Say Goodbye to “Do Not Disturb” Signs at Hotels


By Robert McGarvey


The Orlando Sentinel has the, well, deeply disturbing news about the apparent demise of “Do Not Disturb” signs at four Disney Florida hotels, with the door left open to expanding the policy to more hotels.  

The paper reported: “The tighter security measures come months after an Oct. 1 shooting in Las Vegas, where a gunman shot from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel tower and killed 58 people, wounding hundreds more.

“Disney declined to say whether the shooting prompted the change for its policy but said it made the decision for a variety of factors, including safety, security and the guest experience.”

Excuse me but this is even clumsier than the typical hotelier response to out of the normal events.

Other hotels – see below – are beginning to hop aboard this trend.

It makes no sense and, for many of us, it represents a substantial inconvenience.  I say that because over the years I have heard from many dozens of business travelers who routinely pop the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room door when they check in and it stays there until they check out a day or two later.

Of course if a stay is longer just about all business travelers will surrender to the need for fresh towels and a bit of buffing up of the accommodations and will take off that sign – but as soon as housekeeping has done its job the sign goes back up.

Some business travelers have complained to me about the theft of personal electronics from their rooms, iPads especially – and it’s a rare inroom safe big enough to hold a full size iPad. Others tell me they suspected somebody had fiddled with their computer or maybe sifted through papers – looking for intel on a competitor?  Still others just don’t like the idea of a stranger having private time with their belongings even when that stranger is an employee of the hotel.

These business travelers will just love Disney’s new “right to enter” policy which replaces “Do Not Disturb” signs with “Room Occupied” signs and explicitly gives the hotel a right to enter daily

If you have a problem with this, Disney told the Orlando Sentinel it will discuss the issue with concerned guests individually.

Lots of people will have problems so Disney better be prepared. When travel blogger Gloria Atanmo surveyed her Facebook followers, 55% said they would rather housekeeping not tidy their rooms.  Mainly for privacy reasons.

A problem with this new Disney policy – just one of many problems – is that it sets on a collision course the desire of housekeepers to clean an unoccupied room with the desire of many business travelers to never let their unoccupied room be entered to safeguard their own privacy and security.

Many hotels of course have a policy of not allowing housekeepers to enter a room when the guest is present, I hear because of concerns over incidents where guests have sexually harassed housekeepers. These are very real issues and the housekeepers have my full support.  

But there is no plain path to satisfying both the housekeeper desire for security and the guest’s desire for security.

Let’s go back to the Stephen Paddock incident. Apparently on at least two separate occasions hotel staff helped Paddock bring gun stuffed bags up to his room via the service elevator.  

Then, too, alert staff surely might have noticed that Paddock was bringing a lot of luggage into his room. That alone would have been worth a visit by security.

But that does not mean that every guest needs to have his.her room inspected for security purposes on a daily basis.

On a business trip I typically travel with one carryon bag and one laptop case.  Most business travelers I know travel equally lean.  I scarcely have space to smuggle in a small bag of pretzels and a Diet Coke, no less an arsenal.

Why – exactly why – would my room warrant a daily visual search?

We all understand the panic triggered by Paddock’s mass killings on the Strip, just as we all felt the horrors of the 30+ murders at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai in 2008, killings perpetrated by two gunmen inside the hotel.  

Definitely hotels need better but also smarter security.

What Disney is implementing is neither. Let’s hope it doesn’t spread.

Now Hilton has climbed aboard.  Reported USA Today: “The McLean, Va.-based company is now suggesting that a team member alert a security or duty manager if a Do Not Disturb sign or light has been in place on a guestroom door for more than 24 consecutive hours.”

Hilton is a smarter take on this issue.  Not brilliant but much better than Disney.

What might hotels do better? It starts with training the front desk staff to be alert to unusual levels of baggage going into a room.  It may be harmless. The guest may be smuggling in warehouse-bought party supplies to circumvent paying for room service provisions for a soiree, for instance.

Ditto for training security staff.

Most hotels have a policy for dealing with longterm display of a “Do Not Disturb” sign by a guest but, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, there is no industry standard. Post Paddock just about every hotel chain has scrambled to come up with an effective, coherent policy. But as the Disney fail shows, it’s not easy.

Personally, by the way, I am much more concerned about meth labs at hotels than I am about snipers – there just are a lot more meth labs and they can explode, catch on fire, and otherwise endanger the lives of unwitting guests in the same hotel.

That’s also why I say again it starts with being much more aware about what guests are bringing into their rooms as they bring the stuff in.

Not the next day when they hole up behind a “Do Not Disturb” sign.



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