Yes, Hotels Cater to Rich Exhibitionists Because They Don’t Particularly Care About The Well-Being of Their Most Menial Staff!1!1!!!

by Belle Waring on May 25, 2011

Kevin Drum recently posted in a sort of muddle-headed, if well meaning, way. His post is entitled, “Why Do Hotels Tolerate Sexual Predators?” His readers were there to point out that if you kicked all the rich flashers out of your hotel you’d lose a lot of money. I might additionally suggest that the victims (in these cases, the housekeepers), are mostly immigrants working in a low-status job, and their right to be free from unwanted exhibitionism looms small in the mental world of a hotel manager.

When I say the post is muddle-headed, I only mean that it is surprising that Drum is surprised. Many (most, actually) of the women I know have been flashed, usually as younger girls. It’s not as though it’s some astonishing thing that never happens; it’s just going on all the time, but not happening to Kevin Drum. But in swoops Megan McArdle and I thought, how is she going to defend rich assholes who flash hotel housekeepers? I mean, really. Especially considering that Megan grew up in New York City in the 70s and 80s, which means I am morally certain some dude has flashed her, or masturbated next to her on the subway, or done something equally unwelcome. How not? (I have experienced all these things, and more! Ask me about the time the cops told me the man hassling me was a convicted sex offender who had forcibly raped at least 6 women, and I was “an idiot” because I returned idle pleasantries, in a deflecting way, on the BART. It was apparently my duty to remain silent at all times.) But then, she doesn’t mention it, so perhaps she was weirdly lucky in this regard. Really weirdly lucky.

Her defense is, hotel staff has walked in on her when she was changing any number of times, and she’d want a man in the same situation to be given the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he just happened to be masturbating and he didn’t hear the knock because the shower was on? Is it illegal to jerk off in a hotel now? Needless to say, this is weaksauce.

No, she doesn’t say that exactly. What she says is that she has been sexually harassed, and that the harassers always try to maintain some deniability. (So true!) When she was faced with it, she got a male colleague to deal with the person rather than make a possibly career-affecting fuss. (Great! How handy!) I think the solution for the hotel housekeepers is to…wait, they don’t have any choice about what rooms they clean, nor can they delegate to male colleagues.

Ultimately, as unpleasant as it was, I think it is better to be in a system where we give people the benefit of the doubt than one where any action that could have the slightest sexual connotation is presumptively harassment. Yes, it lets creeps get away with a lot. But it also means that the rest of us can put our computers where we want them—and don’t get kicked out of hotels because we forgot to bolt the door.

Right, because there’s clearly no middle ground in which people take the housekeepers’ complaints seriously, and try to confront, and refuse service to, repeat offenders. She elides the fact that you, as a woman, know when you’re being flashed vs. when you accidentally walk in on someone who hasn’t heard your knock. Really. Big difference. A man showing you his penis on purpose has a certain way about him, let’s just say. Do I really have to go there? He is likely (thought not certain) to be visibly sexually aroused. And sauntering around looking at you weird, with his penis in his hand as often as not. This is not the behavior of the startled guest who shouts—”wait—don’t come in!” and begins pulling the sheets around himself in a fit of embarrassment. I honestly would have thought, here is a class of rich people whom not even Megan McArdle would defend! I begin to suspect the null set is involved.

{ 65 comments }

1

Jon H 05.25.11 at 2:25 pm

Hell, when I lived on Printers Row in Chicago, there was a hotel across the street. One Saturday, there was a guy standing in his window, naked, visible from the thighs up, on about the 5th or 6th floor. I shut the blinds.

Sunday, I opened the blinds. He was there. I closed the blinds.

Monday, I left the blinds closed.

Tuesday, I figured I’d be safe. Opened the blinds. He was there again. Just to head off the inevitable joke, no it wasn’t my reflection. I walked across the street to the front desk of the hotel, and told the person working “Hi. I live across the street. There’s a man standing naked in his window and he’s been there quite some time.” Clerk’s eyes pop out. He asks me to show him the guy, so we go out to the street and I point him out.

2

Substance McGravitas 05.25.11 at 2:42 pm

It shouldn’t astonish me that McArdle earns money by making idiotic apologies for the powerful, yet it does, over and over. Well done Atlantic.

3

ajay 05.25.11 at 2:43 pm

Because They Don’t Particularly Care About The Well-Being of Their Most Menial Staff!

It might be worth noting at this point that Sofitel has apparently behaved rather well towards the maid in this case – given her paid leave of absence, provided her with a lawyer, etc.

4

Cheryl Rofer 05.25.11 at 2:52 pm

As I commented on Drum’s blog, hotel doors have chain or deadbolt locks and “do not disturb” signs. If the people (men) who say, oh I was just (masturbating, taking a shower, whatever) and the maid walked in, would use those simple things, this wouldn’t be a problem.

It’s hard for me to believe that not using the lock or “do not disturb” sign is totally innocent.

Or maybe it’s just a difference between men and women. Men don’t have that background of sexual harassment you describe, Belle, so they don’t see it as necessary to secure their hotel doors as I do.

5

Belle Waring 05.25.11 at 2:57 pm

Agreed that in this case Sofitel, the NY cops, the DA’s who had to sign off etc. have all behaved in an exemplary way.

6

praisegod barebones 05.25.11 at 2:59 pm

ajay @ 3: Well, maybe they would do this in every case. Or maybe the fact that every aspect of this particular case is apt to be scrutinised in great detail by the media of several countries means that the hotel chain is being particularly careful to do the right thing.

7

Random lurker 05.25.11 at 3:01 pm

“Right, because there’s clearly no middle ground in which people take the housekeepers’ complaints seriously, and try to confront, and refuse service to, repeat offenders. She elides the fact that you, as a woman, know when you’re being flashed vs. when you accidentally walk in on someone who hasn’t heard your knock.”

I have a very different point of view on this issue (possibly because I am a male): the point is that, in such circumstances, the only proof of misconduct is the subjective opinion of the victim.
I am sure that a woman can understand very well when she is subject to flashing vs when something only happens by chance, however here we are speaking of a third party (the hotel owner or law enforcers) who have to act only on the basis of what the victim says.
I suppose there is some middle ground between “never confront offenders” and “punish people without any proof”, however a middle ground means that, very often, flashers will not be confronted (otherwise, it wouldn’t be a “middle” ground).

8

Belle Waring 05.25.11 at 3:30 pm

There many crimes in which the only evidence is the perception of the victim. A very close friend might plausibly say you had agreed to loan her your prom dress, when in fact she had stolen it from your room. Or your brother-in-lay says you loaned him your car to move, but actually he just stole the keys. What is there to say but “I didn’t loan it to her; she stole it.” I hate it when crimes against women have to analogized to property crimes to have any effect on peoples’ opinions, but there you are.

And think, where is the benefit to the maid of complaining to the higher-ups? It’s likely to have career implications, just as Megan McArdle’s half-way harassment did, which made her unwilling to complain. I think most of the time the women only tell people on the lower-level staff, so they can make various arrangements. We are talking explicitly, and only, about men who have been accused of flashing by various maids, a number of times, while at the same hotel, and the idea that the hotel might refuse their patronage (and think, they could call the police if it came to that.) I refuse to believe a man could be so unlucky as to accidentally show all these women his penis after leaving the door unlocked (it has a bar, you know) open on multiple stays. Honestly. It’s not even remotely plausible.

9

Belle Waring 05.25.11 at 3:31 pm

I’m going to bed now as it’s late in Singapore, have a nice time arguing without me!

10

elm 05.25.11 at 3:35 pm

Random lurker @7

Belle pointed out a number of factors that distinguish flashing from accidental exposure. When the victim speaks to law enforcement or hotel management, she should surely mention whether the purported flasher was aroused, touching himself, leering at her, and whether he acted to cover himself up. In addition to her subjective opinion, the victim witnessed objective facts which ought to form the basis of any response.

I’m a man as well and I’ve spent plenty of time in hotels, but I can say that the housekeeping staff has seen my penis zero times. Even if, by some chance, it did happen, I can promise it would never happen again.

11

MPAVictoria 05.25.11 at 3:36 pm

“I refuse to believe a man could be so unlucky as to accidentally show all these women his penis after leaving the door unlocked (it has a bar, you know) open on multiple stays. Honestly. It’s not even remotely plausible.”
Exactly right. Totally willing to believe it could happen once. Maybe even twice. But multiple times at the same Hotel over multiple stays? Even I am not that unlucky.

12

Henry 05.25.11 at 3:40 pm

bq. It might be worth noting at this point that Sofitel has apparently behaved rather well towards the maid in this case – given her paid leave of absence, provided her with a lawyer, etc.

As one CT reader has pointed out in email, Sofitel’s good behavior (and the housekeeper’s willingness to report this) are plausibly connected to the fact that this hotel is unionized.

13

michael e sullivan 05.25.11 at 3:47 pm

I’ve had maids or room service staff start to walk into my hotel room while I was in flagrante delicto at least twice in my memory, and never once have they actually spied any genitals. Normally they knock and enter slowly, and there is plenty of time to hide under the covers, or yell “Hold ON! and put some pants on before they actually see anything they shouldn’t.

If they see a penis and it is not intentional on the guest’s part, then somebody was doing something really stupid.

14

Shelley 05.25.11 at 3:58 pm

Still another reason for a strong union for all workers.

Because when it comes right down to it, there’s nobody else on your side.

15

McSmack 05.25.11 at 4:19 pm

I have nothing to say here except this is true and funny and I wish you would post more.

16

Chris E 05.25.11 at 4:40 pm

“Ultimately, as unpleasant as it was, I think it is better to be in a system where we give people the benefit of the doubt than one where any action that could have the slightest sexual connotation is presumptively harassment.”

Not every act of harassment is harassment harassment.

17

Alex 05.25.11 at 4:43 pm

Drum was riffing off this piece by a hotel manager on how, exactly, you deal with misbehaving guests.

It’s not an everyday occurrence but it happens enough to make this question all too familiar: “Mr. Tomsky, can you give the new girl Room 3501 until next Tuesday? That man is back, the one who loves to let his robe fall open every time I try to clean.” So, yes, we assign the room to the new girl.

But not before hotel managers roll up to the room, flanked by security guards, to request that the guest vacate during cleaning, or at least promise to remain fully clothed or risk expulsion. Often it need not be discussed in detail: those guests who can’t seem to tie their robe properly usually know exactly what they’re guilty of. Typically, an unsolicited phone call from management inquiring if the service in their room is up-to-standard, and offering to send a manager to supervise the next cleaning, improves their behavior. I remember one exhibitionist guest, in New Orleans, cutting me off before I could get down to business:

“Sir, this is Jacob, the housekeeping manager — ” “O.K., fine, O.K.!” And he hung up.

18

Marc 05.25.11 at 5:38 pm

There’s something different that bothers me about this case Belle. I’m perfectly willing to believe that hotel guests harass maids, or that this is unfortunately common. None of the opinion pieces that I’ve seen, however, have actual numbers. It’s just a collection of anecdotes. Have any of these opinion pieces said what fraction of maids report harassment? Or how often the hotels bring charges? I have this sinking feeling that asking for actual evidence will somehow get conflated with approving of the bad behavior in question. But my inner scientist gets bothered by the vagueness – because it could just as easily be a few bad eggs as it could be an everyday thing. It matters which is which.

We’ve seen this movie before – I was reminded of crack babies, for instance, or children being snatched off the streets by predators. Doubtless these things happen. In the current case, maybe there are no hard numbers. But they’d be very, very useful in determining to what extent hotels are protecting their workers and dealing with criminal misbehavior on the part of their guests.

And, yes, I don’t pay attention to the deadbolt, have had maids knock on the door when I’m undressing, and had the door open a couple of times because they entered at the same time as I told them “occupied” or some such. I doubt they saw anything because I was trying hard for them not to do so. However, some guys are naked in their rooms and forget to lock the deadbolt, yep.

19

Barry 05.25.11 at 5:54 pm

“I honestly would have thought, here is a class of rich people whom not even Megan McArdle would defend! I begin to suspect the null set is involved.”

George Soros, I’d bet, or any rich person who donates heavily to liberal causes.

20

chris 05.25.11 at 6:11 pm

“Sir, this is Jacob, the housekeeping manager — ” “O.K., fine, O.K.!” And he hung up.

…suggesting that he (the guest) had received enough similar calls from managers of enough *other* hotels to know where this one was going. That’s a pretty disturbing thought. And repeat offenders, if they exist, are going to represent a majority of incidents even if they aren’t a majority of people involved in incidents.

21

chris 05.25.11 at 6:13 pm

because it could just as easily be a few bad eggs as it could be an everyday thing.

You say that like you think those are mutually exclusive, but they’re not. If the bad eggs are deliberately arranging these incidents, then it doesn’t take that many to make them an everyday thing (well, I hope not *literally*, but often enough to be a big problem from the staff viewpoint). The average staff person probably cleans a couple dozen rooms a day, if not a couple hundred, so even a fraction of a percent would be enough.

22

rea 05.25.11 at 6:52 pm

It might be a plausible defense to an indecent exposure charge–“OMG, the maid walked in on me when I was naked.”

It doesn’t work so well as a defense to a sexual assault charge–“OMG, the maid walked in on me when I was naked, so I chased her around the room, tackled her, and ejaculated on her dress.”

23

leederick 05.25.11 at 7:36 pm

Agreed that in this case Sofitel, the NY cops, the DA’s who had to sign off etc. have all behaved in an exemplary way.

I thought the perp walk and tardy bail were a bit much.

24

CJColucci 05.25.11 at 7:41 pm

Jon H, don’t leave us — if you’ll pardon the expression — dangling. What happened next?

25

bianca steele 05.25.11 at 7:46 pm

The idle pleasantries in a deflecting way are a dilemma, and I agree that a life-long New Yorker like McArdle knows that as well as anybody (though I also knew life-long New Yorkers who kept their doors unlocked in New York City dorms, because, I don’t know). You don’t want the guy hollering BITCH after you as you edge down the row of benches. He might have a knife.

26

The Raven 05.25.11 at 8:28 pm

We could give the staff video cameras.

27

aimai 05.25.11 at 8:39 pm

The fact that (some) men are unaware of the experiences of (lots) of women really isn’t that surprising. Take Marc, for instance, who never deadbolts the door in his hotel despite the fact that people have walked in on him before. There are zero women who stay in hotels who don’t deadbolt the door and put “privacy please” on for good measure if they have ever been walked in on by male staff (I was when I was a teenager). Naturally both he and I were extremely embarrassed and I learned to prevent embarrasment and inconvenience to hotel staff by taking a few obvious, elementary, precautions.

I don’t get the basic skepticism displayed towards the notion that deliberate misbehavior by (male) hotel guests is pretty common. Hotels are liminal places where one set of individuals (the guests) are cut loose from everyday ties, experience anonymity, and can imagine themselves to be able to help themselves to everything from porn on tv to room service to the maids without too much trouble. In addition, as Belle points out in the OP, lots of men engage in sexual harrassment of women in public and semi public places all the time: flashing, frottage, gestures, verbal assaults. I’ve literally never met a woman who hasn’t had one or all of these aimed at her at some point in her life. I’m a totally ordinary, now middle aged, upper middle class woman and its happened to me plenty of times. And those were in circumstances where I could back away, or run away or my class/race status protected me.

Women put up with so much shit from men, every day, sometimes all day. I understand that its hard for anyone to put themselves in someone else’s shoes–like apparently its hard for some to imagine that just because you aren’t afraid, every day, that some high status hotel manager is going to walk in on you while you are showering and rape you that the maids couldn’t be having the experience that they say they are having. I mean, if its not happening to you its not happening to anyone, obviously. But if you never bother to lock your door, or flip on the “privacy please” sign because you don’t have to worry about sexual harrassment you could maybe start to imagine a world in which you *don’t waste the valuable time* of the hotel staff by letting them come into your room unexpectedly when you don’t, in fact, intend to have the room cleaned or the bed turned down. Have a little respect for the work they are doing and their time and their feelings.

aimai

28

Barry Freed 05.25.11 at 8:48 pm

Yes, Jon H, please finish your story. I assume you opened the curtains at different times of the day, so was he just standing there 24/7? What happened?

29

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.25.11 at 8:51 pm

Sorry if I’m outta line, but do these ‘flashers’ (I’ll admit, I’ve never seen one) really deserve to be called “sexual predators”?

30

CJColucci 05.25.11 at 8:56 pm

I’ve lived in NYC since late 1979 and never experienced a subway flasher. My brother came up for a short visit once and it happened to him twice.

31

elm 05.25.11 at 9:04 pm

@28: Why wouldn’t they, what do you think the distinction should be?

They involve other people in their sex acts without consent, and that non-consensual involvement is integral to the act of flashing. They’re not rapists (so long as they don’t also commit rape), but I see no reason not to call them sexual predators.

32

Lemuel Pitkin 05.25.11 at 9:12 pm

Marc@18-

Since you’re of a scientific bent of mind, why don’t you try gathering some data. Try asking women your know if they’ve encountered a flasher. I think you will be surprised when you find — as you certainly will, at least if you live in an urban area in the United States — that the majority of them have. This is something that men simply don’t experience, so it’s eye-opening when you realize how often women do. Might give you a different perspective on new stories like this one.

Also: I hope this post is a sign of more Belle in CT’s future.

33

Bloix 05.25.11 at 9:13 pm

#28 – they take pleasure in inflicting distress on other people.

Here’s a little thought experiment for male readers: imagine that you’re walking alone in a strange city, around dusk, and you’re a little bit lost in a neighborhood that’s just seedy enough to make you hope that you find your destination before it gets dark. Up ahead a couple of guys are leaning against a wall. As you walk by, one of them steps into the sidewalk, and, in the moment that you see he’s got 4 inches and 50 pounds on you, he says loudly, “Hey, buddy, got a light?”

Now, imagine the feeling of that moment every day of your life, whenever you wait for a bus or walk past a construction site or try to do your job cleaning rooms.

34

Susan of Texas 05.25.11 at 9:26 pm

I don’t think many men can imagine a world in which you always lock the deadbolt and look in the back seat of the car and are aware of your circumstances at all times. Where men rub up against you in line or masturbate in a car front of you while you’re waiting for a bus. And when their buddies harass a waitress they just ignore it–businesses hire pretty girls to bring in the customers, so what does the waitress expect?

We know our wealthy consider themselves superior and deserving of their privileges, we’ve all seen middle and upper class men act like arrogant assholes, why is it a leap to realize that men will pull little power and sex games when they can get away with it?

If anyone really doubts that women are often harassed sexually, they should ask the women they know–their wife, daughter, colleague, mother. They might be surprised at the answer.

35

Susan of Texas 05.25.11 at 9:27 pm

I see Lemuel Pitkin already gave this advice.

36

Main Street Muse 05.25.11 at 10:16 pm

Looks like Megan McArdle has been inspired by the Strauss-Kahn’s “incident” to offer a broader lecture about how “it is better to be in a system where we give people the benefit of the doubt than one where any action that could have the slightest sexual connotation is presumptively harassment.”

Certainly, she’s free to think this. But in her post, she’s not talking about “any action.” She’s talking about men getting their jollies out of showing their willies to the help. And maybe it was just an accident.

We’re only talking about this now because the head of the IMF stands accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. And his DNA is allegedly on her clothes. And he’d like us to think the maid wanted it that way.

[Just as I’m sure that one dude thought Megan dearly wanted to bend over his desk to fix his computer.]

According to some reports, Strauss-Kahn’s reputation as a harasser preceded him to the Sofitel. http://bit.ly/jPHWGJ

Maybe, just maybe, if he’d been called out on the carpet for sexual harassment in the past, he would not stand accused of sexual assault today. Because maybe, just maybe, getting called out for harassment would have persuaded him to stop, rather than accelerate the sexually predatory behaviors.

[Sounds like I’m a rare breed – an urban dweller for 20 yrs who has never been flashed, not once.]

37

Jon H 05.25.11 at 10:44 pm

“Jon H, don’t leave us—if you’ll pardon the expression—dangling. What happened next?”

Actually, I don’t know. The hotel clerk spotted the evernude and dashed back in, at which point I figured my work was done. I didn’t see him again. I assume they either booted him or had stern words for him.

A few months later a friend called me to let me know how much rooms cost at that hotel ($400 and up), and thus how much he was spending to expose himself to Chicago.

Barry wrote: “Yes, Jon H, please finish your story. I assume you opened the curtains at different times of the day, so was he just standing there 24/7? What happened?”

Actually I think I only opened the blinds in the mornings. God I hope he wasn’t there all day.

The main branch of the Chicago library was probably visible from his room. Perhaps he just really loves books.

38

Phil 05.25.11 at 10:58 pm

There are zero women who stay in hotels who don’t deadbolt the door and put “privacy please” on for good measure if they have ever been walked in on by male staff

Au contraire, there’s at least one. Megan McArdle specifically says

I travel a lot, and I’ve had housekeepers walk in on me in various states of undress, especially in hotels with turndown service (yes, yes, now that I’m a more seasoned traveler, I try to engage the chain or the deadbolt before I undress). Not a big deal for me, but I’m sure it could happen to a male traveler perfectly innocently. … Maybe there should be a blacklist for serial offenders, but again, I was a serial offender at a certain hotel in LA with early turndown hours–I assume they didn’t report me because, well, women don’t usually do that sort of thing.

Although admittedly she doesn’t specifically say she was walked in on by male staff, possibly because (a) she wasn’t and (b) that would weaken the anectode.

39

mrearl 05.25.11 at 11:15 pm

I try hard not to generalize about women. I wish all men did. I wish all women would try hard not to generalize about men.

40

politicalfootball 05.25.11 at 11:38 pm

One of McMegan’s techniques, on display here, is the reliance on generalities even when she’s talking about highly specific incidents.

Maybe there should be a blacklist for serial offenders, but again, I was a serial offender at a certain hotel in LA with early turndown hours–I assume they didn’t report me because, well, women don’t usually do that sort of thing.

Ms. Waring (who, as has been noted, posts here too seldom) explained it:

She elides the fact that you, as a woman, know when you’re being flashed vs. when you accidentally walk in on someone who hasn’t heard your knock. Really. Big difference.

By talking about it in sufficiently general terms, McMegan makes disparate situations seem similar, at least to people who aren’t thinking about it very hard.

41

delagar 05.26.11 at 12:00 am

mrearl says this: “I try hard not to generalize about women. I wish all men did. I wish all women would try hard not to generalize about men.”

Which I admit confuses me. Does he think Belle Waring or any other commentor here is saying that all men flash or assault women? That men are, in general, sexual predators?

If not, what *is* his point?

If it is that Belle (as a woman) had the termerity to disapprove of the behavior of these particular men, well, it’s difficult to discuss men raping and sexually assaulting women without mentioning, at least in passing, that they are men.

(For the record, I grew up in New Orleans, and moved later to Arkansas, and from the time I was eleven, I have flashed, sexually harassed at bus stops and rest stops, and subject, more than once, to frottage on public transit — most of this before I was 20 years old. Once when I was riding my bicycle, a guy driving a delivery van nearly ran me off the road, driving badly and shouting sexual offers at me. And no, there is nothing remarkable about me. I’m an average middle class person who dresses like a regular human being.)
.

42

Witt 05.26.11 at 12:59 am

A few other points to add:

1. Hotel housekeepers are often working under very tight time constraints. They often have a quota of rooms per day that they have to clean. Regardless of your comfort level in being caught naked, being organized about locking the door and using signs to signal when your room is available for them to clean (and when it is not) is common courtesy to a person who has a heavy-duty, repetitive-stress-injury inducing, often dirty job.

2. “Ask your female friends what they’ve experienced” is only sometimes good advice, because it depends on how much trust the people you’re asking have in you. In my case, men I know well and trust are likely to get a complete answer to that kind of question. Men I don’t know well and/or don’t trust are going to hear a platitude (“There are always some people who get their kicks from harassing or bullying other people, and of course I’ve had to deal with my share of them in my time,”) precisely because I don’t want to be raked over the coals and ordered to account for each and every incident, and listen to their explanations of why I overreacted/misinterpreted/didn’t react strongly ENOUGH, etc.

3. There ought to be a name for activities that are specifically targeted at one subset of people, and executed with sufficient timing/plausible deniability that they can continue almost completely below the radar screen of many other people. Hasn’t somebody come up with a name for this phenomenon?

43

average_jane 05.26.11 at 4:19 am

Various people have made the claim that most (all?) women urban dwellers have been flashed at least once. Lest anyone have the impression that flashing / being flashed is solely an urban phenomenon, I’ve been flashed twice in a small city of 50,000 and once in a town of 25,000. The most recent perv flashed me after following me around the neighborhood long enough for me to seriously regret my lack of a cell phone. (I was walking my not ancient and not particularly intimidating dog. You can make your own jokes about who had the bone.)

44

Sam Jackson 05.26.11 at 4:20 am

A couple of things:
I am not a frequent traveler but do travel more than 5-6 times a year. I seldom lock the deadbolt or the safety latch on my hotel. But then again, I am known to leave my car door unlocked or my front door unlocked frequently. I have just trusted that I live in a relatively safe world.
Having said that I have almost never been walked in on in hotel room. The multiple knocks on the door usually get me out of bed or whatever it is I am doing (If somebody has come through when I have been in the shower, I am not aware of it). It helps that I am sleep poorly in hotel beds. I say almost because, the one time that it did happen, there was no knock. I was traveling internationally and I was staying in a middling hotel in developing world metropolis–minimizing the opportunity to stereotype here. It happened while I was sleeping.. I was up before whoever it is entered the room and had the door slammed shut and safety latched pronto.
Did I say I slept poorly in hotel beds?
No great revelations or generalizations here except let us not assume that it is virtually impossible to have staff walk in on you when you are naked.

On a different note: I thought the dig at Kevin was unwarranted. The guy posts a bit by a hotel manager saying he’s encountered many such situations. Remarks that it wasn’t surprising. Even says that he’s being naive before asking why hotels don’t bar these people. I usually interpret that “I am probably being naive” comment as : “this thing is so obvious you are a dumbass for not doing it”.

45

Sam Jackson 05.26.11 at 4:24 am

p.s.
I am male…didn’t immediately realize that pseudonym I had chosen–I am not going to divulge my real name if I am going to tell you I leave my doors unlocked all the time :)–was ambiguous about it.

46

herr doktor bimler 05.26.11 at 4:44 am

Megan McArdle […] on the subway
Is this realistic?

47

99 05.26.11 at 4:51 am

As someone who travels somewhat regularly, I am always annoyed by the fact that room rentals aren’t for 24 hours. I do resent that I need to be up by 8AM to stave off someone trying to enter my room. Yes, I forget to deadbolt if I was out carousing, or working, or, you know, just not caring because I expect someone shouldn’t come into my room — at all — during the time I’ve contracted for it. I don’t need towels or a made bed every 24 hours. But I do enjoy my privacy.

My mother was a housekeeper, and I tend to make my bed in hotels and fold towels. I understand that you can’t clean a whole hotel in the 4 hour window between check out and check in — but I’m living by the terms laid out for me. Even when I leave the DND tag I’ve gotten plenty of knocks.

If it’s a relatively modest locale, I don’t really sweat it. But I’ve been in $300 rooms with a DND tag and a deadbolt and still have had housekeeping push in and wake me up on vacation. I’m sorry, but if I paid for the room and I’ve done everything to indicate I should not be disturbed until the end time at which I’ve contracted to occupy the room, I really don’t care what state someone sees me in.

48

David Moles 05.26.11 at 4:58 am

Aimai @27: Well spoken.

Phil @38: Au double contraire, the very passage of McArdle you quote says that she does in fact now more or less do as Aimai says all women who’ve had such experiences do. Albeit with typically McArdelian inconsistency and lack of attention to detail.

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Phil 05.26.11 at 8:20 am

she does in fact now more or less do as Aimai says all women who’ve had such experiences do

…but only after repeatedly stripping naked and attempting to force sexual favours on male hotel staff (I was a serial offender at a certain hotel in LA with early turndown hours). Surprised she’d admit to it, really. Unless she’s actually talking about the situation in which a woman walks in on another woman getting changed, but that’s so unlike the DS-K scenario that it would be quite misleading to even mention it.

50

dsquared 05.26.11 at 8:36 am

I have only once had any similar experience in fifteen years’ business travel (as an aside, I would suggest in general[1] that if you are in your hotel room at any time when the cleaning staff might be there, you are not working hard enough). I was in a hotel whose blushes I will spare, in the town of Rosmalen half way up the Netherlands coast. I did indeed forget to bolt the door and was surprised while in a state of partial undress. But there were extenuating circumstances!

1) It was not mid-morning or turndown time, it was 2am.
2) The female worker who surprised (and indeed woke) me was not a housekeeper; she was a prostitute who had got the wrong room number.
3) She was naked herself.

So I think I can throw myself on the mercy of the court. The (male) hotel employee who was called on to resolve the situation had a somewhat resigned look to him, as if this was a frequent occurrence only complicated by the fact I don’t speak Dutch. I frankly did not see it as a tipping situation at the time, but I will always treasure his apology; “this hotel is popular with sailors, and the women who love them”.

True story.

[1] The exception being those cases when someone flies you half way round the world for a single meeting.

51

sg 05.26.11 at 8:41 am

dsquared, I’ve had worse than that in China – repeatedly having sex workers push their way into my hotel room to have sex with me, though I said no. I know a man who went to Russia, and was woken in his bed by a sex worker who had got the key from reception.

As a general tip, too: always lock the door to your love hotel room if it doesn’t lock automatically. You won’t be surprised by cleaning staff, but by other drunk customers. And you are (by virtue of your location) guaranteed to be in flagrante delicto. Trying to tell someone in a second language to get out of your hotel room while you’re going at it (or glowing softly, depending on the timing) is a challenge best avoided by prudent foreplanning.

52

R.Mutt 05.26.11 at 8:45 am

By talking about it in sufficiently general terms, McMegan makes disparate situations seem similar, at least to people who aren’t thinking about it very hard.

That happens to be her target audience.

53

dsquared 05.26.11 at 9:03 am

I know a man who went to Russia, and was woken in his bed by a sex worker who had got the key from reception

This is what happened to me, although I think it was simply that the lock didn’t work properly. As I understood it, neither my travel agent nor (presumably) the large chain of hotels to which this one belonged was aware that their Rosmalen operation had decided to stop catering for the mid-price business traveler and move into value-added services.

54

ajay 05.26.11 at 9:19 am

this hotel is popular with sailors, and the women who love them”.

I sincerely hope that this is a direct quote from the hotel’s website.

6, 12: I am quite prepared to believe that Sofitel is motivated by desire to avoid union trouble and/or to avoid adverse publicity, rather than just human decency. Still thought it was worth mentioning though.

55

Phil 05.26.11 at 9:48 am

This happened to a friend of mine visiting Russia, although it was early evening rather than the middle of the night, and the person at the door was male, six feet tall and in full army uniform. When she turned down the offer of sex, he tried to sell her the uniform. Somehow that detail is particularly horrible – when someone’s selling their body you can always tell yourself it might not be quite as bad as it looks, but a squaddie who’s willing to report back to base without his uniform has got to be really desperate for money.

56

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.26.11 at 9:59 am

Nonsense. As Švejk said: when soldier loses his uniform, the army should fit him with a new uniform.

57

Andrew Edwards 05.26.11 at 12:02 pm

I’ve heard stories of business travellers in Asia turning down the women brought to them, only to have the confused hotel staff return offering men instead.

My understanding is that this is now quite uncommon in China but still happens in less developed SE Asian countries.

58

David Moles 05.26.11 at 12:21 pm

Wow. How quickly the conversation moves from sex offenses committed by white middle-class business travelers to titillating rumors of licensed licentious behavior in exotic and poorly-specified foreign lands. Shall we start a pool on how long before someone suggests this is what DSK is used to and his confusion is understandable? I give it… twelve more comments.

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Richard J 05.26.11 at 12:31 pm

Phil> Given the number of well-attested stories about Russian soldiers (even and especially the officers) selling their weapons and ammo to Chechens during the 90s, I think selling your uniform counts as the least of peccadillos.

On topic, my sincere apologies to that family innocently walking down the corridor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Helsinki in March 2003. I had genuinely no idea that my roommate, when he’d gone down to breakfast, had absent-mindedly left the room door open, the clot.

60

Andrew Edwards 05.26.11 at 12:53 pm

No need for that David. Sorry the conversation got all fun on you, but nothing anyone said even remotely suggested pardon for any alleged rapist. We’ll go back to very serious condemnations shortly.

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mrearl 05.26.11 at 1:00 pm

Delagar: Being an example of what it wishes not for, it was a feeble attempt at humor.

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dsquared 05.26.11 at 1:09 pm

#58: Sorry, I will adopt a suitably stern facial expression forthwith. Shame!

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sg 05.26.11 at 1:51 pm

Andrew, I heard a terrible version of that story from a colleague many years ago, which ended up with the taxi driver offering to sell him a boy. I think it was true.

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JRoth 05.26.11 at 2:13 pm

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derrida derider 05.30.11 at 2:59 am

lots of men [my emphaisis] engage in sexual harrassment of women in ….. I’ve literally never met a woman who hasn’t had one or all of these aimed at her at some point in her life” – aimai @27
Aimai, the second part is true but the first untrue. As others have noted, sleazes are:
a) a small proportion of the population
b) multiple repeat offenders
So yes, most women have experienced harrassment. But it doesn’t follow that most men have perpetrated harrassment. The failure of many feminists to internalise that creates opponents of some people who should be supporters.

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