HotelTravel Tipshow to complain to a hotel

Traveling can come with various irritating mishaps, from delayed flights to scams and lost items, but the most common issue travelers face is booking accommodations that turn out to be sub-par. Many issues can arise when booking a hotel, from nonexistent customer service to every traveler’s worst fear – bed bugs. Hotels do their best to resolve these issues with guests as they avoid any bad reviews or negative press if the guest leaves unhappy.

It is crucial to know when, where, and how it is appropriate to complain or voice your concerns. It can affect the hotel’s response and the problem’s resolution significantly. Here are the steps to politely and effectively voice complaints to hotel management, following what to do if you don’t get the solution you want.

Initial Steps to Complain to the Hotel

1. Determine the severity of the issue

Some issues are minor and should be brought to the attention of the staff in order for them to fix them for the next guest, like a tub that doesn’t drain the best or a wobbly chair. Most issues travelers have are larger and need to be addressed immediately, like a broken lock on the door or unexpected fees.

Here are some common problems that travelers all over the world experience at hotels:

  • Incompetent staff
  • Rude and unprofessional staff
  • False advertising of the rooms
  • False advertising of the facilities
  • Faulty appliances, lights, etc. in rooms
  • Filthy rooms or bathrooms or bad odors
  • Dirty restaurants and facilities
  • Plumbing problems (no hot or running water)
  • Noisy guests
  • Unsafe conditions or theft of personal items
  • No privacy
  • Unwanted guests (rats, roaches, etc.)
  • Low-quality food
  • Bed bugs

Additionally, hotels often charge unexpected fees that the guest might overlook right away, or it was noticeable, but you had no choice but to take the reservation anyways. Here’s more about the sneakiest hidden fee: resort fees, and what you can do about them.

Having multiple issues pop up during your stay is quite common and can lead to negative feelings or a sense of distrust in the hotel. These kinds of problems will require a complaint, and the issue brought to a conclusion to resolve these feelings. Knowing the severity of the issue will help determine how strongly you want to voice your concern to staff.

2. Know what kind of resolution you want

A resolution is the natural next step when voicing a concern or complaint, and it’s important to think about what you want to get out of this situation before bringing it to the staff’s attention. You will need to determine the severity of the issue you are facing and come up with a resolution that will resolve these issues for you, whether that’s calling maintenance or getting a refund.

Make sure your idea of a resolution is appropriate for the situation. For example, asking for a full refund because you are missing some toiletries and the room smells off might be asking too much. Instead, ask to switch rooms.

Here are some other resolutions that you can consider before heading to reception to make your complaint:

  • Incompetent or rude staff: A room upgrade or something complimentary
  • False advertising: A room upgrade or something complementary
  • Faulty appliances: Switch rooms
  • Filthy room/bathroom or bad odor: Switch rooms and free housekeeping if not included in stay
  • Dirty facilities: Discount or a room upgrade
  • Plumbing problems: Discount/ switch rooms/ room upgrade/ refund (depending on the severity of the situation)
  • Noisy guests: Switch rooms/ discount/ room upgrade/ complimentary service.
  • Theft of personal items: Full refund
  • No privacy: Discount on stay/ room upgrade/ refund.
  • Rats or rodents: Full refund.
  • Low-quality food: Complimentary service. 

3. Kindly voice your concern to the staff

It is important to remain calm and speak kindly when dealing with hotel staff. Most people who work in customer service deal with many difficult, loud, or violent customers daily and will not be receptive to your complaint if you are rude or abrupt.

Kindness can go a long way to get the resolution you want, and staff will be more likely to help guests who were kind and ignore or dismiss those who weren’t.

4. Be specific about your concern

Being specific about your concern helps staff know precisely what the issue is and who they need to call to fix it. It’s always best to give the staff as much information as possible, especially your name and room number, for emergency fixes like a leaky tap or broken lock.

5. Remember names

Remembering the names of the staff you spoke with initially about your problem can help when you need to follow up regarding your concern. Remembering the staff’s names also helps them feel recognized by you and can help in your favor when getting your desired outcome.

6. Follow up afterward

If your complaint can be resolved quickly, it is always good to follow up with the staff after the fact and thank them for resolving this issue for you. This looks good on your part and helps the staff feel appreciated and valued.

Being specific and direct, in addition to speaking with kindness and knowing what resolution you won’t, should get you your desired outcome. Sometimes that isn’t always the case, and hotel staff still might dismiss your concern. It is good to know what to do if you feel your problem wasn’t heard.

No Resolution? Here are How to Esacalte Further:

1. Ask to speak directly to the manager

If you feel that your concern was not resolved or you were dismissed, then it’s time to escalate the situation to the manager. You don’t want to ask for a manager right away, especially if the staff can resolve the issue, but sometimes it is necessary to get the result you want. Kindly and calmly ask the staff member to get the manager for you, then repeat the above steps with the manager.

In the best-case scenario speaking directly with the manager should resolve your issue, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Some hotels are difficult and shady, and even managers can dismiss or ignore guests. It’s important to know what you can do about it if the manager can’t resolve the issue.

2. Ask for a refund

Ask the manager for a refund. Some hotels will refund you if your complaint is severe enough, especially if the hotel is not “as advertised.” If the hotel advertises free Wi-Fi and a pool, and the Wi-Fi is not working, or the hotel pool is closed when you arrive, you may be entitled to your refund. Keep in mind that it’s important to remain calm while speaking with the staff to avoid escalating the situation.

More about this is covered in our article about asking refund from your hotel for any reason.

3. Contact the corporate head office

If you are unable to get a refund from the hotel manager in person, it might be worth it to contact the hotel’s corporate head office. If it’s a smaller hotel, you can find the owner through online resources like the hotel website or Linkedin.

In an email or phone call, let them know the issues you faced, the resolution you were hoping for, and that you are contacting them to bring the complaint to their attention.

4. Try to get a refund through your booking site

If you booked through a booking site, you could contact them to get a refund on your room, and it’s best to do this as soon as possible. Make sure you document the issues you are facing to be able to present them if needed.

What to Do If The Hotel Won’t Budge

1. Leave the hotel

If all else fails and your issue is not resolved, it is best to leave the hotel and find another place to stay. From the new hotel or after you get home, you can work on contacting other staff or higher-ups from your original hotel and try to get a refund without ruining your vacation completely.

2. Leave a review online

Leave a review on any or all of the popular reviewing platforms like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google, detailing your experience both with the original issue and how the hotel has handled it. Sometimes someone in a higher position at the hotel will see the review and try to act on it to get you to delete the negative review. This may get you a refund, but even if it doesn’t, it also warns other guests to think twice before booking.

If you leave your review on the OTA’s site where you booked the hotel, it’ll be more legitimate since only actual guests can leave reviews. If you’ve been booking directly for hotels, consider checking our article about whether booking via OTA is cheaper than booking directly.

3. Post on social media

It is possible to use any social media following you may have to warn other potential customers of your experience at the hotel. Even if you don’t have a following on social media, you can geotag the location to warn others who look up the tag or just to warn your friends and family.

4. Complain to the regulator

Consider the reason for your request and find the relevant regulatory body. For example, if the problem was related to health and sanitation issues, the best option would be the local health department. Remember to keep all of your proof as the department will need to investigate the matter first. 

You could also choose to take things a step further and contact the state’s department of hotels and restaurants. If your complaint is very serious, they’ll take matters into their own hands by sending the licensing agent to investigate.


In conclusion, follow these 10 steps and actions that you can take to kindly and effectively voice a complaint to hotel staff. Ensuring that you know what problems you’re facing and what kind of resolution you want will go a long way in solving the issue and having a more pleasant stay.

One thing you can do to minimize the chance of experiencing this is by skimming through guest reviews before you book the hotel. Don’t just check the final rating but take a bit of time to skim the latest few reviews as those are usually the ones showing the current condition of the hotel.

The best place to check reviews is booking sites, here is our compilation of the most trusted booking sites to check on.

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