Americans get fewer days off that anyone else, so when you go on vacation, you have the right to demand and expect perfection. Sadly, what I found on my journey across America when shooting Hotel Hell (Fox, Monday at 8 p.m.) was about as far from perfection as you can get. In fact, what I found was a vision of hell. Here are the seven worst, all of which you will get to see in upcoming episodes.
Plumbing From Hell (Juniper Hill, Episode 4)
At the Juniper Hill Inn in Vermont, I was given $350-a-night suite (with a two night minimum, so you had to drop at least $700 to stay there). A Manhattan interior designer had done the suite and the owners had spent a fortune on antique furniture, luxurious bed linens and so on. But as soon as I walked in, I was hit with the most gut-wrenchingly hideous smell I have ever experienced. Hard to describe, but if you try to imagine the stench of dead people and crap mixed together, you get close. It very nearly made me vomit. You can imagine how shocked I was. Hotel maintenance is a never-ending job, and plumbing can be very expensive to fix. But there are no excuses for putting paying guests in a room that stinks.
Stains From Hell (River Rock Inn, Episode 3)
I was always aware that in hotels with poor standards of housekeeping, my black light tests would likely reveal the occasional bodily fluid stain. But I never expected the volume of stains that showed up at the River Rock Inn in Milford, Penn. I know how important it is to have a brilliant housekeeping team, but even I was shocked at what I discovered. In one room, my black light didn’t just show stains on the mattress. They were everywhere—from a bedside lampshade, to the phone, even the bloody ceiling fan. It’s the stuff of nightmares. Just because you can’t see filth with the naked eye, doesn’t mean the room is clean—as you can see at maidfromhell.com.
Gewgaws From Hell (Roosevelt Inn, Episode 6)
A lot of hotel and B&B owners have an unpleasant habit of using their hotels as a dumping ground for old rubbish they no longer want cluttering up their own homes. These are the kind of depressing looking things you see left at the close of a yard sale—the place for them is the trash can, not a hotel room. Stuff like creepy old Victorian dolls that make you feel you’re in The Shining. Or faded pictures of old-fashioned winter scenes that looked crap when they were first printed, but 80 years later are only fit to use as firelighters. Or scabby, old, fake floral arrangements with more dust than petals. Old junk also somehow acts like a magnet to thick layers of dust, and there’s no dust like hotel dust, which is tiny particles of dead skin, hair, and dirt from all the previous hotel guests mingled together. Gross. At the Roosevelt Inn in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, the dust on a dried flower display hanging on the wall above my pillow was so thick that when I shook it, I thought I was going to choke to death.
Pets From Hell (Juniper Hill, Episode 4)
Don’t get me wrong, I love animals—we’ve got cats and dogs, and I’ve raised turkeys, lambs, and pigs in my back garden in London. But I would never have three pigs living in the basement of my hotel. Nor would I leave their makeshift pig sty door open all day so they can leave steaming turds all over the hotel lawn, as was the case at Juniper Hill Inn in Vermont. Any hotel that aspires to be chic and upmarket can’t also feel like it’s a petting zoo. And clumps of pig crap on your neatly manicured lawn is never a good look. And the smell? Don’t get me started.
Bugs From Hell (River Rock Inn, Episode 3)
Dead bugs are a clear sign that a hotel hasn’t been cleaned, even superficially, in a long time. I appreciate that the odd little insect can sometimes find its way into any hotel room, no matter how clean it is. But I was shocked at what I experienced at the River Rock Inn (also the home of the many stains). There were literally hundreds of dead bugs in that place. Dead moths, beetles, ladybugs: you name it, they had them. They were in the lobby. On my bedroom windowsill. Down the sides of chairs. Under beds. In decorative bowls. In closets. If I’d put them all together, I could have donated the collection to the American Museum of Natural History (and gotten Ben Stiller to guard them for Night At The Museum Part 3). It was horrible.
Mouthwash From Hell (The Keating, Episode 2)
Some hotels try to push the boat out and give you more than just the basics in terms of amenities. I appreciate owners going that extra mile to provide you with handy little extras like sewing kits and shoe-cleaning stuff, but if you’re going to do that, you need to do it right. At The Keating Hotel in San Diego, there were little branded bottles of mouthwash in the bathrooms. Nice touch. But nobody was in charge of rotating the stock, which meant that the bottle of mouthwash in my supposedly luxurious suite was as old as the hotel itself. It tasted rancid. Hard to describe how bad it was, but it’s how I imagine the flavors of moldy mint and cat’s piss mixed together might taste. Vile.
Unwanted Surprises From Hell (River Rock, Episode 3)
If you want to suss out the cleanliness and hygiene level of any hotel, take a quick look behind furniture and drapes. At the function room in Idaho’s Roosevelt Inn, I drew back the curtain to find a slice of half-eaten wedding cake, which no one had found even though the room was supposed to have been cleaned. Hotel owners should never underestimate how curious guests can be, and you need to be twice as curious to make sure that they never find anything that shouldn’t be there. This clip shows the terrible first impression I got after waiting an age for someone to greet me at the (place you’re all too familiar with by now) River Rock Inn.