How to feel about room service upsetting my trip?
August 15, 2017 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Should room service ever enter your room to pick up trays that may or may not exist, when they think no one is there?

I was woken up by someone at 9:30 a.m. announcing room service, but didn't reply. He used a card to unlock the door and then entered. He was wearing the room service uniform and I think I recognized him from a few nights before. He walked a few steps into my room, saw me standing there and he stopped. He then said he was here to pick up a tray which I told him was picked up the previous day. He apologized and left.

I complained to both the room service and the front desk, but the only thing they finally told me was they asked the men that were on that morning and they both said they did not do this (what a surprise). I got the feeling that by saying this, the room service manager was kind of implying that I was mistaken. Then the manager tried to quell me with complimentary dessert. No promise was made that they would look at cameras to see who did this.

This was at a well known hotel in Montreal. I am not familiar with how these things should work, so I am asking was this the norm? Should room service ever have a key card or master card in the first place? And should they ever be entering your room when they don't get an answer? I just don't know how I should be handling this if management is so ready to brush this off. I was really upset and conveyed that to both the room service manager and front desk, but still all I feel I got was, "Sorry that happened to you. Move along."
posted by Keysig to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (49 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is normal. Hotel employees who are responsible for cleaning up after hotel guests will of course have a key to the rooms. The person knocked and got no response, and therefore thought the room was empty. I'm not sure what you want the hotel to do to compensate you for this - at best it is a minor inconvenience to you. This person was just doing their job.
posted by something something at 6:54 PM on August 15 [104 favorites]


In my experience, it's 100% standard for the hotel to have a master key (how else does Housekeeping get in?), and it's also 100% standard for room service to enter if they knock and announce themselves and don't get a response, because the assumption is that you're not around.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:55 PM on August 15 [23 favorites]


It's a good alibi for a prepared thief too, I'd probably call them on the security footage in case it actually isn't someone they recognize or get a percentage from.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:56 PM on August 15


This is normal and the assumption is that if you don't want to be disturbed during reasonable daytime hours, you will hang the "Do Not Disturb" placard on the outside door handle.
posted by lalex at 6:57 PM on August 15 [91 favorites]


Yeah, a knock with no answer at 9:30AM and no Do Not Disturb sign on the door, they're gonna come in. It's what they do. Next time just say "not now, thanks" and they'll go away.
posted by bondcliff at 6:57 PM on August 15 [46 favorites]


Assuming you did not have a "do not disturb" sign on your door, then yes, this is entirely standard. The expectation is that if you are in the room and do not want hotel staff to enter to do their jobs (cleaning, tray pickup, etc.) you will hang the sign or deadbolt the door or reply when they knock.
posted by Stacey at 6:58 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


I believe knocking, waiting for an answer, and entering if hearing none is normal. However, I do think the manager could have handled it better -- instead of trying to defend, they could have empathized and apologized: "I'm sorry our staff entered by surprise - that must have been a shock."
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:59 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


You did not have the inside lock engaged? The one that allows you to open it a crack?
posted by AugustWest at 7:00 PM on August 15 [13 favorites]


Yep, normal. That's why "Do not disturb" signs and interior latches exist. Or just yell "Come back later" through your closed door and you'll be fine.
posted by halogen at 7:00 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


To clarify, I did not have a do not disturb sign on, but I also did not have a tray to pick up. That's the part that kills me.
posted by Keysig at 7:00 PM on August 15


If you don't want hotel staff coming into your room, put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. That's what it's for.

Otherwise, the staff will go into your room if they have business in there. Which they frequently do, because it's a hotel. This is how hotels work.

For what it's worth, I sometimes leave that Do Not Disturb sign up the whole time I'm staying somewhere, because I am the kind of person who gets heebie-jeebies thinking about randos going into my "bedroom" and Doing Stuff, even if they're official randos and they're just doing their jobs. It works.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:03 PM on August 15 [36 favorites]


I did housekeeping at a fancy hotel while I was in university and this is entirely normal. Knock, announce. If no answer, I'd knock and announce again as I slowly opened the door. Frankly, if my manager had offered you free dessert because you were upset that I'd done my job as expected, I'd be pretty miffed.
posted by subluxor at 7:06 PM on August 15 [19 favorites]


It seems like you're concerned about why the housekeeper would come for a tray if they had already picked it up the previous day.

I can't imagine anyone is keeping careful track of trays. It's probably a lot easier for them just to check to see if there's one that needs to be picked up.
posted by aniola at 7:12 PM on August 15 [35 favorites]


This is exactly what the Do Not Disturb sign is for. Staff might come in for a variety of reasons, and checking for a tray seems like a reasonable one.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:13 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


Well mostly everyone's saying the same stuff, so I will just add that unless I'm staying for several days, I put up the 'do not disturb' tag and never take it down until I check out. Maybe I'm weird but it's very effective for me, everywhere from cheap rural motels to high class urban hotels.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:14 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


To address your follow-up comment, nothing out of the ordinary happened. The staff doesn't keep track of service items all that closely. My expansive collection of champagne buckets is a testament to that.
posted by halogen at 7:14 PM on August 15 [28 favorites]


It seems not out of the ordinary to me for there to have been imperfect communication in a decently sized hotel about whether a tray had been picked up. The staff member and the manager have both apologized for startling you. I can't imagine what other sort of response or compensation you are looking for.

Having said that, by all means, you can ask for whatever you think would make this right for you! It may be worth their while to make you happy rather than anger a customer and lose possible return business, even if they're arguably not in the wrong here. But I think you should have a specific ask in mind and make it explicitly instead of waiting for them to come up with something, because your expectation seems to be outside the norm and so you may need to be very clear about it rather than have them try to guess what you want.
posted by Stacey at 7:14 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Another vote that this sounds pretty normal. You had a tray from the day before, someone picked it up already, but trays don't have individual serial numbers and aren't treated as precious valuable goods, so your room didn't get crossed off the pickup list. I'd put "they thought I had a tray that had already been picked up" pretty low down the list of hotel mix-ups.

Do not disturb and the latch+deadbolt combo are there for you when you're in the room and don't want to be disturbed. Staff from many departments (housekeeping, maintenance, food and beverage, etc...) could enter your room while you're away. The locks are there so they don't enter while you're sleeping or undressed; they don't want to do that to you either.
posted by zachlipton at 7:17 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Sounds like a simple miscommunication, at worst, between night shift and day shift room service staff re tray pickup. Not suspicious in the least to me, and completely normal in the course of running a hotel - a large chunk of hotel staff *have* to have master keys to the rooms to do their jobs.

If you really don't want anybody to come into a hotel room, it's on you to put up the "do not disturb" sign, especially at the time you indicated, which is well within standard time for housekeeping and other staff to be doing their work when the fewest guests are in occupancy to disturb. Planning on sleeping past 8 am or so? Hang your DND sign outside your door the night before, and they'll come back later once you've removed the sign. If the sign isn't there, and there's no response to a knock, the assumption is that you're away, and they should enter to do their job quickly before you come back.

Sounds like the manager handled it a little awkwardly, but your expectations were not in line with standard operations at most hotels, so they were probably unsure how to handle this unusual situation.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:20 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


Sounds like a simple miscommunication, at worst, between night shift and day shift room service staff re tray pickup.

And even if it was a mistake -- even if he just went to the wrong room -- he still wouldn't have come in if the DND sign was hanging.

I could also see how the two men on the shift would not have considered the incident notable in any way.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:27 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]


To clarify, I did not have a do not disturb sign on, but I also did not have a tray to pick up. That's the part that kills me.

You had a tray the day before. Someone likely made a mistake. Nothing that happened is out of the ordinary, including management brushing you off for what seems like a minor staff mistake.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:33 PM on August 15 [7 favorites]


IMO, your reaction is completely unreasonable and the hotel owes you nothing, not even an apology -- the apology you got was merely a business nicety. You didn't respond to them announcing themselves; you didn't put up a DND sign. Thus, they were free to come in. That's pretty much a universal convention. Or, as you so succinctly put it yourself: "Sorry that happened to you. Move on."
posted by WCityMike at 7:36 PM on August 15 [32 favorites]


I sometimes leave that Do Not Disturb sign up the whole time I'm staying somewhere

That is also me. I sleep in and would also be a person who would not respond to a knock on the door at 9:30. So I hang the door tag and I lock the door from the inside with the deadbolt thing and I am not disturbed. It seems like your expectations were a little off, but that they fumbled your bad feelings on the matter. I'd think a dessert would be an ok "Sorry we startled you" make up gesture.
posted by jessamyn at 7:39 PM on August 15 [17 favorites]


Nothing went wrong here and you aren't due compensation or apology of any kind. Staff comes in to check for trays and clean up unless you have the DND sign up. This guy even knocked just to make sure, and you couldn't be bothered to even grunt out "come back later"? Mystified as to how you feel you were wronged here.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:43 PM on August 15 [22 favorites]


If you don't want hotel staff to come into the room, you have to use the security latch or deadbolt (or, in some hotels, both) in addition to the door lock (and the DND). The Do Not Disturb provides guidance; the latch provides (a measure of) security. But you used neither. Do you really expect a hotel to know which trays have definitively picked up over a 24-hour period? I'm sorry, but you're being unreasonable in your expectations. This isn't a Montreal thing. This is a staying-in-a-hotel thing.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 8:15 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


I sometimes leave that Do Not Disturb sign up the whole time I'm staying somewhere

Note that some hotels will have a policy whereby they want to check on things at least periodically to make sure you're not dead, cooking meth, destroying the walls, etc... That's obviously not what happened here, but if you keep the sign up for days and refuse all housekeeping, don't be surprised or upset if the hotel eventually comes looking for you.
posted by zachlipton at 8:23 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


When I forget to hang the sign I'll shout something like "sorry, later!" at the door when they knock.
posted by rhizome at 8:29 PM on August 15


This is 100% normal. They are coming in to make the bed / tidy the room for you, not just gather trays. It's their job, performed in a normal and expected fashion.

The alternative is to place the do not disturb sign on the knob outside your room. Then your concern becomes 100% valid.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:42 PM on August 15


Stacey: "if you are in the room and do not want hotel staff to enter to do their jobs (cleaning, tray pickup, etc.) you will hang the sign or deadbolt the door or reply when they knock."

This.

Keysig: "To clarify, I did not have a do not disturb sign on, but I also did not have a tray to pick up. That's the part that kills me."

Everybody makes mistakes occasionally. I work maintenance at a resort. We have cabins, a hotel, and a hostel on the public side. I personally on a busy day get over a dozen radio calls for service to rooms on top of written requests and regular scheduled tasks; housekeeping and concierge get way more. A radio call has a minimum of three relays of the room number and therefor three chances for the room number to get miscommunicated (and you'd think guests would know what room they are in when requesting service but nooope). We knock, wait, put our key in the lock, wait, knock, crack the door open while announcing and then finally open the door and enter. We do this for all rooms even when they are supposed to be unoccupied/not rented because things happen (wrong room number, guest got moved to empty room mid night and a written request for service wasn't updated, guests checked in early, someone "viewing a room" decided to get amorous, etc.).

Occasionally opening a door unexpected to a guest is a thing that happens at all hotels. The placard is a good idea but putting on the chain/throwing the bolt is a good idea too. They don't provide much in the way of security but they'll fully stop an accidental walk in.
posted by Mitheral at 8:48 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


We had opted out of housekeeping for the week, so I suppose that's where some of the surprise came from.
posted by Keysig at 8:50 PM on August 15


I would be annoyed but not surprised. It's like every time I ask restaurant staff not to put sour cream or tomatoes on my food and every time, without fail, they do. People forget and make mistakes.
posted by Marinara at 9:00 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


I would be irritated that they came back saying it wasn't their staff. Shouldn't that be a big fucking emergency, then? Otherwise it's a bullshit answer and they should have tried harder. You could escalate to corporate.

But for your own sanity, if you don't want someone coming in your room hang the DND sign. Your request for no housekeeping is written down on a piece of paper somewhere, it's certainly not broadcast as an all-hands "do not go in that room under pain of death" unless you are up in one of the penthouses, and it's a coin toss whether that information is actually communicated to either housekeeping or room service staff. If you don't want someone coming in outside of an emergency, hang the sign (and also always always keep your night lock locked when you are in your room). Otherwise they will knock and enter if there is no response.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:19 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


I complained to both the room service and the front desk, but the only thing they finally told me was they asked the men that were on that morning and they both said they did not do this (what a surprise). I got the feeling that by saying this, the room service manager was kind of implying that I was mistaken.

The "knock then enter" thing is totally 100% normal and okay, as reinforced upthread. The hotel response that no-one entered and maybe you were confused, blah blah blah, is NOT really okay. I can't fathom why the hotel didn't just say "We are diligent about collecting used room service items so that you're not stuck with dirty dishes, but I'm so sorry that we were mistaken about your tray having already been collected and SO SORRY we disturbed you. Please accept our apologies (and free dessert.)"
posted by desuetude at 10:44 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Yeah, they were wrong to tell you their employee hadn't come into your room when he had. But if that's the line they're taking, most likely they'll dig their heels in and stick to it if you try to take your complaint any further.

Once at a Disney Resort, I forgot to hang the Do Not Disturb sign when I went back to the room for an afternoon nap. When Mousekeeping came and woke me up, and I wouldn't let them in to clean, they actually made me sign a waiver. it was longer and had more clauses than the one I had to sign that time I refused to go to the hospital with the paramedics.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:55 AM on August 16


I once forgot to but the sign up, and was naked in my unlocked bathroom when the poor housekeeping lass got me hollering "I'm naked!" When she opened the door to clean. Not sure why I went with that when I thought it was my friends, but it startled her into a mix of english and spanish (I do not understand the latter).

Those signs are magic - random requests for no housekeeping AND requesting trays will just push all the routines to the limit. Use the signs, and engage the locks.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:56 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


As for your agreement for no housekeeping during your stay - do you have any idea how many people need to take note of that, actively communicate it to others and remember they were informed of the request in the course of a weeklong stay...unless you're in a 5* hotel and are one of their more 'special' customers that kind of thing is likely to get overlooked even if people try to do their best....use the sign, respond if somebody knocks.

You may want to reflect on why this kind of thing, that is no more than a minor nuisance to most people, can be so important as to 'upset' the whole trip for you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 3:36 AM on August 16 [16 favorites]


Room service made a mistake (not realizing they had already collected your tray), and then handled things poorly (not giving you a proper explanation/apology). That sucks.

But you also made a mistake (failing to put up the Do Not Disturb sign and engage the lock), and then handled things poorly (by not answering with "Occupied!" or "Come back later, please!" when they knocked on your door).

Why is the hotel's mistake so egregious but yours so benign?

Speaking for myself, when little things become this big in my mind, it's usually a sign that my anxiety disorder is getting out of hand. Like koahiatamadl I recommend reflecting on why this was such a big deal to you, maybe with a therapist or other professional.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:47 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


Just adding a note to say that occasionally this behaviour will serve to save rather than harass you as a traveller. Many people reach their hotel room after a long day and maybe a transition of time zones. Under these conditions it is more easy than usual to fail to set an alarm or to sleep through it - the knock of room service has saved me from the worst effects of this more than once.

The other thing that can happen is that you get ill: a friend had a problem develop with his back while in a hotel room last year. He tried for a number of minutes even to be able to reach for the phone. In the end room service discovered him and were able to arrange help.

Finally a general request not to confuse rental with possession: your bedroom at home might be in a house that belongs entirely to you. But your hotel bedroom and all its fixtures (including any keysafe) belongs to the hotel and contractually the local laws that are applicable will allow them to enter whenever they like on pretty much any pretext they like.
posted by rongorongo at 5:17 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


> Why is the hotel's mistake so egregious but yours so benign?

The hotel's mistake is more egregious because...the OP is the one paying the hotel? I mean, I'm sure as hell not a "the customer is not always right," parrot (having worked in retail, I KNOW the customer isn't always right), but the entire business model of a hotel is based on accommodating its guests.
posted by desuetude at 8:02 AM on August 16


they asked the men that were on that morning and they both said they did not do this

All they're saying is that they don't know who in particular did this because nobody fessed up. And no, they're not gonna look at camera footage to see who knocked and entered! They may not have even questioned everyone because honestly this was such a minor innocent mistake. Your post wasn't clear on why the apology was inadequate-- they offered you free food and presumably apologized in some manner. I get the impression there was no pleasing you here; what did you want them do to, drag the "culprit" to your door to grovel? Fire an employee for not guessing that someone who didn't signal they were in the room was in fact in the room?

I used to be a housekeeper. No housekeeping means the housekeeper doesn't come in and do the room every day; it doesn't mean you can keep dirty dishes, food trays and kitchen items. Part of the AM room service job is picking up trays, and they get in trouble if a guest returns to a nasty tray in their room, so it's not a shock that they would err on the side of caution and assume you might still have items.

There is a whole system of signage and a requirement to knock for a reason. If you didn't know that before, that's okay, but it should now be dawning on you how you could have avoided this.

If he hadn't knocked, you might be justified in your response here, but saying it ruined your stay or that it "kills" you they did this, and the fact that you seem to be dwelling on it seems way out of proportion.
posted by kapers at 11:21 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


the only thing they finally told me was they asked the men that were on that morning and they both said they did not do this (what a surprise).

That's actually the weird part. Okay, fine, if it's SOP it's SOP....but why aren't they just saying to you, 'Yes, that's what normally happens when someone doesn't answer the door? That's how we roll and no one meant to startle you (etc)' and why did he call out 'room service'?

Everything above is true, and I too would think it was normal for staff to barge in if no response during housekeeping time, but this and coupled with the fact that you'd specified no housekeeping with management seems to tell a weird story and there was no tray to pick up is overarchingly a bit squicky. 'No housekeeping' means exactly that.

So I guess I'm in the minority when I say that yeah, it's a little weird.

I'd take a run at a higher level manager and 'ask for clarification' maybe, and try to stay neutral when questioning -- people sometimes go straight to denial when cornered.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:22 AM on August 16


I am not familiar with how these things should work, so I am asking was this the norm? Should room service ever have a key card or master card in the first place? And should they ever be entering your room when they don't get an answer?

1. Knocking on a door with no "Do Not Disturb" sign and entering after hearing no response is the norm.
2. Room service should always have a key card that opens rooms.
3. They should be entering rooms without "Do Not Disturb" signs when they don't get an answer.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:53 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Sorry that happened to you. Move along.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:54 PM on August 16


Should room service ever have a key card or master card in the first place? And should they ever be entering your room when they don't get an answer?

Yes, and yes. How do you think room service/housekeeping comes in when people are not present in the room to clean, pick up dirty dishes, etc.? This is completely normal. It sounds like there was a little miscommunication here around whether a tray had been picked up, but mostly it was on you to put up a "do not disturb" sign, put the little chain lock on your door, and/or respond when someone knocked and announced their presence.

I would not be surprised if whoever did this honestly does not even remember and that's why the folks who worked that day said it was not them -- they are going through tons of rooms every single day and walking in on someone who fails to respond to a door knock is probably not unusual enough for it to get written into long-term memory. These are also probably guys working in a low-wage, low-job security industry and it's possible they worried that an angry customer could endanger their job.

Also, I would do some thinking about why this seems to have had such an impact on you and upset your trip in such a serious way. At most, this sounds like a slightly annoying mix-up, not a trip-ruining tragedy that would be having me complaining up the chain of command. You got an apology and even a free dessert (!) which seems more than fair. What else would you want the hotel to do? Torture the room service guys until someone confesses? Comp your entire stay? It seems like the hotel's response was perfectly appropriate.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:08 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


> ...the entire business model of a hotel is based on accommodating its guests.

A hotel can only accommodate its guests if those guests make their needs/desires known. In this case, the appropriate way for OP to communicate these needs/desires would have been with the extremely easy-to-use Do Not Disturb sign and the lock, and failing that, with their words ("Oops, please come back later. Thanks!"). No one can read minds - including people in the hospitality industry - and OP's expectation otherwise is bizarre.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:15 PM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Should room service ever have a key card or master card in the first place? And should they ever be entering your room when they don't get an answer?

When I worked in a hotel (HR admin, nothing to do with guests) even I had a key card that would open all guest rooms. We all did. Assume that EVERY hotel employee has access. And if they don't get an answer they will definitely enter if they need to (cleaning, room service, maintenance etc).

I always keep the latch on if I'm in the room. And the DND sign.
posted by kitten magic at 3:47 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


From my experience, I would totally expect this from housekeeping, but *room service* is different. I've never had them try to enter the room. In fact, we usually put our tray and dishes outside in the hallway for them to pick up.

I would have been annoyed too. (But I also would have kept the other locks locked, thus solving the problem in advance.)
posted by tacodave at 4:13 PM on August 16


From my experience, I would totally expect this from housekeeping, but *room service* is different. I've never had them try to enter the room. In fact, we usually put our tray and dishes outside in the hallway for them to pick up.
I think that the most common pattern is for housekeeping to remove any extra trays to the corridor where room service will pick them up. But not everywhere - sometimes a kitchen will reach a crisis point where they have too few clean trays to be able to fulfil their incoming orders. Possible scenario in this case:
1. Kitchen to Room service: "Go and collect the tray from 312 - we served them a meal last night and they didn't return it"
2. Room service: follows the instructions incorrectly and goes to 412 (OP's room) by accident.
3. OP complains to front desk - who then ask room service if they recall going to room 412: they don't because their instructions did not tell them to go to this room.
posted by rongorongo at 1:04 AM on August 17


As someone who actually worked in a hotel, I feel I have to say this because it's not a matter of opinion: it is not unusual for room service to have a key or to enter rooms.

(Maybe a it's a lesser-known fact? But yes, it's a fact: housekeeping, front desk, maintenance, room service, etc. are all "the hotel" and the hotel has keys to its rooms and enters regularly for all sorts of reasons you might never think about, thus the system of locks and signage for those who do not want anyone to enter. It's the hotel's room, not the guest's.)
posted by kapers at 8:10 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


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