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HOTEL HYGIENE? NO GUARANTEES

Glenn Robins is grossed out. As a frequent traveler, he assumed the sheets on hotel beds are changed between guests.

But a new TV ad by the Hampton Inn chain calls that assumption into question. It shows housekeepers in hazmat suits changing sheets at what appears to be a competing hotel chain.

"The implication was obviously that other hotels do not change the sheets for every new guest," he says.

Robins is troubled by that.

"It's a disgusting enough thought that the sheets were not changed," he told me. "It gets even more disgusting when one considers the previous tenant's possible activity."

A confession: I changed the last part of Robins' quote to spare you some graphic detail. Use your imagination.

Room hygiene is a hot topic among travelers. Always is. A recent post on my blog that featured a guest at a budget hotel who discovered her housekeeping staff hadn't changed the sheets in her room and failed to clean a shower between guest visits sparked a spirited discussion. Some felt the traveler was entitled to a full refund.

This topic is already well covered by the travel press. Sheets are usually changed between guests, and sometimes state law requires it, but there's no guarantee that they will be.

As for bedspreads, forget it. As countless hidden-camera TV programs have confirmed, they aren't washed regularly.

Yuck.

But I digress. Is the Hampton ad right? Kind of.

It's probably safe to say that all major hotel chains, including Hampton, instruct their housekeepers to change sheets between guests. Yes, you'll always find some motel that tries to skip a guest or two, but as a general rule, the sheets are swapped out.

But here's a situation where the rules may allow a housekeeper to skip it: What if a guest checks in for one night and it appears the bed was unused? Is it okay to just tidy up, or should you strip it down to the mattress?

I would have said just tidy up.

But wait. What if the previous guest is just really neat and makes the bed like a pro? The housekeeper might assume the guest never used the bed.

Point is, it's possible for you to end up sleeping on someone else's sheets. But if you're staying at a major chain, it's highly unlikely.

Still, should there be a law - perhaps at the federal level - that hotels meet a certain level of hygiene? Maybe.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for "National Geographic Traveler" magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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