What If I … Don’t Get The Hotel Room I Expected?

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Speaking directly with the front desk is often the best remedy for any sort of hotel-room woe. (Daniela Harrison photo.)

By Molly Jensen

After a long day of travel, you let yourself into your hotel room to find one king bed where there should be two queens — and you really need two queen-sized beds. How did this happen?

Well, if you read the itty-bitty print at the bottom of booking sites, it says that requests cannot be guaranteed. Welcome to the world of hotels.

So what can you do to make your requests a little more guaranteed?

Most hotels give priority to guests who book directly through the hotel or are hotel loyalty members. Booking through the hotel is easy enough, and can even give you more room choices, more flexibility, and more perks than booking through a third-party site. (And as our Sharyn Alden pointed out earlier this month, it can save you money, if you go about it the right way.)

As far as becoming a hotel loyalty member, most programs are free, and even if you sign up right before booking your room, it’s a sign that you intend to be a repeat customer.

Another smart trick is to call the hotel the morning of your check-in day to see what room they have reserved for you. If it’s not what you want, ask them politely to switch it for you – and have them put a note on it so it won’t be changed back again.

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While small inns and boutique hotels offer lots of charm, they also can have fewer options if your room isn’t what you expected.

So it’s been a long day; you get into your hotel room and drop your bag. You throw your keys on the table, which makes the whole table shake, and you flop on the bed, which squeaks with each little bounce. Then turning on the TV and channel-surfing becomes a problem when you have to push each button on the remote at least twice before it works. This is a joke, right?

Well, how much did you pay for the room? You have to realize you get what you pay for. There are reasons why your $80-a-night is $80, and overpriced at that. You can’t expect a room with feather-down pillows and comforter and a crystal-clear window overlooking a perfect skyline – and if that is what you’re expecting, wake up and smell the powdered dirt labeled as coffee that’s filtering through your hotel-room coffeepot as you lodge your complaint with the front desk.

Some words of advice: Before stomping downstairs to demand a new room, consider whether getting a new room will make things better. No, not every room is exactly the same, but the grass may not be greener, or the coffee better, on the other side of the hotel-room door.

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Be sure to read the fine print when you book hotel rooms through third parties online. They may not guarantee you a certain type of room.

It all really comes down to two things: Comfort and sleep. Are you comfortable enough, and can you get a decent night’s sleep in this room? If the sink is slow to drain and doesn’t bother you, power through and let the front desk know when you check out so they can get it fixed for the next person. But if the door doesn’t latch correctly and you can’t fall asleep because of it, you are fully entitled to request a room with a functioning lock.

Before going down to the front desk, see if the issue can be resolved over the phone. You’ll be saving time and hassle. Also think about what you want to have done about the problem – a room change, a discount, or even simply a room cleaning – so you’re ready to ask for it.

If you’re going to ask for a discount, realize that the answer will probably depend on the situation. If you’re asking for a discount, it should be because you were extremely inconvenienced (with a modicum of loyalty thrown in), not because you’re looking to be a con artist.

When you talk to employees, don’t throw a fit. If you think whipping out the sass and name-dropping every employee you know in the hotel industry is going to work for you, you’re wrong. Be polite and understanding if the front-desk worker can’t help you in every way you want them to.

If your room is a hazard to your health or you simply do not feel safe staying the night, hotel employees should help you get situated somewhere else, whether that means in a different room at their location, or getting you a room in a different hotel. They should not leave you high-and-dry.

If you want to avoid bad hotel experiences in the future, here are some tips:

  • If every photo on the website looks fake and Photoshopped, they probably are.
  • Look up the address of the hotel in relation to wherever you want to be. When a hotel says they’re “minutes from downtown,” does that mean walking or driving? There’s a difference.
  • While you’re looking up the address, check out the street view and see how the hotel looks from the outside. If the outside looks run down, the inside probably is too.
  • Bring earplugs so you don’t have to go through the hassle of changing rooms just because your neighbors or the air conditioner are a little noisy.
  • Bring your common sense. If the hotel is in a sketchier part of town, you’re going to have to be smart about your decisions.
  • Read reviews about the hotel you’re booking, especially the more recent unbiased reviews.
  • If you have trouble reaching someone when trying to contact the hotel, that’s not a good sign. And if the people you do reach are rude, that will probably stay true when you visit in person.
  • Travel insurance won’t make a bad hotel room better, but it can protect you when things go wrong on the rest of your trip. Naturally, we prefer Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.

Happy lodging — and may all your pillows be down-filled.

Molly Jensen is a member of the marketing team at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.