Housekeeper caught you with your pants down? It happens! But who is to blame when embarrassment ensues?
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what a Do Not Disturb sign really means at a hotel. So we hit up a friend of TravelSkills who is a hotel general manager for the skinny. Here’s what he said:
First and foremost, it is one of the cardinal rules of hospitality that employees are not supposed to knock on a door with a Do Not Disturb (DND) sign on it. However, there is no legal issue. The hotel has a legal right to ignore the DND sign any time and for any reason. After all it’s their property. The way it’s supposed to work is that a hotel will only violate the DND sign if they have reason to believe that health, safety or property may be an issue. Examples:
- The phone system shows that 911 was dialed from the room.
- The hotel staff heard loud noises coming from the room (potential property damage).
- The hotel staff heard loud voices, arguing or screaming form the room (potential domestic abuse).
- The DND sign has been on the door for 24-48+ hours straight (every hotel has their own standard, but health and well-being of the guest could be an issue here).
- A large number of suspicious people have been seen entering or exiting the room (potential illegal activity).
- Water is leaking into the room below (someone left the tub running in the room above? Potential health issue as well as potential property damage).
In practice, there are two main reasons why hotel staff sometimes violate the DND sign:
- The housekeeping staff simply wants to clean their assigned rooms, especially rooms due to check-out that day. They don’t get paid for rooms they are assigned but do not clean, and they’re eager to see if the guest left them a tip.
- Guests will frequently leave the DND sign on their door when they go out for the day. Then when they return they think that somehow, magically, their room was supposed to have been cleaned without someone violating the DND sign. Then they’ll call down to the front desk and complain that their room was not cleaned and flat out lie about having left their DND sign on the door. This happens so often it’s crazy.
So the above two reasons are certainly not valid excuses for hotel staff violating the DND sign, but they go a long way towards explaining why it sometimes happens in hotels without excellent housekeeping management.
What we’ll do at my hotel is that if a staff member encounters a room they need to enter that has a DND sign on it, the staff will ask the front desk to call the room to ask if it’s okay to knock and/or enter. This happens very often with room service. If there’s no answer to the call and there’s no emergency, we will simply not enter, and we’ll hang a sign on the door saying that we respected their request for privacy. And yes, this means that sometimes we’ll leave a room service tray at the door (a fair number of drunk guests order room service, pass out, then wake up to discover their cold meal outside their door in the morning!)
There does seem to be a school of thought out there that thinks a DND sign means that hotel staff should not call the room either, but I don’t subscribe to that. Of course if you request no calls to your room we will abide. In that case, if we still need to communicate with you and if there is no emergency, we’ll slip a note under the door.
Likely more than you want to know about hotel DND signs but I had fun writing this all down for the first time 🙂
What are your thoughts on this issue? Is it okay to ignore the Do Not Disturb sign? Do you have any funny stories to share along these lines? Please do so in the comments!
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: United’s newest, longest flight + Tipping Uber drivers + Qantas 747 Trip Report + Confusion over PreCheck policies + No-fee earlier flights