Hotel stings – dirty glasses in Presidential suites?

A sting by the media (usually TV stations) is a hotel’s worst nightmare at the best of times for the best of hotels. It seems regardless of ratings either by the agencies (Mobil or AAA) or UGC (user generated content as in Tripadvisor) reporters are able to uncover glaring lapses on the part of hotel management and staff through “undercover” operations (which often border on the illegal). Many of those “scoops” serve merely to titillate but in some, as was the case with several hotels in Kansas City, they expose genuine lacuna in operations that sometimes garner some decidedly unwelcome publicity.

The unwelcome limelight, in this instance, was shone on hotels with a focus on “dirty glasses and mugs in hotel rooms”. Included in the TV station’s list of hostelry was one that, at that time, housed the President of the United States. The President as it turns out did not drink from the ostensibly dirty glasses that were the thrust of Kansas’, KCTV story – “the glasses and mugs in hotel rooms”, as Mr. Bush, apparently, drinks straight out of a bottle according to presidential spokesman, Tony Fratto. Others may have been less fortunate.

In its quest to show up the health hazards from staying in hotels, the TV station “booked rooms at several Kansas City area hotels. KCTV5 News set up hidden cameras to see exactly how hotel cleaning staff handled the glassware in the room when they didn’t think anyone was watching”. Evidently KCTV5 is unaware that Kansas is one of 13 states that expressly prohibits the unauthorized installation or use of cameras in “private” places. The installation or use of any device for observing, photographing, or eavesdropping actions or audio in a “private” place without permission of those being observed or listened to is apparently a crime punishable by law in those states. A hotel room qualifies as a “private place”. The General Manager at the hotel where President Bush stayed was legally, though not diplomatically, right in threatening to call the police when the reporter showed up with a roll that documented lapses in his hotel.

Nevertheless, it is inexcusable for hotels to not adequately train and monitor staff on the right procedures to ensure hygiene standards are maintained. Poor hygiene is not limited to glasses and mugs but a variety of areas that a guest comes into contact starting with the front desk that is subject to germs from contact with numerous people, guests and employees, to elevators and guest room door handles. While hotels cannot be turned into hospital ICU wards, the need to guard against potential epidemics that thrive in the people intensive environment of hotels cannot be overstated.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.