An Alternative Hostel Etiquette Article
Well I am back on writing articles about my experiences working in a hostel. I started my series on hostel management some time ago and have a decent amount to add to it yet. I haven’t added to it for a while due to a slight lack of time, but I’ll likely be back-writing articles as I remember topics that I want to touch on. With requests from some of my followers, I will be writing a few articles through the perspective of the staff or management of a hostel to let you know what kinds of things occur on the other side of the operation: the business side.
The term hospitality originates in the idea of serving others by offering them some sort of accommodation and/or services, and that is exactly what good hostel should be. But what happens when the hospitality isn’t reciprocated?
Hostel people come in all shapes and sizes. It can be a beautiful thing. Some of the most amazing people who I have met in my travels have been from the hostels that I have stayed in. You really never know who you will meet at a hostel. Unfortunately, I’ve also met some less than desirable travelers. Now after spending a decent amount of time serving hostel guests I can say there are a lot of folks out there that could use a refresher course in hostel etiquette, but I guess more towards the way that they act as a customer. In this article, I am going to explain 7 annoying habits of hostel guests. They aren’t in any particular order. Instead of making this just a rant, I try to offer some holistic advice for not being one. Some may not know these things can actually be bothersome and taxing for hostel staff.
1.) Not following the rules – This one is a no-brainer, or at least it should be. There is not much more simple than following the rules requested of you, especially if a hostel goes out of its way to have nicely printed signage for you and specifically mentions certain rules during the check-in process. I’d say that people generally don’t break the rules too often, but when it happens it can be frustrating to say the least. In business, rules typically aren’t meant to be broken; rules aren’t guidelines. Rules are rules when it comes to business, especially if they have something to do with the smooth operation of the hostel. Remember, the majority of the time they are put in place for a reason. If you do not know the reason then perhaps asking someone may give you a better understanding.
How to not be an annoying rule breaker? – I could write a long-winded statement, but I will defer to the picture that hung in my bathroom when I was a child. It sums everything up pretty well, I think.
2.) Thinking that they are the only guests – Call it entitlement or just simply disregard for others, another annoying habit is that sometimes guests actually think that they are the only people in the hostel, or at least act in that way.
Example: I hosted a guest once who would walk around carrying a speaker attached to his smart phone. The volume was constantly on a loud setting and he just came and went as he pleased. He never once asked anyone else if they appreciated his taste in music, or if the volume might be too loud for conversation. Even after being asked by staff not to play his speaker he barely listened to our request. Once arriving in the wee hours of the morning, he attempted to use the speaker in the common room before being sent to bed.
On another note, one annoying trait that almost constitutes for its own category are guests who move the hostel’s furniture around without permission or approval of the staff. I remember one time when one of our lounge chairs went missing for almost a week, and we had no idea what happened to it. Once a couple checked out, we found the chair in the back of their room. They had been using it for their own benefit the whole time so we had no where to sit in the common room. I’ve seen other guests take tables and desks into their rooms. It is frustrating. Please ask permission before.
Another time, one of the staff members entered a room to clean for the day and one of the guests was sitting on their bed. They had taken pillows from another bed and used them to prop up their feet. They looked at the worker and said (pointing to the other bed) that bed needs another pillow. As if… , which brings me to my next point:
DON’T SWITCH BEDS OR USE, SIT ON, OR TOUCH BEDS THAT AREN’T ASSIGNED TO YOU. There is nothing more annoying to hostel staff when someone comes to check in and they enter your room and your stuff is sprawled out over a bed that isn’t yours. Not only do they have to then change the bed linens, but you should have to pay for both beds. You cannot use two hotel rooms for the price of one, can you?
The same would go for people who seamlessly waste electricity by leaving the lights on and/or air conditioners on full blast when they are gone for 10 hours in a day. Please be considerate and think more green.
The same would also go for other people who do inconsiderate things without keeping in mind that maybe something that they are doing would be bothering another person. Perhaps, watching an action packed thriller with the volume on is not the best thing to do at 2 am or crinkling up plastic bags and bottles in your room. If you plan to leave early in the morning try to pack your bag the night before so you don’t need to turn on many lights. Please guests, before you stay at hostels, please make sure your hostel etiquette is in check. Remember, hostels can be a great experience for people, don’t mess that up.
3.) Not picking up after themselves – A big pet peeve of mine when dealing with hostel guests is those who do not pick up after themselves. I must say here that many guests are alright and do a pretty good job of pitching in here and there. Some go above and beyond to help out, while others fall way short. Part of the hostel concept is that everyone is in it together. A typical hostel offers a communal setting where guests can use the building’s amenities as if it were their own home; the cleaning can also be somewhat communal. Unlike a hotel, where one is paying the extra price for service and privacy. Please help out your hostels by picking up after yourself.
There is no one instance of this, but often and frequently people congregate drink, eat, drink some more, then leave a huge mess for someone else to deal with. I like to use the old adage that two hands are better than one. If everyone who participates in making a mess helps to clean it up, then the time required would be a fraction of the total. It is considerate to pick up after yourself. Remember your mom or dad aren’t following you around to pick up your messes.
4.) Silent reviewer – This is one of action of guests that I do not always understand. I will give most people the benefit of the doubt in saying that they do not like conflict or don’t want to make a scene. However, if you have a problem with a hostel that can or could be fixed, why not let one of the staff members know about it? I’ve seen several times when guests would actually come in and out hardly socializing with anyone, then leave a bad review about simple or irrelevant things to the service that they received. Granted some hostels don’t merit good marks for their poor management and facilities, but when a staff is eager to help and tend to your needs and requests, why give them a low review unless it is something that you brought up and it was not addressed. This also goes for people who are briefly in the hostel. If you only stay in the hostel for a few hours one night and then consider leaving a poor review, first consider that you may have just not gotten the full spectrum.
If you do still feel compelled to leave a poor review, then please at least justify it by leaving constructive criticism. Constructive feedback, even on a poor review, helps a hostel out a lot more than just saying something basic like “there was a strange noise in the hostel”. Even worse is leaving a bad percentage and not giving reason. A good hostel, even in poor condition, will want to improve itself constantly. One of the best and only ways for them to improve the guest-experience is to receive constructive feedback from them.
Another annoying thing can be those who leave reviews about things that no one expects to receive at a hostel. Of the most ridiculous that I’ve heard in the business, was one guest who left a bad review on a hostel because they did not iron their sheets. I don’t know if too many hotels actually do that…
So a few take-a-ways for you:
– Don’t just leave bad percentages – give some feedback along with it.
– If you think that the staff might be able to remedy the situation, then perhaps give them a chance to fix it before just marking the hostel as bad. There is a chance that the hostel staff is unaware of it.
5.) Hotel Complainer – Going hand-in-hand with the previous habit of hostel guests, would be those who book a hostel because they want a 5-star hotel at a 1-star price. Hostels are not hotels. They never will be and they never should be. They offer a service to travelers and communities where some cannot afford to pay for expensive accommodation. In fact, there are many destinations where backpackers would have difficulty affording if it weren’t for hostels existing. Some choose hostels for the social atmosphere that they tend to provide because they are single travelers or just want a more laid back environment, others for the budget-friendly option. Both are acceptable of course. Please don’t book a hostel and then complain because it isn’t up to your hotel standards. If you want to book a hostel, please bring a good attitude, open mind, and relax a bit. If you want a hotel, then pay for one. There are some really nice and fancy hostels out there and no two hostels are the same, but one must remember what they are supposed to be. Don’t get the wrong impression and think that I am just complaining about these customers. I think that it is wonderful that other people are interested in trying out hostels. I’ve had many ‘first-time’ hostelers who have been completely opened up to the idea of hostels after staying in ones that I have been to. Many times after, they have told me what a wonderful experience it was for them, usually for the social aspect of it. I’d be happy to have customers who want a new experience, but I have also seen where it can be a disservice to them or an inconvenience to the hostel staff as they both have unrealistic expectations.
Over the years, I have received and seen a variety of guests in hostels. The hotel complainer can be a bit pesky, but it isn’t only because they want something that the hostel is not. It is also because the hostel does not have the resources to please the guest. I’ve spent serious time before catering to and attempting to appease hotel complainers at no avail. If you are the hotel type, you may not enjoy hostels. That’s alright.
Some of my favorite stories are those who ask if you can get room service or wondering why their room doesn’t have a fully equipped with a flat screen television with all channels.
Remember, reasonable requests should always be done by hostel staff, but there are limitations to their resources.
6.) Adding insult to injury – This one, I simply do not understand. When something is leaking, when there is a pile of trash, or when the sink is clogged up, why make it worse? Why not tell someone about it or fix it? There could be a simple solution. Rather than just rant, I can explain and depict a few examples of what I am talking about.
Situation 1: The trash bag falls into the base of the trash bin. Instead of pulling the trash bag up back to the brim of the trash bin, people just continue to throw trash on top of the bag thus dirtying the bin. It may seem simple, but that is the point. Why not fix it back? It just takes a second.
Situation 2: At one of the hostels, the pipe for the bathroom sink drainage would occasionally fall out of alignment. This would cause all the sink water to drain directly on the bathroom floor and subsequently wet and dirty the entire bathroom. It always amazed me how next to no people would reach over and fix the pipe back into alignment, or even tell someone in the staff about it. One of the times I went into the bathroom and there was a small lake of water covering the ground, the bathmats were soaked and bunched in piles and it had presumably been that way for at least a few hours. Not one person mentioned the sink leak. I wonder how many people saw the water pouring onto the floor and continued to use the sink. From a staff perspective: how can you fix something if you are unaware of it?
Situation 3: The kitchen sink drain is clogged with food. So, why would someone just add more food and dishes to it if it is not draining properly?
As a hostel guest, you cannot be expected to do everything, but remember it is a communal and occasionally informal environment. So helping out here and there wouldn’t hurt.
7.) Borrowing something and not giving it back – This should probably be written in all office etiquette. As a hostel staff member, reception worker, or even office worker, you must always guard your things. Of these above habits, this is probably one of the more insignificant ones. Although it can at times be one of the more annoying ones. Something as little as borrowing a pen and walking off with it is annoying just off of principle. Tables, chairs, scissors, books, lighters, phone chargers, et cetera all fall under this category. I’ve become cautious about lending people my personal things. I’ve had people not return phone chargers and/or adapters that I’ve let them use.
I’d say that from a hostel perspective, one way to fix this trend is to label everything religiously. Additionally, keep an organized log on the desk of what is borrowed and by whom.
All in all, I must say that working in a hostel enables you to meet some amazing people from around the world. What I love about them is that so many nationalities and/or ethnicities can come together and learn from one another. There are, unfortunately, guests occasionally that can be exhausting, but I suppose that some of them are not aware of it, which is why I offered some feedback and explanation on some of the above habits. I could have added a few more, but decided to leave them out for lack of depth. Nonetheless, I do enjoy working in the hostel and hospitality business to an extent. It definitely has its fun moments and experiences. I made this article per request of some of my readers who have inquired about what happens on the business side of hospitality.
Hostels are great. But what are your favorite things about them? Do any of these things resonate with you below? Have you worked in a hostel before and had trouble with guests? Please let us know below. It is nice to learn from one another about different things that you have experienced and if you have found any solutions.
More hostel reading
If you are interested in hostels, you may like some of these articles.
How to find a hostel job – Tips and suggestions for landing that job while you are traveling.
Hostel Etiquette – How to not be a that guy in a hostel.
Why Hostels are so great – My reasoning for why I like hostels so much
9 cool things about working in a hostel – Read them to see!
Other hosteliscious articles here.
This article has been a part of the hostel management series. Read them all here.