Hotel showers: why can’t they get it right?

Hotel showersHotels take a lot of effort into impressing guests with additional touches, whether it be chocolates on pillows, branded writing pads or disposable slippers. When it comes down to analysing the bare essentials however, a stay in a hotel for me is about two main factors: the bed and the shower.

Why is it so hard for hotels to provide a decent shower that is easy to use and that provides a pleasant cleansing experience? Whether 1 star or 5 star, some hotels appear remarkably inept at being able to provide this basic service to their guests. Let’s look at the basics of a good shower:

1. Adequate water flow

We’ve probably all shared that frustration of stepping into a hotel shower and being faced with a mere trickle of water. Trying to increase the temperature often stops the flow entirely. There really is no excuse for this.

To blame it on the plumbing in an old building is unacceptable – if you can’t fix the plumbing to provide decent water flow to your guest rooms then you’re not providing the basic service expected of a hotel. It’s the equivalent of opening a multiplex cinema and putting a small TV screen at the front of each theatre.

2. Water temperature

Some hotels manage to have perfectly good systems where your partner can happily brush their teeth or flush the loo while you enjoy a constantly warm shower. In others you might find that sudden burst of freezing or scalding water is caused by the guy five rooms down the corridor deciding to brush his teeth at the same time as your shower.

This leads to showers at the oddest times of the day or night to try and exploit a window of time where no nearby taps are in use. Hardly a good service to hotel guests.

3. Ease of use

A shower should have two variables: water flow and water temperature. Why is it then that some hotels have invested in such complex shower systems that require the operator to have a PhD in shower mechanics or where they are required to read a user’s manual before setting foot under the ingenious contraption? It’s not clever and it’s not good service.

Perhaps in some hotels we’re expected to summon help to operate the shower for us? I’m not sure on the tipping etiquette in this situation.

4. Hands free

Stay in enough hotels (or in far too many British B&Bs) and you’ll soon find the shower where nothing stays up on the wall. Perhaps there is no hook on the wall for the shower head, or perhaps it’s there but the assembly comes crashing to the floor immediately. Either way, having a shower while trying to hold up the head with one hand is not what I expect in my hotel experience.

A simple usability test might help here. I wonder how many hotel managers or staff have actually tried to use the facilities in their own hotels. I suspect that very few actually do. Either that or they don’t care. I hope it’s not the latter.

5. Draining bath-tub or shower tray

This one is so simple it’s almost criminal. I don’t care if the maids decide not to replenish the shower caps or don’t visit for the evening turn-down. I do expect however that the bath will be regularly plunged and cleared of other people’s pubic hair and other bodily gunk. There’s nothing worse than having a shower that fills up the water tray to the point of flooding, then two hours later when it’s finally drained away you discover the disgusting mess in the plug hole that’s caused the blockage.


Come on hoteliers, this is one basic essential that we as your paying guests deserve to enjoy without a second thought. Surely it’s not difficult to allow us to freshen up without all that unnecessary hassle?

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16 Responses to “Hotel showers: why can’t they get it right?”

  1. Never had chocolates on the pillow, have had drizzly showers. Being British, I’ve never complained.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:29 am
  2. I went to a hotel where I had to run the water for a good 10 minutes before it started warming up enough to take a shower. It was February. However, I have been to lots of hotels, and this was maybe the first time I ever had a problem with the shower.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:23 am
  3. I haven’t actually stayed in a hotel for so long. I’m just thrilled when I have hot water and enough water pressure to rinse my hair at my hostel :-)

    July 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm
  4. May I also add that at the other end of the spectrum there are showers I have not been able to manipulate and whose sight has put the frighteners on me? I’m talking about these huge showers that massage you sideways with several buttons to press and various pressure configurations. Maybe we should standardise showers like plugs.

    July 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm
  5. Great points made here. I hate those sudden bursts of cold or scalding water, too. And how about when there’s nowhere to put anything–no shelves, etc. within the shower? So silly to have to reach out to get shampoo or soap. This is not so common in hotels (more in hostels), but I have seen it.

    I like your idea of having staff use the showers to see what they’re like/how they’re working. I’m sure they’d be more inclined to make some improvements!

    July 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm
  6. My love of those showerheads you have to hold is well documented… However, I’ve got another one for you. I’m staggered by the number of showers that don’t indicate which way you turn for hot and which way you turn for cold. What a pointless, irritating thing to make the user guess.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:22 pm
  7. Nikki Bayley #

    Those glass partition screens… Which act as cunning high-pressure water-bouncing devices and direct a constant stream on to the floor. Why?? Why just have a sliver of screen, just enough to be annoying? Grr.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:25 pm
  8. You would think one hotel would find the perfect make and brand and others would copy, but apparently the shower and hotel world does not work that way. I would imagine money and contracts have a lot to do with this. Hotels probably go on the cheap instead of with better products not realizing it might cost them in the end.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:58 am
  9. I still don’t understand the insistence on so many South East Asian hotels to place the shower over the toilet. All I want is a simple shower curtain so that the toilet roll, towel and the rest of the bathroom can stay dry. Too much to ask?

    July 6, 2011 at 3:06 am
  10. Thanks for the many excellent additions to this shower gripe. Yes, somewhere to put shampoo etc. is a simple additional step, as is marking hot/cold.

    The one that rings as particularly familiar to me is Nikki’s point about flooding the room. I’ve seen this even in 5 star hotels where I flood the bathroom first time (leaky or inadequate screen) then for the next showers I have every spare towel rolled up against the wall/bath/shower end to soak up the flood water. Hardly a 5 star experience…

    July 6, 2011 at 8:01 am
  11. You know whats funny, I tend to rate hotels alot based on how good their bathroom, and more speficically their showers are. wierd.

    Also… is it me, or do hotels etc never put a big enough shower floor matt-towel thingy? Its dangerous when I go to shower, they should be considerate about this.

    July 8, 2011 at 11:33 pm
  12. One of my pet peeves, too … if you need instructions, why can’t you print them so you can read them WITHOUT your specs. Don’t know about anyone else, but I never wear mine in the shower!

    July 9, 2011 at 5:54 am
  13. Hi Andy, we chatted at the Orient Express meetup. I couldn’t agree more, being tall like you is a disadvantage, sometimes when you find a perfectly funtioning shower they are often situated so low on the wall you have to crouch to wash your hair! And don’t get me started on Baths!!!

    July 10, 2011 at 10:42 am
  14. The floor inundation rang very true to me. I used to then be very careful. However now I only dry enough space that I can stand at the washbasin. It’s their problem, they can take care of it, or better, fix it!.

    I have had the stopped up drains in Eastern Europe, but thank God not elsewhere. I remember one hotel in Croatia where actually not only the shower flooded, but the whole folding plastic enclosure fell off…

    Britain is the worst place for trickles. I have absolutely never had a decent shower there, no matter the class of the hotel.

    And yes, I have had a few of those showers so fancy only their inventor can use them…

    August 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm
  15. i’m with @chickybus – there’s always the burst of scalding or cold water because you can’t figure out exactly which way you’re supposed to turn the nozzle-y contraption… it’s rocket science! you need a degree in advanced physics to figure out some of these things!

    November 2, 2011 at 3:33 pm
  16. jude #

    Agreed, those weird contraptiions are weird and annoying. And the thing about H and C being visible without glasses…YES! But my main beef is an almost worldwide lack of decent shelves for shampoo, conditioner, cleanser….just madness!

    December 27, 2011 at 11:37 am