“You know Laurel, your hotel in NY is known for voyeurism. Be sure to close the blinds….” my girlfriend warned me the day before I took off on my 4 day business trip. Great. Not my thing. I was still tired from my 3 day trip to Brazil two days before. I’m a writer. I cover fitness, travel, beauty, and healthy lifestyles. I used to write about sex and relationships. The great thing about writing about life is that there is always a story, if you just keep your ears and eyes open! The trip to Brazil was a travel writing trip. This trip to NY was about fitness.
This is what happened. Would love to know what you would you do if you were traveling as a single business woman to a big city.
It’s 7:20pm on your first night at the hotel. It’s snowing outside, you have a sore throat, and big day tomorrow. You already ordered and ate room service, so you slip into comfy clothes- boxer shorts and a thin cotton shirt- and settle into bed with your computer on your lap and the TV for sound. There’s a knock at the door. You answer the door carefully and see a hotel employee dressed in the hotel garb. He is holding a large bottle of vodka. He hands it to you. Oddly, it’s not full. You can hear it swishing around within the frosted glass.
“I just got this as a tip…” he says. You look at him confused. “I thought maybe we could have a drink together…” he continues.
“Um…” You have no idea how to respond. Everything from “are you out of your mind?” to “I have a sore throat” to “ok… I guess…” goes through your mind as you look back into your room as if that large window looking out to the park can give you an excuse to get out of this.
“Um….” You continue, “You mean right now?” You ask, obviously confused.
“Well, yeah,” he says, “I’m on break and thought it would be nice to have a drink,” he asserted as he looked into your room at the table beside your bed.
You are honestly freaked out. You’re holding this bottle of vodka that is clearly previously opened. You think about the stories of girls being drugged. You think about the fact that you aren’t wearing a bra and this is embarrassing. You think that you don’t want this guy alone in your room. You think that you don’t want to be rude, but you know you don’t want him to come in either. You want to tell him that this is totally inappropriate, you were comfortably settled into this room that you are paying a lot for, and you want your uninterrupted privacy. Then you start getting nervous. You have to answer. He is not going to just melt away.
“Tonight is not a good night. I’m working…” You say.
“Oh ok.” He responds. “Well, maybe another night?”
Your mind is racing. But one thing you do know: you can’t stay at this hotel. Your privacy has been invaded. You will be checking out in the morning. That’s for sure.
“Maybe tomorrow.” You respond. Knowing that you won’t be there tomorrow, but at least you can put him off without upsetting him. After all, this guy likely has a universal key to all rooms, not to mention access to all of your information through the reservations computer…
You close the door and walk immediately over to the phone to call another local hotel and book a room for the remainder of your stay. You call the front desk of your hotel and let them know that you will be checking out in the morning.
Why the next morning? Because that guy could be downstairs on night shift. You don’t want him to see you, cluing him in to the fact that he leaped over the line of what is appropriate and that your next move could very well be to call his manager, triggering him to retrieve all of your personal information from the computer in a pre-emptive strike. You lock, bolt and place a chair in front of the door. You can’t sleep. At 7:30 the next morning you check out. The next few nights, in your new hotel, you can’t sleep. You have nightmares of employees coming to your room. You go over every conversation, every interaction in your mind, over and over again, trying to see if maybe you did, said, hinted at something wrong. Nope. You didn’t wink, didn’t suggest, gesture, or provoke this. Yes, you were nice, friendly, talkative, and inquisitive. But that’s about it.
And so you call the manager of the hotel. You leave a message, withholding any details, still concerned that maybe there’s a chance that guy was in management. The assistant calls you back. He is very apologetic and says that the manager will call back soon. That evening, the head of security for the hotel calls you, asking for a detailed description of the incident and the guy. You tell him all that you can remember, struggling to recall his facial features, if he was wearing a hat or not, if he was clean shaven. The next morning you receive an email from the assistant. The manager will be calling you shortly. Late that afternoon, still no call from the manager, you call the assistant again. He assures you that the manager will be calling you soon. The next morning, still no call. You leave for the airport and send an email in flight to the assistant expressing your surprise that the manager has still yet to personally reach out. You receive a response from the manager and schedule a call for when you land. Expecting a similar call as that which you had with the assistant- you know, an apology, you wait for the call.
The manager never once says “I’m sorry you went through this.” Instead he sounds like he is reading a script. “We strive to ensure that all guests have a pleasant stay. If you weren’t satisfied with your stay, we would like to know how we can remedy that… we will take swift and immediate action… we still have to hear the other side of the story…” You suggest that he comp your stay, to which he responds, “I have heard that you requested a comp’ed stay from my assistant. Thankfully this is something that I have the power to grant. Because we want you to be satisfied with your stay, and if you feel that my comp’ing your room will make you satisfied with you stay, I can do that for you. But I have to tell you, that I have never heard of an incident such as this in the over 20 years that I have been in the hotel industry. We still need to investigate both sides so we can find out the whole story…” And then it dons on you. He was trying to make you feel at fault. Isn’t this how rape victims are sometimes handled in court? Not that this situation compares to the severity of rape, but it’s just an interesting stance for upper management to take. Not “how can I remedy this. We are horrified that you feel your safety and privacy were violated in our hotel…” No, it was more “sorry you weren’t satisfied with your stay.” Instead of this “sorry you weren’t satisfied” BS, how about “I’m sorry one of our employees propositioned you IN YOUR BEDROOM at our hotel?” How about that?
So who’s at fault? Here are the events leading up…:
You had arrived on a snowy day, already tired from waking up at 3am to catch the flight. You arrive to the hotel, the bellman pulls your luggage from the trunk of the cab and leads you to the lobby so you can check in. Keys in hand, you get into the elevator together- not really sure why a bellman needs to trolley your luggage, when you have just lugged it through two airports all by yourself. Tip. It’s all about tips. You make small talk in the elevator, asking about the rumor of this being a voyeuristic hotel. You ask him if he has seen anything “crazy” in the hotel. Bellmen always have the best stories- and after all, you are a writer! He says yes- lots. You ask “like what?” He says he can’t tell you because he doesn’t want to “incriminate” himself. “So you partook?!” you ask, shocked. He said yes. “Oh my…” you respond.
You slip your key card into the door and let yourself into the room. He follows with your luggage, placing it in the closet. And that’s when you see the bathroom, with the adjoining wall to the bedroom- a completely clear sheet of glass, essentially rolling the bathtub into the bed, and beyond that- the full wall of windows… that overlooks the park below. You stand for a moment at the window and you see a group of people down below, cameras in hand, pointing up. “So this whole voyeurism thing is serious?!” You say to the bellman, kind of shocked by witnessing the reality of it. “Yup! Last night there was a couple having sex in the middle of the day. You could see it from outside in the front of the hotel. You can even see right into the bathroom from down below,” He says laughing. “So make sure you close the blinds when in the bathroom or having sex,” he continues. “Well, I’m not planning on having sex with anyone on this trip, but if I did, I would definitely close the blinds,” you say with an awkward laugh. He shows you where the light switches are and how to work the heater. You walk him to the door, thank him and hand him a $5 tip. You walk over to the window and draw the blinds.
You go out shopping for a bit, then return back to the hotel and order room service. After all, this is a business trip, not a social trip. You like to dine alone when traveling alone. And then that knock at the door…
Here’s the problem, among many: you travel alone as part of your job- a lot. You have an expectation of privacy and safety when you check into a hotel. Even if you went out late, came back drunk, and hit on a hotel employee, you would expect that you can trust they would help you to your room, without having to fear that you would wake up with your panties on the floor in the morning. Maybe it’s a false trust that we put in hotel employees, but we do- especially when it comes to your room. It’s a total invasion of privacy.
I’d like to know… what would you do?
Yes, my website may be QuickieChick.com; but we’re talking about different types of quickies here. I write about quickie workouts in bed. Not Quickies in bed.
Are there other ways that I could have addressed this? Absolutely. Could I have just slammed the door in his face? Definitely. But I do have a tendency to feel like I have to be nice. I don’t like to offend or make people feel uncomfortable, even if I am made to feel wholly uncomfortable. I was scared. My mind was racing. I truly did not know what to do. I’m not posting this to get the employee in trouble- notice I didn’t put the name of the hotel or even the location. I am posting this because I want you- if you are also a woman who travels alone for business, to be aware, cautious, and maybe even have something planned in your head- a “just in case” response. Would I have handled it differently had I had a moment to think about it beforehand. Yes. I would have. But I didn’t have that moment beforehand. And that’s why I want you to have it.
*And… just a note: YES, there are suggestive pictures and language on this site. Yes, Quickie Workouts can be sexy; doesn’t mean I’m interested in jumping in the sack with you. There is a difference between a fun website that makes exercise not so boring, and crossing the line. NO woman should be treated like that, especially by an employee at a hotel where there is an assumed sense of safety.