Know Before You Go

24 03 2013

Planning a trip? Naturally you will want to enjoy your stay and I am sorry to say that if this is your wish you simply must do your homework first. Reading this article is the best thing you can do to ensure your stay will be a pleasurable one. Trust me, chances are you will regret it if you do not. Hospitality companies just want your money, they do not really care how they get it so long as they get it. Take a look at the links that show up when you search Google with these parameters: hotel star rating misleading. Go on, don’t be timid, click the link and educate yourself.

Customer reviews are you best source of accurate information. If you stayed at a terrible hotel you would probably be inclined to want to vent about it and tell others what to expect just as much as if you had the time of your life and truly enjoyed your stay. Not everyone has the same experience though and you need to carefully weigh the reviews you read. If you read a few bad reviews and still decide to take a chance at least you are an informed customer and this could provide you with some leverage. You definitely will know more than you already do about the hospitality industry.

Every time you click a link on one of the travel sites they earn a kickback for your business. They really do not want to tell you that over half of their listings are for sub-standard lodging. They will up a bad hotel’s rating with false and misleading information, even fake reviews that speak to the wonderful dream stay we all are seeking. A one star room becomes a three star room, a two star room becomes a four star room with a click of a mouse. Who will know the difference, most will not, and once they have your money they do not care what type of room you will occupy.

Hotels will tell you that they are giving you the best rate possible but that is not exactly true. Their best rate is indeed their best rate for the hotel. In other words it is actually their highest rate, what is best for the hotel and not you the customer. If you want the best rate for you then you must request that they provide you with their “lowest rate”. Just a little play on words but it can cut the cost of your stay in half.

Heaven forbid that you miss your check in date because that can result in charges that can mount into the hundreds of dollars. Most hotels will allow you to change your reservation up to as little as 24 hours hours in advance. So if your plans change and you can no longer take the trip when you planned to simply call and ask to change your reservation to a later date. Trip has been canceled indefinitely? No problem. Once you have changed your reservation date call back and cancel the reservation. Just this simple little trick avoids the outrageous cancellation charges the hotel would normally charge you for the loss of your business. They do not care about your bank account or circumstances they only care about generating income by whatever means possible.

You could easily equate the hotel industry with a bad used car salesman. He would never hesitate to sell you a lemon or pad your bill, he is in business to make money for himself and this is his only concern. Bad press does not deter him, he combats it with misinformation, falsehoods and blatant lies. When you checkout you want to carefully consider all your charges. Ask for an itemized list of charges before you agree to pay. This will give you the opportunity to dispute and unfair and erroneous charges. You should never see a charge for missing towels as most hotels take into consideration the fact that you may take a towel with you to the pool and simply forget to return it to you room. Most hotels simply do not have a towel count that they maintain and supposedly they do not want to risk alienating a customer over an allegation of towel theft. Many unscrupulous hotels will pad their bills with movie rental charges and mini bar usages. Did you actually watch three movies or was it just one movie, did you actually drink the mini bar down to 50% of its normal stock or are they assuming you will pay the bill without an itemization of charges?

Many times hotels simply assume you will watch three movies or more because many occupants watch at least one movie. You may have watched one movie and an error in the software caused it to restart a number of times resulting in multiple charges for the same movie. Hotels assume that because the mini bar exists you will take advantage of it and of course there is always a chance of human error as well.  A housekeeper may not realize that the previous staff failed to restock the mini bar resulting in erroneous charges on your bill that you will pay unsuspectingly if you do not request an accounting of the individual charges prior to paying. Most companies will allow you to dispute charges after payment is received for a limited amount to time but they do not make it easy for you to do this. Once you have reached an agreement as to the corrected charges it can take months for you to receive your refund of the erroneous charges.

Beautiful pictures are not all they seem to be and there is more than meets the eye when it looks like a great place to stay. Most of the imagery you will find online and in brochures have been staged and Photoshopped. Pools look wide and deep until you are standing next to them and notice that they measure 6 feet wide by 10 feet long and upon wading in the water is only a few feet deep. There is nothing illegal going on here it is simply a staging pool. A staging pool is a pool designed basically to enhance an area, it is not designed for swimming and most definitely not for diving into. Location is near all the areas of interest may indicate that you will be staying close to a major busy and noisy streetway. Blue skies could be hiding something ominous like a power plant smokestack,  railroad, airport, or other undesirable element that has been cropped out of the picture. A little research can yield a plethora of surprises that could make or break your plans for an enjoyable and relaxing stay.

Check in and check your room. Baseboards and window sills should be included in your survey of the room in addition to the linens. If you are a novice traveler you probably would never think to invest in or take a battery operated black light with you but it can save you time and assure your room is clean and sanitary. Pulling back the covers and turning off the lights could yield more than just a good night’s rest. Believe it or not many vacant rooms are utilized by staff members looking to “hook-up” for a quickie and even if you room was not used for such an activity you still could be in for a shock. Many linens are littered with stains from bodily fluids and may not have even been washed. Check your towels as well. Your towels could contain unsanitary stains due to improper cleaning and these stains may not be easily seen by the naked eye, it may require a black light to make them visible. Your baseboards, carpet edges and window sills should be free of all debris and insects. The same applies in your bathroom and shower. Shine that black light on the toilet and surrounding floor to reveal even more of what could be lurking in your hotel room. Do not assume that just because it looks clean that it is. You may have been given the use of real glassware. Lovely shinny spotless glasses may have been cleaned with furniture polish and a less than clean towel. Most objects that are available in the room never leave the room to be cleaned and will be cleaned with whatever  is available. Take advantage of the plastic covered cups instead. There is no rule that you cannot carry your own disinfectant and clean your room with it but you should not have to do this. If your room is not satisfactory take your complaints to the front desk immediately. Ask that the room be cleaned again, ask for a new room or even a refund if you feel it is necessary. You are paying good money and do not deserve to be uncomfortable. Most reputable companies will not hesitate to accommodate your requests.

You should always strive to be courteous and fair as you could find yourself labeled by staff and this could affect your stay at more than the current hotel. There is a secret labeling system known only to hospitality staff to identify big spending tipping patrons and cheapskates. “FOB” stands for “Favorite Of Ben” and applies to the good tipping hotel clients while “PITA” stands for “Pain In The Arse” and is used to secretly identify those customers who complain frequently and do not tip the staff. These labels can follow you within the hotel chain and further if hotels share their information outside the family. In such a case there is little you can do but appeal to the front desk staff and request that your rating by staff be judged and reassessed by your actions during your current stay. The hotel staff most times will not acknowledge such a rating system but if you appear genuine in your concerns of an unfair staff rating they may be open to changing such if they see that you are not a trouble maker and are generous in your treatment of staff members.

Beware of taxi drivers called by the hotel on your behalf. They may arrive quite speedily but the same may be obtained by calling the taxi company yourself ahead of time and well in advance of your event. These drivers called by hotel staff often charge more and may even pay a fee to the hotel staff for calling them. The same may apply to hotel staff recommending a restaurant. Staff members may have a prearrangement with local establishments where they receive a fee for sending clients their way. While dining at the recommended restaurant you could be given a ‘special’ menu where your entrées are priced higher than normal which will offset the kickback fee paid to the hotel for generating your patronage. What you don’t know can and may very well  hurt you.

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