Condé Nast Traveler: Why Hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signs Are Disappearing

Condé Nast Traveler: Why Hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ Signs Are Disappearing by Mark Ellwood

Your right to sleeping in may come second to some bigger issues.

Travelers who crave privacy in their hotel room can’t count on doorhangers to keep staff out anymore. First Disney tweaked the words on its doorhangers, swapping out “Do Not Disturb” and replacing it with “Room Occupied.” This subtle adjustment was intended to remind guests of a new corporate policy, dictating that staffers must inspect rooms every 24 hours without exception. (If the sign lingers longer, staff will simply knock, and announce themselves, before entering.) The first hotels and resorts affected by this change were at Disney World, but the company has said it plans to make this a policy across all its hotels. Then, news broke that Hilton was adjusting its DND rules, too. Per Hilton’s new rules, whenever housekeeping staffers are barred entry to a room in this way, they must now slip a card under the door. This “Unable To Service” notice lets guests know that, should entry be barred for 24 hours or more, management can—and probably will—arrive to inspect the room.

It’s easy to assume that both policy changes were driven by the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, when gunman Stephen Paddock hung a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his room door for several days, thus concealing the ammunition he had smuggled on property. Certainly, Hilton’s new policy explicitly references this incident (Disney demurs). But according to lawyer Stephen Barth, who teaches at Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, DND doorhangers have been under review by the industry for some time. …

So, we can expect more cases of drugs found by hotel staff, which will require search warrants after the private search (but that’s beside the point), leading to criminal charges.

Some my age may remember “The Paper Chase” (novel (1971); movie (1973)) where Hart and his study partner get a hotel room to get away from the Harvard Law dorm so they can study for Prof. Kingsfield’s contracts final. They spend at least 3-4 days and refuse any admittance from staff until staff nearly breaks in. When the Las Vegas shooter’s holing up in the room was mentioned in the press, I thought of that scene.

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