Five hotel gripes that test business travellers

Five hotel gripes that test business travellers

Many business travellers have a genuine love-hate relationship with hotels: they love the upgrades, free breakfast and nice surroundings, but hate the forgotten or ill-timed wake-up calls, the shower tubs, the noisy neighbours and the surcharges for real barista coffee at that same ‘free’ breakfast.

We’ve compiled the top five ways that any hotel, even the most lavish five-star luxury properties, can turn an otherwise-positive stay into one that makes us sigh, cringe or just plain irritated.

1. Charity donations appearing on the bill

Nothing sours an otherwise great stay like reviewing your folio on departure day and spotting that somebody else has decided that you will be making a charitable donation as part of your visit.

Usually the donation comes as an inconsequential $1 tacked on at the bottom, but which puts you, the guest, in a very awkward and unnecessary position.

You can either ask for the dollar charge to be removed – which admittedly makes you appear cheap – or you can leave it on and explain to your boss why you used the company credit card for a donation that’s too small to even be tax deductible.

We’ve nothing against charities and wouldn’t mind so much if hotels simply offered the chance to donate on check-out, but adding unauthorised charges to your bill is a no-no in the banking industry, and should be so at hotels, too.

2. “Would you like to pay in Australian dollars?”

Visa and MasterCard users spending overseas will have been asked “would you like to pay in Australian dollars?” many a time under the guise of being convenient, and hotels are no exception to that rule.

But what many people don’t realise is that the hotel usually pads that exchange rate by 1-3% and pockets the extra as a commission. Then, your Australian bank will likely charge its usual 2-3.65% foreign transaction fee on top of that, adding as much as 6.65% to your overall bill.

Hotel reception staff are also seldom aware of the hidden cost and often tout the service, known as ‘dynamic currency conversion’, as if they’re doing you a favour so that you “know exactly how much you’ll be billed in your own currency”.

Make the question an honest and transparent “would you to pay us a higher amount but in Australian dollars?” and we’re sure this ‘convenience’ would quickly become extinct.

3. Hotel gyms that close overnight

Normally accessible only by key card, we’ve never understood why some hotel gyms and fitness centres close their doors in the evenings – particularly when they’re largely self-sustaining and come fitted with CCTV cameras for added security.

For jetlagged business travellers arriving late at night or early in the morning after a long journey, a quick workout can do wonders for your circulation, fatigue and even mental preparedness ahead of your busy schedule for the days ahead.

The DoubleTree by Hilton Melbourne gym, closed between 10pm and 6am...

There are also the crowds who prefer to rise early for a pre-breakfast calorie burn or head to the gym later at night once all their work is done, and in this modern age of hi-tech gadgets and electronic access cards, “the little hand was on the twelve” no longer passes muster.

4. HDTV aspect ratios, blurry images

It’s always ironic when a hotel spends thousands of dollars installing shiny new high definition TVs in its guestrooms, only for the pictures displayed to stretched, squished, cropped or otherwise in the wrong size or ‘aspect ratio’.

For example, if you’ve ever flicked on Sky News, CNN or Bloomberg to find that your hotel TV is missing much of the usual on-screen information – or even just an entertainment channel to watch a movie and noticed that the actor’s head was abnormally wide – you’ve got an aspect issue.

Frequently the hotel will have programmed its master set top boxes in ‘4:3 crop’ mode, which takes a virtual cookie cutter to the centre of a widescreen image for display on the more squarish TVs of yesteryear, before piping that straight to your wide TV and stretching the image back out to fill the screen.

What you end up with is half a channel filling the whole of the screen and looking like a downright mess, rather than a widescreen channel displayed in actual widescreen.

5. Bedside clocks past their use-by date

Some hotels have brilliant bedside clock radios with built-in phone connectors and USB charging ports, while others lag behind and claim an often-faulty auxiliary cable as their headline feature.

All too common: hotel radios that can't play music...

The former are fantastic for business travellers – serving not only in place of the phone charger you forgot to pack but also to air your personal music playlist while your phone is re-juiced for the busy day ahead.

Switch to the latter and you’ve got no phone connection and no backup USB power sockets: instead just a flimsy audio cable that should have been upgraded years ago. Hilton, take note.

When it comes to hotels, what makes you grumble before, during or even after your stay? Share your pet peeves in the comment box below!

Also read: What makes a great hotel for business travellers?

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

42 comments

  • alaskaqantas

    alaskaqantas

    12 Sep, 2016 07:53 am

    My big gripe: When there are no, or only one outlet/s by the bed/s. It still astonishes me how many hotels lack this feature... or sometimes it's in the lamp, but is so loose that it won't stay in.

    No member give thanks

  • Chris_PER

    Chris_PER

    12 Sep, 2016 08:53 am

    Amen to that.  Also WiFi costing extra.

    No member give thanks

  • PK

    PK

    12 Sep, 2016 09:50 am

    Well said. Outlets are my biggest gripe along with insufficient lighting. The issues combine when there is one outlet near the bed and you have to mimic a Marine in basic training to crawl around and disconnect a the "light" that is connected to it. I say "light" because the thing never pump out enough wattage to be useful for anything except as an annoyance. 

    No member give thanks

  • russell

    russell

    12 Sep, 2016 08:54 am

    Overcomplicated light switches. Sometimes its like solving Rubiks cube.

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    12 Sep, 2016 09:00 am

    Hospitality staff who don't understand basic English?

    No member give thanks

  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    12 Sep, 2016 11:53 am

    And they "yes" "yes" even when they don't understand your question. And then refuse to acknowledge they don't understand, when asked then deliver something completely different.

    Just be upfront when you don't understand so I'll try to explain myself  better. I know English is not your first language. But if we carry on with this charade, we're not going to get anywhere. 

    No member give thanks

  • Ksmith

    Ksmith

    12 Sep, 2016 09:33 am

    Even worse than wrong aspect ratios is being unable to find the channels. Stayed in a hotel recently with well over 100 TV channels to choose from, but no TV guide or channel list. The channels weren't even in any sort of logical order, such as being organised by language or genre. 

    Other dislikes: bad showers; 'trendy' side tables instead of having a proper desk; 'stylish' light fittings that barely light up the room, or which hang so low from the ceiling you keep knocking in to them; incredibly cheap irons and ironing boards - remarkably common in upmarket hotels... I could go on all day.

    No member give thanks

  • russell

    russell

    12 Sep, 2016 09:46 am

    Cheap irons......agreed. Particuarly when they use the travel irons with no steam. Deplorable.

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  • eminere

    eminere

    12 Sep, 2016 09:54 am

    1. Insufficient power outlets by the bed and work desk.
    2. No master light controls by the bed and/or light switches for different fixtures scattered all around the room.
    3. Dim lighting.
    4. Weak water pressure.
    5. Shower curtains (instead of doors), particularly when they're not cleaned and so they smell.
    6. Shower partitions that don't close fully or are not splash-proof so water gets everywhere on the bathroom floor. 
    7. Poor ability to control water temperature in the shower/at the sink. 

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  • readosunnycoast

    readosunnycoast

    12 Sep, 2016 10:28 am

    Boy oh Boy does number 4 get up my nose.  I have stayed at places and told them maybe half a diozen times over a 12 month period but still nothing.  FOXTEL is a bit of an issue because the technology they use in hotles is SO old. They have maybe 6 or 8 STB sitting on top of each other. If you use the remote to try and fix ONE box they all chang....not to the correct setting but simply differnt from the existing setting.  The other issue is that often the hotel will have some 4:3 screens hanging aorund that miss out on picture if they are reset.

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  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    12 Sep, 2016 11:19 am

    Yep, you basically have to point the remote directly in front of the box you want to control (as in, 1cm away), or you have to block the IR receivers on the other boxes with something. Can be a pain but still a relatively easy fix.

    No member give thanks

  • moa999

    moa999

    12 Sep, 2016 11:54 am

    Insufficient power points definitely - I now travel with my Alococc cube with a 1.5m cord.

    1-3% on DCC is low -- I once saw about 8% in Macau (Crown Macau)

    Badly designed/ tested Wifi - have had a number of times where it didn't effectively reach the corner rooms

    Floor lamps that aren't controlled by master switches (particularly apparent in the US where they generally don't use ceiling lights)

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  • anthony watts

    anthony watts

    12 Sep, 2016 12:13 pm

    Too many to list, but the USD32 breakfast, that covers everything, except the single shot espresso that  costs and additional $6 really annoys me. 

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  • Craig

    crwilkins

    12 Sep, 2016 12:23 pm

    2 big issues for me

    1. Paying for Internet when all I want/need is to replicate emails and basic internet usage

    2. Staying in new hotels for major chains that lack international power outlets, I mean really.....can't tell you how many brand new Hiltons, Marriots etc I've stayed in that only have local outlets and you end sharing device charging through your 1 adaptor

    No member give thanks

  • markpk

    markpk

    12 Sep, 2016 03:07 pm

    Just 5? Why limit ourselves...

    1. Hotel doors that need new door closers so they don't slam shut with such force that the adjoining rooms shake
    2. Terrible quality iron/ironing boards
    3. Hotels that charge you $300+ per night and then you find out the in-room coffee is Nescafe Blend 43...along with 3 capsules of UHT milk! 
    4. A work desk with now power points and/or no USB charging ports ABOVE the desk! 
    5. In-Room lighting that requires either (a) you to turn off all lights from the door and thus navigate your way to the bed in complete darkness, or (b) a switching system that was wired by someone with a dark dark sense of humour
    6. A/C controls that change the room temp from 11C to 35C with a half degree change in temperature
    7. Hotels that cannot or will not staff their check out/in counters so as to manage peak in/out periods - seriously, this is not rocket science...And yes, Rydges Sydney Airport I'm looking at you! 
    8. Room service menus that are so uninspiring and unhealthy they make cardboard look nutritious. 
    9. Room layouts that abuse ample space through poor design
    10. Credit card surcharges! 
    No member give thanks

  • sgb

    sgb

    12 Sep, 2016 04:02 pm

    I don't like it when your departing the hotel in peak rush time for morning meetings, and say there are 2 passenger lifts and 1 staff/houskeeping lift, and after waiting 5 minutes for one of the two the guest lifts -  the Housemaid and her trolley are in your lift. Talking about lifts, hate it when they 'Bing' loudly when they arrive at the floor, especially if your room is near the lift lobby.

    No member give thanks

  • sdtravel

    sdtravel

    12 Sep, 2016 08:05 pm

    I can give you some gripes from a recent stay in London i had

    • had to change rooms after 1 night. I booked 7 months ahead. Surely you could organise a single room for my stay in that time.
    • New room wasn’t ready till late afternoon and told just had to wait. Ready when its ready response. As a gold member really thats how you treat your members when you are inconveniencing them.
    • Long hair from previous occupant on the bathroom wall never cleaned 
    • Towels weren’t changed correctly. Ended up with several hand towels not bath towels so after a shower had to call and wait a long time to get a bath towel
    • Breakfast restaurant had dirty cup and when asked for another was given another even dirtier cup and had to request another.
     
    Other things that annoyed me
    - Insufficient number of lifts or slow lfts that are so slow by the time it gets to you its already full and you have to wait for another and another before giving up and walking.
    - Aircon systems that are loud or on a timer that come on full blast cold at 6am everyday. Despite there being no schedule or any way to stop it doing that.
    No member give thanks

  • rowenaball

    rowenaball

    14 Sep, 2016 03:20 pm

    All London hotels will have all of those annoyances and more. All British hotels in fact. The Brits just don't do hotels. or plumbing. A combination made in hell. 

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  • rune

    rune

    12 Sep, 2016 08:25 pm

    No member give thanks

  • rune

    rune

    12 Sep, 2016 08:41 pm

    My biggest gripes:

    • Non-smoking rooms smelling of smoke and the front desk insisting they don't
    • TV remote controls with low battery, so they don't work or you have to stand 1cm from the TV
    • Room "upgrades" that are no different from the room booked
    • Room keys that keep losing their data, typically when it's late at night and your room is a few km's back down to the front desk
    • Hotels that don't invest in basic soundproofing
    • Not really the hotels fault, but people from nearby rooms who start a conversation at 3am in the corridor outside your room. The very same people who get cranky when I then bang on their doors the next day at 6:30am offering a courtesy wake up call
    Rune
    No member give thanks

  • Stephen Jasper

    wm3003

    12 Sep, 2016 08:27 pm

    My big gripe: being interrogated by reception staff about a reservation. Just find me my room, thanks. No, I *DON'T* need someone to carry my luggage. Crappy ironing boards, no iron (how do business travellers travel without access to irons???) and NO KETTLE FOR TEA tops my list. If I have just spent 20 hours on planes, no one but no one should ever have to experience the decaffeinated version of me (see Jeckyll, Dr.).

    Americans are the worst for this -- here's a post I wrote a few months ago:

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/things-i-wish-american-hotels-knew-stephen-jasper

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  • Rufus1

    Rufus1

    13 Sep, 2016 07:50 am

    What everyone said about crappy irons and ironing boards.  Is it even possible to buy non-steam irons these days?  Well apparently most major hotel chains have worked out how...

    And a shaving kit that consists of some 25c piece of crap which might as well be a blunt chainsaw on your face. 

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  • PB57

    PB57

    14 Sep, 2016 02:30 am

    Australian hotels (a) charging, and (b) charging usery rates for wifi when it's free in most parts of the world. Ironing boards that should've been thrown on the tip years before. Low watt light bulbs. I got to the point where I used to take my own so that I could replace reading lamp globes and actually read. TV remotes which won't work. 

    No member give thanks

  • julius-grafton

    julius-grafton

    14 Sep, 2016 02:58 pm

    Lack of outlets. No fresh milk for tea. Charging me for fresh milk when I ask for it. Charging for wifi. Calling the room to check if things are OK. Knocking on the door when I have the DND sign on. Stuffing about at reception.

    No member give thanks

  • John Corbett

    John C

    14 Sep, 2016 03:07 pm

    In the hope that hotel management staff are reading this... No. 5 is a particular bugbear of mine. Specifically, the bedside clocks that go off randomly, fit to wake the dead, at 3am or midnihgt or whenever. Whenever I stay in a room I check that the clock is switched off and where possible unplug it. I use my iPhone as an alarm clock.

    Some bedside clocks also have LCD displays that could light up a Hollywood premiere. At the least I ensure they face away from me when sleeping because that sort of light interferes with proper sleep.

    No member give thanks

  • rowenaball

    rowenaball

    14 Sep, 2016 03:30 pm

    Things on the bed. One hotel near the botanic gardens in Brisbane had two teddies (wtf?), an indescribable pleated thing, two large and two small cushions, and a heavy sort of antimacassar on the bed, all of which I had to heave off it before I could get into bed. Each day after the room was serviced all the Things had been put back on the bed. Oh, what a nuisance! 

    Also aircon that is fixed to 21 degrees and you cannot alter the thermostat. This is especially irritating because I must sleep cool at night. 

    No member give thanks

  • parishiltons

    parishiltons

    14 Sep, 2016 07:18 pm

    Mate, 21 deg IS cool in Brisbane. Origin Energy suggests that aircon be set at 24 or 25 during summer.

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  • rowenaball

    rowenaball

    15 Sep, 2016 12:02 pm

    Yeah, I know. All the more reason why I should be able to cool the room to 16 degrees to get a good night's sleep. 

    I start to spontaneously combust when the temperaturre hits about 23 degrees, but my work often takes me to Brisbane. 

    No member give thanks

  • ChewYourChow

    ChewYourChow

    14 Sep, 2016 03:43 pm

    All those iPod docks with the old school 30 pin connectors.

    No member give thanks

  • Mark Billam

    billamm

    14 Sep, 2016 03:48 pm

    Sounds trivial, but why when I'm staying for more than 24 hours, do they always have to move the remote control from where you left it.

    If I leave it on the bedsite table in the morning, that's where I expect it to be when I come back in the evening....rather than on an obscure shelf under the TV (Novotel) or in a back in drawer. That said, given it happens so regularly, you'd think I'd learn!

    Oh, and I'll second all the things that other posters have listed....the 5 in the article are the tip of the iceberg!

    No member give thanks

  • pprofpopp

    pprofpopp

    14 Sep, 2016 04:17 pm

    Aha!!   The red flag to a bull :-)     OK, 

    1) Inadequate or badly positioned powerpoints   I've had one at floorboard level that an apple plug couldnt plug into.  Seriously???  Who would put a socket on a skirting board?

    2) Cheap, non-steam irons that would melt a good shirt

    3) The credit card cash gouge on checkout

    4) The credit card cash gouge on checkout

    5)  The credit card cash gouge on checkout

    Need I go on????  :-)

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  • pprofpopp

    pprofpopp

    14 Sep, 2016 04:19 pm

    And i didn't know the "pay in Australian dollars scam"  That's a new one   Thanks for the tip

    No member give thanks

  • BK BK

    Bryank

    14 Sep, 2016 06:58 pm

    wouldnt it be great if there was some fabulon / spray starch to help with ironing your shirt with a good iron and ironing board?  How hard could that be?  You arrive late so there's no chance of checking in shirts to be ironed by housekeeping.

    No member give thanks

  • parishiltons

    parishiltons

    14 Sep, 2016 07:20 pm

    1. Lack of soundproofing. This is so basic and fundamental but almost universally disregarded in Australia.

    2. Dim bed reading lights or lights that can't be shopne on what you are trying to read.

    3. Credit card surcharges.

    No member give thanks

  • Dale Fowler

    dalefowler

    14 Sep, 2016 09:06 pm

    Irons and ironing boards are the worst. The steam ones can be worse as they have a propensity to simply dump all the water you put in straight back out. I can only assume they are buying the irons rejected by every retailer as not fit for purpose. I now request a steam iron. In my special requests to the hotel. Oh and a full size board. Those half boards are useless. 

    Number 2 for me is chairs that don't match the desk height. This is incredibly common. The chairs are so low as to be useless.

    3 Useless wifi. Why bother giving me something free that is next to useless. That's just annoying.

    4 Poor lighting. All we want is a master switch and enough lighting to see. This trend to 6 different mood lamps puts me in a bad mood.

    My wife hates that kettles were replaced with coffee machines. She is a tea drinker and the kids want hot chocolate. 

    What is really interesting is how many of the complaints are similar and could be easily rectified. 

    No member give thanks

  • Dale Fowler

    dalefowler

    14 Sep, 2016 09:07 pm

    Irons and ironing boards are the worst. The steam ones can be worse as they have a propensity to simply dump all the water you put in straight back out. I can only assume they are buying the irons rejected by every retailer as not fit for purpose. I now request a steam iron. In my special requests to the hotel. Oh and a full size board. Those half boards are useless. 

    Number 2 for me is chairs that don't match the desk height. This is incredibly common. The chairs are so low as to be useless.

    3 Useless wifi. Why bother giving me something free that is next to useless. That's just annoying.

    4 Poor lighting. All we want is a master switch and enough lighting to see. This trend to 6 different mood lamps puts me in a bad mood.

    My wife hates that kettles were replaced with coffee machines. She is a tea drinker and the kids want hot chocolate. 

    What is really interesting is how many of the complaints are similar and could be easily rectified. 

    No member give thanks

  • rod102

    rod102

    15 Sep, 2016 11:50 am

    Room and Alarm clocks set tro the wrong time. Do you think this could be on the housekeeping checklist!

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  • mstyson22

    mstyson22

    15 Sep, 2016 04:10 pm

    The answer to everyone of these legitimate gripes - AirBnB! 

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  • markpk

    markpk

    15 Sep, 2016 06:53 pm

    Yeah right...

    So let me book 150+ nights a year and miss out on:

    • FF points because I've aligned my hotel membership to my primary carrier
    • Free access to the exec lounge which often covers breakfast and in some cases even dinner
    • 50% off in-hotel dinning (Accor)
    • Guaranteed room availability
    • Guaranteed room upgrades
    Yes we have our gripes and issues and hopefully the hotel operators listen and respond, but AirBnB is hardly the solution! 
    No member give thanks

  • mstyson22

    mstyson22

    15 Sep, 2016 07:38 pm

    A positive comment at last!  I run an Airbnb and am booked out six months in advance. My space is 100% superior in every way to any hotel room. It's cheaper too. Perhaps we are all a little too sucked in by FF points and loyalty schemes. Been  there and done that! 

    No member give thanks

  • helen morris

    morrish

    16 Sep, 2016 07:32 pm

    Two main issues for me:-

    Lighting in the room so dim you have to use a torch to be read anything.  As someone who needs to read at night to lull myself off to sleep it's a big annoyance.

    And the big one:- credit card surcharges.  For the life of me I cannot understand that when a hotel charges $300.00 a night they think they can slug you a credit card fee on top of that.  These are the big end of town hotels like the Marriott etc that should be able to absorb these fees considering they really hit you for meals, drinks, accommodation and in some instances WiFi.

    There are of course the smaller annoyances:-

    Working out how to get all or some of the lighting off (because you have had to turn it all on initially so you could see in the room) from the buttons near your bed.

    Cheap crappy coffee and those little containers of pretend milk when you have paid a fortune for the room you are in.  Thick lipped coffee cups - give me fine bone china please!

    Not enough power points  to recharge all the tech equipment we all have to have these days.

    I emailed ahead and asked for firm pillows yet I get soft lumpy ones - why?

    No member give thanks

  • Charles Elliott

    Pommy Battler

    5 Oct, 2016 05:11 pm

    Missing plugs for the sink, no flannel in the bathroom so you have to use a towel to wash your face and one piece of soap for the sink and the shower (surely soap isn't that expensive?) would be my cleansing gripes to add to the list
    No member give thanks

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18 Jul, 2019 01:33 am

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