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Whenever I used to approach the front desk of a hotel I always felt a bit like Vivian, the character played by Juliet Roberts in the film Pretty Woman. Vivian is a woman who clearly has no idea about the social etiquette involved in staying in a hotel and has to be informally trained in such matters by a kindly hotel manager.

After years of staying in hotels I feel a little less like Vivian and am confident that I know a little more about the dos and don’ts of hotel stays.

Here are ten tips I wish I’d been given 20 years ago.

1. Start as you mean to continue

Get off on the right foot by arriving at the hotel at the time agreed when you booked your stay. Head to the front desk – the person who works there might not be the best-paid member of staff but they will probably be the hardest-working and are likely to be your go-to man or woman should any problems arise

2. Collect a card

Do you see that neatly-stacked pile of cards bearing the hotel’s name and address on the front desk? They’re not just ornamental – grab one as soon as you can and store it on your person so that you have easy access to it. That way if you get lost in the city during your stay you can quickly regain your bearings.

3. Know the chain of command

As mentioned earlier, the front desk clerk will normally be your go-to man or woman. However, if they can’t help you then you can always ask (politely) to see the manager or manageress.

Your next port of call is the hotel’s customer service department; if a dispute does escalate then make sure that you put your complaint in writing so that you have a paper trail to refer back to.

4. Your room: you do have a choice

Don’t just keep quiet if you enter your hotel room and find it is located above the hotel nightclub or has builders working on your window ledge. Remember that you are not a prisoner of the hotel – you do have a right to ask to move room if you feel the accommodation is not up to scratch.

6. Overnight visitors

You won’t find many hotels which have an open-door policy of letting guests invite whoever they like to stay the night. Hotel staff will nearly always find out whether you have transgressed the ‘no-overnight-visitors’ rule; especially if you opt for the extra mentioned in the next point…

7. Breakfast in bed

You can normally request to have your breakfast delivered to your room – having your Rice Krispies and morning edition of the Financial Times served up on a silver breakfast platter is a great way of starting the day.

However, hotel porters shouldn’t be expected to deliver your breakfast direct to your bedside; it is considered polite for you to greet them at your hotel room door. Wearing a bathrobe (at least) when you do this can also spare embarrassment.

8. Tipping 

It might not seem very fair but porters (known as bell-hops in the US) should be tipped and chambermaids should not.

Unless you’re a millionaire philanthropist it is financially prudent to reserve tips for members of staff who have gone out of their way to be helpful to you – perhaps those who have run more than one errand.

9. Enjoy yourself

It might seem an obvious tip but do try to remember that hotel stays should be enjoyable experiences – even if you’re on a business trips. The hotel staff want you to have a pleasant time so don’t disappoint them.

10. Don’t steal the towels

Finally, and most importantly, please don’t steal the hotel towels. Doing so is just so unclassy!

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