Ten pesky things that annoy guests

“Give me a break!” That’s what a guest will say or think when they come across something in your hotel that’s outrageous, and not in a good way. These are loyalty detractors — pesky little issues that even guests, with their limited knowledge of the industry, know to be outright wrong. Given the increasingly lofty expectations of travelers these days, minutia such as these 10 annoyances are instant deal breakers. When guests come across one of them, they roll their eyes, and their subconscious whispers to them, “You’re definitely NOT staying here again.”

They are also issues that can be fixed easily. So, give yourself a break from negative reviews and bad word of mouth by addressing these 10 items:

1. Overpriced minibar and bottled water. Why exactly is an in-room bottle of water US$5? Every traveler knows this is shamefully marked up. It’s perceived as an aggressive cash grab for the hotel; you’re not winning your guests over with this exorbitant price. In fact, you’re insulting their intelligence. Ditto for the minibar.

2. Weak in-room coffee and tea selection. It’s always highly assuring and soothing to know that there’s a warm cup of stimulating beverage waiting for you across the bed, except when that beverage tastes like watered-down battery acid. So I try to alleviate this insipid rot with cream and sugar, only to my dismay, there’s only one of the former and not of the latter. A little extreme, yes, but consider your coffee accessory allotment for when you’re dealing with more than one person per room. Furthermore, I’ve encountered some very peculiar coffeemakers that aren’t exactly intuitive — taking too long to figure out and then producing a cup of scalding ash. The in-room coffee apparatus is your time to shine as a quality hospitality provider and a chance to deliver yet another memorable experience for your guests.

3. Charging for local calls. Why are you billing guests a full dollar per five minutes for each completed local call? Anyone who has ever owned a phone — landline or cellular — knows that local calls never amount to such incredulous fees. When you do this, the guest perception is one of hostility. You’re not doing your part to develop the friendship and positive emotional connection between the hotel and its patrons, which is an essential if you ever want such a guest to give you an actual recommendation.

4. Housekeeping knocks too early. When is the earliest time that housekeeping should start making its rounds? How does this vary for weekdays versus weekends? Every traveler has a different routine and itinerary, so this is a tough call, but keep in mind that knocking too early and disturbing someone’s sleep is an instant deal breaker. I remember staying at a budget chain hotel where housekeeping knocked at 8am on a Saturday. And then, after I muffled out a half-reply, they proceeded to enter my room! Not only will I never stay there again, but I’ve been very vocal to advise my friends never to stay at this particular chain. Don’t let this be you!

5. Not enough bathroom amenities. Towels, soaps and shampoos primarily. Picture this: you are staying in a room with your significant other, getting ready for the day’s events, and he or she decides to shower first. Then you shower. Getting in, you shampoo with remnants from the mini-bottle. Upon getting out, you notice that all the towels have been used. So now, drenched and sparsely clothed, you have to await housekeeping to deliver more of what should have been there in the first place. Not a good way to start your day.

6. Not enough pillows or coat hangers. Some people are used to sleeping on one pillow, others two and some even three. Is appeasing the latter two groups really that hard to do? True, a guest can always call down to request more pillows, but why start off on the wrong foot? Furthermore, too often I’ve entered rooms that only have five coat hangers or less. When this happens, I think to myself, “Do they really not trust me enough to give a full share?” Apart from the obvious inconvenience of having to jockey for coat hanger real estate, this is just one more pesky little thing to drive a wedge in an otherwise positive guest-hotel relationship.

7. Noisy air conditioner or heating unit. Less a problem during the day, but if your guest is a light or even an average sleeper and this stops him or her from getting a full night’s sleep, you’re in for big problems. Without their seven hours, your guests will be put in irrational states of mind, and they’re bound to do anything, including actions like loudly complaining at the front desk, writing derisive online reviews and making it their mission to tell all their friends about their experience. Mind you, this one is substantially more expensive to fix, and it requires a total maintenance overhaul, but that doesn’t preclude its importance. You’re going to have to upgrade these units eventually — why not now?

8. Too many promotional tent cards. Once a guest is in the room, you don’t need to beat them over the head with endless advertisements for your own F&B or spa programs. The worst I’ve seen is when these cards and papers clog up the counters so much that it prevents a guest from using them. A polite, concise reminder will do. The guest is already staying with you, right? This is one area where tablets will shine, as they can get these types of messages across neatly and colorfully without cluttering the room.

9. Charging for Wi-Fi. In-room Internet connectivity is no longer a value-added service. Wake up — it’s 2012. For many people, Internet access is an essential part of their way of life, much like breathing, sleeping, eating and hydrating. Charging for this service is highway robbery, and guests won’t see it any other way. Whatever objections you have — legacy contracts or bandwidth overload, for instance — get over them and think like a guest for a minute. Nowadays, why would I pay US$15 per day to use the hotel’s Internet when I could run down to a nearby cellular store and get 200 MB of data for US$2 per day on my 4G smartphone, which downloads at a rate that’s at par with the hotel’s service?

10. Worse — no WiFi at all! Let me reiterate: Internet access via Wi-Fi (tablets do not link through an Ethernet cable) is a necessity for the modern traveler. Your guests will treat the room as their “home base” — planning the next day, answering emails, posting to social media and quite possibly unwinding with a quick Netflix television episode. For some, denying them wireless Internet access is equivalent to denying them running water! It’s a given that travelers will research their accommodations before booking, and lack of Wi-Fi, free or not, is an instant deal breaker. If you operate at a hotel that doesn’t offer Internet access, you’re not likely to receive any complaints about this, because every discerning guest has already booked and stayed elsewhere.