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Hotel Pet Policies: Clueless in SoCal

Frankie, the hotel scofflaw, says, "My feet are clean, I swear"

Last week a longtime hotel GM provided first-hand testimony that dogs and their people make excellent guests. A few weeks before, I discussed — and got terrific feedback on — 9 Things that Make a Hotel Genuinely Pet Friendly.

Today I want to give an example of a place where Frankie and I stayed that had many stellar qualities but didn’t understand the pet friendly concept, which I see as a missed opportunity. I won’t name it, because  everyone was well intentioned — and because we were invited to stay for free and dissing it would be most ungrateful of me.

The setting

A lovely seaside hotel in southern California, which was trying to promote its new pet-acceptance policy.

The policy

  • Only dogs under 15 pounds were permitted.
  • I had to sign an agreement promising my dog wouldn’t get up on the bed
  • “Cleaning fees” were a nonrefundable $100 per night.

The perks

As part of the canine red carpet roll out, Frankie was gifted with a T-shirt and food and loaned a plush dog bed.

The problems

Sizeism: The logic behind the size cutoff eludes me. Are dogs less doggie because they’re diminutive? And if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be…

Disproportionate cleaning fees: How much would it actually cost to vacuum up hair or — atypically — the mess of a dog that weighs less than 15 pounds? Not $100 a night, I’d wager. In an upscale hotel like this one, I would imagine deep cleaning is part of the housekeeping routine.

Unnecessary goodies: Frankie wasn’t keen on the T-shirt and wasn’t permitted to eat the food, high quality though it was, because of his diabetes. And the purpose of the dog bed was to give Frankie a cushy place to sleep on the floor. Ha!

I may match the sand, but I still don't like it!

Cutesiness: Enclosed in the goodie basket was a flirty note to Frankie from the hotel’s canine “concierge,” a fluffy bichon. This was a sad waste of effort. Frankie can’t read and doesn’t have balls.

Arbitrary rules: As you can see from the picture, Frankie wasn’t having any of that “don’t get up on the bed” business. I’m fine with Frankie sleeping near me, and a hotel isn’t going to get me to exile him to the floor.

Staff that wasn’t trained to deal with pets: Everyone oohed and aahed over Frankie — naturally! — but some staff members were more hands on than they should have been. Case in point: When we were waiting for the valet to bring my car — all the parking was valet, otherwise there was no way I would have allowed anyone to enter my less-than-immaculate car  — one of the guys at the bell desk bent down and rolled Frankie over on his back to give him a tummy rub.

If Frankie had wanted a tummy rub — which he never would from a stranger — he would have rolled over himself.

Luckily Frankie is not a biter or a submissive pee-er. He just looked at me pleadingly.

The whole thing happened quickly and I didn’t want to make the situation worse by getting upset, or even mentioning it. The guy meant no harm. He was just being playful with dogs — probably big dogs — in the only way he knew. He would have been horribly embarrassed and apologetic and Frankie wasn’t traumatized.

Nor was there any point in reporting the incident to anyone. It was clear to me that training staff how to deal with pets wasn’t on the hotel’s radar — as it should be if a hotel is to be genuinely pet friendly.

A wasted setting. We were less than two blocks away from the sea, which was a real draw for me. Not so much for Frankie, who thought the big waves were loud and scary and the sand unpleasantly sandy (perhaps I’ve never mentioned that he prefers sidewalks to grass; what an urban sophisticate!)

In short…

This place would be ideal for people with big, sea-loving pups. All the hotel would need to do to maintain cleanliness is install a shower/hose for dogs at a pet entryway. Pet owners are no more interested in having sand in their suitcases and bedding than hotels are.

Again, I don’t write this to criticize but to point out a missed opportunity. This is the type of place that would be perfect for celebrities — and their large pets (who would probably be better behaved than the people).

Note: Less than a year after our stay, the hotel is no longer promoting its pet friendly policies. There was nothing on its website mentioning dogs or canine concierges. I called and discovered that cleaning fees are slightly lower ($75) than before but the size restriction remains at 15 pounds.

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38 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Interesting post Edie.

    I agree with you and Frankie on the belly rub. I would not have been happy about that either. I also would have been unhappy with the weight restriction, the cleaning fees and the agreement saying my dog could not go on the bed. I think the intent was obviously a good one, but it’s like they decided to dip their toe into the virtual pool of traveling pet owners to see if it was something they wanted to do or not. If I could speak to them directly, I would tell them to either jump into the pool fully or don’t do it at all. Sticking a tentative toe in the water only serves to make pet owners unhappy and unlikely to return and I don’t think that was their intent.

    Re: the note in the basket. It might seem silly, but I have found that addressing my newsletters to my client’s pets is well received and they get a kick out it.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks for weighing in here. I wasn’t unhappy (because I wasn’t paying!) but saw it as a missed opportunity for the hotel to be genuinely pet friendly as opposed to gearing their program towards a presumed audience of people with little frou frou dogs.

      And I was only joking about the note being addressed to Frankie, which I thought was cute. I often act as Frankie’s animal communicator/translator on my blog. I did go on the pet concierge’s FB page (which no longer exists) and wrote “Frankie says, Voulez vous coucher avec moi.” Oddly, I never heard back… 😉

  2. Posted February 22, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    A $100 per night nonrefundable cleaning fee seems more pet exploitive than pet friendly. And unless they have surveillance cameras in the room, the no dogs on beds rule relies on the honor system—of the dogs. And my dogs don’t get human honor systems.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Or they’d have to send out the pets on the bed police, to see if anyone was breaking the rules. And of course, by the time the police came to the door, your dog would be off the bed 😉

  3. Posted February 22, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Oy! An opportunity missing in action indeed. From what you said this place is in an ideal location to welcome larger dogs who love the ocean. Okay, they don’t want sandy dogs in the notel, who does? The hotel could install an outdoor doggie wash just like the showers so many places have for people to rinse the sand off.

    This hotel is clearly not pet friendly. It is “pet ambivalent” which might be worse than not pet friendly at all. I don’t know for sure. But, it’s a little strange to be “welcomed” by people/staff/mgt who make it clear they really aren’t sure they want you in their hotel in the first place.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Yup, you got it — pet ambivalent! It’s clear they wanted the label without doing the research.

      In case anyone in the hotel business is reading this, I’m available to be a pet friendly policy consultant!

    • Posted February 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Pet ambivalent! That’s a much better description than what I offered! New term?

  4. Posted February 22, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    The size restriction doesn’t make sense to me either. I find that small dogs often bark more to make up for their lack of size! They also tend to have a high, piercing kind of vocalization that drives me nuts! Sorry Frankie …. I’m sure you are not like this!

    I think some hotels/motels want to draw new business, but don’t have a clue about dogs.

    I’ll always remember the small motel on a beach by the Pacific. When I went to sign in I told the man behind the desk that I have a dog. He bent down, and re-appeared with a furry love, proudly announcing: “I do too!” They did have a “hose station” for humans and dogs, and were wonderful hosts. Nothing fancy, just a shared appreciation and love for our canine companions.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      Frankie accepts your apology and assures you that he is NOT like that.

      You’re absolutely right about keeping things simple — an appreciation for pets and a hose to get sand off them (and us) goes a much long way towards getting repeat business than gratuitous gift packs!

  5. Posted February 22, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Hi, there. I have nothing intelligent to add – just some random pet-blogger in VA feeling compelled to tell you that I muchly enjoy your blog, your writing, your dog and especially, your humor. 🙂

    Oh, and I love that you review with integrity.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Those comment you just made were extremely intelligent IMHO… Seriously, thanks very much for coming by and saying what you did!

  6. Posted February 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I was ever so impressed last year at our local Home and Garden Show. I brought my Cairn terrier/Beagle mix Margie with me. Margie is quite personable and friendly. A very young girl came up, asking first if she could pet my dog, then offering her pet under Margie’s chin. I told her aunt how impressed I was; her mom came up and asked her if she had permission to pet the dog and I told her the same thing
    I hope you sent this blog entry to that hotel. No one is more hotel/bed friendly than a Greyhound; size has no impact on a dog’s behavior or shedding…The photo of Frankie on the sand is hilarious, though – he is not very happy.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’m always super pleased when kids ask permission to pet Frankie, though they are not generally rewarded for their politeness, because Frankie is not keen on anyone touching him. He does tolerate it, and I suppose that’s enough.

      He does look awfully grumpy on the sand, doesn’t he?

      I’m not sure of the wisdom of providing proof that I broke a contract: the picture of Frankie on the bed. So for now on I’m just going to praise hotels that have good pet policies rather than shaming the ones that don’t. But see my comment to Georgia.

  7. Posted February 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    love the photo of Frankie the scofflaw!

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      Oops, just realized with this comment that I spelled “scofflaw” wrong in the caption… going to correct it right now! Thanks for your spelling guidance (intended or no)!

  8. Posted February 22, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    What a dreadful hotel. I steer clear away from places that have size limits on dogs. I’m pretty sure I would, even if I had a littledog, because it’s discriminatory and says nothing nice about the place.

    And the cleaning fee? NONREFUNDABLE? Ridiculous! That sounds like just another way of charging the dog 100 dollars for the room. You should name and shame just for that alone! What if the dog didn’t mess up the place at all and just slept all day in its cushy bed? I’m really glad the hotel is no longer finding any profit in being a pet-friendly place because it clearly isn’t.

    P.S. Frankie is so wee 🙂

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      If I named every hotel that had a size limit AND a ridiculously high and nonrefundable fee for so-called cleaning It would be a very long list and include some of the fanciest hotels in the U.S. Hmmm. Being a writer is so low paid. Maybe I can make a living as an extortionist, put together that list and get paid not to publish it…

      Frankie wonders if you would like him. His leash is not very long, if that helps.

    • Vanessa
      Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      [What a dreadful hotel. I steer clear away from places that have size limits on dogs. I’m pretty sure I would, even if I had a littledog, because it’s discriminatory and says nothing nice about the place.

      And the cleaning fee? NONREFUNDABLE? Ridiculous! That sounds like just another way of charging the dog 100 dollars for the room. You should name and shame just for that alone! What if the dog didn’t mess up the place at all and just slept all day in its cushy bed? I’m really glad the hotel is no longer finding any profit in being a pet-friendly place because it clearly isn’t.]

      Oh dear. I do hope that pet owners, particularly dog owners, do not share this attitude.
      As an owner (slave) to a small, hypoallergenic and non-shedding dog that travels with me constantly, I feel grateful indeed to ANY hotel that at least allows pets to stay in the rooms!
      Most hotels do not, and with an attitude of that nature it’s not difficult to understand their position or unwillingness to try it out.

      We strive to be great pet ambassadors when we travel. I have taught my dog to be well mannered and I monitor or restrict behaviors to accomodate the situation. It would be just as disappointing to have ill behaved, unecessarily messy children staying in a room. Have you ever lost your appetite in a restaurant around a family with small children that do not reign in their childrens dining manners? Or at least attempt to keep the kids area “neat” while they eat? Same with pets.

      I do understand requiring a pet cleaning fee. Even though I have a dog that travels with me I feel sick at the thought of sleeping in a hotel bed where another dog might have slobbered on a headboard that couldnt be cleaned for example. Or walking on a carpet that might still have dog hairs all over it, or worse a pet accident deep within the carpet.

      Hotels don’t necessarily have “deep cleanings” after every stay. And they are a business with intention to make a profit. If allowing pets to stay in rooms costs them more money for cleaning, ruined or potentially ruined or stained furniture or carpets, pet hair vacuuming on draperies etc., then I expect for them to pass costs on to me: the customer with the dog. Why would one expect them to absorb the costs for such a huge favor? (I say “favor” because it is NOT cost effective for any hotel to allow pets in their rooms, whether speaking in dollars or reputation with the general hotel visitor. Most paying guests would prefer not to have dogs in hotel rooms or lobbys.)

      There are really few hotels that allow pets to stay in rooms. It is up to us to prove to them how clean andrespectful we can be with our dogs, and minimally impact their reputation with other clientele. The majority of the public (pet owners or not) do not want to stay in a room that was occupied by people with dogs.

      My well-traveled dog and I are always grateful to any hotelier that welcomes us. And we pay dearly, but willingly for our rooms. It is a huge perk and we do the best we can to appreciate that, while hopefully demonstrating that it need not cause negative impact or ridicule for less than a “royal welcome”.

      Please pet owners, do the same. We are working toward tolerance and acceptance which will never happen if we choose to ignore propriety,break the rules or be unnapreciative of the little advances.

      Still traveling with my pup after all these years…

      • Edie Jarolim
        Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        I’m afraid much of what you say is downright inaccurate — as the post by the hotel GM that I linked to in the beginning of this one attests. So do statistics. More and more hotels are accepting pets without weight or size limit, and it’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s out of the bottom line. In contrast to what you say, other guests don’t mind pets. It is NOT a huge perk to accept them and guests traveling with them should not be made to be feel grateful.

      • Posted March 2, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        Hi Edie and Vanessa

        I have to jump in here! Firstly I have to admit I am the hotel GM who wrote the guest blog that Edie refers to.

        Indeed in the normal course of housekeeping in a 4/5 star hotel, deep cleaning is not carried out, unless there is an obvious human or pet accident. If headboards on beds are upholstered, a dog slobbering on it is not the worst that could happen, trust me. Deep cleaning usually occurs once every month in a room in a good standard hotel. The notice about a smoking fine of $100 was the one that was breached most often and was the most common cause of deep cleaning being carried out and charged for.

        Most hotels that are pet friendly set aside several rooms in the same wing for guests with dogs and as such those rooms usually do have extra cleaning time scheduled, particularly upon departure but not a $100 worth! All of the hotels I managed charged a flate rate fee for dogs (around $20 per night).

        Hotels do not lose money by accepting dogs, but they may lose business if they don’t, particularly in beach, lake and rural areas where people visit for outdoor activities that would normally involve their dog.

        • Edie Jarolim
          Posted March 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          Juliette, I was waiting for you to weigh in! Thanks so much for clarifying the deep cleaning policy. I got the info from the marketing director of a pet friendly hotel chain, but she may have been referring to just the pet friendly rooms; I misunderstood. And that hotel chain charges a single fee of $25 for the entire stay, which seems extremely reasonable to me.

          • Posted March 4, 2011 at 3:40 am | Permalink

            Weigh in…very funny, I think that’s what the hotel you stayed in would have liked to do instead of ‘check in’ (with their only dogs under 15lbs rule)!

          • Edie Jarolim
            Posted March 4, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

            Ha — that was an unintended pun, but I’ll take credit for it in the future!

  9. Posted February 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I agree…a $100 non-refundable cleaning fee is completely outrageous! That’s not pet-friendly in my books. And signing a waiver promising my dog won’t get on the bed? Ah…ain’t gonna happen. Well, I’d sign it but that’s about it. Teko is welcome everywhere. He’s cleaner than most humans I know!

    Edie, did you give the hotel any “constructive” feedback?

    I also love the photo of Frankie on the beach…that expression is priceless!

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      It’s been my experience that hotels that are this clueless don’t want constructive feedback. They want praise, in print. Which they didn’t get. I guess that was my feedback. I did tell the PR person — before I stayed there — that the “not getting on the bed policy” was ridiculous and there was no way my dog was going to stay on the floor. She agreed and so was complicit in Frankie’s illegal behavior.

      He does look awfully grumpy, doesn’t he?

  10. Posted February 22, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I think Frankie is the quintessential New Yorker. Love the “Really? – and you thought I would like this – why?” expression. He is so tiny in his blue t-shirt!

    Gotta believe the hotel thought they had a money maker on their hands, and customers would pay up without a peep. $100 a night? Do they light candles with those bills?

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      I guess he must have absorbed the NY ‘tude from his owner 😉

  11. Posted February 23, 2011 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Seriously, what’s pet friendly about paying a $75 non-refundable “pet fee”? It’s not like they scrub & disinfect the room after you leave. I think it’s just a polite way of grubbing more money out of the hotel patrons.

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      You got it! And it’s an insult to dog owners. Do they think we’re that dumb?

  12. Posted February 23, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    The pet policy at this hotel sounds like someone read in the NY Times that pet people were going to be the source of all kinds of revenue. They felt the need to jump on the bandwagon so they didn’t lose out on the millions of dollars people spend traveling with their pets.

    That’s much different from someone saying, “Yeah, we’re going to make our hotel pet friendly because we love dogs and want to build a relationship with the people who can really appreciate what we offer.”

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      I think you’re right on the money, as it were, Pamela. The whole promotion was based on an appeal to a stereotype of rich people who treat their dogs like accessories — as opposed to people with money who treat their dogs like dogs and would love to stay in a beautiful place near the beach. If done right, it could have been successful and very lucrative in terms of room occupancy and public relations.

  13. Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Really thoughtful critiques…a lot of places could benefit from thinking things through better. You are right that there were a lot of missed opportunities here!

  14. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I agree that weight limits are stupid, and the $100 cleaning bill is utterly outrageous. I wouldn’t stay there based on that alone. (I won’t stay there for $75/night either!). That’s not pet-owner-friendly. However, I’m not going to ask hotels to make their employees take dog-sensitivity workshops in order to be considered pet-friendly. Hotel staff turns over too frequently to allow for it anyway. When I stay at a “family” hotel with my kids, I don’t expect the staff to have degrees in child psychology. 🙂 And kids, like pets, get offered inappropriate treats. No one means any harm by these things, it’s just up to the dog-owner (or mommy) to say, “No thank you, we don’t eat those,” with a smile. All I ask is that they treat us with courtesy, and not assume that my kids (or your dog, no matter what size) are going to wreck the place!

    Finally, many hotels have a four person-per-room limit; we have three kids, none of whom are old enough to stay by themselves. We don’t stay at hotels that make us put our family in two rooms, either! I think finding a good, affordable hotel/motel for the night is the most frazzling part of travel. And at least you can train Frankie to sniff out the bedbugs! 🙂

  15. Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    In our travels we found that hotels range from barely pet tolerant to extremely pet friendly. Based on your review, I’d put this one in the former category. Unfortunately, so many places trying to cater to pet travelers put their focus on the wrong things. The “non-refundable cleaning fee” was partially going to pay for the t-shirt and dog food that Frankie didn’t even want. Seriously, how many experience pet travelers are going to play Russian roulette with their dog’s digestive system when they’re on vacation? They would be much better off lowering the fee and sticking to the basics.

    In reply to Lori R., I think providing the staff a 15 minute introduction to the correct way to greet a strange dog isn’t too much to ask. Luckily Frankie is not a biter. Many, many dogs would not have tolerated being handled this way, and the hotel would have had a worker’s comp claim on their hands. It’s also poor customer service to put their guests in the uncomfortable position Edie experienced.

  16. Posted February 24, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Y’all,

    It’s been a busy week and I’m just playing catch up on my reading. Enjoyed the “right” up.

    I’ve traveled with dogs for decades and have never been able to shake the feeling that, even though I’m paying a fee to have my dog or dogs share my room, I have to keep it from making a peep and only take it out when no one else is around for fear of offending someone. It’s just not a relaxing experience.

    BrownDog’s Momma

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted February 24, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      I hope things start changing soon. People who travel with pets are paying guests like all others and the experiences that Juliette Morgan (in an earlier post) detailed about her time as a hotel GM are typical. We’re good guests — we deserve a treat and lots of positive reinforcement!

  17. Posted March 2, 2011 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Hiya, Edie and Frankie, I’m really glad I found your blog. I’ve read through some of your posts and I had to comment on this one.

    Since we’ve got George, we always look for dog friendly places when we go on holiday, so that we can all enjoy it. However, sometimes it’s hard to get it right, as the promise of a dog-friendly place is not always followed through. Last weekend we went on a day trip to the seaside, to one of the sandy beaches that we knew was very popular with dog owners. The beach was, indeed, very dog-friendly, and we all enjoyed our time there. But, when we got hungry and decided to stop in the little village 2 miles away from the beach, we found a completely different attitude: the place is completely hostile to dogs and young people! There were “No dogs allowed” signs everywhere – in the street, on the grass, at the park, on the pier – along with “No skateboarding”, “No rollerblading” and “No cycling” signs directed at teenagers. We could not believe it, and I’m sure other people have fallen into this trap before us.

    As for the size requirement that your hotel came up with, I have to admit I’ve never heard of anything like that in my life. I’ve seen places that limit the number of dogs you can bring with you and that’s fine, I’ve seen places that only welcome ‘well behaved dogs’ (that’s a funny one, too, but I’ll leave it for now), but size? Really, they must have thought really hard before they came up with that one. Just out of curiosity, I wonder how they would justify this restriction if anyone asked them.

    Nice post, anyway.

    Didi

    • Edie Jarolim
      Posted March 2, 2011 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      Thanks for coming by! I’m glad you found our blog, too.

      I’m astonished you haven’t encountered size restrictions more often — that’s par for the course. Many, many hotels only accept pets under 30 pounds; the ones that accept all sizes are the exceptions. I agree, it’s ridiculous, based on nothing rational. I’m hoping more and more hotels begin to understand that.

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