Dare You Drink Out of Glasses in Hotel Rooms?

FlyerTalk member and community director SanDiego1K brought her concerns about the cleanliness of glasses in hotel rooms to the Hyatt Gold Passport forum, wondering if Hyatt Corporation has a policy similar to Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

“All glassware — including glass coffee carafes and cups — are to be washed in a dishwasher and, once cleaned, never again touched by ungloved hands with the understanding that the gloves being used will have never been used previously for any other purpose”, according to FlyerTalk member Starwood Lurker, who is also known as William Sanders, the Online Guest Feedback Coordinator and one of the official company representatives of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide on FlyerTalk.

Does SanDiego1K suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, as intimated by fellow FlyerTalk members — or does she have just cause to be concerned? Is there any validity to her trepidation about using glassware at hotel properties? What about FlyerTalk member Jim Davis Sr, who also brought up the issue of the cleanliness of glassware at hotel properties?

To answer those questions, we need to go back in time several years to November of 2007.

I do not typically watch television, but I was at home in the Atlanta area watching the local news on WAGA-TV Fox 5 when reporter Dana Fowle — then of the investigative team — appeared live to present for the first time a now-legendary undercover hidden-camera exposé on the cleanliness of glassware in hotel rooms. The links posted in various places on FlyerTalk — such as this one — are no longer good, but I found the original report at an Internet web site called snotr:

I hope that you do not find any snotr in your drinking glasses — but that may be the least of your problems in certain hotel rooms as indicated in the video report, unfortunately.

As you may have noted in the report, one hotel property as a result replaced the glasses in its hotel rooms with plastic cups which were individually wrapped. Should you be concerned about their cleanliness as well?

If the plastic cups are manufactured similarly to how the plastic cups used by flight attendants of Delta Air Lines aboard aircraft are manufactured, I can personally vouch by emphatically resounding a no — you need not be concerned about cleanliness at all. A company in Tennessee which manufactures those plastic cups was a customer of mine, and I was taken on a tour of their plant. I can assure you that the first human hands to touch each of those sterilized plastic cups are the flight attendants once they rip open the protective plastic wrapper containing the plastic cups — and the machinery used to create those plastic cups are clean, as well as the facility itself in which the machinery is located.

Similarly, it would therefore stand to reason that you are the first person to touch a plastic cup in a hotel room once you remove it from its protective plastic wrapper — although sometimes the wrappers have a few small holes in the covering. Although it is a long shot, I suppose that it is possible that water can splash from the sink and through one of those little holes, depending on the proximity of the plastic cups to the sink — but I highly doubt it.

I personally do not believe that it is necessary to drink from a glass as opposed to drinking from a plastic cup from a cleanliness point of view. Then again, there are FlyerTalk members who insist on drinking from glasses in the premium class cabin of an airplane instead of plastic cups back when airlines were attempting to save money — but can you be assured that the glassware aboard aircraft is clean enough from which to drink?

In fact, the water served aboard an airplane may not be safe to drink if it is not bottled water.

Why do fancier hotels insist on using glassware instead of plastic cups in hotel rooms? Is it because the customers insist on it? Would it not be easier, less expensive and more sanitary to use disposable plastic cups which could be recycled? Surely there must be a way to improve the appearance of plastic cups in higher-end hotel properties.

So what is a person to do?

Well, what I do is if I am at a hotel where the rooms are supplied with plastic cups which are individually wrapped, I take one or two of those cups and store it into my bag to carry around with me for future use. If I find myself in a hotel room containing glassware whose cleanliness is questionable, I will use the plastic cup instead — although I do not remember the last time I actually used glassware in a hotel room, come to think of it.

I can tell you that long before that undercover investigation aired, I never used a glass which simply sat upside-down on the counter or table with no protective material between the glass and the surface on which it sat. Who knew what awaited on the rim of that glass?

Not that it was a guarantee of any sort that the glass was clean, but I only used glasses that passed the intense scrutiny of my spotlessness check.

Obsessive? Perhaps — but as I wrote here, I have not suffered from a cold, fever or other illness in several years. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

By the way, you may have noticed the remote control in the investigative video report and thought to yourself about the germs and bacteria that are probably lurking on that device as well as in coffee carafes — but that is another discussion for another time…

Comments (Showing 13 of 13)

  • downinit at 5:54am April 20, 2013

    There is a very simple solution, just rinse out the glass before you use. Much better than wasting petroleum oil and making mountains of plastic trash to appease a paranoid public. Our obsession with cleanliness and ‘anti-bacterial’ everything has done little more than created a generation of children with very weak immune systems, while spawning the creation of superbugs which are far more deadly and impossible to kill. Without bacteria, there would be no life anywhere. Yes, there is good and bad bacteria, but exposure to the bad bacteria is necessary for our immune systems to properly operate. The human body is a remarkable device.

  • Basar at 7:35am April 20, 2013

    I kinda agree with downinit. I hate plastic cups as people rarely recycle them. Just carry around a 75ml disinfectant spray or wipes in your bag and get rid of 98% of all possible bad bacteria/germs.

  • rknicker at 8:24pm April 21, 2013

    It’s commonplace to find the glassware obviously wiped down on the rim, but not washed. I’ve found this at SPG, Hilton, Marriott, all over the country. Always wash them.

  • Palal at 5:57am April 22, 2013

    Bacteria are gentle creatures. Dirt kills them. 😀

    Seriously, wash the glass and let your immune system deal with the rest.

  • emma69 at 7:04am April 22, 2013

    Glass every time – I hate drinking out of plastic ‘glasses’ it makes me feel like I am in pre-school and can’t be trusted with the fragile items!

    Add in the benefits for the environment by reusing glass, not disposable plastic, the benefits to the body by not living in a bubble and the fact that a G&T tastes better in glass, and I am sold.

    I do wonder if the author also refuses glasses in restaurants – I receive more wine glasses with lipstick residue on them in restaurants than I have ever done in hotel rooms – and having worked in restaurants, I can tell you the glasses cycle in many of them just don’t get hot enough for long enough to santize the glasses.

  • Brian Cohen at 10:01am April 22, 2013

    No, emma69 – I do not refuse glasses in restaurants. I have been behind the scenes for catered events such as weddings and – just like in restaurants – you do not want to know what goes on behind the scenes. I would not be surprised if catered events are worse than restaurants when it comes to the cleanliness of glassware and cutlery.
    I am thinking of doing a follow-up on this article. Everyone who has commented here has brought up some very good points to consider, and I thank you.

  • daph at 1:24pm April 22, 2013

    I always wash hotel room glasses and coffee cups and spoon with hot, soapy water before using them. It’s a pain. I do it daily. Rarely have a cold or flu.

  • tampatravel at 5:20pm April 22, 2013

    Great article. I travel with a Tervis Tumbler Water Bottle on all my trips. I travel a lot and use that wide mouth bottle to get ice for the room. The ice bag, I use like an police evidence bag. I put my hand in the bag, grab the remote, pull the bag over the remote, and tie it off. There I’ve got a clean remote and a bottle that holds my ice and water.

  • frank_10b at 6:53pm April 22, 2013

    What a joke, how does spg think they are going to control what happens to glasses in hotels around the world. I know for sure that spg hotel franchises and their workers must do what they can to save time and just clean the glasses along with the toilet seats and whatever else to get the room done and ready to rent.

  • Palal at 2:44am April 23, 2013

    I’ve noticed that almost all of these FT articles try to inflict fear on the reader, just like most sensationalist newspapers, tv and other media channels do. You have to remember, though that this is FTers you’re dealing with, most of whom are a seasoned bunch of travellers who you can’t scare as easily as an average soccer mom from suburbia.

    I don’t know about others, but instead of being sensationalist, I’d like to see a style of journalism that’s similar to avherald — facts, to the point. Given the fact that most of these articles are opinion pieces (hardly journalism) it’s hard to do that.

  • […] I will never use a hotel room drinking glass again is HERE […]

  • Brian Cohen at 10:14am April 23, 2013

    Your comment is not accurate when referring to The Gate, Palal. Right now on the front “page” of The Gate as this is being posted, there are articles about earning bonus SkyMiles, the Boeing 787 coming back into service, FlyerTalk members helping the victims of the Boston Marathon. a contest to help raise funds for a scholarship — all hardly “sensationalist” and trying to “inflict fear on the reader.”
    Also, please keep in mind that the purpose of The Gate is to highlight what is being discussed on FlyerTalk — all with links to actual FlyerTalk discussions — and with few exceptions, most of the topics are brought up by FlyerTalk members themselves, not by me.
    Besides, I am not looking to “scare” anyone — rather, I am looking to provoke thoughtful discussion by FlyerTalk members for FlyerTalk members.
    Regardless, I am always looking to improve how I write for The Gate and will look more closely at avherald.com — although I am already familiar with it.
    Thank you for your feedback, Palal.

  • seanthepilot at 7:16pm April 28, 2013

    Having worked in a 5 star hotel for 20 years in a previous life, I feel the need to comment on this article. Although many hotels will have a process for sending glassware down to the kitchen to be cleaned, budget cuts and staffing levels often supercedes company policy.

    If I were to assess each hotel, I would ask myself a few questions. You may want to try these yourself.

    Does the Front Desk, Restaurant staff, or housekeeping seem understaffed?
    This is a big alarm bell. If one department is tight on the budget, housekeeping is too. When time is not enough, shortcuts have to be made. Think about it.

    Does the maid’s housekeeping cart have clean glassware on it?
    Glasses should be kept on each floor, and will likely be in industrial glass washing racks either by the elevator or in their supply room.
    If you don’t see any glassware, where do you think they are replacing them from?

    When you see the maid, ask for 2 extra drinking glasses. If it takes the maid 20 seconds to get them, it’s likely that all the glassware on that floor has been replaced. If it takes the staff several minutes or more, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they have no stock available.

    In a larger type hotel, housekeeping it its own entity. Virtually running as a closed system. Laundry coming and going, and lots of cleaning of rooms and public areas. There is interaction with other departments, like communication with the Front Desk, interactions with bellmen, room service, and maintenance. But for the most part, they operate like a closed system

    Glassware coming up from the kitchen involves another department and some hotels will just not have a process set up for it. Dirty dishes coming down are a separate issue, as they can be just ‘dumped’ in the kitchen to be washed. Often, room service will collect dishes, not housekeeping. Another system would have a separate staff member exclusively doing glassware for all the rooms. You may not notice this over the period of a single stay, but during multiple stays, or an extended stay, you are likely to notice whether they have a system built in or not.

    The reality is that whether or not glasses are brought down and cleaned in the hotels kitchens depends on several things; The integrity of the management team; Their likeliness to be ‘in touch’ with what’s really going on; And the level of under-staffing in the housekeeping department.

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