A Former Hotel QA Auditor Reveals His Secrets -How You Can Tell You Are About to Stay at a Bad Hotel

Travelling is full of anxiety and it starts the moment you begin looking for that perfect hotel to rest your weary head. Pictures on booking sites rarely show anything bad. Afterall, they are meant to attract customers. So how do you know if the hotel you are booking is a dud or not?

As a Quality Assurance Auditor, the very first thing I would do upon arriving at a resort property was to drive around and see what stood out or grabbed my attention while inside the car. Usually the condition of the parking areas was a telltale sign of whether I was in for a long audit at a badly maintained hotel or a short audit at a well managed hotel. After I finished my drive, I would walk around the entire property and again, look for condition issues such as rust, broken chairs or broken anything, burnt out lightbulbs, cracked sidewalks, peeling paint, etc, All were signs that the property was not maintained well by the General Manager.

After an exterior walk through, I’d look at the condition of the lobby starting from the main entrance, just like guests would when they arrive. An entire walk through was done. I’d look at the condition of the carpets, look for dust buildup and dirty windows and doors, ripped or threading carpet, burnt out bulbs. All these are signs of larger problems yet undiscovered.

Next and probably more important than condition & cleanliness, is the staff. Are you proactively greeted? Are the employees bunched together or in private conversation, cracking jokes and ignoring approaching guests? What about the uniforms? Are they wearing ties? If they are, how do they look? Are they tied properly? Are their shirts wrinkled? Does the front desk agent or other employees have attitudes like you are disturbing them to ask a question? Is the desk agent too loud so everyone hears the details of your stay? What does the desk area and lobby look like? Is there clutter anywhere…everywhere?

rusty sign

Everything mentioned here is a sign, a red flag because it all speaks to the nature of the General Manager and how s/he prioritizes problems. If the property is falling apart, that is a sign that the property is financially strapped so that begs the question, what else and where else has management cut back on guest comforts?

Staff chit chatting with each other in groups (unless it is business related), poorly dressed staff, staff with attitude and clutter represents a hotel that is generally not managed well at all. Phones excessively ringing without getting picked up is not a good sign. That means they are probably short staffed but more importantly, they are ignoring guest calls. What will happen to you when you need something or have a question and nobody picks up your call?

All that is a part of managing a hotel and it shows management does not care how their employees look, act or does not know how to manage or do not have resources to operate a hotel up to standards.

So again, what else does management not care about? What else is in dire need of attention but lacks attention? What will the room look like? How about your safety? A uniformed security person posted right at the entrance in the middle of the day is a very bad sign. What will happen when you walk out, past the security guard, unprotected? Why is a guard needed right at the entrance? Will you be safe?

Now I admit, the front desk, bell desk or any department for that matter can get overwhelmed with guests at times, even at a five star hotel which is why I have to emphasize that it is not one thing that indicates a bad hotel, it is a collection of things. I’ve audited plenty of hotels that have passed audits with scores over 90%, but no hotel is 100%. There will always be something, but that something does not necessarily mean it is a bad hotel. Anything can happen, even at the very best hotels (here is a question I answered on Quora and was later published in business insider and other websites: What are things about 5-star hotels that they do not want you to know?

Financially sound hotels with on-going staff training and financial resources, will be more proactive and staffed with better management who have hired better qualified candidates and taken the time to train them and train them often. Complaints happen, even in nice hotels so it would be a mistake to judge a hotel harshly based upon one or two things. This is why patterns of behavior from management can tell you the real story and can tell you if you are about to stay at a bad hotel or not. I tried to show here what a pattern of behavior by management looks like and how it affects the guest experience. After auditing hundreds of resorts, I learned that the property is a reflection of management’s ability to manage and rarely did I ever feel I was going to have a great experience when the facility was in shatters and in dire need of a renovation.