Saturday, January 28, 2017

After checking out of a good hotel, what services is it reasonable to expect to use for the remainder of that day? (I checked out of the Park Hyatt today at noon, left my bags and when I retuned to collect them I sat in a reception lounge reading for a bit and I charged my phone. I was told that as I was no longer a guest I shouldn't stay long! Where would be a good place to draw the line as a recent guest and what you can and can't do.)

I can't give you a good answer (at least not in terms of present-day applicability) to that question because frankly, most hotels do not have a policy on that, nor have they ever considered one.  

Someone on the hotel staff might okay it, as a personal accommodation in the spirit of hospitality (which most hotels encourage among their staff - and I will concede based on what you tell me that the staff at the Park Hyatt that you describe was being a bit harsh). But - as you yourself noticed -  that leaves you at the mercy (or whim) of the hotel staff; which can vary not only from hotel to hotel, but between individual managers and staff members within the same hotel.  

Image result for hotel business center

A hotel needs to have a policy in place for it, and frankly, most don't. (Unapologetic spam piece: now that I've seen your question, we will.) 

Many of the more common amenities at most hotels - the pool, the business center, the exercise room - see surprisingly little use, even by guests who haven't yet checked out, so it wouldn't hurt to permit departing guests to use them for the remainder of the day.  We could call it out for holders of our loyalty cards that those facilities are available and that they're welcome to use them for the remainder of the day that they check out. 

The big concern that hotel managers and staff have over use of facilities and access privileges is people who'll abuse the privilege, and undesirables. We want to be hospitable, but we're running a business, not a mosh pit at an outdoor concert; and we have the comfort of other guests to think about, so there must be some order to things around the hotel. 

Anyone can rent a hotel room: it's a public accommodation. Some of those who do rent a room at some locations (usually cheaper locations, but no property is immune), can't check out too soon, and can't leave too soon after they check out. But people like that paid the same price for their room as the people who you would allow such privileges, who it wouldn't hurt to allow such privileges, who you'd want to allow such privileges. 

So, if you allow any people to use the pool late at night (or any other facility within the hotel that is usually closed after a certain hour), you have to allow any guest to use the pool late at night, and that can turn into something that requires a lot of attention at the time of a 24-hour day when you have the least number of staff (often, only one) on property. If you allow anyone to use the business center after check-out time, you have to allow any guest to use the business center after check-out time (even the ones who'd just use the computer in it to play online games or watch pornos, unless you know ahead of time that that's what they intend). Whenever you allow anyone to use the exercise room, you have to allow any guest to use the exercise room after check-out time (even those who might be inclined to show up in a group, bring a 12-pack, turn up MTV on the TV really loud, and have an impromptu party in there - we've had those). You can have rules around all of the conceivable misuse, of course, but they're not worth the paper they're written on unless you can devote the time and attention to monitoring the use of your facilities and enforcing the rules.

Accordingly, I see after-check-out use of the facilities through the end of the day by guests happening, but I see limits in place. This would probably best be a privilege that would be tied to issue of the loyalty card, and limited to cardholders. Here's why. 

The value of any hotel brand is directly proportional to the number of people who have that loyalty card, so card programs (HHonors, Choice Privileges, Wyndham Rewards, Priority Club, etc.) are not going away, even if all most of them are good for (for the cardholder) for now is an arcane points accumulation structure that'll maybe someday get you a free night. 

Our brands will need a card program anyway: they will have a unique pricing structure on which the numbers won't work (for us, financially) if we're contractually to make rooms available at those prices available on Expedia,,, etc. (each requires the 'lowest publicly available rate'), so you're not eligible for the benefits of that pricing structure unless you have the card. (If you stay multiple nights, you'll be getting your room so cheap that we'd lose money on the deal if we had to pay a 20-25% commission to an online travel agency, so we're not going to do it for just anyone - if you don't sign up for the card, you'll just have to pay night-by-night like in any hotel.)

One of the nice things about card programs is that the sort of people who apply for them are the kind of people who plan for the future and look ahead to future stays - responsible people, people who take into account future consequences of present actions. So, that eliminates a lot of the people who'd need babysitting right there. A hotel can safely make added privileges such as after-check-out use of facilities a privilege of card membership. 

And in the process of issuing the card to you, we could explain all of the privileges and benefits - and agree on a few terms. 

Thereafter -- since it's a privilege and not a right -- you don't have to extend it to every guest, and you have a built-in means to stop short any protest (or argument in support of one) that you should.

Until we have a policy in place and you get one of our cards, I'd suggest working something out with a desk clerk or manager in the morning before you check out. Someone will say yes - even if that someone is as a competing hotel, and most managers realize this.  If the hotel at which you're staying tonight isn't one of them, you can always try the competing hotel the next time you're in town. But it shouldn't be that difficult if you're a regular customer.

For now, I'm afraid, individual, hotel-by-hotel negotiation is all I can suggest.

Originally appeared on Quora

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