Three Reasons the Hotel "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 travelers, the "Do Not Disturb" sign seems like an impenetrable barrier between the outside world and the safety of the hotel room. Once the sign gets hung up, nothing can come between a traveler and their privacy.

Unfortunately for travelers, this is simply not the case. The "Do Not Disturb" sign is provided as a suggestion to hotel staff, as opposed to a mandate. In many situations, travelers may find their rooms disturbed after a day of exploration, despite their wishes.

For those travelers expecting complete privacy, it may be time to think twice about how that thin strip of plastic affects your plans. Here are three reasons the "Do Not Disturb" sign may be useless during your hotel stay. 

The Prying Eyes of 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 may be out of the room.

In this situation, there is not much a traveler can do to prevent hotel staff from coming into a 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

While daily cleaning may not be required, housekeepers may invite themselves in to preemptively clean rooms 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.

If a traveler does not want their room cleaned while they are away, one method to make sure their room stays undisturbed is to specifically request the front desk to not clean their room. If the guest comes back to a clean room, they can take their complaint to the hotel's general manager for resolution. As a matter of etiquette: those travelers planning to stay in a dirty room for your entire stay 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​

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.

This does not mean that a hotel manager can enter a room for any reason and call it an "emergency." Rather, hotel protocols require certain criteria to be met before entering a hotel room.

For example: if a staff member receives complaints of loud and prolonged arguments, loud noises 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 invisible barrier may be crossed, travelers can better prepare themselves to keep their rooms peaceful as they travel.