I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
October 20, 2011
Now that I stay in hotels on a fairly regular basis, I’ve learned that the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign can be a traveler’s best friend. When I’m traveling alone, I’m pretty neat and organized. I don’t need or want anyone in my room while I’m away.
When I’m traveling with my family, it’s another story—Daily maid service is both appreciated and absolutely necessary. We need towels! We need clean sheets! We need a vacuum! (And before you get all self-righteous on me, yes. WE TIP!) But when we’re in the room, or even leaving for an evening out, the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign goes back on the door. I don’t want turn down service, and I definitely, definitely, definitely do not want a knock on my door at 9:00 the next morning.
But that’s exactly the knock I got at sunrise Monday on the door of our Chattanooga hotel room.
“What?” I called out blearily. I knew I’d put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on our door the night before, but before I could even get out of bed, the maid had opened the door.
“Oh, hi,” I said sheepishly, standing before her in my pajamas. “We’re in here.”
“Oh,” she said. “Sorry.”
“Gah!” I said to myself when she had left. “I know I put that sign on last night!” I opened the door and peered around it.
The sign was on the ground. I picked it up and tried to hang it back on the door, but in the process, the thing ripped in two. I balanced it on the doorknob and carefully shut the door. An hour later, we left for the morning and when we returned, our beds were made. Our towels were replenished. Our floors were vacuumed. Our tip had been claimed. Our sign was gone.
OUR SIGN WAS GONE!
“GAH!” I said to myself that night, after I had noticed the sign’s glaring absence. I had nothing to hang on my doorknob! No way to ward off the early morning housekeeping wake-up call!
But it was our last night in the hotel, so I figured I would survive.
I was wrong.
I was so, so wrong.
The next morning at 8 am sharp, the first knock came.
From my bed in our darkened room, I opened one eye. It was only 7am our time and everyone else was still asleep.
Tap tap tap.
I put the pillow over my head. The housekeeper tried to come in at that point, but mercifully I had remembered to bolt the door. That stopped her. But the damage had been done.
“Mommy?” my daughter asked sleepily. “Who was that?”
“Mommy?” my son echoed. “Is it morning time yet?”
I sighed and rolled over. So much for sleeping in.
I found some cartoons on TV for the kids, brewed a pot of coffee, and hopped in the shower. No sooner had I gotten out than I heard the knock again.
I wrapped a towel around me and managed to get to the door just as she tried to open it.
“Still here!” I sang sweetly.
There was silence on the other side. I peered through the peephole and saw a woman standing outside beside a housekeeping cart, frowning. It was 8:30 in the morning. Checkout wasn’t until 12.
What on earth?
I almost opened the door and told her, then and there, that we weren’t leaving until checkout. But then I remembered that I was wearing a towel. I bit my lip and oh-so-quietly put the second lock on the door.
At 9:30, I was putting on my makeup when the knock came again.
I had only managed to line one eye, but I didn’t care. Enough was ENOUGH.
I unbolted the door and opened it. “Hi, yes, we’re still here,” I told the frowning woman politely, turning my lined eye told her so that she’d take me more seriously. “And we’re going to be here for a while.” She scowled back at me in response. “Checkout is at noon, right?” I asked. She nodded. “Okay, just making sure.”
I shut the door.
“What is WITH the housekeeping staff here?” I asked my husband. “I feel like we’re under siege!”
“Well, at least they know now that we’re not leaving any time soon,” my husband said. I sighed and began packing. The room looked like a tornado had hit it. This was going to take a while.
I had just finished repacking my kids’ duffel bag of clothes when there was another knock at the door.
“What in the sam hill….?” I said, getting up from where I was kneeling on the floor. I looked through the peephole. An older man stood outside. He looked very official. I opened the door.
“I’m with housekeeping,” he said importantly, holding out a list of names. “I wanted to make sure you were still planning on checking out today.”
“Yes,” I said. “We are.” He looked at me dubiously.
“We really are,” I said again. “But probably closer to checkout time. At.. you know… twelve o’clock.”
“Okay,” The Enforcer said, looking at me as if he didn’t believe me. I shut the door and looked at the clock. It was 10:00, a full two hours until checkout.
“Unbelievable!” I said.
It took me another 30 minutes or so, but Hubs and I finally managed to get everyone’s bags packed and loaded onto a luggage cart. We opened the door to find a woman standing beside our door with her arms crossed, a housekeeping cart next to her. I smiled at her. “Hi,” I said. “We’re leaving now!”
She didn’t smile back.
“Boy, we really got the bum’s rush, huh?” I said to Hubs as we got on the elevator. “That was weird!”
Even now, I’m not sure of what to make of it. I absolutely believe that hotel housekeepers are among the most undervalued, disrespected workers in our country. Now that I’m a mom and full-time housekeeper myself, I think of them often when I’m staying in hotels. I take pains to pick up trash and personal items before I leave the room, put all my dirty towels in a corner, and basically make their job as easy as possible. I am, after all, painfully aware of how very irritating it is to clean up after people who can’t be bothered to do it themselves.
I wondered as we left the hotel if that particular housekeeping staff was simply getting even, and I was caught in the crossfire.
I couldn’t help but smile a little at the thought.
Image via Joelk75/Flickr
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Grrr… that would have made me crazy! A chance to sleep in, and in beds you don’t have to make and in a room you don’t have to clean? And you didn’t even get a chance to revel in it! Bah!
You should deeeefinitely send the General Manager a note about your experience. S/he will want to know so that the issue can be addressed. It may be that the housekeeping staff has unreasonable time limits or something, but their first priority should be their guests (and getting your referrals and/or repeat business)!
You have a good point- I didn’t want to take it out on the housekeeping staff, because I suspect that the hotel makes it hard on them until the rooms are cleaned and ready for check in — but if checkout is at noon, it seems like the entire staff should be prepared for SOME guests to check out at NOON- and not harass them until they go!
Yeah, that seems a little excessive. Weird.
Once when Hubs and I were on vacation and he had gone out to get some breakfast, I was showering and housekeeping disregarded the sign and came in. While I was IN THE SHOWER. As in, NAKED. I was able to shriek “Someone’s IN HERE!” before they actually stepped into the room, but DANG.
That’s my worst nightmare! I really do leave the Do Not Disturb sign on at all times now and it has helped with that kind of thing A LOT. The worst I’ve gotten is a call asking if I’m SURE I don’t want housekeeping service.
That would have made me crazy! I’m always surprised when I see housekeeping in the hallways early in the morning – but I also hate when I go to check in at the check in time and my room’s not ready!
I’ve never really thought about that Do Not Disturb sign but I think I will start using it when we’re in a hotel and we go out for the evening and leave it on for the morning as well.
I don’t usually tip when we’re only there for an overnight but maybe I’ll start doing that too.
We always tip on the first night in particular (my idea) because I hope that will give the housekeeper a little incentive to give us extra towels, etc. And the Do Not Disturb sign is great for safety as much as anything else. No one should be in your room when you’re gone unless you specifically want them to be there.
That’s so annoying! It must be a Chattanooga thing, my family has some funny stories from there too! Wonder if it’s the same hotel? Glad ya’ll got checked out before 12! HA!
I’ve noticed that large, urban hotels are much worse about this kind of thing than hotels on the outskirts of town. We spent the next two nights in Gatlinburg at a Fairfield Inn and I never even SAW the housekeeping staff- just had a clean room when we returned.
I used to work in a hotel and I know that it’s really a rush in those few hours between check-out and check-in to get every single room clean and ready for the next occupant, but they went a bit beyond the line of decency and customer service on this one. Cleanliness is next to godliness and all that, but isn’t politeness somewhere in this mix, too?
Your brother told me I should check out your site (I work with him at my “real” job) and I’m glad! I’ll be subscribing from now on!
I really think I stayed during the middle of some kind of battle between the housekeeping staff and the management- or maybe the guests? It was totally out of control! 🙂
Wow, you’re a much better person than I am – I most definitely would have said something to a manager. I can understand knocking once and you telling them you’re still there, but what you described was borderline harassment! I love the “do not disturb” sign because one of my biggest fears is housekeeping coming in when I’m in the shower. :p
Yeah, I honestly wouldn’t know if this kind of knocking is normal or not, because I ALWAYS use the sign. I do know that when I forget to put it up, that knock always comes way before I’m ready to vacate the room!
On my honeymoon, DH & I were sleeping (really!) when a maid walked in and took our mini-bar key. We both thought we had dreamed it.
Ugh!! did they even offer continental breakfast?? If not, I would say they were being a little big for thier nicely pressed britches, or in this case APRONS!! That was my attempt at stand up comedy. Anyway, how annoying. Its like the housekeeping twilight zone!
They didn’t! It was like the Twilight Zone! I didn’t really realize how crazy it was until I had left!
We had a similar incident happen to us a couple weeks ago! And thank goodness we had the bolt on because I was convinced it couldn’t be OUR door they were knocking on at 9am when we had arranged a 3pm checkout!!!
That’s so weird! I have never seen housekeeping at any hotels!
Neither had I- until the Do Not Disturb sign broke!!
Haha I’m glad to hear you got a smile out of it at least. I do the same thing as you: clean up so much that my husband has to remind me we are on vacation. But, I have to say, I think I might have been a little bit cheeky had that happened to me!
I might have been not-so-nice, but I assumed it was my fault since I didn’t have a sign on my door. Now? I’m not so sure!
I swear to the Lawd Himself, even when I have the Do Not Disturb tag in place and checkout isn’t until noon, I hear that knock on the door at 8 in the morning! The Husband and I had a member of the housekeeping staff walk right on in when we, uh, were not in a “position” anyone should be seeing without paying a fee 😉
How many times is our room not ready by the 3 or 4 o’clock check-in time, yet they want to clean that room right up 3 or 4 hours before check-out time?!
We make a point to engage the dead-bolt thingie. At least then, after the knock knock knock knock, you get to hear the ka-thunk-thud sound. Ha! Take that, housekeeping staff member! Thwarted you at the mote, didn’t we?
Oh, and we not only tip every day, even if it is just the Husband and I without kids in tow, but I make sure every tiny bit of trash is in a trash can, wipe up any spills, load the dishwasher if there is one, empty the fridge if there is one, and put any used towels/washcloths on the sink. I got that from my Dad, heh! He says: “Can you imagine how many times they have to bend over to pick up crap every day? What if they have a bad back? What if they are tired? Don’t make their work any harder than it already is.”
I still don’t want them to wake me up early, though 😉
Totally agree! It’s when they wake me up that I get ILL. 😉 I think it must be a mom thing to clean up for the housekeepers! LOL.
When I saw your post title, I though ‘Yes! A post about hubs and kids who aren’t pitching in!’ This was amusing too, but I needed to someone to commiserate with my housekeeping wars around here. Too bad I don’t have a maid to come knock on MY door! I’d let her in every time. 🙂
Oh dig around in my archives a bit. I’ve written SEVERAL posts that fit that description!
The staff was out of line! I worked housekeeping two summers during college in a hotel outside of Milwaukee. On weekdays we were clocked in at 7:30 and had 17 rooms to clean during the next 8 hours. Sat’s we started at 8:00 and Sundays at 8:30. I never knocked on a door with a do not disturb sign and fortunately a little knob stuck out from the door if the door was deadlocked so we would know if someone had the door bolted. This means we didn’t bother knocking on that door either.
Usually on weekdays we didn’t have problems finding rooms to clean right away since business people would be gone by 7:30. But wknds were a struggle to find rooms to clean in the first two hours!
Awww they were just being proactive 🙂
I don’t like my room cleaned til I leave either – not because I’m not but because I’m private. I don’t want the risk of somebody going through my stuff!
by the way, I read your blog often but rarely get to comment. For some reason Disqus is blocked from most firewalls
Ugh. Im on the fence about this. I’ve had a similar experience where I came back home for a wedding. Check in time was at 3, however I was told due to late check outs my room would be ready within the hour. I came back at 4, still not ready. I had a rehearsal dinner at 6, so when I checked in at 5 and told the rooms still not ready, I ended up getting ready at a friends house and was of course late to the dinner. The following morning after I explicitly told the front desk I woukd be up and out by 12, please no house keeping until then, the damn maid barged in at 7 am. She realized I was still there, left, only to come back and come bathing in again at 8. At this point I had had enough, so I was up and getting ready to leave. At check out I mentioned my frustrations with the front desk staff only to have a very relaxed studied of, ” Oh well.” needless to say when the hotel emailed me a survey I was more than happy to let them
Know about my experience. I received a full refund and several apology letters from the staff members who did not do their jobs correctly.
The way I see it, i could have gone to 100 different hotels in the area but chose this location. They should want and appreciate my business. Also considering that I work in a customer service heavy industry, it’s just good business to not hassle the guest like that. Yes, housekeeping service is a tasking and demanding job. Several of those women are working while supporting a family and I don’t know the ins and outs of hotels to argue that only one department is responsible for your situation. However, it is the responsibilty of the hotel as a whole to properly communicate to it’s departments to ensure that you don’t have these problems. I’d say let the manager know because if they aren’t aware of the problem, it could be reoccurring.
I travel 365 for my job, so housekeeping and I have become intimately aware of each other on a national level. The “Do Not Disturb” sign tends to disappear if you’re the last room on the floor that needs cleaned before they put that cart on the elevator.
I once had a housekeeper take off the sign, bring it in with her, and go about cleaning my room withe me sleeping. (I sleep like the dead) That was, until she started peeling the sheet back from me head. I will never claim the noise I made when I woke up. To be fair, I think she only knew about three words of english (I was in deep Texas, this was normal) but still…