For all the advances in technology we’ve seen in hotels over the past few years, there’s one area of the hotel experience that really hasn’t made any progress in terms of innovation — housekeeping.

You’d think there would be a better way. It’s always frustrating when on the day you’re supposed to check out, housekeeping starts knocking on your door at 8AM. Then at 12PM, even when you have the “Do Not Disturb” sign up they knock again, even though the front desk granted you late check-out. It’s not a big inconvenience, other than the fact that I’ve been in situations where I’m trying to sleep in the middle of the day in anticipation of a redeye, only to wake up to the noise of someone entering my room. You’d think it would be easier to let the front desk let housekeeping know when a guest checks out, instead of knocking on their door a dozen times. Beyond that, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had a housekeeper knock on the door, and literally a second later barge in, not waiting for a response.

My usual routine when staying at a hotel is to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door as soon as I check-in, and both lock the door and put the latch on the door whenever I’m in the room. Then whenever I leave I take it off, in hopes that my room will get serviced at that time.

But that’s not ideal. When I put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign I often don’t literally mean “don’t disturb me.” Instead it’s more along the lines of “I don’t want my room serviced now.” I remember being at the InterContinental Bali and ordering room service breakfast, which is included as a club guest. I had the “Do Not Disturb” sign up from the night before, so when they tried to deliver room service they first had to go back to the kitchen to call me and make sure that it would be okay to knock. I thought it was professional and their intentions were good, though obviously that wasn’t my intent with the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Calling and knocking are equally disruptive, though it was an oversight on my part.

Sometimes when leaving I’ll forget to take the “Do Not Disturb” sign off, only to be gone the entire day and get back to the hotel late at night to find my room hasn’t been serviced (understandably). Sometimes it’s the opposite, where they will nonetheless service the room, which is good (because it was an oversight on my part) and bad (because they “violated my privacy”) at the same time.

But the issue is, everyone has different standards when it comes to privacy. If someone tries to service my room while the “Do Not Disturb” sign is up, I don’t hold it against them. Others view it as a massive invasion of their privacy and demand to speak to the manager to have the housekeeper fired. Some want their room serviced every day — after all, not having to make your bed is one of the nice things about a vacation. Others feel it’s incredibly wasteful, and scoff at people that need someone else to make their bed.

Anyway, these are just a few observations. I don’t know what the solution is, but with the amount of tailoring hotels due to guests’ needs nowadays, you’d think this would be part of it. There are hotels that let you choose your pillow type and preferred type of duvet feather before you ever get to the hotel. You’d think these hotels could also have systems whereby the front desk alerts housekeeping when a guest checks out, given that guests check out anywhere between 4AM and 4PM.

Beyond that, how about a system where you’re asked at check-in whether you want housekeepers to proactively knock on your door to service your room, or whether you’d prefer to call down when you’re ready to have your room serviced.

More than anything else it’s about managing customer expectations. If someone leaves their “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door all day, they may very well have a sour taste in their mouth when they get back at night and are told they can’t have their room serviced anymore. If, on the other hand, they’re asked at check-in for their preference, the guest only has themselves to blame. Something along the lines of “would you like us to approach you for housekeeping, or do you want to call down between the hours of 8AM and 5PM when you’re ready to have your room made?”

I’m not expecting this at a Motel 6, but I think luxury hotels could do quite some innovating here.

Thoughts? Anyone else feel this way? Am I crazy? All of the above?

  1. July 8th, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Nick said,

    <3 u

  2. July 9th, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Adrian said,

    I totally see where you are coming from. However, my recent experience in Singapore really solved those issues. I stayed at Aqueen, which is known for being a budget-business accommodation in Singapore, but they don’t use “Do Not Disturb” signs. Instead, they have a control touch panel with a button that asks for “No Service.” Once you tap that, the message will be displayed outside your hotel room door on a neighbouring notification panel. Very innovative, and worked quite well!

  3. July 9th, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Jimgotkp said,

    Well Lucky, I’m happy to tell you that some hotels do have some features in the rooms to make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen. This includes the hotel I work at where we have motion sensors inside the room excluding the bathroom. We also have electronic dashboards attached to the wall next to the door, where guests press the Do Not Disturb button when they want to be left alone.

    All of this is sent to our computers which allow us to work with housekeepers. If anyone calls and asks for a certain guest who has their Do Not Disturb button on, we don’t transfer the calls unless otherwise mentioned to us beforehand.

    Now the question is, when do other hotels plan on implementing this type of technology at their hotels?

  4. July 9th, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Curious said,

    Which hotel is that?

  5. July 9th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    PanAm said,

    @Jimgotkp, I stayed at a hotel not long ago with a similar arrangement and loved it.

    If I’m traveling solo and staying for just a few days, I’ll normally leave the DND sign up the whole time. I just don’t have any need for service..usually plenty of towels, soap, etc.

    And having once stayed in the room while it was being cleaned, & watching the maid wipe the sink area with the same rag she just wiped the toilet…not sure my room is any “cleaner” after housekeeping visits!

  6. July 9th, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Blandon said,

    Maybe a 300 room hotel could have 300 maids which each work for 30 minutes. They’d be on standby waiting for your call ;-)

  7. July 9th, 2011 at 7:09 am

    JRL said,

    I once had a housekeeper, while I was staying at Venetian in a large suite, key the door without pressing the doorbell. She walked in as I was having sex. Needless to say, she attempted to scurry off, I continued, and yelled “No, don’t go, I need you to clean up after”.

    True story.

    JRL

  8. July 9th, 2011 at 7:26 am

    B said,

    I’ve found that staying at Starwood hotels that offer the green choice program to be really great at not disturbing me when opting out of housekeeping.

    I believe a “4 star” hotel should have 24 hour housekeeping available. A cheaper solution than having motion sensors in the room would be to allow guests select a convenient time to their room serviced. Say.. between the hours of 2-5pm.. or no preference. Maybe give the guests with status to pick any 30 minute window during the day to have their room serviced.

  9. July 9th, 2011 at 7:51 am

    Andy Bluebear said,

    How about if a room has a “Do Not Disturb” sign, the housekeeper should notify the front desk, and let them call the room and ask you. And if nobody answers the call, housekeeping can just open the door, and announce they are there, in case you’re still in the room.

    If there is no sign, then the housekeeper can just knock a few times and if no response, they can enter.

    Of course, regardless, if they enter, they should announce themselves anyway at the door, just to let to let you know they are there. Juet barging in is very rude.

  10. July 9th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Katie said,

    I’d like to see the cleaning staff with a type of tablet computer that keeps track of which rooms need to be cleaned, rooms being checked out of, rooms that don’t want service. They can set the room status to clean when done (so the front desk instantly knows when your room is ready to be checked into) and the room status can be updated by the front desk when something changes (someone switches rooms or makes a request for cleaning). I think it’s really the hotel staff communication and tracking that needs improvement. If they want to connect to an in-room system for requesting service or no-service, fine, but in-room electronics seem like one more thing to malfunction in the rooms.

  11. July 9th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    bmvaughn said,

    A low-tech solution works here… like having to turn in your key when you leave the hotel. Works great in European budget hotels IME.

  12. July 9th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Dan said,

    Coins, I’m shocked that you don’t use the deadbolt lock and other security device on the door. Besides preventing housekeeping from entering your room, you’ll also keep out someone that the front desk assigned to ‘your room’ (at midnight).

  13. July 9th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Easy Victor said,

    When I put up a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, I expect to not be disturbed. Period. No knocking or entry. Maybe I’m not feeling well, needed some sleep, or engaged in activities that would be uncomfortable if someone walked in. If that means I don’t get the room serviced or food delivered, then that is my fault and I would never place blame on housekeeping, food service or management for my actions. From the hotel’s perspective, they need to know if the room is secure or the guest is okay, so entry after a couple of days of continuous DND would be prudent with a call beforehand.

  14. July 9th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Howie said,

    Do Not Disturb to me means don’t knock, don’t service … “Do Not Disturb”.

    I never put it on the door unless I leave and don’t want the room serviced / or anyone to enter.

    If I’m in the room and don’t want someone to come in unannounced I keep it locked and no sign on the door.

    Seems pretty straight forward.

  15. July 9th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Jimgotkp said,

    @ Easy Victor, well you wouldn’t blame the housekeepers or hotel employees. However, would others be the same? I doubt it, most people still put fault on others so they don’t have to take any responsibility for their actions.

  16. July 9th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Jerry said,

    I’ve seen the no service before in Thailand. But, I think the best option was on my most recent trip to Tokyo. They had three door magnets, clean room, don’t clean room and do not disturb.

  17. July 9th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Kate said,

    Used to work in a hotel that had options for “do not disturb” and “service please” that lit up lights outside the door.
    Anyone on DND for more than 36 hours had a note slipped under the door asking them to contact the desk to make sure they were ok and to see if we could offer them anything. We broke a DND after 48 hours to make sure they were alive if no one had seen them.

    The issue, as always, comes down to cost. Housekeeping sucks huge money from a hotel budget and returns none or very very little. The norm is that housekeepers are sent out with printed off lists of their rooms they need to clean and they basically go from room to room until they can get in to all of them. Often they will punch a code on the phone to tell the hotel system the new status of the room. The hotels rarely have someone just sitting in housekeeping all day dispatching room attendants and even if they do, communication between the front desk and housekeeping is usually spotty at best. It’s frankly a miracle it works as well as it does anyway!

  18. July 9th, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Erik said,

    My pet peeve is those hotels that have turn-down service but send the housekeepers out at 5:30pm so you are either relaxing in room or getting ready to go out so they hand you a couple mints and you never get turn-down service (I like those little placemats on the floor).

  19. July 10th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Cedarglen said,

    I have to agree with you, but to a limited point. The Front Desk Management SHOULD communicate with the housekeeping staff about specific room’s needs –and they usually do not. That said, neither of them can read your mind! If your room service meal is late because the witer honored your DND sign, it is NOT their fault. If you call for a couple of towels and don’t get them, check your DND sign. Duh! One must also consider the hotel’s genuine safety concerns. WHen a room door has not been opened and/or a guest not seen for 24 hours, it can and does raise some safety concerns. Here’s what I do If I need to remain undisturbed during the daily housekeeping cycle:
    1. Communicate with the front desk and give them some idea of why.
    2. Hang the sign.
    3. When appropriate, post an additional sign on the door briefly stating your wish (late check-out etc). Posting it right over the door’s lock will help.
    4. It is still an imperfect system, but communicating your wishes does help, to a degree. The ataff **Cannot** read your mind!
    5. In the event of a communications failure, it is most often NOT the housekeeper’s error. They generally operate under strick, if generic rules. With their jobs on the line, the hard-working folks follow the rules that they have been given. The periodic errors are management’s problem, not the housekeeper’s. When raising hell, fault management (or self?) for not communicating, not the poor housekeeper. -C.

  20. July 10th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    rich (arizona) said,

    I sometimes use the DND sign to keep people out of the room, even if I’m not in it. I think it makes the room appear occupied and someone may be less likely to break in. Obviously you can’t use it all the time if you want the room made up but if they do the room in the morning then the rest of the day I’ll use the sign regardless of whether I’m in the room or not.

  21. July 10th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Easy Victor said,

    @jimgotkp

    I can’t speak for anyone else. But common sense says that if the sign says “Do Not Disturb”, the guest doesn’t want to be disturbed. If they had a sign that said “Maybe disturb” or “Not sure if I want to be disturbed”, then the guest would have no right to complain! A stop sign at an intersections doesn’t give the go-ahead to enter either…

  22. July 11th, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Jason H said,

    As a few other commenters have pointed out there are some innovation out there. Le Crystal in Montreal has one. Your key card is inserted into a control unit just inside your door. It allows you to turn on lights and other necessities, but it also informs the staff that the room is occupied. It was, I thought, a very nice feature for just the reasons you described. Additionally, there was a “Do Not Disturb” button that you could hit that electronically signaled the staff even when you took your key out of the control unit. Very slick… once I figured it all out.

  23. July 11th, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Soenke Weiss said,

    There actually has been some innovation in housekeeping that addresses most of the points that have been made in this discussion: Have a look at http://www.optiisolutions.com – it’s probably the first solution that addresses housekeeping management at its core.

  24. May 20th, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    James said,

    “Others feel it’s incredibly wasteful, and scoff at people that need someone else to make their bed.”

    Why do people need their beds “made” at all? So what if the sheets aren’t neatly tucked in?

  25. May 23rd, 2013 at 4:35 am

    thelawyerboy said,

    hi peeps.
    i just had a shocking experience today. i requested for a wake up call at 7am the night before. at 7.34am, there was someone infront of my bed and touching my shoulders, saying ‘wake up sir, this is your wake up call’! i was shocked to see this figurine infront of me. i went to sleep , latched the door, double lock and even activated the Do Not Disturb sign.
    What i cant accept is their explanation that its their S.O.P that after half hour , guest doesn’t answer the wake up call, they have right to enter the room irregardless whether the doors are locked, latched or DND sign is on. (safety of guests comes first).
    i need some opinions whether this is ‘invasion of privacy’ or is there such policy.

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