Originally published on examiner.com March 26, 2015.

Hotels can be a tricky business sometimes, especially if they’re large. Travel is a catalyzing experience, and when there are so many people with varying wants and needs to be looked after, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure that every guest in residence has an absolutely perfect experience. Although utterly unscientific, Newton’s Laws of Motion could humorously be applied – the reaction of hospitality often requires specific action on the part of the guest. Here’s a list of five actions that can help to improve almost any hotel stay, whether it’s a single overnight business trip or the vacation of a lifetime.

Acknowledge

Many folks thing hospitality flows in one direction, but like any interaction, it’s absolutely two-sided. The idea that gracious, welcoming service is simply rendered in exchange for payment is distant, transactional, and antithetical to the very idea of hospitality. The antidote? Common humanity: make eye contact, smile, and offer thanks where thanks is due. Employees in most fine hotels are trained to greet guests in passing in public spaces and hallways; do return the greeting as you would decently do to any friend or acquaintance – it’s surprising how many folks forget their manners when they’ve paid out a little money. Also, say “please” and “thank you”: while you’re paying for a service, you’re not paying for the right to forget your manners. In short, the best way to be treated like a guest is to behave like one.

Tip your room attendant

Tipping is a controversial topic, and practices vary from country to country. In hotels, the custom of tipping harkens back to the days before hotels when well-heeled travelers would stay in the homes of acquaintances. This, of course, meant extra work for the household staff (who normally had little free time even without guests in residence) and it was generally understood that part of being a gracious guest was to leave a small remuneration to the staff for their trouble. Early hotels provided room and board for employees, but this was considered most if not all of their total compensation. Today, the practice of tipping door attendants, bell attendants, room service attendants, and valet attendants is still generally followed, but the practice of leaving tips for room attendants (who do their work largely unseen by most guests) has been largely forgotten. Tipping is more than just remuneration; it’s another way to acknowledge the hospitality that’s been provided. Room attendants should be tipped $1-2 a day throughout the stay (in case the day of departure falls on a day off and the room is cleaned by someone else). And don’t forget turndown attendants either – that extra few dollars can turn a single chocolate square left on the bedside table into a small smorgasbord of confections.

Special occasion? Don’t keep it a secret.

When things go wrong, it’s especially disappointing for folks in hospitality to learn that there was a special anniversary or a milestone birthday celebration hanging in the balance. Sometimes hotels have to disappoint. If informed in advance that your weekend is extra special, they can often work proactively to offer alternatives. When things don’t go wrong, many hotels can throw in simple extras (like an upgrade or a bottle of wine) that only happen when they know there’s an occasion to celebrate. It won’t always happen, but more information about a guest’s stay is always helpful, if only so you won’t get “walked” to the hotel across the street that doesn’t have an ocean view when you check-in for your babymoon or birthday weekend.

Engage on social media

Social media is a great tool for interacting with hotels, not only for on-the-spot customer service and feedback, but also for a bit of brand evangelism and even fun. If you take a great photo of the sunset view from your room, tag the hotel’s Twitter or Facebook account – oftentimes your content will get shared, and the hotel will know that you’re enjoying your stay. It also works to highlight your personality and preferences to the hotel. A Twitter user who happens to mention a love of gin in their profile might be pleasantly surprised, as we were one stay at the Sheraton Seattle. Sharing to social media allows hotels to follow your experience in real time, and lets them respond accordingly (if they’re paying attention).

Make use of public spaces

Aside from having chosen the same lodging, guests in hotels share the bond (“staycations” aside) of being fellow travelers, and that often produce some great stories. Devoted people-watchers can delight in eavesdropping on the daily activity plans of an animated family group or overhear a rave review about a local restaurant from a honeymooning couple enjoying a nightcap in the lobby. Aside from that, while not every room in the hotel will have the best view or location, public spaces are often given the best “real estate”, whether it’s a mountain vista or a beach scape. It also gives employees a chance to interact. A brief few moments taking respite in the lobby at the Rosewood Crescent in Dallas unexpectedly turned into a delightful midmorning cocktail hour after being coaxed into two superb Bloody Marys by an enterprising lounge attendant.

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