How to get better service in a hotel, according to a career concierge

Looking for an upgrade or extra perks at your favorite hotel? Here are the insider tips from hotel staffers on how to get better service.
Image: Changing linen
Fazio says that the best way to score a better room is to personally ask.DragonImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto
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By Mary Pflum

Ever wonder how to get an upgrade in the hotel you’re staying in? Is there such a thing as a “best” night of the week to stay in a hotel? And just how clean are hotel rooms? We found out answers to all of these burning questions … and more. In the latest in our ongoing series, How to Get Better Service, NBC News sat down with Michael Fazio, career concierge and author of "Concierge Confidential: The Secrets of Serving Champagne Bitches and Caviar Queens". Fazio has spent his career working with and for some of the nation’s finest hotels and told us the dirty little secrets of how to get better service from hotel staffers.

These are the days you're more likely to score upgrades

Wanna know when the best time of the week is to score room upgrades? Fazio said it’s not during the work week.

“The busiest times of the week are Tuesdays through Thursdays,” Fazio said. “That’s when the hotel sees most of its business travelers and may have the least amount of wiggle room when it comes to changing rooms or offering customers upgrades.”

Fazio says because business travelers tend to book the higher-grade rooms during the week, there’s a bigger volume of those rooms up for grabs on the weekends.

Fazio says that the best way to score a better room — which includes a room with more space, with a view or with additional features that may include a balcony or Jacuzzi — is to personally ask.

“With people who work in hospitality, there’s something in our DNA that wants to make you happy,” Fazio said. “And when there’s a humanness with the communication, everyone will work harder to make you happy. If you’re dying for a view of the ocean or you’re hoping for a bigger room because of your family or you want a more romantic room because you’re celebrating an anniversary, let the hotel know. If you ask in person and you make it personal, chances are, they’re going to want to help you.”

Fazio said checking in early can also sometimes result in a room upgrade.

“Check-in is technically at 3 pm, but when you check in early, you sometimes get lucky,” he said, noting that because some of the hotel’s most expensive rooms may have gone unbooked the night before, there may be a bigger inventory of those rooms available earlier in the day — before traditional check-in gets under way.

“You might find that the hotel is not only eager to get you into a room early — but might give you a bigger or better room than you would otherwise have gotten.”

Fazio said hotels do overbook, especially during times of high demand, like sporting events, trade shows and conferences. That’s when it’s best to show up early or to call ahead to guarantee a late check-in.

It pays to book directly with the hotel — and be a frequent guest

Ever wonder if hotels keep track of how frequently guests stay in a hotel?

Turns out, they do.

“Sign up for all frequent guest programs,” Fazio said. He said hotels keep track of people who are enrolled in their guest programs and that members of frequent guest program tend to get more perks and are sometimes treated with greater respect.

And want to know what else gets you noticed, in a good way, by a hotel? Booking directly with the hotel.

“Hotels tend to look down on guests that book through discount travel sites,” Fazio said. “The inexpensive travel sites and aggregators like Expedia and Priceline and Orbitz have low rates, but the hotels sometimes don’t love seeing that you booked your reservation from the aggregators. It’s like you’re coming in with a scarlet letter attached to you that says ‘cheap rate.’”

Fazio suggests the best way to book directly with a hotel is to call a hotel directly and ask to speak with the front desk, to ensure that you’re speaking with a manager at the actual hotel, and not someone working with a national reservation line.

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“Ask for the director of rooms or the assistant manager on duty. The best time to do that is at night. And just say, ‘I hate going through the reservation line — can I just book directly with you?’”

Fazio says hotels are often happy to match prices that are advertised online by sites like Expedia and may be eager to do so, knowing, in booking a guest directly, they won’t have to share a sales commission with a website.

“Working directly with the hotel and with the hotel staff tends to pay off,” Fazio said.

Don't miss out on these unadvertised perks

Fazio said many guests are unaware of all of the perks available to them in a hotel.

Are you a guest who loves a terrycloth robe? If there’s not one hanging in your closet, Fazio said you should ask the hotel staff.

“Many hotels keep a stash of robes on hand — but only supply robes and slippers to guests who ask for them. Some hotels even have fitness clothes you can borrow. It’s ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ in many hotels. If guests don’t ask, hotels don’t offer. So definitely don’t be afraid to ask.”

Other amenities that many hotels offer but don’t advertise are toiletries, including shaving cream, tooth brush and toothpaste, and different bedding options, including feather down pillows or pillows that are harder or softer than those readily found in the hotel room. Many hotels additionally offer phone chargers, computer cables and refrigerators upon request.

“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Fazio said. “If you need something, say something.”

If you're a parent or have something important going on … call in advance

Fazio said it’s important for parents of young children to plan their trips in advance.

“There are a limited number of cribs in a hotel, so definitely call in advance,” Fazio said. “Hotels also like to work with families to make sure they’re in rooms with enough space or are best suited for their needs.”

Fazio advises calling and making contact with a concierge or hotel manager several days before arriving with children.

Concierges and managers can work to ensure that a family has everything they need in a hotel room, including a refrigerator and microwave in some cases. Concierges and managers can additionally help help families identify kid-themed amenities offered within a hotel.

“Many hotels offer kids’ kits like coloring books, art supplies and other fun items — and some parents don’t know to ask,” Fazio said.

Fazio said just as parents of young children should call in advance, so should people planning something special during their visit.

“If it’s your anniversary, hotels can help arrange a better view, recommendations for meals, flowers,” Fazio said. “Calling in advance helps us ensure that you’ll have the best stay.”

How clean is your hotel room? It depends

We’ve all heard the horror stories of how dirty hotel rooms can be. So how dirty are they? Fazio says it depends.

“It’s not realistic to think that every touch point in the room can be cleaned and wiped and thoroughly disinfected between guests,” Fazio said. “Remote controls are almost always filthy as are the switches at the bedside lamp as are the switch on the makeup mirror in the bathroom. “

Fazio said the new trend some hotels are employing, of placing a down comforter between two bedsheets, better ensures a hotel’s ability to make certain nothing will touch a guest’s body that touched a different guest the night before. But, he notes, that trend isn’t embraced by all hotels and some hotels still use traditional blankets and bedspreads.

Fazio said he reached out to his national network of hotel staffers about how often their hotels change out bedspreads, throws and decorative pillows and was told the items are not switched out between all guests and often are only switched out or cleaned when the items show visible signs of wear, tear and staining. So if your hotel room does have a bedspread, decorative throw or decorative pillows, don’t assume the items have been changed or cleaned recently.

If you’re a germaphobe, you might be wise to avoid contact with decorative pillows and throws and bring your own disinfectant wipes for the remote control and light switches.

Want better service? Gently let it be known you write online reviews

Finally, Fazio said, if you want to place a hotel on notice that you’re looking for good service, it can pay to gently let the hotel know you like to write online reviews.

“Hotels live and die by reviews,” Fazio said. “But while they’re concerned about reviews, they’re not impressed if you immediately threaten to write a bad review. The best way to go about it is to gently ask the hotel about how to write a review when you’re checking in or indicate in a nonthreatening way you like to write reviews.”

Fazio said that when a hotel is aware that a guest likes to write online reviews, and has a history of writing online reviews, the staff will place a tracer in the reservation indicating this — and that the manager will likely see to it that the guest is taken care of.

“Hotels take reviews seriously, especially Trip Advisor-verified reviews,” Fazio said. “Trip Advisor scores matter to a hotel manager’s performance review, so if they know you’re serious about writing reviews they will take notice. Just don’t threaten a hotel from the outset. No one wants to be working with a guest who comes in, behaving in an entitled and threatening way.”

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