Hotel gripes from a frequent flyer

Everyone loves to gripe about air travel. But what about hotels?

On a recent trip around the world (New York-Frankfurt-Singapore-Tokyo-LA-New York) I stayed in six different hotels of various quality, and while my flights were perfect (thanks Singapore Airlines and United) the hotel stays were not always.

To their credit, you’re much more likely to get a gripe resolved at a hotel than you would with an airline. Usually a word or two with the front desk and they’ll take money off your bill or even eliminate that night’s room charge, and I’m not shy about marching down to the front desk to get satisfaction, such as when a wake up call didn’t arrive one morning, or a hoard of raucous teenagers kept me up all night by racing past my door. Here’s what I found to carp about:

1. Bad bedside reading lights. I own an iPad, but I’m one of those Neanderthals who still read real books, and I usually do it in bed. Very few hotels have decent bedside lighting (some do, of course, such as the Intercontinental Singapore and the Fairmont Battery Wharf Boston—but not its sister property, the Fairmont Copley Boston). Instead they give you fancy looking table lamps on a nightstand with those dim fluorescent light bulbs.

2. No outlets to plug in laptops and iPads etc. near the bed. Some hotels are getting better at installing enough electrical outlets at desks (although there never seem to be enough), but I want to charge my laptop and iPad while in bed without hunting behind furniture only to find that the clock radio and the aforementioned dim lamp are hogging the only outlet. In fact, I’m writing this as I recline in bed and notice that my Macbook Air needs to be plugged in soon. There’s nowhere to do that.

3. Televisions and their remote controls. I just want to turn the damn TV on to watch TV, not the movies you need to pay for, or the tour of the property, without having to scroll through menus to get to TV broadcasts. Hotels first try to sell you their in-room movies and other services. It’s annoying, especially since every system is different.

4. Confusing alarm clocks. How about just a simple alarm clock. On/off button and then set time. I don’t need a clock radio or an iPad dock that never seems to work anyway. New rule: All hotel room alarm clocks around the world should be standardized.

5. Exhorbitant breakfast room service menus. Really? $35 plus plus plus for two pieces of toast, some juice, two eggs and a sausage? Eight bucks for a coffee plus service charge and tip and tax?

6. Shower controls. Every hotel is different. I can never figure out which way is hot and which way is cold. Even with a 50 percent chance of getting it right I always seem to get it wrong. Can’t we standardize this?

7. Turning on the radio at turn down. Why to maids at hotels that offer turn down service turn the radio on to some dumb easy listening or new age radio station. It takes me five minutes to figure out how to turn the damn thing off (you’ll have noticed that I’m not very adept with knobs, switches, and buttons).

8. Noisy corridors. Most hotel rooms have a small foyer between the hallway door and the room. If I designed hotel rooms, they’d have a second door between the hallway door and the room to block out noisy late night revelers. How hard would it be to design hotels like this?

9. Slamming hotel room doors. Speaking of which, why can’t hotel room doors close softly instead of waking me up in the middle of the night?

10. Uncomfortable desk chairs. All hotels should install ergonomic chairs.

11. Maids who shut the curtains during turn down. The room turns into a dark tomb, great for sleeping but I’d rather wake up with the sun and enjoy the nighttime view. Front desks should ask you if you want your blinds drawn at turn down. It’d save the maids from doing extra work.

12. Hotel rooms with too many light switches. It some rooms, it takes me 15 minutes to figure out how to turn them all off. How about a single switch that shuts every light off. I’ve literally spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to turn off a single light.

13. “Suites” that aren’t suites. “Junior” suites, “executive” suites. A suite has a wall between rooms. Don’t use “suite” to describe your room types if there’s no wall.

14. Slow, expensive WiFi. If you’re going to charge $15 a day for WiFi service, at least make sure it’s fast and reliable in every single room of your hotel. In fact, don’t charge for it at all.

15. Outrageous parking fees. I remember when you could stay in a hotel for $40 a night. In fact, you still can in some cities. But why is there a mandatory $40 per night valet parking charge with no option to self-park? Does it really cost $40 to store your car for the evening? What did I miss?

Feel free to vent in the comments with ways you’d improve the hotel experience.

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and founder of the low-airfare listing site