Secrets Hotels Don’t Want You To Know

Let’s unveil the secrets hotels don’t want you to know!


When you go on vacation, all you want to do is check into a fancy hotel and let the bed, pool, and bellhops help you forget about your life’s worries. However, hotels aren’t all about fresh linens and room service. Turns out, the hospitality industry is hiding some incredibly dark and straight-up bizarre secrets from their guests.

Let's remove our "do not disturb" signs and ruin all our future vacations, as we check in and check out thieving cleaners, sickening stains, and even an international secret society. Here are the secrets hotels don’t want you to know!

Bed Bugs

With delayed flights, turbulence, and airplane food, going on vacation can be a pretty stressful experience. So, when you finally arrive at your destination, there’s no better feeling than checking into your hotel room and finally sliding into some clean bedsheets.

Unfortunately, those freshly cleaned linens might be hiding something sinister, and much more commonly than most folks assume, you could be unknowingly snuggling up to some unwanted bedmates. Every year, over 80% of hotels will deal with a bed bug infestation, as their rooms get taken over by a swarm of these blood-sucking insects.

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Whether you’re staying in a grimy motel room, or a penthouse suite, the average hotel will face around 7 infestations every 5 years, so nobody is safe. Those infestations can consist of up to 500 insects, but unfortunately, they can be incredibly hard to find.

Bed bugs hide from the light in any available cracks and crevices surrounding the bed, headboard, or in the seams of mattresses, and typically only come out at night to feed. Their main calling card is when a guest wakes up in the morning covered in painful, itchy bites.

Bed bugs leave you with painful, itchy bites

If you’re unlucky enough to stay in a bedbug-infested room, the critters might end up ruining more than your vacation. We’re all guilty of stealing little bottles of shampoo at the end of our vacations, but if you stay in a room infested with bedbugs, you might go home with a slightly scarier souvenir.

Bed bugs are notorious for climbing onto vacationers' clothes or suitcases, and traveling all the way home with them, before infesting their houses. So, next time you enter a hotel room, you’d be best to carry out some thorough checks for any telltale signs of bedbugs, or the dark red and black waste they leave behind.

Never Drink Out Of Glasses In Hotel Rooms

In 2012, former hotel employee Jacob Tomsky released a tell-all book on the hotel industry’s dirty secrets, in which he explicitly told vacationers to avoid using hotel glasses, as lots of housekeepers allegedly clean them with furniture polish.

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In the book Heads in Beds, Jacob revealed that it was a common insider secret that cleaners would regularly save time by using pledges to clean drinking glasses, ensuring they were clean and sparkling without having to actually wash them up. While that was reportedly done due to tight, high-pressure time deadlines on cleaning staff, it doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Although the residual polish left in the cups shouldn’t be enough to severely harm you, drinking even small amounts of polish can reportedly lead to dizziness, stomach pain, vomiting, and worse, truly putting the "hospital" in hospitality. On the bright side, your water will taste citrussy, and your body’s chemically burnt insides will be squeaky clean.

If you’re not disturbed by the ghastly glassware, an undercover journalist in China caught a housekeeper doing something even more sinister back in 2018. The cleaner, working at a 5-star hotel in Harbin, China, was snapped using the same brush to clean the room’s toilet and cups.

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The hotel fired the cleaner after seeing the secret camera footage, but just because that gross housekeeper was caught, doesn’t mean there aren’t others out there. Next time you travel, you should stick to the sealed bottles of water in the minibar! Even if they do cost about a thousand bucks each.

Valet Parking Issues

Luxury hotels aim to cater to your every need, so, lots of them offer valet services, where a worker will park your vehicle for you when you arrive at the hotel, before retrieving it when you want to leave.

The service is supposed to save you time and effort, but back in 2015, a guest at a hotel in Miami Beach, Florida was left to pay a small fortune in repairs, after asking a valet to park his $200,000 Lamborghini Aventador.

For the valet, driving a Lamborghini was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so as he hopped into the car, he decided to channel his inner Vin Diesel by revving the engine and burning some rubber.

Unfortunately, as the valet started to rev the supercar, its engine overheated and burst into flames. A heroic passerby managed to extinguish the fire, but the damage to the Lamborghini was extensive, and there was a good chance that the owner of the Lamborghini had to pay to fix it.

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Back in 2020, financial information company Defaqto discovered that 49% of car insurance policies don’t cover any damages sustained while your car is being driven by a valet, and the companies that do offer cover will only help with superficial damage like scratched paint.

In other words, if your valet crashes your car, you’ll probably have to pay for the worst of the damage. So, the solution is obvious: always drive a clapped-out piece of junk that no one in their right mind would ever want to take for a joyride!

Hotel Safes Aren't Safe

Most hotel rooms contain a small safe that allows you to securely leave your valuables in your room. However, those safes aren’t as safe as they seem, and in most hotels, the staff knows a universal code that allows them to access every safe in the building.

That system was created so that if you ever forget the code to your safe, the hotel staff can easily open it up and retrieve your trapped valuables. However, it also gives hotel staff access to your most treasured belongings whenever they want, allowing any bad apples who have access to the code to easily rob you.

We like to think we can trust the staff working in our hotels, but in 2019, an industry survey found that 43% of housekeepers anonymously admitted that they’d stolen personal belongings or cash from their guest’s rooms. It turns out, those perfectly pressed uniforms could be concealing opportunistic criminals.

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With housekeepers somewhat regularly caught on hidden cameras cleaning out their guests’ luggage for cash, you might want to avoid storing your valuables in a safe that they can access, let alone leaving them unprotected in your suitcase. Luckily, there is a way to keep your valuables protected while on vacation.

Most hotels contain safety deposit boxes behind their front desk that any guest can ask to use. That safe is usually insured against theft, while room safes by contrast usually are not. Fewer staff members will have access to a front desk safety deposit, making it a far safer safe than the one in your room.

Concierge Kick-Back Commission

A hotel’s concierge is tasked with catering to their guest's every need; welcoming them to the hotel, booking them taxis, and giving restaurant recommendations. Those concierges have to work long hours with a smile on their faces, but despite the high demands of their job, they don’t typically earn that much money.

As a result, dissatisfied concierges have developed ways to earn a little bit of extra cash on the side, by striking up under-the-table deals with local restaurants to send tourists their way in exchange for a commission.

Concierges are supposed to offer genuine recommendations, so those guilty of this shady practice will typically do that off the books, using extreme tactics to make sure their guests go to the correct restaurants. There have been cases of guests asking their concierge for directions to a specific restaurant, only to be aggressively pitched another place to eat.

Concierges strike deal with restaurants

Similarly, concierges will actively criticize rival restaurants to make sure guests go to the ones that they’ve struck a deal with. Almost every hotel denies that it happens, claiming that their concierges offer unbiased help.

However, according to the New York Times, it’s an open secret that some of those underpaid workers rely on under-the-table deals to subsidize their income, putting the con in concierge as they manipulate their guests to line their own pockets.

Golden Key Hotel Concierge: Les Clefs d'Or

Although some hotel employees may be out to con you, most concierges genuinely want to help you, and if you want to avoid dealing with dishonest hotel staff, you should keep an eye out for concierges with a special symbol pinned to their lapels.

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That is the logo of Les Clefs d’Or, translating to "The Golden Keys" in English, which is an elite fraternity comprised of the world’s best concierges. Since being founded as a small, secretive group in France in 1929, and expanding into an international group in 1952, the Golden Keys now have over 4,000 members working in luxury hotels all over the world.

The group’s motto is, "We are your key to everything" and it’s their job to cater to their guest's every need. And, unsurprisingly, guests of the world’s most expensive hotels often have some pretty unique requests.

Memorable examples of Les Clefs d’Or’s incredible customer service include shipping breast milk across the Atlantic, kept fresh using a liquid nitrogen-cooled container, for a new mother whose business trip had to be extended while her baby was back home in Boston. Or the time staff were tasked with renting an elephant and transporting it to a hotel in London for a Bollywood-themed wedding.

Memorable customer service by Les Clefs d’Or’s

Unsurprisingly, the Golden Keys group is incredibly selective in its membership, and to join, you need to be recommended by two active members, have at least 2 years of experience as a concierge, and take a final 10-page exam that can take anywhere from 5 to 20 hours to complete!

The process is so demanding, that if you spot a concierge wearing the golden keys, you’re pretty much guaranteed to receive incredible customer service. As a result, hotels that don’t have a Golden Keys concierge would very likely prefer for the group’s existence to be kept under wraps, so people don’t overlook their hotels due to their concierge service being perceived as inferior.

Of course, there are only 4,000 Les Clefs d’Or members in the world, so the chances of your hotel boasting one are actually incredibly low. But still, if you’re ever lucky enough to stay in a luxury hotel, you should check if their head concierge is a member, as those golden keys can be the key to an incredible vacation.

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What Your Hotel Knows About You

Hotels want their customer service to feel as friendly and familiar as possible, so they’ve always kept logs on their regular guests, tracking information about their previous stays and complaints to tailor their next visit to their personal likes and dislikes.

Today, the rise of technology has allowed hotels to take this to another level, by using your social media to build an insanely detailed profile on your interests, hobbies, and personality traits before you even make it to the hotel.

In a 2013 interview, a rep at the Beverly Hills Hotel nonchalantly revealed a time where she ran a background check on a guest, before their arrival, in order to gather information to tailor their experience. Looking up the person online, they discovered that they owned a small dog called Bo.

background check on guests

When the guest arrived, the rep had placed a doggy gift bag in their room, along with a handwritten note saying, "Bo misses you." Is it just me, or is that creepy as heck? Similarly, restauranter Danny Meyer has described a time when he was forced to travel for work on Father’s Day, staying at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado.

When a homesick Danny arrived in his room, he found that the hotel’s staff had printed a photo of his wife and children off of social media, before placing it in a frame on his bedside table. The experience was somewhere between a heartwarming tale, and an unnerving violation of personal privacy.

The hotel’s stalking experience

This level of customer service is starting to become more common, though, and when you next go on vacation, there’s a chance that your hotel will have already scoured through your social media before you arrive. This attention to detail is pretty impressive, but is this taking customer service too far?

Hotels Know You're Cheating

Hotels can use social media to gather a lot of information about their guest's private lives, including their marital status. As a result, when a guest checks in with a romantic partner who isn’t their spouse, the hotel staff are likely to realize what’s going on. Even if a hotel does discover that a guest is cheating on their partner, they won’t expose their affair.

A brand coordinator at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas has stated that hotel employees are told to never reveal any info about guests, not about any people accompanying them, to anyone who calls up the hotel, even if it’s the guest’s spouse. They won’t even verify whether or not a guest is actually staying there whatsoever.

Hotel staffs will never disclose customer information cheating

Similarly, in 2017, an ex-innkeeper called Tammy Long revealed on Quora that at her historic inn in Vermont, if a guest left an item behind in their room after checking out, the inn would never call them to return it. Tammy explained that she introduced the rule after calling a male guest about a lost item and getting through to his wife.

The guest’s wife was shocked, telling Tammy that she thought her husband was at a convention in Toledo, Ohio, and she had no idea he was staying at a hotel with a woman. Tammy realized that she’d accidentally exposed her guest’s infidelity, so from that point on, she told her staff to never call guests to return an item.

Although telling somebody that their husband is cheating on them is the morally correct thing to do, those are ultimately places of business, and ruining a guest's marriage isn’t going to get you any good reviews. As a result, if you think you’ve left an item behind in your hotel room, you might have to call them to get it back, otherwise, they’ll just assume you’re a cheater!

Hidden Cameras

Unfortunately, when you use an app like Airbnb to stay at someone’s private residence, there’s quite a bit more risk than staying at an established hotel. Since being founded in 2007, Airbnb has become one of the largest hospitality companies in the world, with over 1.4 billion guests and 4 million hosts using the app.

Most of those hosts have good intentions, but there are several cases of people listing their property on the app with sinister motives, like spying on their guests. Since Airbnb’s inception, there have been hundreds of cases of people discovering cameras hidden inside their room’s light fixtures, fire alarms, power adapters, and Wi-Fi routers.

Those cameras are clearly intended to spy on unsuspecting guests, and they’re often positioned to face the Airbnb’s bed or shower.

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Airbnb has responded to those countless discoveries by banning the offending hosts and increasing their background checks on new hosts joining the app. That is reassuring, but Airbnb can only deal with those offenders after they’ve been caught, and if you want to guarantee your Airbnb is camera-free, you might have to take matters into your own hands.

hidden camera airbnb

If you turn off the lights and shine a flashlight on the electronic appliances in your Airbnb, a hidden camera lens will reflect the light back at you. As a result, if you shine the light at an appliance and you see a blueish reflection or even a visible lens, you should pack your bags and leave, or at the very least tape over those spots. Because there’s a chance your host is using a camera to watch you get changed or shower.

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Ways Hotel Staffs Get Back at Customers

In 2014, a maid working at a 5-star hotel in Orlando gave an anonymous interview, explaining what housekeepers get up to when their managers aren’t looking. First, the housekeeper explained that if they’re tasked with cleaning a large suite, they’ll be given a little bit of extra time to make sure it’s spotless.

Instead of spending that extra time cleaning, the interviewee’s colleagues would often just nap in the room’s bed. You can’t sleep on an empty stomach, and in 2016, another housekeeper anonymously admitted that they never buy lunch, choosing instead to eat portions of their guest’s room service orders en route to their rooms.

Housekeepers often eat portions of their guest’s room service orders

Once the housekeepers have filled up on their guest’s dinner, they’ll regularly use the toilet in the hotel room that they’re supposed to be cleaning, dropping a deuce while the guests are away. Well, all that stolen food has to go somewhere. Those interviewed housekeepers also revealed that sometimes, they’ll seek revenge against rude or irritating guests.

The cleaner from Orlando recounted that in one instance, one of her colleagues was so angry at a rude customer, that she decided to clean the bathroom floor with their bath towel, before hanging it back up for the guest to use. That seems pretty harsh, but they made it clear that staff usually only mess with their most impolite visitors. Seems reasonable to me!

Housekeeper used customers bath towel to clean the bathroom floor

Underwear In Hotel Kettle

Let’s move from housekeepers with bad habits to guests, as we look at a group of disgusting vacationers and air out their dirty laundry, literally. Back in 2017, a tweet from Guy Bloomberg went viral, as he asked his followers whether any of them used the kettle in their hotel rooms to wash their dirty underwear.

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Typically, a kettle is used to boil water and make hot drinks like tea, but according to Guy, he’d caught wind that folk out there are regularly using the appliances to boil their briefs instead.

As the story went viral, some Twitter users started expressing their disgust, while others admitted that they had indeed used kettles to clean their dirty underpants. Before long, molecular biologist Dr Heather Hendrickson weighed in on the issue, explaining that the practice isn’t just gross, it’s also a genuine health hazard.

using hotel kettle to wash dirty underwear

While boiling your underwear should kill most of the bacteria present in your tighty-whities, used underwear fabric can still commonly be riddled with heat-resistant microorganisms and spores that can survive temperatures of up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit, continuing to swim around in the kettle after being boiled.

Some of those, like Clostridium Botulinum spores, can produce a deadly toxin if consumed, so if another guest comes along and uses the contaminated kettle, it could put a dark spin on their next tea party.

Hendrickson urged the offending hotel guests to stop putting other people in harm’s way, but something tells me the people who decide to boil their underwear in a hotel kettle aren’t particularly concerned about other people, so they’re unlikely to stop the practice.

UV Forensic Investigation Reveals Hotel Room Cleanliness

Back in 2014, journalist Jeff Rossen investigated 5 of the top hotel chains in America to see just how clean their rooms are at check-in. After conducting a series of tests, the Rossen Reports team discovered that all of the hotel rooms were filthy, with dangerous amounts of bacteria on the walls, furnishings, and beds.

In every hotel, the TV remote was by far the dirtiest item tested, and in one room they found colonies of E.coli on the remote, a bacteria passed through human poop. If that wasn’t bad enough, they found traces of MRSA on the remote in another hotel, a highly contagious antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can cause painful skin infections, fever, and even fatal sepsis.

The investigators noted that none of the dangerous bacteria was visible to the naked eye, and they were present in rooms that looked spotless. Because of the near invisibility of most hotel room filth, lots of cleaning companies use UV lights to show people just how dirty their hotel rooms are.

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When UV light is shone on a surface, it causes certain substances like urine and saliva to emit different colored light in turn, identifying their presence. That fluorescence is an effect that can turn seemingly clean rooms into a Jackson Pollock painting of pee, spit, and god knows what else.

Those images are pretty horrifying, but they’re also a little misleading, as UV light also causes cleaning products like laundry detergent to fluoresce, so it can’t always be used to reliably determine whether your hotel room is dirty or clean.

But while both UV light and your own eyes may be a little unreliable when assessing the cleanliness of a hotel room, you can be pretty certain that at least some filth is lurking in there, so think about packing sunscreen and hand sanitizer on your next vacation.

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Hotel Room Deaths

One of the best-kept secrets in the hospitality industry is that people die in hotels all the time, and there’s an incredibly high chance that you’ve stayed in a hotel room that once held a deceased guest.

While roadside motels are hotbeds for crime-related expirations, it’s also not uncommon for terminally ill people to finish up their lives in expensive hotels, opting to meet their maker surrounded by luxury.

terminally-ill people die in expensive hotels

Hotels will go to great lengths to cover up those in-house passings, and as soon as the police and emergency workers gather all the info they need, the hotel will rush to clean up the mess. They’ll call in specialized deep cleaning crews before removing any, leftovers, through staff hallways that are closed off to guests.

Once the room is clean and empty, the hotel will try and get it booked again as quickly as possible, meaning that if the room is fully sanitized, they’ll ideally want to re-open it to guests just 24 hours after finding the permanently checked-out occupant.

Hotels re-open deceased guest's room within 24 hours

That being said, if you’re worried your hotel room might’ve been recently occupied by the recently deceased, there are a few telltale signs to look out for. If the AC unit or light fixtures smell unpleasant, or have a notable presence of flies, it could be a sign of previous organic decay in the room that wasn’t fully sanitized by a clean-up crew, as those are areas that are fairly commonly missed.

Noticing that a specific area of the room has been re-painted or re-wallpapered can also be a clue that some hasty cleanup was required for a nasty mess in that zone. Worst of all, if you spot a slightly uneven bump on the wall, about the size of a quarter, you could be looking at a hastily covered-up bullet hole, in which case, you may want to rethink your choice of hotel, motel, or holiday inn!

Why Hotel Minibars are Expensive

What we just discussed is pretty nasty, but lots of hotels hold secrets that are arguably even more sinister, like the pricing of their minibars! If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, you’ll know that the minibar is a lawless place where a bottle of water costs $8 and a payday costs, your entire payday.


Minibars were first introduced to hotel rooms in the 1960s and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before some tight-fisted guests developed ways to avoid paying their ridiculous prices. One trick involves drinking freely from the minibar, before refilling the empty bottles with water and putting them back.

Some guests also choose to eat the minibar’s snacks up until the end of their stay, before heading to the store and restocking the minibar with the same snacks they ate, but at regular store prices. Those tricks have worked for decades, but hotels have started to fight back against those snack-sized thieves by installing sensors into their minibars.

Those sensors constantly scan all of the food in the fridge, so as soon as you remove an item from the bar, your credit card is automatically charged. That charge is instant, so if you take a snack out to read the label you’ll have to pay for it, even if you didn’t actually eat it.

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Those shady practices are becoming increasingly common, so on your next vacation, you could ask the hotel to remove all the snacks from your room before you arrive. The last thing you want is to accidentally bump into your fridge, knock over a bottle of water, and end up doubling the price of your vacation!

Key Cards

Nowadays, most hotels use electronic keycards instead of traditional metal keys, as they’re easier for both guests and staff to carry around and store in bulk. Despite those perks, the cards have serious drawbacks, and back in 2018 a cyber security firm called F-Secure made a terrifying discovery about the tech.

Hotel Room Magnetic Stripe Key Card

After testing cards from several different hotels, they found that they could consistently take a single key card and use its data to create a master key that could open every door in the hotel.

F-Secure noted that it didn’t matter what door the keycard was originally programmed to open, so if a hacker obtained any key card from a particular hotel, they could use the information contained within it to access locked rooms without anybody realizing.

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While F-Secure’s approach used highly specialized software to generate a master key, replicating a single room’s key is way simpler; requiring only a simple device that can identify and replicate the radio signature of the keycard’s chip, and copy it onto a blank, duplicate card.

Cyber Security firms like F-Secure are working with keycard companies to improve the technology and make it less susceptible, but even if your hotel isn’t targeted by a hacker, keycards can also malfunction. Back in 2016, two guests staying at the Rodeway Inn in Gallup, New Mexico discovered that their keycards could open every room in the motel.

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When they told the owners, they were told that the error was caused by a ‘key system malfunction,’ that allowed every key card to open every room. The notion that keycards can malfunction this severely is pretty scary, but it’s also possible that the mistake was caused by the motel using them incorrectly and forgetting to assign the guest's cards to a specific room.

Not that that’s particularly comforting. Whether the issue was caused by a technological glitch or a user error, it meant that anyone could have freely walked into any room. And considering the kinds of disgusting messes people seem to leave behind in hotel rooms, that surprise entrance could be just as horrifying for the intruder as for the occupant of the room!

I hope you were amazed at these secrets hotels don't want you to know! Thanks for reading.

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