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MARCH 18, 2010 3:13PM

6 Pieces of Advice for Hotel Guests from an Ex Housekeeper

Rate: 57 Flag

Everyone has seen the black light specials they roll out on the nightly news programs.  

Oh god, the filth!  The horror!

It’s come to be expected, really.  Hotel blankets are teeming with bodily fluids.  So are the floors and walls.  We’ve seen the less than shocking exposes.  At this point, the reporters should turn the black lights on each other.  Anything shows up, well that would be news worth watching.  

“That’s funny Martha, your dress was clean before lunch and say, isn’t your husband out of town on a business trip?”

But it’s always just the same neon splotches of blood, urine, etcetera on the bedspread.  

So if you removed the culprit comforter, you’d be all set?  Sadly, no (still remove the comforter though, that thing is the blanket equivalent of leprosy).

I’ve worked at a downtown Quality Suites (believe me, Quality was a misnomer) and another unnamed hotel, even more popular than the QS, but one that wisely had me sign a confidentiality agreement.          

And the Quality Suites?  No confidentiality there.  Not so much as a background check.  Both things I’m sure they meant to get around to, but couldn’t find the time.  Not that I have a criminal past to hide, just a rather big mouth when given any type of forum.

1. Always check the room for bed bugs.

They sound cuter than they are, and if you bring them home with you, it will be an exterminating nightmare.  Housekeepers have entire staff meetings dedicated to the silent discovery and treatment of the bed bug; it’s a huge liability for hotels, as we’ve become quite the litigious society.

Six figure settlements were making the news, so we Housekeepers were threatened advised to keep these situations QUIET.  Find a bug, put it in a bag, and give it to maintenance; cloak and dagger entomology.

Lift the sheet and examine the mattress and box spring, particularly the seams and corners where they like to hide.  Check the headboard as well, especially if it is attached to the wall.  If you see what could be a smattering of spilled pepper, get your money back and check into a different hotel.  The problem may not be confined to a single room.  Or deal with the hassle and sue for all you can.    

2.  Never, under any circumstances, use the coffee maker provided in the room.

I had a special pen I kept on my cart.  I never touched it past the cap.  See, this was my condom pen.  I would use this pen to peel condoms from the fronts of television sets, the walls, tubs, and yes, from inside the coffee pots.  I lifted so many used condoms from those pots, I couldn’t brew coffee at home without suffering flashbacks.  My routine was: peel off condom, spritz with yellow cleaner, rinse with hot water, repeat if sticky.  

And to the guy who eventually stole that pen off my cart, I honestly hope you don’t have an oral fixation.

3.  Examine the sheets/towels before use.

The thirty-minutes-per-suite quota is occasionally unrealistic.  But it’s finish on time or risk being let go.  So if the housekeepers were running behind, they would just pray there weren’t any dirty briefs down by the foot of the bed, and pull the old sheets taut, dusting off the visible hairs, some of which were short and curly.  The sad fact is, if you’ve spent a lot of time in hotels, you’ve probably slept in the equivalent of a stranger’s boxer shorts.  

As for the towels, chances are good they’d been in the room for a while.  Hotels are constantly running low on supplies, especially towels.  I’ve witnessed cleaning rags get “promoted” to face cloths.

4.  Don’t use the glasses and mugs.  At the very least, rinse them in scalding water.

At both the hotels I’ve worked at, the dishwasher was always broken.  And I mean always.  In fact, at the unnamed hotel, I’d never even been privy to seeing the damn thing.  So the rushed housekeepers simply rinse the glassware in the bathroom sink and use a toxic, pink porcelain cleaner for those stubborn juice/coffee/lipstick stains.  

The cardboard “caps” on those mugs and glasses mean nothing as far as cleanliness is concerned.  I watched a housekeeper use her breath to fog up a glass and then wipe it clean on her shirt.  She slapped a cap on it and moved on to the next room.  

5.  Don’t knock on your friend’s door and say, “Housekeeping,” in that shrill, phony Spanish accent.

This happens more often than you’d think.  I’d guess as often as people told bank tellers to, “Show me the money!” the year Jerry Maguire came out, and it’s as equally funny.  I’m strongly tempted to rush you with my cart as if I were an Olympic bobsledder and your legs were the finish line.  It’s only a matter of time before an overworked housekeeper snaps, and it could very well be your kneecaps.

6.  Camp instead.  

Roasted marshmallows taste just as delicious on a bustling city corner as they do in the woods and you’ll save a ton of money on your trip.

* Stephen Colbert has referred to my city as “the worst place on Earth,” so maybe the hotels here are just uniquely bad.  But probably not.  

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ew, travel, hotel

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Oh, man, I just got back from a trip where I used the glasses and would have used the coffee pot if there had been one. I think I'm going to go throw up. Thanks(?) for giving us the dirt.
Wow, this is scary!
I once saw video footage of the house-keeper cleaning mugs and glasses in a room with Windex!
Thanks for your post.
I stay in a fair amount of hotels and will take these tips to heart- thank you!!
Thank you, thank you. Excellent advice - I knew about the comforters but the rest is all (unwelcome) news to me. (I also like your "ew" tag. I'd add: "ewwwww.")
I know all of this. Really, I do. I just have to shove it to the back of my mind when I stay at a hotel. Last year I paid $200 for a room where all of the bedding just seemed so disgusting that I wrapped myself in the blanket my dog had been sleeping on in the car instead. I was tired. They let my dog stay for extra $$$. What can I say? Rated.
Thanks for the heads up. As a travel writer for dozens of years I'm especially aware of this. Worse in B&Bs and other small properties where a chain isn't on their tail. And I find where there are teams of cleaners the cleaning is better.

That said, be cautious, suck it up and keep traveling.
Because I also worked as a motel housekeeper for a summer (in college), I appreciate what those who work in housekeeping in hotels and motels face. I tend to be considerate of housekeepers, tidy up a room somewhat before I leave, and tip well as a result. Since the motel where I worked was frequented long-term by oilmen, I've seen everything, and what got left behind wasn't usually tips. You're absolutely right. I'd add a couple: (1) Don't ever lay on the bedspreads if you value your health, and (2) if you have to use the phone in a room, hold it with a cloth or tissue and put a tissue over the mouthpiece. It never hurts to travel with disinfecting wipes if you have them (which didn't exist back in the avocado green shag carpet which was raked days of my tenure in the biz).
Damn, kind of makes me glad that I don't travel for work anymore spending 3-4 nights a week in a hotel.
and what am I going to do with 300,000 HHonors points then?
"And to the guy who eventually stole that pen off my cart, I honestly hope you don’t have an oral fixation." Heh, heh.

OK. I knew about the comforters, and I spray everything in sight with Lysol disinfectant (including the sheets), and I'll never again be fooled by those little caps on the glasses . . . but the coffee pot? The coffee pot? What kind of pervert puts used condoms in a coffee pot? I join the chorus of "ewwwww."
I had a job as a hotel maid for one morning. After I realized they didn't 1) change the sheets 2) wash the glasses 3) OR anything else that takes more than 25 minutes per room, I left and never came back. It curdled my mind and stomach. I couldn't continue. I was a wimp.
I worked as a motel maid one summer while going to college. Some of the maids did an excellent job, and always changed the sheets and generally cleaned everything. I always sleep in sweats and socks, though, if I have to stay in a hotel.
at the risk of sounding unoriginal: eeeeuuuwww! I'm glad I ordered my coffee in the restaurant.
Though I appreciate your openness and the quality of the piece you wrote, I travel a lot for my job, and I'm just going to have to pretend I didn't read this. {{{Shudder}}}
Walking down the hall to my hotel room, I once spied a housekeeper clean the bathroom glass with the toilet brush, directly after removing it from a sudsy toilet. Took to my bed for the rest of the day. And not before wrapping my person in plastic garbage bags.
I knew about the bedspread, the glasses and those stains that show up under black lights, but I didn't know to fear the coffee maker too. Thanks... I think!

Reading this made me feel sick. I do these things everytime I go to a hotel: use the coffee maker, use the cups, use the face towels and sleep on bed covers. I never actually got sick so I think my body is more resistant to filth than my imagination is.
I. do. not. want. to. know. any. of. this. lalalalalalalalalalalala

Gotta tellya--for a small thing, your average, filthy bedbug is a terrorist from hell. I once lived above a woman whose "friends" exposed me to this creepy, crazy, unsanitary nastiness. I hardly slept for a month and more.
BUT. I did learn some tricks that are nonpoisonous and truly worth it to the consumer. As sprays don't help but temporarily, get yourself a heavy duty STEAM CLEANING MACHINE and go over everything as tho' it were your last chance at survival. Follow this by immediately putting on gloves, a painting mask, and some safety glasses/goggles, and LIGHTLY dust with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. You can find this in lawn and garden centers. It literally kills them within 48 hours, while the steam gets way inside the upholstery where sprays don't reach, and kills all bugs, their young, and literally cooks remaining eggs--which are kept buried deeply, don't kid yourself.
NOTE: Diatomaceous earth may be packaged loosely, so use with caution. Anymore, when moving into any new building, I generally start off by treating every nook and cranny. Even "nice" place have them, not only poor ones, so I take no prisoners and am always cautious.
The hotel/motel industry doesn't like their clientele getting nervous.IN that they don't talk about it (or seldom do) it pays to pay attention.YOU COULD BE crawling with them and not know for a while. Some people don't show evidence of the bites. Be cautious! Throw all your clothes in the washer upon arriving home, and shower and shampoo thoroughly before touching anyone or your furniture if you've been traveling. They "hitch-hike".
Sorry this is so long, Horde!!
Final note (sorry so overly long here):
NEVER VACUUM AWAY diatomaceous Earth. It can destroy your vacuum. Use only moist or wet means of cleaning.
Want more tips?You know here to find me. Strictly on the QT.
Oh, ugh. :( I think I'm glad to know this, but eeewwwww... this is really disturbing. Yuck!
I'm just going to buy that RV as soon as I can. Thinking about all the condom coffee I've had makes me just want to never stay in a hotel again. But I have to next week and I am totally disgusted by the thought. Thanks for ruining my well constructed denial system.
Jeez. Up until now, I've been using those moist towelettes my ma swipes from the casino to clean hotel room surfaces. Thanks for puncturing my bubble of complacency.

Seriously. Thanks!

love your post. i travel alot and fear the bed bug thing. thank you for this tell all
Thanks for cluing us in on the vileness to avoid! By the way, is the etymology of your blogging name deeply rooted in 80's cartoons?
YUCK!!!!! I am thinking that next time I will pack a bag with my own bed sheets comforters coffee pot cups etc...The hell with it I will do number 6 as you advise. Sounds safer LMAO
I, too, was a hotel maid at two separate hotels one summer in college. It was the hardest job I've ever had, but I've got to say that the people who cleaned did a good job. We changed 100% of the sheets & towels every single time we did a room, and I never, ever found anything nasty in a coffee pot.

I had trouble getting my rooms done in the 30 minutes, but that was because I was crap at snapping the sheets into position -- I spent way too much time running laps around the beds getting them aligned. I would occasionally get reprimanded for not getting all the hairspray splatter off the door mirror in the bathroom, but I'd rather cut that corner than scrimp on things that actually come into contact with a guest. I do remember one old biddy who complained because she found a piece of paper under the bed that I'd failed to remove when I had prepped their room. I thought to myself if this was the only thing she had to complain about life was treating her pretty well.

These weren't luxury hotels or anything either -- but perhaps the Mr. & Mrs. Middle-America clientele in their Oldsmobiles made it easy.
You're right. Camping is the way to go.
Roflmao! Do you live in Las Vegas? I recently blogged about the very lack of those coffee pots in five-star hotels. I thought the ice buckets were the worst repositories in most hotels (barf buckets). I'm familiar with the Comfort Inn/Hampton Inn limited service hotels and a resort property. I know these are under strict and family quality control..

but you also know your biz...and the Quality of certain housekeeping. I've learned over many miles to rinse everything and use those plastic sleeves for the ice buckets--even after the rinse.

I enjoy my roasted marshmallows where ever I may be. City, farm or deep forest.... a roasted marshmallow is a roasted marshmallow to me.
No way! You really live in Windsor? As in Ontario? As in Canada?
@Chiller Pop - He-Man and Transformers, respectively.

@Christine McKellar - We’re directly south of Detroit on the US/Can border; it’s not really the archetypal Canadian city. Though I did mention bobsledding, eh.
Brung you own sheets as cover. No biggie. Take comforter off bed. Simple. Bring a towel (or buy a new one nearby for under 5 bucks). Easy. Carry a small spray bottle with diluted bleach. Way too easy. I also have a small spray bottle with soapy ammonia. Duh.

This doesn't have to be a nightmare.

Thanks for the bed bug tips, though. Nothing really can be done about that.
Congratulation on the EP. MD give you free prostrate exam with AMA approved lollipop sticker. Free bumper stinker for SUV's Yellow Limo.
Great (gross?)!
Informing, thanks.
I love your tattoo of burning marshmallows. I call the hotels 9-11 brothels. I'll always ask the most reliable human, the maid:`

"What's the history behind this room?"
Mid tail # 1.
She tells me. Hunters gutted a dead, huge antlered, big-red lipstick Moose. Smooch?
No. She swears:`
It was true. Ugh.
Politicians "dressed" the moose (cut and bagged- butchered). The maid had to clean guts up.
They were local lawyers.
They got drunk as a skunk.
This was in PA ref bankers.
Laundromats, arrest., Ugh.
I'm weary of belching it up.
The go Main killing moose.
Wastrels in Main. DC USA.
Maid tail # 2.
On Monday night the greyhound bus?
It's flea bit dog and DC/NYC whore day.
The dogs and DC K- Street hooker naps.
Free whore frolics. huh. itchy. groin no.
my tale.
I love to find left behind lady panties on racks.
I am so happy when former guest forgot socks.
If you left panties or silk argyle socks I's email.
I love to take a Sheraton ice bucket for Easter.
It's a great gift. Stuff grass and fill with raisons.
Chocolate covered Goober raisons are delicious.
If you are real honest and brazen?
Go to the Inn next to Capital Hill?
Speak with Holy women wheels?
Woman with rolling bag wheels?
Tryst bag. Drag two back wheels.

Sacred tryst. Stay home. Ay okay.
I'll stay home and shake. Oak Tree.
Virgil wrote ref satiate vices. Woe.

A day comes when greedy shake it!
Panic stricken, folk hope a nut fall!
The acorn walnut won't satiate ills!

I go to get free soap, towels, bucket,
shower cap, teevee, Fox News, itch,
and hope I meet estranged woman?
We can go sit and drool at bar stool.
drool. doodle. drink gouda goat tea.
And I used to think that wrapped plastic cups were tacky. Now I'll ask for them.
The "condoms in the water boiler" is just BS. First of all, that was a one off occurrence, if it happened at all. Second, the water boiler is the *one* thing in the room that is sterilized by steam EVERY TIME YOU USE IT.
I stayed at a hotel in Scottsdale recently and when I got home and told my wife what I did she wondered if I was cracked. You see I didn't use the bed, I just curled up on the couch in the living room and covered myself with my jacket. It was warm enough and I was perfectly comfortable that way. I'm sure the cleaner was happy as the bed was obviously unused.
We owned a resort/motel in the 60's.
It was in northern WI.
We often had F.I.B.s stay there.
F.I.B.s are Fucking Illinois Bastards, a widely used and understood term in WI.
A couple of times they used the goddamn towles to wipe the shit off of their brats' asses.
Both times I carefully wrapped them and sent them back to the F.I.B.s with a note describing how happy we were to NEVER EVER see them again.
Never heard from the filthy pigs again either.
I don't miss the place.
Steam only kills bedbugs and eggs if it contacts them. More info about bedbugs here:
Y'all, we can't sanitize everything; we'd have no immune systems.

After all, Walter Blevins with his 300,000 HHonors points is still with us, right?

Life leaves microbes behind. It's okay.
Thank you for validating all my hotel room neuroses! I bring Lysol wipes with me and wipe down the remote and phones immediately. And I've been known to bring my own sheets and pillow cases when the hotel is more of a motel. I'm fine with camping in the dirt but indoor germs gross me out!
Great but avoid the ice in the mini fridge. It"s probably stale or is made with chlorinated water.
The coffee pot!!! OH NO!! r.
Most places I stay at have disposable plastic glasses that are wrapped in plastic so I don't worry about those, but I would never get ice out of the ice machine. They are a haven for bacteria and never get cleaned.
True, gross to contemplate but putting things in perspectivity a bit...the daily/night;ly use of hotel s and their rooms with all the various whatevers and NO RISING DEATH TOLLs reported it does become but a mmm'ering ot "consider" unless one is truly ready to stay HOME or merely "camp" (which is fraught with own set of germs/"dangers"/etc's as well. Add the factoring that indeed , somehow humans have indeed continued to exist for quite some time--since beginning of time/etc. and honestly , rationally speaking there is no way to eliminate ALL germs /etc so accept that life is kinda' a crapshoot and roll on folks !!! BTW, one builds up immunity FROM being exposed is a prime considereation to be rememberd/considered !!!
I'm glad you shared those tips. I shudder at the thought of the filth people make you clean up. I can't believe it's that horrible. I will make sure to bring antibacterial wipes, lysol, and my own water bottle from now on! Ewww, I still can't believe the coffee pot was so nasty..

Amy (Cruise Ship Reviews)
geezz..was just looking forward to a great time on the coast....
Great read!
I'd add: google "bedbug registry" -- if you come across the critters, you can warn others.

And always tip --just a couple of bucks on the nightstand if that's all you can afford. This is backbreaking, nasty work. I lasted only a summer in the prime of life. It breaks my heart to see older women do this, day in, day out. And you know the management is not always kind or generous.

And don't assume a fancy hotel doesn't have bugs, or cleans its rooms any better. Bedbugs travel with guests -- the more traveled, the more likely you are to be carrying them.
Anyone can write anything and claim to have personal knowledge. And if it's a scary story with some truth mixed in (the bedbugs, the nasty bedcovers) then people will believe it. But the condom in the coffeemaker episode tipped you over the edge. Nice try.
I was housekeeper at the Beech Tree Manor B&B in Seattle for about 3 years. Linens were always changed @ checkout or every 3 days for longer stays, clean towels everyday, room vacuumed, showers, toilet and sink cleaned & disinfected every day. Occasionally found a condom in the bed. No big deal. Occasional catastrophic mess would occur. Guest would leave extra money on the way out. My boss actually cleaned up when the guest's colostomy bag broke. Every bed had down comforter with duvet cover which was also cleaned after every guest. We cared about health and safety of our guests. So did the other B&B operators in the area at the time.
Big deal. I traveled 150+ nights a year for 16 years. I made coffee every morning using the in-room coffee makers (but with my own coffee), slept snuggled up in their big, fluffy comforters, used thier towels and glassware, and never got anything worse than the occasional cold. Now I take the NY subway to work every day. Between the subway, the equipment at the gym, and the elevator buttons in my apartment building and the office, I'm probably exposed to more germs than I ever was while traveling. Stop being so afraid and just live your life.
I think I have a bed bug phobia now! I have been reading about all the bed bugs in New York, they have been found in Victoria Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch, Offices, and a Lot of Hotels.

I'm almost afraid to travel anymore, I would hate to bring some of those critters into my house. I hear it is a nightmare to get rid of bed bugs. Anyway from now on I will be taking your advice and checking out hotel rooms before I stay in them.
this is giving me creeps, super thanks for the advice. so far I have not stayed in a hotel like that but will take your caution in uttermost consideration
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Thank you Thank you so much for your advice and suggestion. recodes para orkut
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good information, good post, excellent advice, thanks.
As a dude who regularly uses hotels for my gansta' rap music video style parties with my bitches AND my ho's (but NEVER at the same time) I have to say that I find it icky that these rooms may not have been perfectly clean on my arrival.
Obviously I undertand that they would be a wreck when I leave, but I assumed that there was some process of de-ickifing going on in between.

And for the love of god there is nothing I enjoy more after doing the rusty trombone than a nice cup of joe! Is nothing sacred?

I just want to cry.
Really useful post. You are not even safe at "quality" hotels. I brought unwanted guests home from a 4*. Thats what made me buy my own steam cleaner. i always check now for bed bug bites for at least a week after staying and get ready to blast my bed and rugs if I find any bites.

The coffee pot story is just disgusting
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