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Michele Sponagle

Senior editor

Smitten by hotels ever since she was a kid, hoarding toiletries started early and picked up steam as Michele Sponagle began a career as a freelance journalist. Her globetrotting has taken her to properties in more than 50 countries, from rustic B&Bs to sprawling resorts.

Shakespeare probably didn’t have hotels in mind when he referenced the old aphorism, “All that glitters is not gold” in The Merchant of Venice. But it is relevant. The Hotel-Addict team appreciates luxury as much as any well-heeled globetrotter, but occasionally we have been disappointed when a property’s four- or five-star rating is tarnished by poorly thought out room design, bad service or lack of quality amenities. With that in mind, these are the signs that your posh hotel isn’t living up to guest standards for what defines luxe.

1) Lackadaisical front-desk staff

Even when a hotel property is busy and staff is dealing with other guests, you should get some acknowledgement that you exist. A simple, “I’ll be right with you” would suffice. A top-end property should always ask you if you need help with your luggage whether you’ve got five suitcases with you or one backpack. Sometimes you’re just feeling dead on your feet, a zombie-like level of tiredness, and need a helping hand. They should also give clear instructions on how to get to your room. Hotels that really nail it require their staff to at least walk you to the elevator or escort you directly to your room. The Ritz-Carlton hotels come to mind…that’s seriously classy.

2) Bad reception by the hotel operator

Hello? Is anyone there? Many leading hotels require that guest phone calls are answered in a set number of rings—usually somewhere in the neighborhood of three to five. At one particular five, ahem, star property it took me more than 20 rings to get a human on the phone to deal with a room issue.

3) The sneaky gouge

I’m still in a snit for being charged almost $60 for a phone call from Halifax to Toronto a couple of years ago. I needed to record an interview on my iPhone so I used the telephone in my hotel room thinking, “How bad can it be?” I didn’t even check the rate (my bad), but I thought the fee was pretty outrageous and the hotel declined to modify it when I bristled once I saw my bill. We’d rather see charges for basic services to be included in the room rate.

4) Crappy (sorry) toilet paper

We’ve brought this up as a point of contention before. Luxury hotels should skip the skimpy one-ply TP and opt for two at least. If you’ve dressed a bed in high thread-count linens and stocked the bathroom with plush bath towels, why would you put cheap toilet paper next to the toilet? Does. Not. Compute.

5) Tatty furnishings

Nothings screams, “You need a room reno!” like scratched up furniture, worn upholstery, tattered drapes and stained carpets. We’ve seen some seriously banged up, grungy rooms even in the luxe category. It’s a sign that someone isn’t paying attention or that a property is in financial trouble and doesn’t want to spend on updates.

6) Failing the room service test

Getting good food quickly isn’t the issue. I haven’t had too many problems in that regard. What I find shocking is that room service trays filled with dishes sometimes sit in hallways for hours and hours. While you should be making a call to let staff know they can pick them up, some people don’t want to do that for whatever reason. They end up putting the trays with half-eaten burgers and leftover garnish out in the hallway. Well-trained staff, no matter in what department they work, should be removing them. A special congratulations to the large beach resort in Barbados that ignored a tray for a record-breaking three days!

7) Housekeeping hazards

Upon entering your room, you want to be able to hang on to the myth that hundreds of people have not come before you and slept in your bed. That myth is shattered the second you find a random hair that is definitely not yours on the bathroom floor, or in the shower, or sink, or the absolute worst, on the toilet seat. Ew. Ew. Triple ew. Whatever housekeeping staff get paid, it’s not enough. That’s just a fact. It’s a thankless, icky job and they deal with the nastiest aspects of humankind. And they’re expected to turn over rooms quickly otherwise we’ll be seething in the lobby waiting to check into our suite. But when housekeeping fails, it sets a bad tone for the rest of the stay. You will continuously wonder what other horrors might exist—seen, or worse, unseen.

8) No plugs by the bed

Many of us travelers use our smart phones a lot during hotel stays. We want them close so phones can be used as alarm clocks, to watch Netflix in bed or to Google ratings for restaurants nearby. And yet, we still find some highly regarded hotels that do not have accessible plugs or USB ports close to the bed. Hotels can even get lamps with USB ports incorporated so it’s not like you have to call in a team of electricians to re-wire the whole room. It’s not that difficult.

We’re done with our rant…. For now.

If you like a good rant, check out this story!

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