Hotel insiders reveal the great and grubby secrets that guests don’t know

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Moya Crockett
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When you go on holiday, how much attention do you pay to hotel staff? We’re willing to bet the answer is “Um, not much” – but you can rest assured that they’re paying attention to you.

Hotel insiders, from managers to housekeepers, recently took to forum website Quora to share some of the secrets of hotel life. Some of them were useful, some of them were sleazy, and some were downright disgusting – and we’ve picked out the highlights for you right here.

Sundays early in the month are the best time to arrive at a hotel


That’s because holidaymakers have left or are leaving the hotel, while business travellers haven’t arrived yet, according to Stacy Jean, a hospitality administration graduate who has worked in hotels for over eight years.

“Incidentally, if you’re looking to visit a particular location but don’t know when you should go, phone up the hotel and ask them what their slow season is, or when they would recommend you visit,” she says. “They'll know what the slow season is – that's vacation season for them!”

Treat hotel staff well and you’ll reap the rewards


Of course, you should be nice without having an ulterior motive. But Stacy Jean says that making an effort to be polite, friendly and respectful to the people working in a hotel can pay dividends.

“What I wished people would realize is that hotel staff can do a lot for you – i.e. free stuff, upgrades, generally making your stay easier and more pleasant – when people are nice to us,” she says.

“There’s plenty of things we aren't required to do but are capable of doing if we’re given the motivation to do so. Being nice to us is the easiest way to get free stuff!”

Yeah, your room might not have been cleaned properly


If you’re a frequent traveller, you’ve probably experienced the queasy disappointment of a not-quite-clean hotel room at least once. Quora’s hotel industry insiders are fairly frank on the matter: yep, you can’t always expect perfect hygiene.

“Sometimes sheets are not changed daily,” says Peter Mayer, who worked as a hotel housekeeper after moving to the US. And that’s not only true for beds that haven’t been slept in. “Shady and cheap hotel/motel managers and owners encourage staff to check if the sheets look clean,” he says. “If they do, they tell housekeepers to just tighten it up from the corners.”

And you can forget about extra bedding being clean. Most hotel beds are dressed up with pretty blankets, quilts and throw pillows, but these are apparently rarely washed.

“When a housekeeper has 30 minutes to clean a room, there is not really time to run down to the laundry room and exchange the blanket or bedspread,” says Mayer.

Tirena Schue adds: “Why are throw pillows called ‘throw pillows’? Because you throw them. Off the bed. Onto the floor. And they aren’t washed in between guests.” 

Seedy stuff goes on – and usually around 2am


First things first: almost every hotel will have its share of shady business going down.

“Yes, we host gentlemen and ladies who are having affairs,” says Stacy Jean. But “so long as your payment goes through and you don't cause permanent damage to the room we don't really care. We're not there to make moral judgements; we're there to make money.”

James Searson worked for several years at as an overnight manager at a five-star hotel, and says that “you could expect a variety of potential trouble-makers among the guests”, particularly at the weekends – from old men cheating on their wives with “call girls” in their early 20s to “idiot fraternity guys”.

“After about 2:00 AM is when trouble usually occurs,” he says, explaining: “Often ambulances would get dispatched to deal with those passed out on couches and chairs, or individuals whom injured themselves by accidentally tripping over something which shot their body towards the granite floor. All too often the nightly drinks would end up on the floor (instead of their stomachs).”

Someone has almost definitely died there


Apparently, nearly every establishment has a ghastly story of a guest who checked out of life – while still checked into the hotel.

“I used to ask my hospitality professors, ‘What’s the weirdest thing that ever happened to you while working at a hotel?’” says Stacy Jean. “Their answers inevitably began with ‘Well, the thing that people don't realize is that people die in hotels …’”

“Almost everyone who has ever been a manager in a hotel has encountered a dead body,” agrees Susan Deluzain Barry, adding: “Except me!!!” She goes on to share a particularly gruesome anecdote involving “a woman [who] had too much to drink, slipped into her Jacuzzi, and literally BOILED to death. True story.” Shudder.