"Good Morning America" teamed up with Reader's Digest on a special series, "13 Things Experts Won't Tell You." This month, Reader's Digest unveils the secrets your hotel desk cleark won't tell you on how to score upgrades, lower rates, and more.
1. The 1-800 reservations number will probably send you to a central office with set rates. If you call the hotel directly instead, you can negotiate.
2. Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30 percent to online booking sites. So offer me 20 percent less than the online price, and we both come out ahead.
3. Independently owned hotels are far more likely to give you a discount. Some chains balk at dropping the rate.
4. Don't ask me for an upgrade when other guests are within earshot. Want a more spacious room without paying more? Request a corner room or a handicapped one.
5. If you request a king bed, there's no guarantee. No matter how confident the reservations agent sounds, call the hotel directly and make the request again a few days before you travel. Then do it again on the day of. If we still don't have one when you get there and you're nice about it, we may comp your breakfast or upgrade you to a suite.
6. Most of us are happy to help. If you ask us to, we'll tell callers you're not registered at the hotel, or tell you where to park so you can't see your car from the interstate. But we're also talking behind your back about what you might be hiding.
For the best of Reader's Digest "13 Things" features, check out their new book at www.13thingsbook.com.
7. Some concierges get kickbacks for sending you to pricey tourist traps. If you want an unbiased recommendation, ask the clerk.
8. Sometimes my boss makes me lie, like when the elevator's not working and I tell you someone is coming to fix it soon. I know it won't be fixed until Monday, because the manager doesn't want to pay the repairman's weekend rate.
9. In this economy, everything is negotiable. If your hotel offers a hot breakfast buffet as well as a free continental breakfast, ask if you can get the hot breakfast with your room. Very rarely will we tell you no.
10. Never use the long distance. Unless you want to pay $10 for a five-minute call, it's best to specifically ask for it to be turned off. We've had situations in which housekeepers have made calls from a guest's phone.
11. If you travel to the same place frequently, use the same hotel each time. Get to know the staff. Regulars are recognized and treated as VIPs. You could get free upgrades, discounts, and more.
12. My official job description: errand runner, toilet plunger, bow-tie tier, towel deliverer, and chef (that free continental breakfast doesn't appear from above). I've also sprinkled rooms with rose petals and dealt with dead bodies. All for about $10 an hour.
13. It seems to have gone out of fashion to tip your housekeeper. Most are paid minimum wage with the expectation of tips. Take care of them, and they'll take care of you.
TOP SECRET! Always request clean linens when you check in. We wash the sheets every day, but blankets often only get washed once a week. And the bedspreads? If there's no visible stain, it's maybe once a month.
SOURCES: Current and former desk clerks at hotels in Mississippi, Kansas, Colorado, Maryland, Vermont, and Washington.