Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Arriving early to a hotel, I often hear "your room is not ready yet." Do hotels reserve you a particular room or do patrons simply have a spot in the hotel reserved for them?

We have a certain number of spots - rooms - reserved for a certain number of guests, and one of them is you.

As for the bad news, "your room is not ready yet" . . . Is it your own darn fault?  You'd be amazed at how frequently it could be!

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We tell people (or we're supposed to tell them, although rushed desk clerks taking reservations, or reservations agents, frequently forget to mention it, or people don't read it on the webpage when making their reservation...), check in time is at 3:00.  

What time do people begin arriving?  That's right -- whenever they show up . . . wanting to be checked in to their room right away . . . 

But the housekeepers need that much time to clean the rooms from the night before.  (This is also the root of the flipside of the same problem - people overstaying checkout: Michael Forrest Jones' answer to How lenient are hotels when it comes to checking out late? )

So, if you arrive before three, I'll smile, and even apologize (I hate apologizing for other people's screwups, especially if the screwup is on the part of the very person I'm apologizing to...), and try to be as welcoming as possible, and even put out a party platter for you -- and all the others I anticipated would do the same thing to me that day -- to enjoy and to make the wait more comfortable (for both of us); but so much of it is just a mask. Yes, I accept it at a certain level, it's a human thing, we're all human beings, all of our customers are human beings, it's part of the cost of dealing with humans, I know from years of experience that some intrepid souls are going to show up as early as 11am, I accept that, and that's why the smile, the effort to be nice, and the party platter. But frankly . . . if you come before three (unless you told us in advance and we agree to it), then you brought it down on your own head and don't have my shoulder to cry on, so if you start fussing and complaining and getting loud about it like you were entitled and we failed you or something, then forget you.  I'll still smile and try to be suitably forgiving (there's a lot to forgive there, and you're making it worse every time you open your mouth on that particular subject) and faux-contrite, and endeavor to avoid a scene on the part of either of us; but you're pushing the envelope and abusing the privilege, and it's going to damage our relationship and make us not like you nearly as much unless there's something really special about you to make up for it a little.

But after three o'clock, it's our fault - sometimes we don't have enough housekeepers, or they get a little backed up in their work. That's why we put out the party platter: at that point, it's from the heart, we do feel a little bad about letting you down, and it's because we want to -- we want to smooth things over and keep you happy and coming back. 

It's much more likely to show up as a problem when we've had very high occupancy the night before, or have enough bookings to have a very high occupancy that night - when we've rented last night, or have enough booked for tonight, 85-90% of our rooms; then we've left ourselves very little wiggle room and much more precise choreography is needed on the part of the housekeepers to make them for the next guests.

And quite frequently, the problem isn't that we don't have rooms, it's that we don't have any available of your type - and the more full we are, the more pronounced that problem is going to be. (As to that part of your question, do we reserve a particular room, the answer is generally no - unless your reservation is for a one-of-a-kind room at the hotel - but we do go by the type of room - one king bed, two queen beds, studio suites, etc.) If you have a king room reserved, and we don't have any kings ready, well, we could go ahead and put you in a double if it'll make you happy - and if we have doubles available.  (That's why, if you know you're going to arrive early, in a well-run hotel you can keep it from being a problem if you negotiate an early arrival in advance when you make your reservation -- on that day, we'd know to expect you to show up just before noon wanting a king room.) Or if your a smoker, but you're willing to gut it out for a night in a non-smoking room (and we can trust you not to smoke in it), then we can accommodate you - but only if we have a non-smoking room available.

If you arrive on a red-eye flight, and arrive at oh-dark-hundred, we'll try to work with you (especially - again - if we knew about it ahead of time). But if you're one of these who arrive early enough to make the clerk wonder, are you trying to get an extra night out of us,  your request will be scrutinized a bit more carefully. This isn't that much of a problem in a good hotel. (In a hotel with a lot of local traffic, you get late-night partiers who come in at 4am and feel that, because they arrived at 4am - as in, four in the morning -  they're entitled to stay throgh the following night. As a night auditor, I've had people arrive as early as 1am and attempt to make the same demand, hoping there's a policy that if you arrive after 12:01, technically, it's the following day. It's not. In my hotels, rule of thumb, generally, is that 5am is the drop dead witching hour - arrive before that and you're paying for the previous night, and unless you've paid for two nights, yes, you do have to check out at 11am.) Usually when it does come up and we consider it a problem, it's because someone's trying to stretch a two-night reservation into a three-night reservation and only be charged for two nights. Or when someone neglected to change a reservation to the day before, but hopes that showing up on the graveyard shift will work as a hack around that.

Reservations do take priority, but the hotel has its needs too, and getting the rooms ready takes time, a lot of hard work . . . and a good bit of organization, coordination, and choreography.

Originally appeared on Quora

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