A night in a hotel offers a chance to get away from it all, but what do you really know about the place where you’re laying your head? Just like airlines and restaurants, hotels are full of secrets, and some of them are pretty juicy. From what the front desk staff really knows about you to the truth about booking ultra-cheap rates, here are 15 hotel secrets you should know before your next getaway.
1. Your secret affair isn’t so secret
If you think the front desk staff doesn’t have a clue what you’re up to when you and your “wife” check in at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, think again. World-weary clerks have seen it all, and your attempts to be discreet aren’t fooling anyone — not that it matters to them.
“We know you’re cheating on your wife. I mean don’t get me wrong, we don’t care. But don’t bother making up a backstory when you’re paying in cash 1-2 times a week in the town you live in,” Reddit user JJ23232 said in a discussion thread about what really happens behind the scenes in hotels.
2. There could be a body under your bed
The “body under the bed” is one of those urban legends that is actually rooted in fact. Although it’s not a common occurrence, some hotels guests have discovered they’re sharing their room with a corpse. It happened in both Mexico City and Thailand in 2016. Similar incidents have been reported in Kansas City, Atlantic City, Memphis, and Miami, according to Snopes. Often, the body isn’t discovered until guests complain of a foul odor in the room.
Finding human remains is a worst-case scenario. But even if there are no homicide victims stashed under the mattress, the room could have been the site of other unpleasantness. Suicides, murders, assaults, and natural deaths all occur in both high- and low-end properties. The hotel will clean up afterward, but it’s not going to stop renting the room. If the death is notorious (such as a celebrity overdose), the hotel might go so far as to renumber rooms to discourage ghoulish fans who want to see where a famous person spent their last moments.
3. They know what you’re watching on pay-per-view
Now that most hotels offer free Wi-Fi, the days of having to rely on pay-per-view for in-room entertainment are over. But if you still order movies straight from the TV, know there’s a chance the hotel staff can tell exactly what you watched.
“I wish people understood how detailed the pay-per-view TV systems are,” Reddit user LaDeDarkness wrote. Not only do employees know what you watched, but they might be able to see how long you watched it. In other words, don’t try to weasel out of an extra charge by saying you “accidentally” selected the adult entertainment.
4. You can lose your room to someone with status
You booked your hotel months ago and paid in advance. But if you’re unlucky, you could show up and not have a room. Hotels — just like airlines — sometimes overbook to minimize lost revenue from unsold rooms. And if you’re low on the totem pole, you could find yourself getting “walked” to another property. You won’t have to pay for the new room, but it can definitely be a hassle.
So who gets walked when there isn’t enough room at the inn? It depends, but if another guest has status with the hotel and you don’t, chances are you’ll be the one hauling your suitcase across town, according to Hotel News Now. Hotels don’t want to annoy their most loyal guests, after all. A single-night stay or booking through a third-party site, such as Expedia, could also make it more likely you’ll end up elsewhere.
5. Bargain hunters get a bargain experience
It’s easier than ever to find a great rate on a hotel online, but be careful how you book your room. Making a reservation through a site, such as Expedia, could mean a less-pleasant stay. Some hotels give the least-desirable rooms to guests who book via third-party sites because the hotel makes less money on those stays, and the guests aren’t usually repeat customers.
“Reservations made through Internet discount sites are most likely to receive one of the poorer rooms,” hospitality industry veteran Jacob Tomsky wrote in his memoir Heads in Beds. “Those guests didn’t really choose our property based on quality, they chose based on value.”
If the hotel assumes you’re a price-driven customer who probably won’t be back unless you get another sweet discount, it doesn’t have a lot of incentive to go the extra mile. Want to get better treatment and save money? Try calling the hotel and asking whether it can match the rate you found online. It might be willing to give you a discount.
6. You might be able to get the fees waived
Resort fees and other annoying add-on charges are the bane of travelers everywhere. Not only can the fees bump up the cost of the room considerably, but they’re often hidden, so you don’t realize your affordable room rate isn’t so affordable until you get to check-in. Plus, the “extras” you’re getting are sometimes laughably basic — a few bottles of water and access to a tiny gym don’t exactly make a hotel a resort, as The Points Guy pointed out.
Fortunately, you might be able to get out of paying these fees with a little polite persuasion. If you don’t use the amenities at all or some services are out of order or didn’t function well (such as glacial Wi-Fi), the hotel might scratch the charges from your bill, according to Frommer’s. Being a member of the hotel’s loyalty program can help if you’re trying to negotiate charges. You won’t always get the fees waived, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
7. The bedding might be dirty
Bad news for germophobes: The hotel might not be washing all the bedding between guest stays. Although sheets are laundered regularly, bedspreads and blankets are cleaned less frequently.
“We wash the sheets every day, but blankets often only get washed once a week. And the bedspreads? If there’s no visible stain, it’s maybe once a month,” an anonymous hotel receptionist told Reader’s Digest.
The duvet isn’t the only thing in the hotel that isn’t as clean as it looks.
8. The drinking glasses only look spotless
The water glasses sitting by the sink in your room might be sparkling for all the wrong reasons. According to Tomsky, housekeeping might just be rinsing them off and drying them with a hand towel. And at one hotel where he worked, they used an even more unorthodox method.
“Some [housekeepers] were using furniture polish on the drinking glasses,” he wrote of the cleaning staff who were under pressure to make sure the glasses were spotless. Yuck.
9. Everything else is pretty filthy, too
Unfortunately, an unwashed bedspread and highly polished glasses barely scratch the surface of questionable hotel cleaning practices. Many parts of your room are teeming with bacteria, research has found.
Television remotes were one of the dirtiest items in hotel rooms, a 2012 study by scientists at the University of Houston found. Switches on bedside lamps were also dirty, as were toilets and bathroom sinks. Headboards and bathroom door handles had lower levels of bacterial contamination. And if you’re getting ice, make sure you use the plastic liner. Sick guests sometimes use the ice bucket when they vomit.
10. Your free breakfast isn’t really free
Hungry travelers love free continental breakfasts so much so that many hotels are going all out with their morning spreads. But is that plate of eggs and waffles really free? Maybe not. For one, the cost of the meal is simply bundled into the price of your room, though eating at the hotel might still be cheaper than taking the entire family to IHOP.
Then, there are the hidden costs of your complimentary coffee and Danish, Bryant Simon wrote in an article for Fast Company. Free hotel breakfasts mean fewer jobs for waitresses, more trash polluting the planet in the form of all those disposable plates and cups, and the health consequences of the often less-than-nutritious food you’re filling up on.
11. Even touching the minibar could cost you
Even the least-sophisticated hotel guest knows cracking open a tiny bottle of whiskey from the minibar costs a pretty penny. But what you might not realize is merely picking up that package of Pringles could lead to an extra charge on your bill.
Many hotels have added automated minibars that can sense when you pick up one of their snacks, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Unsuspecting guests or their kids who fiddle with the items might get charged, even if they didn’t consume anything. Most hotels will reverse the charges for items you didn’t actually eat or drink, but you’ll need to review your bill when you check out to avoid any surprise costs.
12. The hotel might check up on you before you check in
High-end hotels want to ensure their guests have a stellar experience, and some are willing to do a little snooping to provide it. Though hotels have always collected and logged info on guests, social media has made it incredibly easy for them to build a profile of you before you even check in, according to Travel & Leisure.
Say you book a five-star hotel for your honeymoon. You might not mention the reason for your trip when you make the reservation, but a staff member who Googles you before check-in will see your Instagram posts about your wedding and might surprise you with a bottle of Champagne in your room.
Online snooping could also be the reason the Wall Street Journal is delivered to your room instead of the New York Times or why the front desk staff is making a point to recommend their excellent tennis facilities (because they already know you play every weekend). Creepy or considerate? You decide.
13. Your bad behavior is noted
Hotels aren’t just keeping track of your likes and dislikes. They’re also noting your bad behavior. Chew out the front desk staff at check-in? Totally trash your room? Generally act like a demanding, entitled jerk? It’s in your permanent record, so to speak.
“[I]f you’re a jerk it will be added to comments on your reservation and every time someone (front desk, concierge, etc.) pulls you up they will get a nice little warning about how you treated someone else. Anyone who has access to the rooms program … can see your entire history with that resort/hotel,” said one Reddit user.
14. The restaurant recommendations aren’t exactly unbiased
The hotel concierge is a valuable resource, but he might not be the best person to talk to if you’re looking for an unbiased suggestion for where to dine. Concierges might get a kickback for every person they send to a certain restaurant, which means they could be steering you to places because they will line their pockets, not just because they provide great food.
Kickbacks are more common at mid-level hotels than at top-tier properties, according to Showtickets.com. Yet even if he’s getting a little something extra for sending a restaurant your business, a good concierge will still send you to a quality spot, especially because you’re likely to complain if you feel you got bad advice.
15. All rooms aren’t created equally
The front desk staff might swear every king room is the same, but they’re lying. Some rooms really are better than others, and if you ask nicely (and grease the wheels a bit), you might be able to snag one of them.
“Here is one of the top lies that comes out of a front desk agent’s mouth: ‘All the rooms are basically the same, sir.’ Bullsh*t. There is always a corner room, a room with a bigger flat screen, a room that … has a larger bathroom with two sinks,” Tomsky wrote. Being polite and perhaps discreetly handing over a $20 bill could get you one of the better rooms, or even an upgrade.