Pet Peeve Survey: Many Hotels Fail to Deliver Quiet Rooms and Working Internet

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Our readers’ top three hotel pet peeves were:

1.) Climate control that isn’t easily adjustable

This includes thermostats that are difficult to understand and use, inaccessibly located (e.g. high up a wall that is adjacent to a bed, so one has to stand on the bed to make adjustments), or simply non-existent (no individual climate control). Our own European Editor, Christian Stampfer, recently found that the climate control in his room at at the Kempinski Hotel River Park could not be completely turned off in the room and the noise kept him from having a restful night’s sleep.

PhoenixRev, a member of FlyerTalk, brought up the problem of motion sensor thermostats, whose adjustability problems are on a whole different level: they adjust themselves, turning off the A/C after a period of stillness. He wrote that he has “already told one hotel I won’t return until they get rid of them.” It seems that disabling the motion sensor typically requires an engineer.

2.) Expensive Internet (including separate charges for multiple devices)

Business travelers have been complaining about expensive Internet in hotels for years. More recently, the fact that inexpensive hotels seem to offer Internet for free while luxury hotels charge as much as $20 a day – with separate charges for multiple devices – has been the source of much unhappiness.

For travelers like FlyerTalk member Mike Rivers, a hotel’s internet access charges can mean the difference between staying there or somewhere else. “Being a fairly early adopter of traveling with a computer… I’ve seen Internet access charges for a long time,” he wrote in our FlyerTalk forum. “Early on, I accepted it, but once it started to be free, I came to expect it. Now if Internet access isn’t free and of acceptable quality and reliability, I don’t stay there.”

Why do many upscale hotels insist on nickel-and-diming for Wi-Fi connectivity? Depending on whom you ask, the answer is either because it’s very expensive to provide Wi-Fi in a large urban hotel, or because high fees are simply driven by what the market will bear, or because hotels want to incentivize premium programs by giving free Internet only to their top clients. Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood hotels waive charges for in-room Internet access for platinum and diamond members of their loyalty programs.  Chains including Fairmont, JDV, Kempinski, Omni, and Wyndham waive Wi-Fi charges for members of their frequent-traveler programs at any level.  Some brands within a chain (one example is Holiday Inn Express) and some independent hotels (for example being  the Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt) also don’t charge anyone.

3. Inaccessible or insufficient electrical outlets

This is a problem that seemingly all travelers face, regardless of whether they stay at 5-stay luxury hotels or Motel 6s. It is clear that hotels, most of which were built before the advent of the smartphone (let alone the iPad), are struggling to accommodate all of the electronic equipment that travelers routinely bring with them, particularly on business trips. On a recent trip, I found my room at the Westin Chicago Northwest to be sorely lacking electrical outlets.

This issue provoked a flurry of responses on in FlyerTalk discussion. Perhaps Flyertalk member accountinggal put the problem most succinctly when she wrote, “My biggest pet peeve: having to pull out the bedside stand, unplug the lamp (or alarm clock) just to plug in my blackberry [sic] charger… get enough outlets for me to have the phone within reaching distance of the stand.”

For some, the dearth of electrical outlets is not merely a (serious) inconvenience, but potentially harmful to their health. FlyerTalk member DGMaster1 wrote, “I suffer from sleep apnea, for which I use a CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure] machine, and I NEED an available, electrical outlet reasonably close to the nightstand that doesn’t get switched off when the lights are turned out.” DGMaster1 expressed “astonishment” that so many hotels lack sufficient electrical outlets, as all that’s needed to remedy the problem is a “<5$ power strip.”

What strikes us about these peeves is that they all have to do with the basic function of any hotel: to provide a comfortable place to work and sleep. It would seem like a no-brainer to make climate control easily adjustable, provide plenty of electric outlets, and offer reasonably priced (and reasonably fast) Internet service. Yet the three top problems cited are consistently ranked at the top of travelers’ peeves, not only in our survey but in many others.

Today, many business travelers take to the internet when they encounter a problem at a hotel, writing on forums like FlyerTalk and MilePoint. Occasionally, travelers start broadcasting their negative experiences online even before hotel managers get a chance to fix them. Given the willingness of hotel guests to voice their grievances to other potential guests online, hotels can really no longer afford to come up short on the fundamentals: providing peaceful sleep and a platform for productive work. Hotel managers, you’re on notice.

[Editor’s Note: Our senior editor, Jonathan Spira, recently stayed at two properties where the impact of the problems described in these pages went beyond the point of simple annoyance and proved to be rather disruptive. You can read about his experiences at the Chattanoogan Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the Dearborn Inn in Dearborn, Michigan in the current issue of Executive Road Warrior.]

TOP 18 HOTEL PET PEEVES (click to enlarge)















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