, April Cole and Marge Anderson who came up with the additional suggestions

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP is a professional speaker and consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site: www.corbinball.com .

2005, 2006, 2007 Corbin Ball Associates
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