Three Reasons the Do Not Disturb Sign May Be Useless

Don't Expect Total Privacy, Even When the "Do Not Disturb" Sign Is Up

Regardless of what the sign may say, the "Do Not Disturb" sign may be ignored in certain situations.
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For some, the "Do Not Disturb" sign seems like an impenetrable barrier between the outside world and the safety of the hotel room. Once the do not disturb sign gets hung on the hotel room door, it appears nothing can come between your stuff and the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. The "Do Not Disturb" sign is provided as a suggestion to hotel staff, instead of a mandate. In many situations, travelers may find their rooms disturbed after a day of exploration - even if they leave the "Do Not Disturb" sign on their doors for many different reasons.

If you expect complete privacy in your hotel room, it may be time to rethink how that thin strip of plastic gives you total peace of mind. Here are three reasons the "Do Not Disturb" sign may be useless during your hotel stay. 

Hotel Staff May Ignore the Do Not Disturb Sign

Although this may seem like the exception instead of the rule, hotel staff members have been known to use the guise of daily housekeeping to spy on their guests. If a shifty housekeeper thinks there could be an opportunity to take the traveler to the cleaners, then the "Do Not Disturb" sign may do nothing more than alert housekeeping that a traveler is out of their hotel room

In this situation, there is not much you can do to prevent hotel staff from coming into your room. However, travelers can be smart about how they leave their room before leaving for the day. By hiding valuables and utilizing the hotel safe, travelers can prevent their items from walking away.

Service Needs to Clean Rooms Based on Hotel Policy - Even if the Do Not Disturb Sign is Up

While daily cleaning may not be required, housekeepers may invite themselves in to clean a room despite the "Do Not Disturb" sign. As one blogger notes, some hotels pay their housekeepers by the rooms they clean, meaning that they won't get paid for rooms with the "Do Not Disturb" sign. In other situations, hotel management may ask a housekeeper to clean a room after a complaint from a guest, despite the fact they put the "Do Not Disturb" sign up to begin with.

Moreover, many hotels now have policies in place which require rooms to be cleaned during a guest's stay. After the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, both Disney Hotels and Hilton Hotels changed their security policies for the Do Not Disturb sign. Disney Hotels replaced "Do Not Disturb" signs with "Room Occupied," and now reserve the right to enter at any time. At Hilton Hotels, managers must be notified if the "Do Not Disturb" sign is on a door for more than 24 hours.

If you do not want your room cleaned during your stay, you can specifically request the front desk to not clean the room. However, this may or may not be honored based on hotel policy. If you come back to a clean room against your instructions, you can always take your concern to the hotel's general manager for resolution. 

As a matter of etiquette: if you are planning to stay in a dirty room for your entire stay, you may want to give the maid a bigger tip at the end of your stay for their lost productivity and the bigger mess left behind.

Management Has Reason to Be Concerned About the Occupants​ Use of the Do Not Disturb Sign

Even though hotel management will often honor the "Do Not Disturb" sign, there are certain situations where that request is not feasible. If a manager has reason to believe a crime or crisis is taking place in a hotel room, they reserve the right to enter the room themselves or allow law enforcement to enter the room. Disney Hotels also added an additional clause into their guest contract: “The Disney Resort hotel and its staff reserve the right to enter your room, even when this sign is displayed, for maintenance, safety, security or any other purpose.”

This does not mean that a hotel manager can enter your room for any reason and call it an "emergency." Rather, hotel policies require certain criteria to be met before entering a hotel room. For example: if a staff member receives complaints of loud and prolonged arguments coming from a room, or the call system shows an emergency number was dialed, then hotel staff may either attempt to intervene, or allow law enforcement to enter to diffuse the situation.

While the "Do Not Disturb" sign may seem like the best solution for peace and quiet, it may sometimes only be as good as the plastic it is printed on. By understanding why the "Do Not Disturb" sign may be dishonored, you can better prepare to keep your peace and quiet during your next trip.