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Thursday, August 21, 2008

10 things that annoy us about hotels #10 Check in and check out times and never the twain shall meet…

We’re used to the 2pm or 3pm check-in time and noon check-out, although we’ve never been happy with them. But it appears the time you actually have in the hotel room is shrinking further. We’ve recently had 10am and 10.30am check-out times – which is fine for a roadside motel, but not so cool for a design or boutique hotel. This says to us that the hotel wants the customers there for as short a time as possible, and wants to get rid of their paying customers as soon as possible, to make the lives of their housekeepers as easy as possible. But the customer should come first, right? And what constitutes a ‘night’ in a hotel? Do we need 24 hours? Or are we just paying for a roof over our heads and a bed for whatever period the hotel deems acceptable? Here are our thoughts: if it’s a roadside motel travellers who are on the road check in late and leave early anyway, so 10am check-out is fine by us. But a business hotel or airport hotel should be as flexible as possible - and go as far as to offer 24 hour check-in to accommodate their guests who could be flying in at all sorts of unusual hours. But the luxury or resort hotel? Well, they should give guests a full 24 hours, because after all, you're there to relax, to pamper yourself, and to enjoy the hotel experience.

We asked hotel manager Guido J van den Elshout (AKA The Happy Hotelier) who owns the luxurious Haagsche Suites (pictured) to respond: "This is my take, and I'm not referring to airport hotels that have separate rules (and 100% occupancy); Yotel for instance has 4, 8 and 12-hour stays with rates accordingly. Consider the hotelier who has to organize housekeeping. Between 11am check out and 3pm check in (our practice) he has 4 hours to clean all the rooms. Usually housekeeping has an 8 hour shift. The smaller the time window between check out and check in is, the more people the hotelier needs to get the cleaning done. What does the hotelier do with those people for the other 4 hours of their shift? Probably general housekeeping or gardening, but not every housekeeper is a gardener. So hoteliers try to keep that window as wide as possible. It's not realistic to believe 4 hour shifts are possible. People need to earn a living. If you give them 4 or 5 hour shifts, they'll most likely also work for other employers. The result will most likely be those people will do a lesser job at your hotel...
There's an industry rule that says cleaning a room should take between 8-15 minutes, but I can tell you that if a hotelier keeps to that your room won't be properly cleaned. As in every industry there are rules created by people who have a desk job and have never experienced housekeeping. In our property we need at least one hour per room, depending on the state the guests leave the room in. It can easily take 1.5 hours. There are occasions where we've had guests checking out at 1pm and new guests checking in between 1-3pm. Ideally you put extra housekeeping on call then, but that's hardly realistic. So you end up trying to pinpoint your peaks and hire accordingly..."

"I'd say a guest has more or less a 'right' to stay approximately 16 out of 24 hours in a hotel. My advice for the traveler? It is my experience that when you advise a hotel well in advance of your (ideal) anticipated arrival and departure times, they will try to do their utmost to accommodate your wishes. At least the smaller properties. The bigger chains have rules rules and rules and have hardly any flexibility."


So what's your take on check-in/check-out times?

5 comments:

Caitlin said...

10am or 10.30am is a bit unfair. Better to make check in later if they have to, rather than force people out of bed in the morning.

It's not like every single guest is going to check in at 3pm and leave at midday - some guests will arrive later and others will leave earlier.

The one thing that does annoy me though is random cleaning times. I've had hotel staff come around at 10pm to turn down my pillow. I was already fast asleep after a 12 hour flight. I've also had housekeeping come around at 9am in the morning, which is too early! Once I had the do not disturb button pushed, so they phoned me to see if they could come and clean the room.

Happy Hotelier said...

@ Caitlin: You are right. There is a spread in time of guests checking in and guests checking out.

However, although I have only 3 suites, strangely enough it happens frequently that guests of 2 of the 3 suites, complete strangers to each other, check in or out at exactly the same time.....

I am completely with you on those morons not looking at the do not disturb signs and waking you up too early or doing turn down too late.

Too frequently I've been facing a housekeeping lady standing in the middle of the room while I came from the shower...

Sometimes I park my suite case just in front of the door in order to prevent just that. Likewise I always tend to put off my mobile phone when I take a shower....

Marie Louise said...

I spent ten years working and traveling in Europe and the check-in/out time were never so maddening as they are now. Maybe the work force has changed but when one is paying lots of $$ for a room, you don't want to be hanging out in the lobby waiting to get into it and being forced out of bed in the morning. I think the cleaning staff need to be cross trained to do something else that is worth the low wage they are being paid. Just a little re-organization is all it would take.

laradunston said...

Caitlin and Marie Louise, I do agree with you, and Guido - while I sympathize with you and appreciate your predicament and understand how difficult it must be for small hotels - I do think mid-size hotels, boutique properties, could be a whole lot more flexible.

I've actually found the five star properties to be the best, especially the InterConts, Four Seasons, etc - in my experience anyway. Because they have so many staff - these are hotels that often offer 24 hour housekeeping and have hundreds of rooms - they can often check you in earlier if you have an early flight, and allow you to check out later if you're delayed.

But we've stayed at boutique hotels and design hotels that we know are not full and have a lot of staff standing around and yet they haven't been flexible. What gives there, I don't know.

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

On the far side of the 5-star scale you have small B&Bs who are usually run 100% by two or three people. It is impossible to allow guests to check in and check out at their leisure, when the B&B has to organize the rooms. That being said, we always let guests have early/late check-in/check-out when they request that in advance and I can't imagine why you'd have to wait at a boutique hotel if they weren't full, assuming your type of room was available.