Home Sweet Hotel

The day I turned sixteen, I got my driver’s license in the morning. That afternoon I loaded my suitcase and my guitar into my mom’s car and I drove almost all the way across the state to play music at an event up near the Ohio River. I drove home after the event, and that drive is the subject of another blog post–one about big strapping angels pulling a little girl’s car out of a ditch in the middle of the night (someday maybe I’ll tell that story)-—but bottom line?…I should have stayed in a hotel that night, because I was too exhausted to drive two and a half hours home.  But at that time, I’d had very little experience with hotels.  It just didn’t seem like a good option.

They Got it right guitarDon’t make the mistake of thinking I had a bad mom. (She’s 86, still sharp as ever, and I am grateful that I still have her). She  was the best kind of mom because she understood what I was about. She knew I was not up to shenanigans, she knew I’d been driving since I was thirteen (that’s a whole nuther blog) and she knew I could take care of myself. And she knew that playing music was all I cared about. I could not wish for a better mom because she encouraged me to pursue my passion, which was music.

Still…there are some things one can learn only by experience.

I’d booked the event near the Ohio River a few months before.  I always took an overnight bag in case of some emergency, and though I’d planned to go  home that night, I should have stayed rather than drive. It was just too late. That’s a lesson you learn the hard way—that you are mortal and have limits.   Another lesson is that you are not necessarily safe in a hotel, no matter how they tout their security.

I learned my lesson that night about my limits when I’m tired, and in subsequent years I learned a lot of other things from other musiThey Got it right lampcians, salesmen (they were almost all men at that time), and other business people living out of suitcases as they moved from place to place. I also learned a lot about how to survive as a young woman traveling alone, about fixing my own car, and about how to tell an honest offer of help from one that came with strings attached.

Over the years I learned to survive in hotels.  I learned that to actually sleep, I had to wear earplugs.  I learned how to shove a chair under the door handle.  This was the days before electronic key cards, so I learned how to be patient and play the desk clerks one at a time, pretending I was locked out so I ended up with every extra key to my room.  That way a stranger couldn’t find out my room number and con the desk clerk out of a key to get in, because I had all of them.

Things have changed.  Now the keys are electronic, the security is much better, and in good hotels there are actually enough plugs, there’s an iron and a hair dryer in every room, and the lamps have simple switches you can reach by swatting at them in the dark.

They Got it right key cardStill…they have their security risks.

When I stay in a hotel, if it’s just for a couple of days, I ask for extra towels and I don’t get maid service.  That way nobody but me comes into my room.  I figure the housekeeping staff is one of the biggest security risks.  That housekeeper has a key to every room on her floor.

If there’s a balcony with a sliding door, I leave it locked, with the security device in place.  I leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door at all times, so it appears I’m in there, even when I’m not.

In the book I’m writing, my heroine, Del (short for Adelaide because she hates that name) is staying in a hotel.  She has something significant stolen out of her room. Something that will decide the fate of her career and her future. This itThey Got it right clockem won’t fit in the room’s safe, so that’s not an option.

So, Bandits and Buddies, I’m trying to stage a hotel room theft, and I need your help. Tell me your hotel stories…

Have you spent a lot of time in hotels?

Will you share your hotel experiences?—What are your favorite hotels–or your least favorites?  What’s the most awesome hotel experience you’ve had–and what’s the worst?

What do you think of hotel security?

What do you think are the weak points?

Do you trust the cleaning staff to leave your things alone? Do you take measures to prevent theft when you stay?

If you wanted to stage a theft from a hotel room, how would you get access?

Do you sleep well in hotels?

Do you have any tips or tricks to offer for hotel stays?

Any horror stories to share about hotels?

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Comments

27 Comments

  • Jane says:

    Hello Cassondra,
    My cousin is a flight attendant and she would probably have a lot of stories to tell about hotels. I haven’t spent too much time in hotels, but I will say the service in Japan(Radisson) and Singapore(Clarion)were the best I’ve seen. Least favorite was in Thailand(Novotel). We stayed at Paris Hotel in Vegas and it was a pretty pleasant experience. Nothing weird or exciting has happened when I’ve stayed in hotels.

    • Cassondra says:

      Jane, your buddy the rooster is coming home to you today.

      Oh, my, I bet your cousin would have some stories!

      I’ve never been to those exotic places you listed. What fun that you got to go! Was it the attitude of the people that made the service so exceptional?

  • Amy Conley says:

    The stories I could tell about staying in hotels, OMG!
    I will admit the Hampton Inn in Alexanderia, Virginia was wonderful to all of us, at one time I think we had 11 of us sharing basically 2 hotel suites, down to where it just came down to my daughter and I staying there until my mother passed away. I always took the night shift at the hospital, so I would come rolling back to the hotel anywhere from 3 to 6am. I’d sit out in the parking lot and just relax before heading up to the room and I felt perfectly safe.They moved us around, alot, but they kept us there. Heck we felt ssafe enough to let my 8 year old neice go into the confrence room when it wasn’t being used by others for work things. We even allowed her to watch tv in the lobby with a couple of other girls she made friends with during our stay. They went above and beyond for my entire family for two weeks.
    The other hotel I would give a huge shout out to would be the hotel in Dallas where they hold BUNS n ROSES. Fantastic place! Wonderful, helpful staff, beautiful hotel, nice area once you get used to it, which didn’t take long.

    • Cassondra says:

      OmGosh, Amy…

      Few things would be more difficult than being stuck in a hotel at a time like that. That’s a great endorsement, that they let you all share those rooms and did whatever they could to help you. I’ve always liked the Hampton Inns, especially since Hilton has been running them, but it’s always the people who make the difference. They can bend the rules for you and make it work, or they can make your life difficult. So glad that staff worked with you during that rough time!

  • Helen says:

    Cassondra

    I have stayed in a few hotels over the years and never had a problem 🙂 they have alwyas been clean tidy and the staff very helpful and I have always felt comfortable so I can’t help you with any of this but they answers i am sure will be interesting

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Cassondra says:

      Helen that’s wonderful! No bad experiences in hotels? You get a wow and a high-five from me for that. Sounds like when you go to the romance conventions, the hotels are doing a good job, and that says a lot. When a big group descends on a hotel, it’s a test of what they’re made of.

  • Shannon says:

    Have you spent a lot of time in hotels?

    Many years ago, I travelled a lot for work–both to DC, the Middle East, and a few trips to Europe.

    Will you share your hotel experiences?—What are your favorite hotels–or your least favorites? What’s the most awesome hotel experience you’ve had–and what’s the worst?

    My favorite hotel was a suite in London near the British Museum. Having the sitting room was lovely, since I was stuck there with little to do. The hotel in Doha, Qatar was totally luxe–a garden with nightengales, a bowling alley, great restaurants, a beach, and a dock with boats and water skis. They even sent me a birthday cake! Yes, it was my birthday.

    My worst was in Bahrain where I was sexually harassed on the elevator. I complained to the manager, and when I didn’t get a satisfactory response, I packed up and went to another hotel. No I didn’t sleep that well that night.

    What do you think of hotel security?

    High rises it’s pretty good. The low rise with doors to the outside, not so great.

    Do you trust the cleaning staff to leave your things alone? Do you take measures to prevent theft when you stay?

    Not really. Never had a problem.

    If you wanted to stage a theft from a hotel room, how would you get access?

    No idea.

    • Cassondra says:

      Wow, Shannon–I’ve had some experience with travel in my llife, but the Middle East is a whole different animal, especially with its rules for women. I had a friend who tried to help a man who was having difficulty on a plan, and another guy tried to tell her, “no, don’t help him.” She thought guy #2 was just being horrible. She didn’t know that offering any assistance was the same as a proposition. So guy #1 followed her all through the airport and she had to get security to help her–and she had to prove she was not attached to him and he had no right to harass her, because this airport was also somewhere in the middle east. The rules are just different for women over there, and I would find that cumbersome I think.

      • Shannon says:

        It’s not so much the rules (although those can be a problem) as the attitudes of many Middle Eastern men.

        When I lived in Egypt, Bold and the Beautiful was THE soap hour of the time. As I recall one of the main woman character had moved from one man to another and then another in the space of three months. More than one many labelled her a whore. They extrapolate from Hollywood that all American women indulge in random sex with any man who asks them. (My male colleagues recount hysterical conversations where they tried to explain “striking out” to Arab men who thought all Americans would be easy pickings.)

        The way I think of it is how someone on the ton would have seen an actress or an opera singer as fair game. It doesn’t make it “right” but it at least explains why it happens. Part of the reason why women viel is to announce in no uncertain terms that they are righteous women.

        By and large when I wore a loose, calf leg skirt, a large big shirt over an ordinary t, and a headscarf, I didn’t have problems. I had taken off my scarf in the lobby since it was a western chain hotel. I was also wearing flats not heels that day because I had been touring. I had learned that a spike heel on the top of a man’s foot, stomped hard twice, while singing “These boots were made for walking…” usually ended any harassment.

        • Cassondra Murray says:

          Hahaha! I love the spike heel and the song!

          Interesting experiences you’ve had. Would love to chat over lunch sometime and hear your stories!

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    I think I’ve been very lucky with hotels. I can’t recall any serious problems. I really don’t like housekeeping coming into my room either. The “Do Not Disturb” sign is always on my door, and I always make sure Evey possible lock in the room is locked.

    I think my most memorable hotel story is from one of my trips to Washington. I was staying in a hotel in Forks (yes the Twilight Forks) with my friend. This place had no smoking signs all over the room and high fine penalty if you did. I have no problem with that. I don’t smoke. No big deal. Well, our last morning there, we were woken up by a weird smell pouring into our room. It turns out someone in the room next to ours was smoking “something” and it completely took over our room too. So, when my friend went to check out, she made sure to tell the lady at the front desk. We were terrified of getting a huge fine, but the lady said guests had been complaining, but they figured it wasn’t us. Forks High School was being rebuilt and there were a bunch of construction guys staying there, so they figured it was one of them. I still can’t get over how much the smell invaded our room. I was nervous to fly too. Who knows what a drug sniffing dog would have picked up on me and my luggage! Lol!

    • Cassondra says:

      Oh Heather that’s awful–having somebody smoking some kind of substance and you don’t know what it is.

      I’d have wanted to move, but in the middle of the night, what a hassle! They must have a lot of trouble with that, to have the signs all over and the fines.

  • Mozette says:

    So, Bandits and Buddies, I’m trying to stage a hotel room theft, and I need your help. Tell me your hotel stories…

    Have you spent a lot of time in hotels?

    I used to, when I traveled around the UK on a Trafalgar Tour. They were 5 star hotels and I had a great time… except in Plymouth when I couldn’t have a shower that night because half of the city could see me in the bathroom from the street… um… yeah… great…. 🙁

    Will you share your hotel experiences?—What are your favorite hotels–or your least favorites? What’s the most awesome hotel experience you’ve had–and what’s the worst?

    My favourite one was in Streph-peffer… it’s in Scotland and was a massive hotel where I was on the 5th floor corner suite… I could see the town square from my window where I could actually sit on the sill as it was about 3 feet wide (talk about freaky!) and the other corner windows overlooked a private garden of where the manager’s house was part of the property… very pretty and green, but something I wasn’t supposed to see. However, I had to have a Dutch bath as the shower didn’t work and the hot water didn’t last… besides that, their wake-up call was a loud knock on the door – yep, no phones in the rooms and no internal lifts, only a huge staircase.

    What do you think of hotel security?

    The older the hotels, the more security they needed… as time has gone on, the more security hotels have needed over time.

    What do you think are the weak points?

    There’s no peep-holes in the doors of the hotel rooms. I noticed this in every place I stayed in; and the bathroom doors can be locked from the inside – which is annoying if you have to share the room with somebody and you’re busting to use the loo.

    Do you trust the cleaning staff to leave your things alone? Do you take measures to prevent theft when you stay?

    I’m a bit like ‘The X-files’… trust nobody. And the cleaning staff is not out of that equation. Well, that was until I left my teddy bear – Amos – out by accident and the cleaning staff of one hotel tucked him into bed rather cutely. On my return, there he was sitting up there in bed waiting for me – well, that’s the Scots for ya… those ones were really honest and had a great sense of humour. 😀

    If you wanted to stage a theft from a hotel room, how would you get access?

    From the roof, through the window. Nobody can see you from the halls. Time: around 1am as darkness would be your cover. Use the service access lift/elevators and arrive and leave through the loading bays or staff entrances and use staff uniforms and ID as a disguise.

    Do you sleep well in hotels?

    Yes… normally I do as they make my stay as comfortable as possible.

    Do you have any tips or tricks to offer for hotel stays?

    don’t eat or drink anything from the bar fridge – it costs a damned fortune.

    Okay… this next thing, I’m not sure how it worked ,but it did. I showed up in South Kensington and had a William Wallace t-shirt on to claim my room at what is now called The Holiday Inn (was called ‘The Forum Hotel’). When I showed up, the girl took one look at me and my t-shirt and cancelled my prepaid room! I had paid for it in cash in Australia before I even left the country!
    So, I spotted the manager, made a formal complaint – and immediately, he fired her in front of me! He tried to get my room back, but couldn’t; some big politician had booked out the whole floor… but he got me on the 17th floor… no worries… I got a double bed this time, and a smaller room.
    Well, my hotel experience changed completely from here… the manager snapped his fingers and a bellboy showed up with a trolley and picked up my back pack and suitcase and took my key from the manager. He took me to my room, I tipped him generously (as you do in a big hotel because, well, you stay on the good side of the staff 😉 ), then I found I had extra towels, two bathrobes, chocolates on my pillows and more booze in the fridge than usual… okay… rock star treatment… fun!
    I had a shower, got dressed and ready for dinner, grabbed the key for the room and went downstairs and joined the line for dinner. Somebody from the dining hall walked along the line, stopped at me, and said, ‘Miss Parker?’ I said yes. He said, “Please come with me.” he walked me past about 20 people and to my own table away from *everyone* and I had my own butler/waiter and I could have anything I wanted – on the house! I didn’t have to go to the buffet, they just went and got it for me.
    I felt so obvious… so lonely… so weird about this… but then one of my friends from the Trafalgar Tour came and sat down (the waiter pulled the chair out for him and he felt weird about that) and asked what the hell happened for me to suddenly have my 15 minutes of fame? I told him about what occurred that afternoon with my shirt and room, and was amazed! Then, he asked if I’d like to sit with the rest of them… I smiled saying, OMG, yes! Standing up, I asked my waiter if I could have my meal moved over to my friend’s table…. well, he snapped his fingers and he followed me to my friend’s table where, when I sat down, I found they had place a fresh meal in front of me (I was almost full and protested about taking away a meal that was almost done with and how much waste it was to give me fresh food). They tutted saying to not worry; that the manager insisted. After about 10 more minutes, I couldn’t fit another thing in… so the rest of the guys at the table polished off my meal for me ( and it was a gorgeous t-bone steak, medium rare… very yummy).
    The next morning, I got a wake-up call at 7am on the dot and was informed my check-out time had been extended to midday instead of 10am. So, I made some international phone calls (which I found I didn’t have to pay for) to my employers here to see if I still had a job (they lied and said yes; when I didn’t). Then, when I did finally check out, the manager saw me to me himself, letting me know that he’d put on my file about ‘the incident’ and I’d have a room there anytime, no matter what the hotel was called next time, at a decreased rate; that my business was valuable to them.

    Now, how cool was that! And you know, I’ve been telling people of this experience, but nobody believes me – except my brother, because he reckons I have no reason to lie about such a cool thing to happen.

    Any horror stories to share about hotels?

    I had to share a room with an old woman in the UK during my tour around with the Trafalgar Tour in 1997. Now at the time, they didn’t allow anyone over there to smoke in the hotels – unlike here in Australia, where we were only just coming into that law. Well, I had just had a cancer removed and the woman I was with was chain smoking in the room and I asked her to stop. She didn’t. I wrapped duct tape around the zip of my luggage, but the smoke still got into my clothes and she didn’t get rid of the butts from the cup she was using! It was disgusting. And OMG! She snored like a line-backer all night! I didn’t sleep a wink, and I couldn’t wake her up to make her roll over!
    The next morning, I was busting to go to the toilet and she was up already at 6am, showering. She had locked the bathroom door and I was busting to go so bad I called the front desk to get up to our room and unlock the bathroom door to let me go to the toilet before I killed one of the indoor plants on them (yes, I nearly wet myself). Well, the concierge arrived with security and they unlocked the bathroom door to find the woman still in her bathrobe, putting on her make up (she’d had her shower) and she had used ALL THE TOWELS! They pulled her out of the bathroom as I raced in, locked the door on her, pushed her make-up case off the toilet lid and used the toilet for what it was supposed to be used for.

    Halfway through breakfast that morning, I asked the co-ordinator for my own room… I paid an extra 155 pounds for it… this was 3 days into the 17 day tour.

    But then, this woman wouldn’t leave me alone… she showed up in about 60% of my photos – as well as everyone else’s – and kept on trying to join me for dinner with her cigarettes in her hands, blowing smoke all over me… man… she was such a horrible person. She even made us 45 minutes late for the train trip across Snowden that nobody talked to her for 3 days.

    • Cassondra says:

      Mozette, my goodness! You could write a book about that one trip!

      So glad the manager made it up to you when the clerk treated you badly.
      I have to say, one thing I hate about those group tours is getting stuck with someone like the chain smoking lady. Everyone has their issues and habits you know, but in a group like that, everybody has to make an effort to be considerate, and it’s hard when someone doesn’t.

      • Mozette says:

        You know, we had other smokers who followed the rules and regulations and went outside to smoke – and never smoked inside the hotel. There were designated smoking areas in the restaurant in the hotels at the time (now it’s all non-smoking) and she still ignored that fact that I didn’t want her around me – and nobody wanted her around them.

        After she took off in a town in Wales, we nearly dumped her luggage there and left her off the tour because she kept on breaking the rules. Our co-ordinator even asked me what I’d do – and I said: ‘Dump her here… she’d holding us back.’

        • Cassondra Murray says:

          Mozette, I’d have dumped her too! They were probably afraid of getting sued.

          • Mozette says:

            Actually, on these tours, they stipulate that if you’re late constantly or if you don’t stay at the hotel they tell you stay at, they have the right to dump your luggage at the last place you stayed at and it’s up to you to get to the next designated place by your own pocket.

            It’s actually in the contract that you must be on time – or early – must have enough money on your person in case you are left behind. You must have identification of who you are, where you’re staying and know exactly what to say to people if you get lost.

            There’s no making excuses of being late when you’re told to be on time the night before, and just after breakfast you’re told how long you have to get ready to meet at the bus. Most times, I was ready to go straight after breakfast because I had my backpack, bag and money with me at breakfast – and I made a point of handing in my room key to the concierge so I didn’t lost it.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Intriguing topic, Cassondra.

    My worst experience was in a hotel in Guatemala. It was the “nicest” place in town, but I’ve forgotten the city now. Very primitive shower, narrow cots for beds, thin walls and lots of street noise. Still, it was relatively clean and the hosts were congenial.

    The best was in Rome. Not because it was particularly “nice” like the Spanish Bay Inn on Sixteen-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California, but opulent in a fading, old-world way with huge rooms, including the bathroom, a balcony with a terrific view of the city, and a lobby that spoke of monied elegance from long-ago decades.

    • Cassondra says:

      JO, I used to love staying in old hotels. I stayed at one in Atlanta many, many years ago called the Atlantan. It was downtown, the floors were marble tile, the rooms had fifteen foot ceilings with plaster walls. The bathroom had a leg tub with old-fashioned chrome fixtures–all that.

      It was fabulous.

      Nowadays I just want comfort and amenities. Lots of plugs, easy access to the stuff I need. Good coffee with real cream, and an air conditioner that will make the air in the room arctic cold so I can sleep well. You don’t get any of that in the old hotels. But I still love the ambience.

  • Hi Cassondra –

    One of my more interesting hotel experiences occurred just last year. We’d gone to Chicago with friends to see the OSU v. Northwestern football game. One of the guys manages a hotel (Marriott, maybe?) in Raleigh and got us really good rates at a Chicago hotel right off the Miracle Mile. This was a very nice chain hotel.
    The guys went to the game, and the ladies planned to go for tea at the Drake. I had gone up to the room mid-afternoon to shower and get ready for our tea. Housekeeping had already been there, the bed was made, etc. My husband had already left with the guys, but as I was lounging about naked on the bed, the door opened. Now to be honest, all you could see from the hallway would be my feet, but I thought my husband had forgotten something and returned to the room. I was going to surprise him, au naturale, but said (out of habit) “Hey Hon, Did you forget something?”
    Some stranger said “They told me no one was in here” and left. Good thing as he would have been scarred for life by my naked excesses 🙂 I figured it was a maintenance guy who wanted to watch the game and used his masterkey to get in -what he thought – was an empty room. I asked at the front desk about the incident and they said it was housekeeping – I said no. I thought they’d offer something in exchange for the surprising visit, but no. Now I carry a rubber door stop to slip under the door from the inside – just in case…

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh man, Donna, that would have freaked me out, and I don’t freak easily. Things probably would have gotten ugly…like….”you have electronic keys for a reason. I want to know EXACTLY who came into my room..yadda yadda..” Not that it would have done any good,but I figure the more pain I cause them when that kind of thing happens, the less likely they’ll be to allow it in the future. “They told me no one was in here.” Seriously? Grrrr. I’m offended on your behalf. *grin*

      Every hotel I’ve stayed in for many years now has had one of those physical anti-entry devices–you know the bar that you swing over that stops the door with just a crack open? The place I stayed this past week had a new kind I’ve never seen. Easy to use-it looked like an L-bracket sort of. Very beefy, and you just flipped it one way on its hinge to block the door, and flipped it the other way to allow entry. It was simple, but actually looked more secure than any I’d seen before. I always use those, because although I want to trust hotel staff, I don’t.

  • catslady says:

    I’ve never been in one by myself so I’ve never worried too much. But I did have a nice necklace stolen when I was in Vegas many years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it until I got home so it was too late to complain really. Now I never leave anything too valuable in the room. I will hide a bit of money here in there like my pockets but nice hotels have safes now. We’ve had toilets overflow a couple of times. And once we stayed at a hotel that they had just tarred the parking lot – the smell was horrible but there was nothing else available nearby. So nothing too terrible.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      What a shame about your necklace! I’m always embarrassed when I have to call hotel maintenance about a toilet issue. Silly, I know, but I can’t help it.

  • Becke says:

    Cassondra,
    I’ve stayed in many hotels–good and bad. I’ve also traveled alone. My dad used to tell me that if anyone took me, they’d be sure and bring me back–ASAP.

    I don’t have the worry gene. There’s nothing I won that has that much importance. I keep my flash with me. Other than that, everything is replaceable.

    And no, we don’t leave our dog alone in the room when we travel. He isn’t replaceable!

    I’ve never had anything stolen from a room. I’ve left stuff–silly me, But no one has stolen my iPad, laptop or wallet.

    Sorry, I’m not very helpful on this one.
    b

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Becke, that’s okay. I’m actually hoping that most people have had good experiences. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also tend to be skeptical when it comes to leaving my stuff behind.
      And you have the right of it. Your flash drive and your dog are the most important things–your stories and your little friends. Can’t replace either.

  • Cassondra, what a great story!

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time in hotels. Depending on what’s going on elsewhere in the hotel or out in the street, I sometimes rig the fan to run continuously on high and generate white noise.

    I agree that security is much better than it was. For the most part, I assume the cleaning staff is too busy to search through people’s stuff, and that 99.9% of them are also too honest. But I never forget it’s possible for one of the .1% to be assigned to my room. I tend to use the room safe if there is one.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Nancy I think I’m pessimistic about the room safe because I figure all the staff knows the combination (if there is one) or they have extra keys if it’s a key lock. Much like Donna’s experience, I figure the hotel staff can always get in anywhere, any time, and if they think I’m not in there, they may well go in.

      I’m just glass half empty that way I guess. Always prepared for my space to not be private if I don’t own it. That said, I always figure a generous tip for the housekeeping staff, and a nice note saying thank you or asking for what I specifically need, placed right beside the money, will usually offset my being a target.

      I’ve heard some of your tales of hotels in the UK, and they make me want to visit those places. Some of my best experiences were B&Bs in Scotland and Wales. Wonderful people who always extended more than they were required.