Modern-day Hotel Check-ins Can Turn Out Worse Than the Bates Motel

Kristi Keller

A bad experience will stick around and haunt forever

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Photo by Cederic X on Unsplash

In the good old days, checking in used to mean showing up at a front desk, handing over a credit card, and getting a room key.

Now, checking in has taken on a whole new meaning. Not only are people getting room keys, but they’re documenting each little aspect of a journey, every step of the way.

Whether they’re showing up at a hotel, a restaurant, or a special event, they’re most certainly checking in on social media. It’s just what we do in this age of connectivity.

Some of these online ‘check-in’ reviews are vicious and can make the establishment wish the guest had gotten lost in a dark sub-basement, never to be found again, rather than find their way to an internet rating scale.

Checking in online offers real-time feedback to the world wide web and the ripple effect is enormous.

The hospitality industry can no longer hide nor sweep anything under the rug because we’re armed with smartphones and cameras, instantly linking us to millions.

That hair you found on your dinner plate in Canada? Johnny in Pennsylvania will know about it tomorrow.

The cockroach crawling out of your shower drain in Costa Rica? Anastasia in Siberia won’t be tripping over her cat to run and book that room.

Something as basic as a plate of nachos at an obscure hole-in-the-wall can earn 30,000 views on Google within a matter of days. They’d better make sure their nachos were thrown together by chef Ignacio Anaya himself, because if they’re not perfect everyone will know, right now.

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Then we have travel blogs

When blogging became a mainstream activity the internet blew up and readers started relying on bloggers to fill them in on what to do, where to go, and what products to invest their money and time into.

Readers also started paying attention to what not to invest in.

A negative review greatly impacts the perceived value of an experience. If enough people have been dissatisfied it shows up online and stays there forever, possibly deterring new business.

Statistics show that dissatisfied guests tell between nine and fifteen other people about it. Another grim statistic shows that 88% of travelers filter out hotels with an average star rating below three.

I would have never dreamed that number could be so high. It just shows the majority of travelers have more discerning tastes than I do, which means the majority of hospitality businesses need to step up their game.

To quote the Eagles in their timeless 1976 classic, Hotel California:

“We are all just prisoners here of our own device”

If we really want to twist some meanings we could translate those lyrics into a flash-forward to the internet age. We’re all prisoners of our social media devices and we’re far more likely to be vocal about something when we hate it.

And while we’re on an Eagles run here, they also said, “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.”

Yes, all guests eventually leave but their trashy reviews won’t. The internet is forever.

Converse to negative scrutiny, a positive review by a blogger who has tons of influence can help a business skyrocket.

I have numerous first-hand examples in my travel writing career, of how a single hospitality experience can mushroom into instant recognition and increased business volumes, simply because the business did it right the first time around.

With blogging and influencer audits comes credible information from people we know and trust.

Travel writers often spend years building an audience and repertoire. Our readers have an expectation that we won’t steer them wrong in our recommendations and rejections.

Suffice it to say that ‘checking in’ under its current definition is perhaps the most important aspect of hospitality. It’s an instant link to future business.

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I'm an old school travel writer who's been flung into another writing world through life experience. I have a compassionate eye, a different opinion, and strong words for this world we live in. I also know a thing or two.

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