The 10 best hotel secrets from behind the desk


Jacob has worked on the front lines of hotels for more than a decade, starting as a lowly valet in New Orleans and ultimately landing at a front desk in New York City. 


The fact that a hotel could fail to be profitable astounds me. Why? The average cost to turn over a room, to keep it operational per day, is between $30 and $40. If you’re paying less than $30 dollars a night at a hotel/motel, I’d wager the cost to flip that room runs close to $5. Which makes me want to take a shower. At home. That $40 turnover cost includes cleaning supplies, electricity, and hourly wages for housekeepers, minibar attendants, front desk agents, and all other employees needed to operate a room as well as the cost of laundering the sheets. Everything. Compare that with an average room rate, and you can see why it’s a profitable business.


The term “walking a guest” sends shivers down any manager’s spine. Since the average no-show rate is 10 percent daily, hotels will overbook whenever possible. The sales and reservations departments are encouraged to book the property to 110 percent capacity, in the hopes that with cancellations and no-shows they will fill every room. What happens when the numbers game doesn’t play in the hotel’s favor? Someone gets walked. The hotel will now pay for the entire night’s room and tax (plus one phone call—how cute is that?) at another comparable hotel in the area.

A guest is more likely to get walked if:
1. He booked using Expedia, hence he has a deeply discounted rate and is less important.
2. He never stayed here before and may never visit the city again.
3. He’s a one-nighter.
4. And this one is so much more important than all the others: He is acting like a jerk.


Though most complaints should be delivered to the front desk directly, in person or on the phone, keep in mind that most issues will not have been caused by the front desk at all. So briefly outline your problem, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask whom you should speak with to have the problem solved. “Should I speak to a manager about this?” “Should I speak to housekeeping about this?” Those are wonderful and beautiful questions to ask. Most of the time, the front desk will be able to solve the problem immediately or at least act as proxy.

Want to make sure that the agent doesn’t nod, say “certainly,” and not do a damn thing? Get his or her name. Nothing tightens up an employee’s throat like being directly identified. You don’t have to threaten him or her either, just a nice casual “Thanks for your help. I’ll stop by later to make sure everything has been taken care of. Tommy, right?” Whatever you asked me to do I am doing it. (Will screaming get you what you want? Well, probably. But it’s not nearly as effective.)


To put on a pillowcase, the housekeepers throw a solid karate chop right down the middle of the pillow and then shove it in, folded like a bun. This method is preferred to the civilian method of tucking it under your chin and pulling up the pillowcase like a pair of pants because these ladies have no interest in letting 50 pillows a day come into contact with their faces.

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Recent Comments »

adam209 site profile image  

5/3/14 11:55 PM by adam209

It also allows housekeeping to make sure the room doesn't get too out of control messy

adam209 site profile image  

5/3/14 11:53 PM by adam209

Ask the clerk if there are any upgrades available. If they say yes, you saved 20 bucks. If they say no, ask if they have any upgraded rooms you could switch to. If they say yes, just slip a 20 on the counter and tell them that anything they can do to help you out would be greatly appreciated. If they say no then forget it.

Lux Fixxins site profile image  

5/3/14 11:50 PM by Lux Fixxins

It keeps down in pests travelers bring in.

The Stewed Owl site profile image  

5/3/14 11:44 PM by The Stewed Owl

I've heard that you should never use the plastic ice bucket to actually put ice in, unless you use the plastic bag as a liner.  A lot pf parents apparently use it to scoop up dirty bath water in their toddler's bath  and help wash off their kids by pouring water over them. I would think (hope? guess?) that they are disinfected after each guest's stay, but who knows, especially in less-expensive hotels?  Even if you are not using the alarm clock on the room (I use the alarm on my cell phone), always check to make sure it is turned off before you go to bed, or you may receive an unpleasant surprise early  in the morning if you want to sleep in. Before checking into any new hotel, check on-line and see if they have a preferred customer program. You can usually sign up for no cost and get free wi-fi, discounts on parking fees, etc.  Check the travel review sites to figure out what kind of gym they have. If it doesn't fit your need, check to see if your local gym has any brnaches you can work out in near your hotel, or ask the concierge if they have any deals with local gyms nearby. Often they do and you can get in free or at a discount. Before checking out of your room, open every drawer and look in the shower and bathroom and make sure you've left nothing behind. If you have a lot of electronics to plug in, bring a power plug splitter as you can't count on having access to enough outlets. Best product to remove food, ink, or blood stains while travelling: alcohol-based hand santizer. Rub it in as soon as possible and it will remove most stains while they're fresh. Also works great on car seats. Always bring a bottle opener. If you want to drink a beer in your room, the one good thing about a cheap motel is that there will be a bottle opener screwed into the bathroom sink. You can't count on that in a nice hotel. Not a hotel tip, but a flight tip: take a photo of your luggage with your cell phone before you hand it off to the airlines if you check luggage, Much easier to email a photo of your distinctive luggage features to the lost-baggage counter than trying to describe it verbally. Stick a big zip-loc bag in your luggage to stick your wet gym clothes, swimsuit, etc. if it doesn't have time to dry before you leave.    

TexBP site profile image  

5/3/14 11:17 PM by TexBP

Ok this is what I never know how to do! Do I slide the 20 over and then ask for the hookup, or ask then slide the $20 over?What if I slide the $20 over and then ask and get a worse room or no hookup? Do I ask for my $20 back? Is a 20 spot good enough? Or should it be more?

OuTkAsTTTTT69 site profile image  

5/3/14 11:13 PM by OuTkAsTTTTT69

I am also interested in a walk through of how the $20 tip should be playedSide story.. My wife booked a hotel at Myrtle Beach last year with an "Ocean View" probably on some priceline site. When we got there we checked in and got to our room only to find out it faced the street. I addressed this with the Manager and he said if you look off the balcony to the left, you will see the ocean. I was if I lean 2 feet over the balcony and look to the left I can get a glimpse of the water? Thats what you are recomending? He argued with me for a little bit, I was fucking heated though.. the view was a big deal to me. He finally gave me what I was asking for after I complained to him for about 5 minutes.. He was nice enough after that I was just pissed because it wasnt what I thought we paid for.

RefriedJinx site profile image  

5/3/14 10:20 PM by RefriedJinx

Stayed at the Rio last week. Was afraid of getting the crappiest room ever. I slipped two twenties between my ID and credit card. Worked like a charm. Asked her if she could just do her best to put me in a couple of nice rooms. Doesn't have to be the nicest just something better than the worst.She put me in the top floor suites at the Rio. Key access only rooms. On a busy Saturday night. Luxury suites.

dthurb site profile image  

5/3/14 8:50 PM by dthurb


Stipe site profile image  

5/3/14 7:58 PM by Stipe

People get in trouble for things like that. Not you, but people whom you just forked over by that setup.So I wouldn't do it if I were you. First of all bad karma, secondly it's not right, thirdly those people will be in your hotel room when you're not around

JustPeed site profile image  

5/3/14 7:37 PM by JustPeed

So are the vallets usually the go to people for the requesting "anything" or is it the front desk people or basically any employee that looks like they fit the part of someone who knows dealers?I don't party like that anymore, but in younger years while traveling I always wondered if I could just ask someone who works at the hotel if they have a hook up to save the sketchiness of hitting the streets. I especially wondered this in vegas. Or are the limo drivers usually the ones to ask? OG front desk/hotel workers, how often are you asked about drugs?