When I stay at a great hotel, I often leave the privacy sign on to avoid turndown service. In its current form, turndown feels outdated and often pointless. And I’m not alone.
“Turndown service is supposed to be an indicator of personal service, attention, and care. It was seen as a service catering to royalty dating back to the 18th century. But today, it has lost much of its charm and can be seen as an irrelevant ‘tick-box’ service,” says Jenny Graham, managing director of Quintessentially Travel.
If I do get turndown, I usually dismantle everything that was just done. I shut off the TV with its soft but irritating “music” (the worst offender, to me), I move all of the papers that have appeared on the bed telling me about the next day’s weather (doesn’t everyone just check their phones for a weather update now?), I shove the slippers—often encased in plastic—under the nightstand, I unravel the tightened bathrobe, and I open the window shades a bit to allow some morning light into what has now become a blacked-out cave perfect for a hibernating bear.
And of course, often the turndown process commences when I’m in the shower getting ready for the evening. Someone knocks for turndown, doesn’t hear that I’m in the shower and opens the door, at which point things get . . . awkward.
The thing is, I love that the room is refreshed. This is part of the joy of staying at a luxury hotel: Someone else takes care of you and cleans up after you. (This is why you tip them well before you leave.) I love when my previously jumbled beauty products are carefully arranged next to the sink, and I’m happy to have empty trash cans (ideally, not a silver one with a foot pedal).
When a hotel really pays attention to personal details, that’s a different story. Graham remembers how the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown knew she had just come from a conference and provided a wellness recovery pack with a collagen face mask and bath salts for a night in. The Chiva-Som resort in Thailand delivered ginger tea, an inspirational quote, and flowers. The Mandarin Oriental New York saw she went for a run and left a local fitness schedule and Epsom bath salts. Many Peninsula hotels offer guests monogrammed pillows to take home.
“With sleep being such an important part of our lives, I feel hotels can zone in on this,” says Graham. “I also love amenities like essential oils, local insights about the area for the next day, anti–jet lag remedies, and digestion elixirs.”
Then there are the pleasant surprises. “I like creative turndown,” says Tony Shepherd, CEO of Four Hundred. “Years ago in Mexico, we were given little statues of mariachi musicians on our pillows, and my kids tried to collect a whole band before we checked out. They still talk about that and they are now both in their 20s.”
Still, most of the time, I’ll keep the privacy sign on. But I do wish there was an easy way to request “Turndown Light”—a refreshed room with none of the “extras” (such as the blaring TV) that appear.
I’ll take the chocolate on the pillow, too, even though I usually don’t eat it. I like to leave it there, like a little friend next to me while I sleep. What—is that weird?
Are you pro-turndown or anti? Let me know. Email me at [email protected]
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