Fact or Fiction? 6 Crazy Things That Happen in Hotels

People have some pretty crazy ideas about travel. From the rumor that airlines must compensate you if your flight is canceled and you mention Rule 240 (some will, but most won’t) to the belief that the air you breathe on a plane is with filled with germs (it’s not, but you should worry about the tray tables), certain travel myths stubbornly persist even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The hotel industry isn’t immune to myths. Some scary stories regarding hotel visits are based on a kernel of truth while others seem to be entirely fictitious. Here are six of the biggest myths, along with a few half-truths, about hotels.

1. The keycard is storing your personal information

hotel key card at Waldorf Astoria

Hotel keycard | Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Most hotels switched from real keys to plastic keycards long ago, but some people are apparently still suspicious of this newfangled technology. A persistent urban legend claims that these little bits of plastic put you at risk for identity theft, according to Snopes — but that’s just not the case.

While your keycard could theoretically be loaded with your credit card number and other personal information, Snopes says hotels don’t use them that way. “Guests have nothing to be concerned about from a privacy standpoint,” Fred Kleisner, the general manager of The Nines hotel in Portland, Oregon, tells Condé Nast Traveler. “[Keycards] don’t store the guest’s info, they don’t even store the guest’s name.”

2. The bedding is always fresh

hotel bedroom

Fresh hotel bedding | iStock.com

When you check in to your hotel room, you expect fresh, clean sheets on the bed. But what about the bedspread? Many hotels don’t clean the top layer of bedding between guest stays, according to CNN.

Some hotels are getting the memo that people don’t like sleeping on dirty beds. Housekeeping staff at the Hampton Inn chain now leave sticky notes for guests letting them know that the duvet cover has been laundered, and Marriott also says they wash the bed covers after a guest checks out.

3. The coffee pot may have been used to cook meth

Coffee and coffee beans

Coffee and coffee beans | iStock.com

In September 2015, a Nebraska family claimed to have gotten sick after a stay at an Omaha hotel, supposedly because the in-room coffeemaker had been used to cook meth. Police were skeptical, saying that the chances of someone being able to make drugs in a small, single-cup coffeemaker like the one in the room were slim, according to a report from KETV News.

Snopes also claims the story doesn’t seem entirely believable. Hotel rooms are sometimes used as meth labs, though, leaving behind dangerous chemical residue in the process. If the space hasn’t been properly decontaminated, future guests could get sick. But in that case, you’re more likely to experience respiratory problems than meth-induced hallucinations.

Fears of meth-tainted coffee may be overblown, but it is true that you can’t be confident that the pot you’re using to brew your morning joe is clean. There’s a decent chance it has only been rinsed, not properly washed, since the last guest stayed there. Ditto for the glasses if they’re not wrapped in plastic.

4. The dirtiest part of the hotel is the bathroom

bathroom

Bathtub in a hotel room | iStock.com

The idea that the hotel bathroom is crawling with germs seems logical, but it’s not actually the grossest part of the room. Researchers at the University of Houston measured the bacteria levels in 27 hotel rooms in three states and found the lowest levels of contamination on the bathroom door handle, along with the headboard and curtain rods. The dirtiest parts of the room were the TV remote and the switches on the bedside lamp.

A separate study by a University of Arizona microbiologist also found that remotes were pretty filthy, with one home to colonies of E. coli. “This indicates there was fecal contamination on the remote,” Dr. Luisa Ikner, who conducted the study, tells Today. “So perhaps someone used the restroom and didn’t wash their hands when they were done.”

5. “Sold out” hotels have rooms set aside for VIPs and emergencies

man walking through youth hostel

Walking through the hotel looking for a room | Jure Makovec/AFP/Getty Images

You arrive at a hotel late in the evening without a reservation, and the front desk clerk says there are no rooms available. Don’t think you’re being clever by demanding the room you think has been set aside just in case the president or another elite guest arrives unexpectedly. It doesn’t exist (or if it does, you’re not getting it).

If you have status with the hotel, the clerk might make an extra effort to accommodate your late arrival, but the idea that the average traveler can bully staff at the Best Western into releasing one of these “emergency” rooms is a myth. “We don’t hold a room on the potential that Obama might check in for the night or the pope is making a swing through our town,” says a Reddit user who identified himself as a hotel employee. “You really think the Secret Service just allows the president to walk in?”

6. Always check under the bed for a dead body

crime scene

A crime scene that has been blocked off | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Do you get down on your knees and peek under the bed when you first enter a new hotel room? Some people think you should, and they’re not just paranoid. Unfortunately, the idea that there could be a dead body stashed under the mattress isn’t the product of a screenwriter’s fevered imagination. While it’s not common, there have been instances of hotel guests unknowingly sharing their room with the recently deceased.

In 2010, the body of a murdered woman was discovered under a bed in a Memphis motel room. The killing occurred six weeks earlier and the room was rented several times before the grisly discovery was made. A similar incident occurred in North Carolina in 2013.

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