You cut corners at work. Businesses cut corners, too. It’s all about padding those margins and maximizing revenue. Although we’re all vaguely aware of this fact to some degree, it rarely causes our gag reflex to engage. But in some select settings it can. At restaurants gross, unethical behavior can actually cause you physical harm. And at hotels corners are cut with alarming frequency.
At some point, we all have a bad experience at a hotel. That’s when it becomes clear to us that maybe the employees or management of the hotel aren’t giving it their all. They’re trying to save time and money. They’re cutting corners a little too close, and the results are a scathing TripAdvisor review.
Don’t worry too much, though, as the vast majority of hotels are staffed with professionals who take their jobs seriously. But things do happen, and sometimes guests end up in a surprising — or disgusting — situation. Here are some of the grossest things hotels will do to save time and money.
1. The glasses in your room? They just get a quick rinse
- An ABC News investigation found 75% of hotels failed the “clean glasses” test.
Every room you’ve ever slept in has, in all likelihood, come with a couple of cups or glasses. Most of us need a drink of water, and as such drinking glasses have become standard in hotel rooms. But did you know those glasses are often not cleaned or replaced? Hauling all of those cups to the dishwasher would be a chore, and housekeepers will often just wipe them down and rinse them out.
Next: We head to the bed.
2. Pillowcases are often unchanged
- Leaving pillows unchanged saves money in two ways: time and increasing longevity of the product.
If there’s one thing you’d expect to be clean when you check in, it’s your pillowcase. The good news is the vast majority of them will have been through the laundry, and you’ll have nothing to worry about. But sometimes, they don’t get changed. Housekeepers, short on time, might notice a pillow hasn’t been used and leave it be. This, again, won’t be standard policy, but the fewer times you wash a pillowcase, the longer it’ll last. Pillows are often tossed on the floor when changing sheets, so keep that in mind, too, when you’re debating about bringing your own pillow.
Next: The pillow, though, is just the beginning.
3. They don’t buy new mattresses — just mattress toppers
- A mattress could easily last 5 to 10 years. But mattresses are expensive.
A big expense for most hotels is mattresses. They’re probably the most expensive things in the room, after all. With a limited lifespan, what’s a hotel to do to save money? Don’t replace the mattress, for starters, but instead just put on a mattress topper. It’s not the worst thing in the world, and hey, if you like it, you can get your own.
Next: Another revenue stream for many hotels? The minibar.
4. Minibar sensors
- The average markup of hotel minibar items ranges from 77% to 1,300%.
Truthfully, the only thing that’s gross about the minibar is price. If you want those late-night M&M’s, you’re going to pay through the nose. But what’s even more gross is that many hotels are using sensors to charge guests — even if they don’t eat or drink anything. Charges can end up on your bill, and if you don’t pay attention you’ll end up paying for products you never consumed.
Next: You’ll be saying “ah sheet” after you read No. 5.
5. Housekeepers might not always change the sheets
- Doing the laundry for a single room uses 25 gallons of water, which adds up quickly.
No, it’s not just the pillowcases that aren’t getting the full treatment. In some cases, your sheets aren’t clean either. Of course, this isn’t a widespread problem, but it does happen. And again, it comes down to saving time and saving money on laundering costs — water, electricity, and linen transport are expensive.
Next: Another issue hotels are constantly contending with? Pests — and not just annoying guests.
6. Refuse to deal with pest problems
- Bedbugs can lower a room’s value anywhere from $21 to $38.
One of our biggest fears, as hotel guests, is that we’ll be sharing our rooms with some unwelcome (and often unseen) visitors. It might be mice, rats, or, in most cases, bedbugs. It’s a pretty common issue for hotels, and dealing with these little critters can be costly — very costly. Professionals can charge between $500 and $1,500 to go through your home and wipe them out, meaning the costs for a hotel can be very high.
Next: Bugs are gross, but so are germs.
7. Sick employees often lead to sick guests
- The average hotel housekeeper earns $10.10 per hour — meaning a sick day is very costly.
Hotels don’t typically pay low-level employees much. It’s a lot like the restaurant industry — housekeepers, valets, bellmen, and many others typically make minimum wage and survive off of tips. But for untipped positions, missing a day of work can be extremely costly, which means you end up working when you’re sick. If you’re sick, you’re transmitting germs to rooms and on to guests.
Next: The flu can make your stomach turn. But it’s nothing compared to the nausea you’d feel if you found out your hotel was ignoring human trafficking.
8. Ignorance is bliss — and business
- Between 2007 and 2015, 1,434 cases of human trafficking were reported in hotels and motels.
A lot of sketchy stuff goes down in hotels, including human trafficking and prostitution. Even Edward Snowden handed over his document trove in a hotel. While some speak up when they see trafficking or other illegal behavior, a lot of it is ignored. They don’t want to miss out on the business, after all. And if chains clamp down, competitors will happily look the other way to sell more rooms.
Next: But what if your room was used for some very unsavory activity? Say, drug production?
9. Serious environmental issues can go ignored
- Hotel rooms are popular for methamphetamine production, and it can cost $15,000 per room for cleanup.
In all likelihood, your room was not used as a meth lab. But there is a chance. More and more reports of mobile meth labs being set up in hotel rooms are surfacing. And if you’re a hotel that discovers a meth lab has been operating in your building? It’s going to be a very serious cleanup operation — and one that’s going to be very expensive.
Next: On a less serious note, how clean are those carpets you’re walking around on barefoot?
10. They often skip cleaning the carpets
- Professional carpet cleaning can cost hotels $10 per room.
Like to pop your shoes off as soon as you drop your bags? You might want to pop them off and then pop on some slippers. Think about all of the crazy shenanigans people engage in their rooms, and then think about all of the stuff that ends up on the floor as a result. How often are those carpets deep-cleaned? Or replaced? Or even vacuumed? You’re probably better off not knowing.
Next: Aside from the carpet, what else is rarely sanitized?
11. Housekeeping won’t wipe down the phone
- Phone handles were found to be one of the germiest places in many rooms.
You might be surprised at how dirty the phone in your room actually is. Many of us don’t use the room’s phone anymore — unless we need to contact the front desk or room service (which we’ll get to) — and that’s probably a good thing. Investigations have found the phone is often among the dirtiest, most microbe-infected things in the average hotel room.
Next: The absolute filthiest thing in your room? Take a guess.
12. The remote is disgusting
- The remote control is the single grossest object in most hotel rooms.
Those same investigations that discovered how gross your room’s phone is also found the single most disgusting thing in the room is most often the remote control. It’s one of those things that you probably never clean — it slips the mind. Well, it slips the mind of housekeeping, too. If you’re a germophobe, you might want to douse the remote with Lysol before turning on the tube.
Next: What about room service? Should you be worried about what’s going on in the kitchen?
13. Room service? You might end up unknowingly sharing
- Around 26,000 hotels in the U.S. offer room service.
There’s no telling what’s going on in the kitchen at your hotel. Odds are everything is humming right along, and the professionals are doing their due diligence. But anyone who’s worked in a restaurant or kitchen can tell you that, well, things happen. One thing room service attendants might do? Sneak a bite. Or they might drop something on the floor before putting it back on the plate.
Next: If you knew what really happened in your room, you probably wouldn’t be willing to pay so much for it.
14. Keeping secrets regarding a room’s history
- There are many suicides in hotels — and most of the victims live locally.
Many rooms have dark histories. If you think about it, the room you’re renting has probably been visited by hundreds, if not thousands, of other guests. And sometimes, things happen in those rooms that the hotel would rather keep quiet. That can include suicides — hotels are magnets for suicides — or violent crimes. If you knew you’d probably want a discount.
Next: Finally, something you probably already knew — regarding your comforter
15. They don’t always change the comforters
- For many guests, the first order of business upon entering their room is to toss aside the bedspread.
This seems downright pedestrian compared to the preceding page, but it’s worth mentioning. Hotels don’t wash or clean the comforters and bedspreads, at least not as often as they should. For the same reasons they don’t wash glasses, pillowcases, and sheets, comforters can simply be put back on the bed, smoothed out, and guests will be none the wiser.