Before the pandemic, US hotels were the peak of customer service examples. Some were so good—consistently scoring top marks in surveys—that they were hired by other chains to train their staff.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case any more.
Customer service scores at US hotels have fallen to dreadful lows, and travel industry advocates are telling travelers to get used to it. The hotel industry blames labor shortages, with the American Hotel and Lodging Association backing that in a report saying 87% of surveyed hotels are currently experiencing staff shortages. The most critical shortage is in housekeeping staff.
All of that is likely true, but it’s also widely speculated that hotels have always wanted to cut housekeeping and other services. The goal is to then ‘sell’ them back to guests as upgrades, similar to the fee-based methods used by airlines. The pandemic may simply have allowed them to implement that idea.
One thing that travelers have always worried about is theft. When you consider that housekeeping staff are allowed (even expected) to enter your room and move your things around to clean, that worry is top of mind.
Just recently there was a report that a pet, a French bulldog named Hugo, was stolen from a hotel room in DC. Luckily, Hugo was located and returned to his worried owners (no word yet on the perpetrator).
There are plenty of reasons for not having housekeeping enter your room, especially if you don’t want people snooping through your things.
Another recent incident of staff thievery in Cancun, Mexico was recorded on a hidden camera. Upon entering their room, a hotel staffer cracked open a beer from the refrigerator. They then proceeded to examine the safe and dig through the drawers, suitcases, and a backpack! Luckily, the employee didn’t steal anything other than the beer but still it’s an alarming video to watch.
When you prefer to have your room cleaned, and you want to keep your stuff safe, the following strategies are recommended.
Spread out the valuable things you’re taking with you like jewelry, electronics, passports, cash, credit cards, and take a photograph. Best to do this on the hotel bedspread.
This way, you’ll know if anything turns up missing and you can prove it to the hotel manager.
Yes, it’s kind of a waste of your time, and depending on what you have that could be stolen, it may be worth it. If you’re on vacation, send the family ahead of you to get breakfast, and get a little work done while the room is cleaned.
Pro tip: Leave the door of your room open for your own personal safety.
Personally, I don’t trust the in-room safe. Even if you can set the passcode, there has to be an override for those situations when a guest forgets theirs.
It happens more often than you think!
And what happens then? Most of the hotel staff know the override code, and they can open the safe for a guest. It doesn’t make me feel confident in storing my things there.
Travel with a portable safe and lock those valuables (jewelry, cash, passports, etc.) up yourself. You can lock the safe in your hotel room. You can also attach the safe to the seat of your rental car.
When you leave your room, you can zip up your bags. Tie the zipper handles together with either a TSA-approved lock or simple plastic ties. This way, you’ll know if someone has opened your bags.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.