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Many hotel guests want privacy, and giving guests what they want is good for hotels. So as more hotels and casinos announce regular check-in policies for guest rooms, questions are being raised over the wisdom and legality of the universal 'do not disturb' placard. The answer might surprise you.
Hotels Serve Guests, and Protect Themselves
Hotels generally give their guests a fair amount of privacy and security in their rooms. Units have locks, including locks that can only be opened from the inside, and most hotels will try and accommodate patrons with special requests, such as changing check-in and check-out times and keeping valuables in a secure location.
There are legal and good business reasons for doing so. Hotels owe guests certain legal duties, including providing for guest security and welfare, providing safe premises, and warding against the ever-present risk of lawsuits involved in running a major establishment serving many people. Reducing accidents, injuries, and lawsuits is a consistent part of doing business.
Sanctity of the "Do Not Disturb" Sign?
The "do not disturb" sign falls into this area. It's important, as many guests want privacy or simply don't want hotel staff near their possessions. And hotel staff can take a break from changing linens and towels while going down a hundred yard hallway.
Yet it's still largely a courtesy. Some states require hotels to give guests privacy in their rooms until checkout, and long-term lodgers can probably expect more. It's also fairly easy for hotels to roll out a policy such as room checks and receive guests' consent at check-in or purchase, despite any posted signs.
Protecting Your Privacy in Hotels
The best way to ensure privacy is to speak to hotel management. It's often possible to lock valuables in a lockbox or safe. And a hotel or casino may simply want to check and see that you're OK -- which can be handled in many ways, including at the front desk, simply by opening the door, or over the phone. Clear communication goes a long way when it comes to avoiding disputes.