Q: I was in a hotel in another city because I had a job interview there early the next morning. The hotel's fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. I had to walk down several flights of stairs and huddle outside from 2:15 to 3 a.m., until the fire department gave the all-clear. It turned out some kids who were staying at the hotel with their sports team pulled the alarm as a prank.
I think I should ask the hotel chain's customer-service department for some compensation (like a free night or a bunch of loyalty-program points) because I didn't get the good night's sleep I paid for on a night when I desperately needed it. What do you think?
A: That sounds very annoying -- definitely the last thing you need before a job interview! If I were in your shoes, I would have expected the hotel to tell you what happened and say they're sorry you were awakened, but if kids pulled the fire alarm as a prank, that's not the hotel's fault.
Let's say you're staying in a hotel and there's a huge thunderstorm. The power goes out, so you can't answer important work-related emails. Should the hotel have to comp your stay? I don't think so. If the power goes out because the hotel's wiring is outdated, however, then you have a case to ask for compensation.
With the fire alarm at your hotel, there was no malfunction. Quite the opposite, in fact -- the hotel's system did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is to wake you up and get you the heck out of the building. You can't really fault the hotel for that, even though you didn't get a good night's sleep.
I'd just let it go and be grateful there wasn't an actual fire.
Q: Could you please tell people not to take flash photographs on overnight flights? The people in front of me were giggling and taking pictures of each other while I was trying to sleep, and it was really annoying.
A: Done. But there's also nothing wrong with speaking up. I bet they would have stopped if you said, "Excuse me, do you mind turning your flash off? I'm trying to sleep."
Q: Adults (well, college students) wearing flannel-pajama pants on an early-morning flight -- acceptable or not?
A: Most definitely not. I'm not saying all the passengers need to be dressed to the nines at 5 a.m., but it won't kill anybody to take 30 seconds and swap their pajamas for actual pants before leaving for the airport.
Q: What do you think of the new Carnival policy that prohibits passengers from saving lounge chairs at the pools?
A: I think it's terrific. Let me start with some background. Some cruise passengers regularly go to the pool early in the morning and "reserve" a lounge chair with a towel or beach bag. They expect to be able to return hours later, when the pool is crowded, and have a chair waiting for them. But that's selfish -- they're preventing people who are actually at the pool from sitting in a chair.
Under the new Carnival policy, the staff keeps an eye out for unattended deck chairs with stuff on them. When they find one, they write the current time on a sticker and put the sticker on the chair. If no one returns to the chair in 40 minutes, the staff removes the items and leaves a note explaining where their owner can claim them. Someone else can then use the chair. I think that's the perfect amount of time.
Even if your cabin is at the other end of the ship, 40 minutes is plenty of time to run back and fetch your trashy novel. And I absolutely love that Carnival realized chair-saving is a major annoyance for passengers and decided to address it proactively.
Q: What exactly IS turndown service? I often see "Turndown service is provided upon request" in the guest information booklet in hotels, but I don't really know what I'd get if I request it. Do they literally just turn down the bedspread on your bed, or am I missing something awesome by not requesting it?
A: Usually, "turndown service" means that housekeeping will come in and turn down the covers of your bed (straightening it first if you've messed it up during the day), replace used towels and empty your trash. Sometimes they'll also close your blinds and replace any bathroom toiletries you've used, and you might get a piece of candy.
At posh hotels that do turndown service as a matter of course, it can be much more elaborate -- housekeeping might dim your lights, put on classical music, leave fresh flowers, fill your ice bucket, etc.
If your hotel only does turndown service upon request, you have to decide whether you'll derive enough benefit from it to justify the inconvenience of having housekeeping stop by in the evening.
If you're already planning to leave your room for dinner, and you want fresh towels, that's one thing -- just call the front desk and ask for turndown service while you're out. But if you intend to spend your entire evening in your room prepping for a meeting the following morning, you might not want to be disturbed.
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at email@example.com.