Cheap Motel Owners seem to be saying, "Please Don't Ever Show Your Face 'Round These Parts Ever Again..."

Twenty-five Problem Areas Discussed and some possible solutions are mentioned.


James K. Sayre

Copyright 1997 © and © 2003.

All Rights Reserved

29 March 1997 and 6 August 2003.

In the United States, while traveling on holiday, I recently discovered the following unpleasant and frustrating situations found in cheap "budget" motels: (We're talking below Motel 6 prices and standards here).


1. Toilet paper tissue, thin, one-ply and raspy to the touch, reminiscent of paper found in public facilities in England and Europe. Also folding those cute little triangles at the end of the toilet paper roll. Hands off my toilet paper!

2. Television; often very poor fuzzy reception, lousy colors; only channels 2 to 13 received when "cable TV" or " satellite TV" is advertised on the motel's big neon sign. Often, these channels are not the desirable ones. When a television remote control is offered, it is often fixed to a bedside table in such an awkward position, as to be extremely hard to use. Another trick is to fix the television high above the sitting eye level, so that one has lie down on the bed to have a comfortable view of the screen. [Do motel owners and operators ever check out or stay in their own motel rooms?]

3. Ice. The Windsor motel in Beaumont, California has the phrase "Free Ice" on their business card. When I arrived at the ice machine, with my tiny plastic bucket in hand, they had the gall to try to charge 25 cents for each bucketful of ice. This motel, which was basically a total dump, had managed to receive an AAA rating.

4. Noisy air conditioners. Another favorite trick of cheapskate motel owners is to have very noisy old-style air conditioners installed in the rooms. These infernal devices make so much noise, that they can be only be used is when one leaves the motel room. This tactic may save on electricity charges for the motel owner, but it is a poor deal for the visiting traveler.

5. Motel room heaters, which are often part of the aforementioned air conditioners, are also often very noisy devices, which discourages one from using them.

6. The one-blanket-per-bed policy. This seems to be another trend in minimizing capital investment costs in budget motels. Motel beds are now covered with a bed sheet, one blanket and a bedspread. This is clearly not enough covering to keep a person warm at night in the winter time. I suppose one is supposed to run the noisy room heater all night.

7. Dim light bulbs. Another great source of aggravation and frustration for the motel guest. Sixty watt light bulbs, forty watt bulbs, twenty-five watt and even fifteen watt light bulbs can be found in certain motel rooms. (I didn't know that manufacturers even made fifteen watt light bulbs these days). And the lamps that in the motel rooms are often placed in awkward or inconvenient locations.

8. Bibles. These books are almost always available in the drawer of the budget motel room. How about something more useful, such as an almanac or a dictionary? Supplying the local telephone directories is a step in the right direction.

9. Light-colored and thin window drapes. White or beige-colored window curtains or drapes will not do the job of keeping the room dark enough for sleeping unless they have a dark-colored liner.

10. Hot Showers. I checked into a motel in southwestern Arizona that had absolutely no hot water when I went to take a shower in the morning. Shower flow rate and quality can also be quite variable: from a mere trickle to a prickly blast. One quick solution is to merely unscrewed the trickling shower head and chuck it into a corner of the shower. Then the water flows out at full speed. Caveat emptor. (Let the motel room renter beware).

11. Telephone service. Some cheap motels charge you twenty-five or fifty cents for each local telephone call. Sometimes when the motel advertizes that "local calls are free" their "9" local access dial tone never comes on. Others require every call to be routed through the motel lobby switching equipment.

12. Noisy location and noisy neighbors. A motel that faces a freeway will probably have traffic noise all night. Nearby train tracks often have late night runs. Dreams of trains coming toward you can be disturbing to say the least. Airports can also be a significant source of noise, especially if one's sleeping accomadations are located beneath their takeoff path.

13. Bed frame design can be configured in such a way as to provide an obstacle. This may be a serious problem in the dark in the unfamiliar room. Toe stubbing is a distinct possibility.

14. No local newspapers available in coin boxes outside of motel lobby.

Yes, I stayed in a motel in Tucson, Arizona that only sold the Phoenix newspaper in a coin box. The two cities are located one hundred and ten miles apart.

15. "Free coffee" in the motel lobby. This brew is often so insipid and weak that it is hardly worth drinking.

16. Failure to post check out time, motel rules and rates on a notice inside of the motel room. This lack of a notice probably is a violation of state laws that govern public accommodations.

17. Noisy automatic bathroom exhaust fan. (With your thumb and forefinger, twist the holding screw out, remove metal plate in the ceiling and unplug the fan for the duration of your visit). Some motels have discovered the virtue of a separate, dedicated switch for the bathroom exhaust fan.

18. No conveniently located electrical outlets. This is undoubtedly a technique to discourage the consumption of electricity by guests. Probably this is inspired by helpful tip #103 from the American Motel Owners Association Handbook. One motel had a nice table with accompanying chair that were unusable after dark: the nearest lamp was ten feet away. It's the thought that counts.

19. "Bait and Switch" false advertising of low motel room rates on large outdoor signs visible from the freeway. These rates are mysteriously unavailable when you check in.

20. Ghastly motel art on the walls. At least no one in their right mind will try to steal this "art."

21. Bedside lamp light switch. Try to find the bedside lamp light switch in the dark. On the wall? Near the bulb? On the lamp base? One motel had a lamp with a very heavy base, which nonetheless slid across the table when you attempted to push in the "on" button. Obviously, another product design which was not ever tested before use.

22. Door locks on motel rooms that are either almost impossible to open or are so flimsy that they will probably not keep out a stiff breeze.

23. Bed mattresses. Range from excessively saggy to board-stiff.

24. Pillows. Range from seriously stiff to a collapsed heap of chicken feathers.

25. Table and chairs. Mismatched heights make these unmatched furniture sets almost useless.


A. Check out the motel room before renting it. Check the lights, the number of blankets on the bed, the television, both picture quality and channels available. Also check the bathroom shower to see whether there actually is HOT WATER available. Also check out the shower flow rate. Check the window drapes and coverings. It is best to start checking motels in the late afternoon, rather than waiting until darkness falls.

B. Bring along your own supplies: extra blankets, extra pillows, 100 watt light bulbs, floor or table lamps, hot plate, coffee, tea, milk and sugar, AM-FM radio, a VCR with connecting coaxial cables and some video tapes, folding or card table, folding chair, a quiet electrical resistance space heater, alarm clock, a flashlight and extension cords. Heavy dark or black drapes or big sheet will help darken a light motel room at night.

C. Upgrade. For a few dollars more, it is amazing what can be provided in slightly more expensive motels: many fluffy towels, little bottles of shampoo, hand-held television remote controls, coffee and tea, and sometimes even a continental breakfast in the motel lobby in the morning.

D. Go tent camping at a campground or drive a Recreational Vehicle (RV). Avoid the problems associated with cheap motels and find other problems to deal with: sewage dumps,110-volt outlets and neighbors' all-night generators. Happy trails!

E. Sleep alfresco in the woods, a vacant lot or the back of a church ground. Subject to possible rousting by local police, property owners or church officials. Say that you're "a member of a protected minority" and then claim that your "civil rights" are being violated.

F. Stay with long-lost friends or relatives. Trade cheapskate motel problems for long-lost-friends-and-relatives problems.

G. Stay home. Your house or apartment is much better equipped than any motel or hotel room will ever be. Why bother with the trouble and expense of sightseeing at crowded parks? Watch a nature video in the comfort of your own home. Or just real an old travel book.

H. Stay home 2: After rereading this essay, obviously the best and "final" solution to the many problems encountered in cheap motels is to simply stay at home. When you've finally become very old and very grouchy, why go anywhere for overnight stays? As the say in the old blues song, "The thrill is gone..." I've visited 48 of the 50 states, several provinces of Canada, many countries in Europe, the Virgin Islands, Mexico, Alaska, Hawai'i, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti. (See my Travel links section for travel details: Travel links

I. Send your comments and suggestions to:

The Federal Motel Improvement Board

Box FF

Chevy Chase, MD 20907.

Thank you for your efforts in this matter. Your concern is appreciated.