The Unsettling Reason Why You Shouldn't Hang a Do Not Disturb Sign on the Door for Your Whole Hotel Stay

The Unsettling Reason Why You Shouldn't Hang a Do Not Disturb Sign on the Door for Your Whole Hotel Stay

You think you're being discreet, but you're actually attracting suspicion.

By Karen Gardiner

Following the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, much discussion has ensued around ways that hotels can improve security. And one surprising piece of information that has come to light is that your hotel notices if you keep your Do Not Disturb sign up for too long.

As has been widely reported, the alleged shooter stockpiled an arsenal of weapons inside his suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel. A hotel worker told the New York Times that Paddock kept the Do Not Disturb sign on his door for three days, so no maids entered the rooms. When the sign is up, the worker said, housekeepers are only allowed to enter a room if they are accompanied by a security guard — and it happens rarely. 

Generally housekeepers are expected to report a Do Not Disturb sign that has been up for more than three days — a report at KXAN states that "currently, nearly all major hotels have a 72-hour do not disturb policy to ensure that no more than three days pass that activity within a hotel room is not visible by hotel staff." Leave it hanging up any longer and it's likely someone will take note and perhaps enter your room regardless of your wishes. That's not only for security reasons; it also lets staff know that you are alive — in 2010 a hotel guest who left the sign up for 14 days starved to death.

But now, in the light of the Vegas massacre, there is discussion that the 72-hour window should be shortened, as the Texas Lodging & Hotel Association has suggested, and standardized across the industry.

That may help draw attention to suspicious characters, but will guests see it as an unnecessary invasion of privacy? Indeed, people often check in to a hotel — especially in a "no-tell" type of city like Las Vegas — because they wish to be left alone — sometimes for as much as three days.

Hotels know to respect that wish for privacy and will have difficulty earning the trust of guests who feel they are being watched. Hotels, unlike airports, are seen as a place of sanctuary and relaxation; any hardening of security measures is going to be more difficult to implement than they would be in an airport.

As yet, no new rules have been decided. But now that you know it might cause alarm, try to be cognizant of how long you've left that sign on your door — removing and replacing it will assure hotel staff that you are not a suspicious character, and also that you're alive and well.

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