Undercover Investigation: Dirty Hotel Drinking Glasses

An ABC15 investigation uncovered hotel drinking glasses that were so dirty they could pose a serious risk to your health.

Arizona health code requires that hotel drinking glasses be "cleaned and sanitized," using a dishwasher or three-compartment sink. Three of the four hotels ABC15 tested failed: not replacing dirty glasses with clean ones, and using only a towel or sponge to wipe them clean before putting them back out for the next guest.

State health officials are already reacting to the investigation's results.

"It's just plain gross," says Will Humble from the Arizona Health Department. Humble called the incident a clear violation of Arizona's health code, explaining that the dirty glasses can transfer viruses or even influenza from guest to guest. None of the hotels tested have been cited.

In a joint investigation with sister stations across the country, ABC15 found that the Arizona incident is not an isolated problem.

From Kansas City to Cincinnati to Baltimore, 11 of 15 hotels tested did not take dirty glasses out of the room for cleaning and sanitizing.

At one Kansas City Holiday Inn, a hotel worker wiped her hands with the same towel she used to dry the dirty glasses.

The Holiday Inn says it "set stringent quality standards." They put out a statement saying "as we work to ensure 100 percent execution of these standards, we have changed to the use of prewrapped plastic cups exclusively."

At the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati, the investigation found a housekeeper who used a spray bottle to douse the dirty glasses and coffee pot in the sink with a bottle of Lysol mildew remover.

Though the video does not prove there was actually mildew remover in the bottle, if it was Lysol, the label clearly states "harmful if swallowed."

At the Embassy Suites in Phoenix, the investigation found that instead of replacing dirty glasses, housekeepers rinsed and dried with a rag. An undercover camera caught staff doing this not just once but both times the investigators stayed at the Embassy Suites.

The Embassy Suites responded by saying, "glassware must be replaced daily and sanitized...we are re-emphasizing this training."

At another Embassy Suites in Cincinnati, the investigation found glasses that were dried using a dirty hand towel. The same maid then used a clean towel to wipe down the dirty floor, using her foot to do the work. After the bathroom floor, she next used the dirty towel to wipe down the coffee pot.

Dale Grigsby of the Cincinnati Health Department says, "To take that towel that they used to clean up a bathroom floor where there's even more of a chance of there being pathogens in there … to use it on to wipe off glassware it's just like playing with a loaded gun."

Both the Embassy Suites and the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati say they are looking into the issue.

Ohio has no health code pertaining to hotel drinking glasses, but after viewing the investigation's video, officials said they were working on creating new regulations.

Click here to watch ABC15's video in full on its Web site ABC15.


Millennium Hotel Cincinnati "Response to Recent Hotel Cleanliness Incident"

Jan. 30, 2008 The safety and well-being of our guests is of the utmost importance to us at the Millennium Hotel Cincinnati. We have very stringent policies and procedures in place to ensure that our staff goes above and beyond core expectations to provide a clean and safe environment for our guests. For example, all new employees take part in mandatory training sessions on cleaning procedures and acknowledge that following these procedures is a condition of their employment. We have a regular checks and balance system in place to ensure these policies are followed, and we are reviewing any potential discrepancies.



Statement from Embassy Suites

Feb. 11, 2008 The health and safety of our guests is of utmost importance, and we do not take these issues lightly. Cleanliness of our hotel) is always a focal point of our operations in order to continue providing guests with an optimal hotel experience.

Concerning the cleanliness of in-suite glasses and coffee cups, there are proper procedures and guidelines in place and all glassware must be replaced daily and sanitized in a commercial dishwasher. In recent months, we have addressed this issue with our hotel owners and management company partners, and we have re-emphasized the proper protocol and training to all of our general managers and team members to ensure proper protocol is put into action. If a hotel does not comply, it is a violation of our brand strict standards. Each suite keeping team member is required to take part in training on the proper procedures for cleaning in-suite glassware and we are re-emphasizing this training to owners and management teams at our hotels.



Statement from Embassy Suites Cincinnati, Ohio

Feb. 9, 2008 Along with the safety of our guests, the cleanliness of our hotel is of the utmost importance and is always a focal point of our operations in order to continue providing guests with a great experience. Concerning the cleanliness of in-suite glasses and coffee cups, there are proper procedures and guidelines in place and all glassware must be sanitized in a commercial dishwasher. We have reiterated these procedures and training to all of our team members to ensure all protocol is being conducted properly.

We are proud of our efforts in this area, which are reflected in the satisfaction and loyalty of returning guests to our hotel and our brand.


Statement from the Radisson Phoenix, Arizona

Feb. 11, 2008 We are very sorry for this incident. The Radisson Hotel Phoenix-Chandler has strict guidelines on the proper handling and cleaning of dishware in the guestrooms. The hotel has investigated the situation and appropriate discipline has been administered. The hotel has reviewed guestroom inspection and training procedures with the housekeeping team to ensure our policy is strictly followed. The local ABC affiliate came back and did a follow-up report and found that the hotel's housekeeping performed perfectly and we hope you indicate that. Radisson is focused on providing a high-quality experience for our guests and hotel cleanliness is a top priority.



Statement from the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa

Jan. 31, 2008 Superior guest service and compliance with the industry's high standards are of utmost importance to us. We are extremely concerned to learn that one of our employees was not following the resort's exacting procedures on which they were trained. We have taken immediate action to address this issue, conducting additional training to ensure that every employee not only understands the procedures but consistently follows them. Although our review indicates that this was an isolated incident, we have reinforced with all employees the importance of executing these programs exactly as our guidelines require.



Statement from Intercontinental Hotels Group

Feb. 11, 2008 As the investigative report shows, this is an issue within our industry that we all take very seriously. At InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), we are currently looking at several solutions, including recyclable, disposable cups that meet IHG's global environmental guidelines. However, this will take some time, as we want a global solution that translates across all seven IHG brands equating to over 3,800 hotels. In the meantime, the following steps have been taken:

We've reinforced our stringent brand standards surrounding proper in-room glassware sanitization and cleaning.

We've added specific training and consultation in the field on proper cleaning techniques.

We've implemented a new quality inspection program that will further reinforce the sanitization process of in-room glassware and general cleanliness of hotels.

The safety and comfort of our guest is our top priority and we thank you for bringing this to our attention.



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