Secrets Hotels Don't Want You To Know

Every industry has secrets it would prefer to keep from the public. The hotel industry, one of the largest customer service industries in the world, is certainly no exception. So what don't we know about hotels? What skeletons are waiting in the closets, and what would you like to know before you check in for the night?

Hotel rooms are havens for suicides

Hotels have long had problems with suicides, such that professional suicidologists are often brought in to consult with planners and staff to help prevent people from taking their own lives. In some ways, it makes a lot of sense. A despondent person who is intent on ending it all via pills, hanging, or other solo means may find solace behind that locked door. Hotels have also had problems with people jumping from high floors in order to kill themselves, either by jumping from their balcony out of their own rooms or from the tops of buildings.

It isn't just tourists or travellers: there is a greater risk of suicide for someone who checks into a hotel who is also a local resident. A study conducted in 2006 found that the incidence of suicide among the general population was about 12/100,000, but when the data is skewed to look at suicides for residents registered in a local hotel or motel, the rate jumped to 223/100,000. This is because hotels are what suicide researcher Steven Stack calls a lethal location: "Lethal locations include any place, such as a hotel room, where there is no one around—like a loved one—to intervene and stop a suicide." You don't see that cheery little blurb in the brochures.

Your bed may have been made and your carpets vacuumed, but your room is far from clean

Maybe you've heard the jokes or even seen a report on your local news where someone checks into a motel room with a blacklight only to reveal the true horror of how "clean" a hotel room actually is. You probably thought those were just isolated incidents, and most hotels take pride in their cleanliness. Well, they do ... but that doesn't mean every hotel is keeping up with the levels of cleanliness you might expect. If they did, we wouldn't have television shows like Hotel Hell to watch and cringe over.

Most people who have guests come stay in their homes provide clean linens. When the guest leaves, you throw the sheets into the wash and remake the bed. It's a common courtesy you would expect from every hotel you've ever stayed in. Unfortunately, some hotels allegedly just remake the bed and only change the sheets when they are noticeably dirty. Seriously?

Each hotel has its own schedule and personnel, of course, so every place is different, but one leaked cleaning schedule indicates that bedspreads, blankets, and mattress pads need to be cleaned only every 90 days. Consider how many people might have drooled, sweated, or done who knows what on those things before you even got there. The mind reels.

It's possible someone died in your room

People die all the time. Death is the number one killer in America, and it rarely happens when you want it to. As such, plenty of people pass away in hotel rooms. It happens all the time, and hotels simply have to deal with it. Given the facts, it's likely you have spent the night in a hotel room where someone once died. That isn't to say the hotel room is haunted—unless you believe in that sort of thing, then, well, it probably is. Sure.

Hotels deal with death so frequently, they have rules and regulations on how to deal with it, the most important of which is total discretion. Of course, discretion is not always possible. At the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, for example, Whitney Houston's body was found in the bathtub in 2012. Her death was highly publicized, and as a result, demand to stay in room 434 skyrocketed. The hotel was eventually forced to retire the room and completely remodel it so that it no longer resembled the location of her death.

Houston's death was hardly an isolated incident—many other celebrities have died in hotels. CoCo Chanel, John Belushi, David Carradine, Anna Nicole Smith, John Candy, are just a few stars to have passed away while in temporary accommodations. In such cases, the death is an unwanted draw for the hotel, but most hotel deaths slip under the wire, meaning you may never know that the room you're staying in for the night was the last place someone else ever stayed in. Spooky.

Lost items are picked up by the staff, never to be found again

Most hotels and their staff are on the up-and-up. People know that stealing from someone staying in a hotel room tends to point the finger at the only other people who have access to the room, so most folks working for the industry do not steal from guests. Of course, there are exceptions, and in the case of hotel theft, these exceptions are quite numerous. There's a reason most hotel rooms come with a safe for you to store your valuables, and it isn't to practice your sweet safe-cracking skills. Not only do people sometimes take things from a room when they shouldn't, people break into hotel rooms more often than you might think.

In most upper-class hotels, you probably don't need to worry about someone walking off with your laptop or cellphone while you are in the shower. It's the somewhat less expensive locales that don't always offer the same level of security one might expect. In one notoriously bone-headed example, a cheapo hotel once hired inmates in a work-release program to join their housekeeping staff. The hotel didn't spend much on payroll thanks to the inmates, but the totally expected happened and thefts were soon on the rise. Ultimately, the hotel was bought out and demolished for a newer, flashier locale. It pays to hire people you can trust, instead of, y'know, inmates with little-to-nothing to lose.

No vacancy doesn't always mean that there are no vacancies

You're driving by a hotel late at night and need to pull over to catch some z's, so you pull in and get ready to pop out of your car and get a room. Unfortunately, the sign says "No Vacancy" and all hope is lost, right? Not exactly.

The main reason a hotel will appear booked when it isn't is due to travel agencies and booking websites. They reserve huge blocks of rooms for travel sites that don't always get filled. You should call the hotel directly and hit up the front desk and inquire about a room. You might just get lucky. You can also try leaving your information with the front desk in case a cancellation occurs—and they do quite often.

Another reason a hotel might be sold out is due to problems at the airport. When a flight is delayed or people need to get bumped, the airlines work with the local hotels to ensure they have the necessary rooms so people don't have to sleep in the airport terminal. Sometimes, these rooms will be spoken for, but never taken, so you can ask about filling one of these, as well.

The important thing to remember is that just because a hotel might not have any vacancies, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have a room to spare. It never hurts to ask, and that's exactly what every weary traveler should do.

Do not use the glasses available in your room

You already know that your hotel room might not be the cleanest place in the world, and you've made your peace with that. Now, you want to settle in and drink some water or maybe raid the minibar and pour something yummy into a glass. Fortunately, the hotel has kindly provided you with a couple of glasses. Many establishments might have a disposable plastic cup wrapped in plastic, but in some higher-end places, you may score with a nice, glass cup. Unfortunately, you would be much better off with a throwaway plastic cup than a fancy glass, because those glasses are not clean.

You probably clean your glasses at home by either hand-washing them or putting them into a dishwasher before you use them again. Some hotels don't take those extra steps, and instead, they might just rinse them in the sink and wipe them off, and there are even stories about them spraying the glasses with glass cleaner—which is something, duh, you should not consume— and then placing them out for guests to use. This can expose a person to everything from mononucleosis to herpes and can be can just be dangerous to your overall health. Your best bet is to use disposable cups or bottles and avoid the questionable glassware whenever possible.

Sex, sex, and more sex

It's no secret that people have sex in hotel rooms. Many people book hotel rooms just to have sex so that's not something the industry tries to keep on the down low. What is concerning about sex and hotels is the prevalence of sex-trafficking crimes committed in hotels all over the world.

Sex trafficking, believe it or not, has led to the largest number of enslaved individuals ever and the numbers keep growing. Most women or girls involved in the illegal sex industry are forced into what amounts to sexual slavery, and hotels are targeted as quick and easy places to advertise and exploit those girls. In the United States alone, an estimated 100-300 thousand children are at risk of falling into a commercial sex exploitation ring and worldwide, human sex trafficking amounts to a $32 billion per year industry.

Escort ads often feature pictures of scantily clad women in nice, made up rooms. Those rooms are usually found in hotels. A hotel offers a certain amount of anonymity and security, so when a person books a date with a sex-worker, more often than not, they meet at a hotel and get down to business. This occurs in almost every city in every country throughout the world, and while it is known to happen, it is difficult to stop.

Hotels don't like to have their business associated with such a shady and illicit trade, so they downplay it whenever they can. Fortunately, many hotel chains train their personnel in spotting and stopping sex-trafficking, especially when a minor is concerned. Sadly, the problem of sex trafficking and their use of hotels has been, and always will be a problem. As a traveler, consider it a red flag when the front desk clerk asks you if you are checking in for the hour or for the night.

Germs are everywhere—bring disinfectant wipes

You already know that the glasses are dirty and the sheets might be questionable, but the room looks clean enough and you decide to lay back and watch some television. Unfortunately, you just picked up the dirtiest, nastiest, most germ-infested thing in you room: the remote control. Think about how many people have touched those buttons and used that remote. Now think about how often a housekeeper might take a moment to grab some disinfectant wipes and scrub that thing down. If the housekeeper couldn't be bothered, you just came into contact with more germs than you probably know exist.

You might think that a nicer hotel would have less germs than the lower-end establishments, but the opposite turns out to be true. In your home, your own remote control has a bacteria count of around 17,000 per square inch. That sounds like a lot, for sure, but when you compare it to that of a hotel, it's nothing. The average three star hotel remote has bacteria count of 232,733 per square inch while five star hotels come in at a whopping 1,400,027! It's not surprising given the number of people who have come from all over the world and grabbed that thing to watch their cartoons.

If you want to play it safe, bring your own disinfectant wipes and go nuts on the remote. While you're at it, you might want to give a once-over to the light switches and the phone. The remote, light switches, and phones tend to be a haven for Bacillus spp., which can cause some nasty respiratory and gastrointestinal injections, while some remotes have been found to house MSRA, which is a highly-resistant bacteria that can cause painful skin infections. A helluva price to pay for just trying to catch up on Adventure Time.

They expect you to walk off with the soap, shampoo, and lotions

We all do it. You are getting ready to check out of your hotel room and you throw everything you can into your bag. Shampoo, conditioner, and even that notepad and pen you never bothered to use. Sometimes, we get the feeling like we are getting away with some quick, petty larceny by stealing these little things, but the hotels actually prefer it if you take them. There's a reason they put their logo on everything: they know that if you walk out with a little bottle of this or that, all it does is remind you of where you stayed. It might just get you to come back to that same hotel the next time you are visiting that city, so it is in their best interests for you to walk out with them.

The housekeeping personnel are usually instructed to throw away anything left in there anyways, so go ahead and take it with you. That doesn't mean you should grab a towel, hair dryer, iron, or anything like that. You're gonna get billed, and those things are probably just massive germ farms anyway, ya cheapskate.