Ridiculous or not? The “myth” of the unchanged hotel sheets

No recent story has generated more hate mail than my investigation of hotels that don’t change their sheets between guests.

I use the term “investigation” lightly, since the topic was so well-covered by my colleagues that I simply reviewed some of the previous articles, told a few of your stories, and added my two cents — which is that a vast majority of hotel always change their sheets.

That didn’t go over very well with some of my readers.

“You apparently fancy yourself a crusading journalist a la Woodward and Bernstein,” scolded one hotel executive. “In fact, you’re at the vanguard of your own self-styled movement of coach-potato journalism.”


The executive went on to say that the sheet-changing story was nothing more than a myth, and berated me for not including any examples.

“I have worked in the lodging industry for 35 years and have never — repeat, never — heard of hotel, whether a budget or luxury establishment, that didn’t change it sheets between guest stayovers.”

I’m not going to embarrass this executive by naming him in my story, because it turns out, he’s wrong. But he makes a valid point. Why didn’t I include any real stories from hotel guests? And why not let someone from the industry address this issue?

Well, I did. In the online version, I linked back to a story on my site in which a woman complains about unchanged sheets on her bed. But it happened at a budget motel, where, as I say in the story, these things are thought to take place from time to time.

So was that just a single incident that made for and interesting story? Hardly.

Carolyn Golaszewski, a flight attendant for a major airline, wrote to me after the story appeared to say the dirty-sheets problem was widespread.

“Over my career, I’ve stayed in many a room that were not clean,” she told me. “Sometimes our layovers are less than nine hours so there’s no time to mess a room up. It’s still disgusting that I may be sleeping in a bed not made over. So to make sure it’s cleaned correctly I strip the bed I’ve slept in. I know it doesn’t help me but at least the next guest hopefully gets clean sheets.”

Michael Lynch, another hotel executive with more than three decades of experience, said the dirty sheets are likely just housekeeping errors, and aren’t done intentionally. And they can happen anywhere, “no matter what type of bedding or hotel.”

“It is, and always will be, buyer beware,” he added. “No industry can provide a 100 percent guaranteed clean product to its customer base. This is true from apple orchards to zebra ranchers.”

How about an example? I’m working on a changed-sheet case right now that is so disgusting, I can’t bring myself to publish all of the details. (Warning: If you are easily offended, stop reading now.) It comes to me by way of reader MA Schulman, who was a recent guest at a full-service hotel in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“I arrived close to midnight, and after unpacking, getting everything ready, I pulled back the sheet on the bed and there was a brown substance resembling human feces down the middle of the sheet,” he says.

In fact, it was human feces.

“I called the front desk and explained this, whoever answered said they would send someone up to take care of the problem. A few minutes later, a maintenance person showed up, dropped sheets, and left, I asked but they refused to change them,” he added.

Folks, it doesn’t get any worse than that.

I sent the angry hotel executive this letter and the links to my previous story, along with a polite explanation that essentially said I didn’t harbor any fantasies about being the next Woodward or Bernstein. (Actually, I don’t “fancy” myself as anything more than someone who helps consumers, but that’s beside the point.)

His reply was far more polite.

“I understand that we in the hospitality industry sometimes fall short of the mark,” he admitted. “However, it is helpful to remember that every day, tens of thousands of rooms in this country are cleaned by people who are proud of their work and graciously hospitable to their guests.”

Also, he said housekeepers worked long hours at low pay, yet still managed to bring a lot of “care and enthusiasm” to the job.

Fair enough.

But my conclusion is the same: While an overwhelming number of hotel beds are changed between guests, there’s always a chance your sheets will be recycled — or worse.

Note to commenters: It’s come to my attention that some of the discourse has been less than polite lately — in the words of one reader, too much “like FlyerTalk.” I would appeal to you to keep the conversation civil. Our commenters have a reputation for being level-headed and cordial. Please, let’s try to keep it that way.

(Photo: jon k/Flickr Creative Commons)

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend