21 Most Disturbing Violations of the Hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ Policy

Hands knocking at the hotel door despite the 'Do Not Disturb' sign; photo by Vadim Vasenin, Depositphotos.

Unless you’ve stayed in a modern facility that invested in electronic do-not-disturb systems, there’s a great chance your chosen hotel had offered you to select privacy by leaving a dedicated door hanger at your room entrance. However, have you ever experienced a hotel employee ignoring the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, and entering your room nevertheless? Violations of the hotel’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy can be extremely disturbing, as they attack the very essence of the comfort the whole idea of DND signs is based on.

For guests, ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs are a symbol of privacy. They indicate that we wish to remain undisturbed while we relax or attend to personal matters. However, despite the clarity of the message conveyed by these signs, some hotel staff members have disregarded the etiquette, resulting in unsettling and intrusive guest experiences.

‘Do Not Disturb’ sign as a mere decoration

A couple of years ago, I spent a night in a hotel in Poreč, a picturesque touristic town in coastal Croatia. The room didn’t have air conditioning and I was, let’s say, in a natural state of undress. 

One of the first things I do after checking into a hotel, is placing the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on a doorknob, especially when I plan to stay for one night only. But the next day, at the ungodly hour of 7 am, the housekeeper’s persistent rattling of keys at my door shattered my dreams of a tranquil morning.

Do Not Disturb’ signs are too often blatantly ignored, as if hotels fail to understand that guests sometimes want to have an uninterrupted sleep/sex/work session MORE than they need fresh towels

Breakfast time had just begun, check-out was hours away, and there was no valid reason to not respect my request for privacy and peace. Hey, I wasn’t even dressed yet! 

Mistakes can happen, but I couldn’t write this off as just a negligent swipe of a key card. At this vintage hotel, with old-school keys, the audacious act of unlocking my door required removing the DND sign blocking the old-school keyhole. There had to be some sort of intention behind this violation, but naked ‘me’ didn’t even hear an apology.

I understand housekeeping staff often works under pressure, with management expecting them to achieve a certain quota. But that couldn’t possibly be a reason to enter a room with a DND sign at 7 am on check-out day.

My experience is not an isolated incident. Puzzled guests are even googling the actual meaning of ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs. As this article will show, DND signs are too often blatantly ignored, as if hotels fail to understand that people sometimes want to have an uninterrupted sleep/sex/work session MORE than they need fresh towels.

I've had many bizarre experiences during my travels. Check out this collection of WTF moments!

Why do hotels ignore ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs?

Ignoring the ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy is a cardinal sin of hospitality. Guests need to own the feelings of peace and control over their privacy, so if these are not prioritized, there’s something wrong with how the accommodation business is managed.

But in cases when the DND violations did their harm, we should ask ourselves what has led to such impudent disregard for personal boundaries. Is it a lack of training, an oversight in communication, or simply a disregard for the comfort and well-being of guests?

A) Inadequate staff training

The reason behind the ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy violation is often the lack of proper employee training. 

Those well-meaning housekeeping folks can transform into a team of knocking bandits, relentlessly attempting to gain access to your room. Whether it’s due to a lack of awareness or an overly zealous desire to ensure spotless cleanliness, their actions can leave guests bewildered and violated.

If they don’t want to jeopardize trust in the hotel, the management should better invest in training programs that teach the art of respecting privacy and guest rights, as well as the importance of deciphering a simple ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.

That education should also cover the other extreme of the spectrum: employees shouldn’t refrain from acting in a case of emergency due to an assumption that the guest wanted privacy. It’s essential that staff can promptly recognize and address the risks.

Confused hotel guest talking to a member of housekeeping staff; photo by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
That look on your face when the hotel staff insists on providing the service you didn’t order

B) Mix-ups

Blame it on computer glitches, human errors, or just an inexplainable Bermuda triangle of communication, but the front desk may sometimes mistakenly instruct housekeeping to clean a room that is still occupied. 

As guests occasionally do forget to remove the DND sign on their check-out day, the diligent housekeeping staff may prioritize the front desk’s instruction over the message on the door handle.

To prevent mix-ups of such kind, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check the instruction. A quick phone call to confirm the situation can prevent bumping into guests when they least expect or want it.

C) Concern for safety

Sometimes, guests can experience an accident in their room, and the DND sign could shield them from timely assistance. There are also people who go to hotels to intentionally harm themselves. Out of respect for their families at home, they decide to end their struggle in a hotel. 

In cities like Las Vegas, the American suicide capital, where every day a person takes their life and, as shown in a 2017 mass shooting, a hotel guest can take even 60 lives at once, a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign violation could be seen as a small price to pay for the greater good. 

But death-sower Stephen Paddock was able to kill because of the US gun politics, not because of a piece of paper hanging on his door handle. Even if with regular room check-ups he wouldn’t have been able to accumulate so many weapons, his twisted mind would think of other ways to increase the death toll.

This sad example was used as justification for changes in the American hotels’ ‘Do Not Disturb’ policies. Instead of society addressing the source of the problem, the violation of guests’ privacy was normalized by some hotels showing “noble concern”.

D) Unauthorized room entry

Finally, beyond just performing their job duties, some rogue members of the hotel staff could enter guests’ rooms not only without consent but with the actual intention of crossing the boundaries.

This alarming intrusion is a full-on invasion of privacy, with potential theft, vandalism, or even unwelcome sexual advances. 

This breach utterly compromises the feeling of safety and security guests expect from their accommodations, producing emotional, physical, and financial distress.

One can have a disturbing experience in the air too. Check out these unruly passengers on planes!

21 disturbing ways to disrespect the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign

While “Thou shalt not disturb” should be a hotel commandment carved in stone, incidents of disobeying the ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy are extremely widespread and come in a variety of formats. 

After extensive research and conversations with seasoned travelers, I’ve unearthed a collection of unsettling tales that will make you question the very fabric of hospitality.

This is the top list of the 21 most disturbing examples of ‘Do not Disturb’ disrespect, ranked from mild to wild, from perplexing to outrageous.

1. Cleaning while you’re gone

The other side of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ door hanger often has a message such as ‘Please Make Up Room’, which only confirms that the two call-to-actions are considered opposites. They are sometimes even marked with traffic light coloring – red calls for privacy, green one for cleaning. Still, leaving the room with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on, and coming back to a cleaned space, is quite a common occurrence.  

Housekeeping staff cleaning the room despite the hotel 'Do Not Disturb' policy; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Entering and cleaning rooms despite guests’ preferences is the most common way hotel staff goes against the DND sign

Fred Hoffman, the founder of The True Wilderness based in Arizona, is a professional camper who’s been living in the woods for over two decades. During his recent hotel stay, he was reminded that a room with a locked door can be more permeable than a tent.  

“When I returned to my room after a long day of sightseeing, I found that housekeeping staff had come in and changed my sheets and towels without my permission or knowledge”, he says. “To make matters worse, none of the items were replaced properly. My clothes were scattered around the room, and my personal belongings were moved around as well.”

Even if Fred promptly contacted the front desk to express his outrage and concerns about the intrusion, the housekeeping incident was brushed off as “an honest mistake” that entitles him to no compensation. 

“It was a very frustrating experience and I’m still disappointed at how the hotel handled my complaint. It’s clear that they didn’t take their guests’ privacy or security seriously”, he concludes.

Nadia Podrabinek, the digital nomad behind Why This Place, had a similar experience during her recent hotel stay in Milan, Italy, describing the fact of housekeeping staff entering her room despite the displayed ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign as – shocking.   

“It made me uncomfortable that someone had entered my space without authorization. To get clarity, I immediately contacted the hotel reception and enquired if any authorized personnel accessed my room while I was away. They said no one should have entered without permission, but they couldn’t explain why it happened. The whole experience was very disconcerting, so they offered me a complimentary upgrade for the remainder of my stay as an apology. I felt a bit better after that, but it was still an unsettling experience”, Nadia says.

When Chinese home & hotel contractor Vincent Zhu complained about his experience with a hotel suite in New Jersey, the entire cost of his stay was waived. Vincent and his wife returned to the room with a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign still on and discovered not only the room had been serviced against their wishes. The room was left – unlocked. For the CEO of ACSLocks, coincidentally a company specializing in door lock systems for hotels, the experience was troublesome.

“Thankfully, we never leave anything of value in the room when we go out, but it still shocked me that the room had been left unlocked after cleaning had been in it”, Vincent explains.

2. Cleaning while you’re not gone

Imagine you’re enjoying your me-time in a room seemingly protected by ‘Do Not Disturb’ written all over it when suddenly the door swings open, and in marches a fearless housekeeper, armed with a vacuum cleaner and an unquenchable desire to tidy up. Even more disturbing than uncalled cleaning while you’re gone is ignoring the DND sign while you are – inside the room.

Housekeeping staff cleaning the pillow while the hotel guest is sitting in the armchair in the background and using tablet; photo by yacobchuk1, Depositphotos.
Don’t you just love checking your e-mails while a diligent housekeeper is focusing on the urgent task of pillow cleaning?

Larry Snider, the VP of Operations at Casago SB Rentals, once stayed in a hotel and just wanted to be left alone. “I wasn’t going anywhere and didn’t need the room cleaned, so I put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop housekeeping from entering. I was just catching up on emails and watching TV, but it was still inappropriate for them to ignore the sign like that.”

To undo the wrong, the hotel management granted a free night in the hotel, Larry tells us. But no complimentary upgrades would comfort a 19-year-old girl who recently joined her mother on a business trip and shared her unpleasant hotel experience on Reddit.

“I was taking a shower and left the DND on, but the housekeeper still came into the room and also the bathroom while I was still in there. So you can imagine what happened next, she saw me naked and stuff. I really felt uncomfortable”, she confessed. 

Another teenager had a disturbing encounter with a housekeeper that persisted in cleaning the room while the guest was stuck in bed, with nothing on. 

“I was 15 and at my first anime con. My parents got me my own room for my birthday”, she recalled. “I put the DND tag up. I sleep naked, always have. Cleaning lady would not f**king leave my room! She just kept repeating ‘I’m almost done, calm down!’, and kept cleaning super fast. I kept telling her that I don’t need my room cleaned, I’M NAKED, but she stayed for an extra 5 minutes.”   

3. Knocking just to ask if you need anything

The next DND sin on this list is – knocking. For any reason. Literally any, as digital nomad Michelle Chang from Intentional Travelers had learned.

“My husband and I stayed in a Chicago Riverwalk hotel for a work conference. It wasn’t luxury but a higher-end brand with a great location. Since my husband was working on-site and I was working remotely, I spent a lot of time in the room on my laptop”, Michelle explains. 

She praises the hotel’s clever door tags that said ‘Come back after me time‘, but as she quickly found out, not everyone cares to read the message.

A hand swiping a key card at hotel room door; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Well, why do you think it’s called a master key card, if it’s not for the masters to enter whenever they want to?

“I had the tag out on our doorknob and while I was taking a nap, I heard a knock on the door. After a couple of short seconds, they knocked again. And then opened the door! At that point, I was awake and said ‘Hello?’ from the bed, where I thankfully could not be seen from the door. The staff member said something about the cleaning service coming back later and left. I was surprised they knocked at all but especially that someone opened the door while that door tag was displayed.”

Even if she didn’t want the room cleaned, Michelle decided to give the eager knock-knock staff a chance to clean by removing the door tag and leaving for a walk in the neighborhood.

“A couple of days later, I had the door tag on again, and the cleaning staff knocked. This time, I got to the door quickly and the staff member just asked if we needed anything. I said no, everything was fine, and that was that.”

So, if you ever experience playing the ‘Knock, knock. Who’s there?’ game in a hotel, know that the correct answer is probably not ‘an emergency’, but ‘a door disturbance crew’.

4. Knocking to ask if you’d like them to come later

Conversations with knocking housekeeping staff can be truly surreal, as a guest in one New York hotel found out. Jetlagged due to a long journey from Bangkok, he only wanted to get some uninterrupted rest. After all, he still had to work from 4 to 12 pm, due to the nature of his job.

Hotel housekeeping as seen through the door spyhole; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
The view you don’t expect to see through the spyhole when your DND sign is out

“Of course, the first day they knocked at about 1:30, despite my DND sign on. Told them I wanted late service, which they did later that day while I was away”, he shared on the Flyertalk forum, not even suspecting that his nightmare would be a recurring one. “The next day, same thing. As it was the same housekeeper, she said ‘Will you be wanting late service again today?’ I grumbled yes, hence the DND sign, since she had literally woken me up.”

When he got back to the hotel after the stroke of midnight, he discovered the room remained untouched. So not only did he experience an unwanted wake-up with an audacious question that tested the limits of his patience, but he also didn’t even get the service this wake-up happened for in the first place.

The guest did report the courtesy gesture of the hotel trying to amend the situation with 4.000 award points. “I was quite pleased with that, but in the end, I’d just rather be left alone if the DND sign is on”, he commented on his bizarre experience in the city that never sleeps.

5. Knocking because of the lamp emergency

It’s easy to label knocking with the intention of asking courteous questions despite the DND sign as inappropriate. But our next example sheds light on an interruption with a valid reason – it’s called an emergency. 

Housekeeping staff peeking through the half-open hotel door; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
“Sir, I’m not trying to be intrusive at all, but I really need to check the status of appliances in your room!”

As another Flyertalk user testified, the definition of what is an emergency could still be relatively vague. This is how he described his absurd hotel episode that happened while he was on a conference call, clad in nothing but underwear: “The housekeeping knocked on the door. The knocking would not stop and I knew if I did not go, they would try to enter. So, I opened the door (hiding a part of me) and she said she wanted to look at the lamp in my room. I pointed the sign to her and she still wanted to come in. I stared at her and said ‘I am on a conference call’. Finally, she relented.”

We have seen that guest complaints for violating the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign can occasionally result in some type of compensation. In the case of this impromptu lamp inspection, the importance of which outweighed the guest’s pressing business matters, the front desk estimated that the issue was not a big deal. 

6. Knocking just to check if you’re up for dinner

Last but not least knock-knock hotel joke happened a couple of years ago to Shreya Patel, the marketing maestro of India-based Lowest Flight Fares. Her profession and passion combine in frequent trips, and she always chooses to crash at hotels with good reviews.

Confused guest at the hotel room entrance with housekeeping staff holding cookies; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
“You’re knocking on my door at 10 pm to ask if I am hungry?”

But as she reveals to Pipeaway, solid ratings are not a guarantee: “I never expected a hotel like Crowne Plaza, an IHG hotel, to have such unprofessional staff. After spending the entire day outside, when I finally came back to my hotel room, I clearly put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign outside of my door. Is it that difficult to read or understand that I don’t want to be bothered?”

As the clock ticked towards the late hours of the night, Shreya experienced a truly odd encounter: “One of their staff knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted to have dinner or not. I never had such a bizarre incident ever with any reputed hotels. They either call you to ask or they don’t bother. But knocking on my door post 10 pm, just to ask if I want to have dinner is literally what I wasn’t expecting.”

I experienced a fair share of knocking incidents in Vietnam myself. Find out why this hotel is literally named - the Crazy House!

7. Bringing breakfast to surprise you

If you thought knocking at your hotel room door despite the DND sign is an impolite thing to do, wait to hear Daniel Hunter‘s story. This blogger behind the North Carolina Travel Guides had his privacy violated without even a chance to react to a knock!

“It was a very nice hotel that is run by a small team”, he recalls his strange episode from his trip to Florence, Italy, in May 2022. “On the first night that I was staying there, I put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door of my room in the evening. I went to bed and had a comfortable night, but the next morning when I woke up it was not because of my alarm clock, but because I heard a sound in the room.” 

Was it a chirping bird? A melodious alarm clock? Some rusty pipe noise greeting Daniel’s ears?

Confused guest woken up by an unexpected breakfast delivery to his bed in hotel room; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
That look when you try to figure out how did David Copperfield manage to walk through the Chinese Wall

“At first, I didn’t know what caused the sound, but when I looked at the door of my room, I realized there was an employee from the hotel that was standing inside my room with breakfast that I didn’t order.” 

The scene would leave anyone flabbergasted, especially as Daniel confirms that the steadfast DND sign was still hanging from his door. 

“The breakfast was meant as a nice gesture by the hotel”, he says. “They were giving me free breakfast to welcome me, but I didn’t feel very comfortable about the experience. Besides that, I felt a bit scared as well because there was someone in my room while I was sleeping.”

In the hospitality business, surprises are meant to delight and enthrall, but sending a breakfast burglar to emerge from the guest’s dreamscape as a phantom figure standing in the room is an unforgettable gesture for all the wrong reasons.

Read more about the most unconventional examples of room service in world hotels!

8. Calling to “not disturb you”

Some hotel employees are aware guests don’t want surprise visits or door knocking when the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is displayed. But they still end up engaging in actions that are, well, disturbing.

Christian shared on Flyertalk how his jetlag stupor was awakened by a phone call. A clever employee on the other side of the line, without a significant reason to call, opened the conversation this way: “I was told, sir, you have a DND sign out, so we called instead!”

Housekeeping staff using a telephone in a hotel room; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Clever tactics of housekeeping: “Sir, I didn’t want to knock, to not disturb you, so I’m giving you a call”

Sam, another forum user, confirmed that hotel staff sometimes bypasses the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign by giving a ring instead. He has not only experienced harassment by the housekeeper that wanted to clean his room despite his wishes and late checkout but also witnessed firsthand how the cunning phone ploy functions in AnaheimCalifornia.

“The housekeeper knocked (ignoring the DND sign)”, he shared. “When no reply, she went into the adjacent room and called and said, ‘Your DND sign is up. When will you be out of your room before 5 so we can make it up?’ Kind of defeats the purpose of the sign…”

It seems some hotel employees do not accept the concept of a DND fortress, determined to penetrate it even by bending the rules, displaying a truly creative flair for disturbance.

9. Doing the paperwork for you

If you decide to work while staying at a hotel and leave the business files unattended in your room, you are a truly brave person. As one testimony on Not Always Right showed, even if you expressly request no housekeeping, you could still have your working efforts swiped away.

Housekeeping staff sorting out documents in paper-filled hotel room; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Housekeeping sorting out documents for you, by size

With the DND sign out, and clear demand to the front desk that the mountain of delicate paperwork in the room should not be moved around, this guest leaves the hotel convinced that the precious documents covering the bed, desk, and partly floor will be safe.

After a walk around the town, the guest is informed that the room has not been cleaned due to a lot of paper everywhere. The confused guest explains to the receptionist that they strictly requested no cleaning, and even left the DND sign.

This perplexing episode is soon forgotten, and here comes the last day in the hotel. Satisfied with the amount of work done, the productive guest decides to treat themselves to a meal and a swim. The return to the room shatters the satisfaction.

“When I go inside, the room has been tidied, and worse, the remaining papers have been stacked on the desk. Just a quick check tells me they have put everything out of order. Realistically, this will take hours to sort out.”

The guest complains at the front desk, insisting on speaking to the manager, but the bold receptionist first adds insult to injury: “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Finally, the manager, contrite and apologetic, emerges to offer solace for the series of mistakes. However, a partial refund and vouchers for another stay certainly will not mend the countless hours of lost work.

10. Evicting you from the room before check-out

Even former housekeepers have a hard time coping with the practices of their successors today. Echo worked in the industry as a teenager, and shares that nowadays, as a guest, they experience unforgivable situations. As stated on Quora, issues with housekeeping disobeying the DND sign are consistent, and happen to them at least once a month.

“First of all, 100% of the time, a housekeeper knocks on the door and says ‘housekeeping’, he/she will actually have the key card in the door while saying ‘housekeeping’. The door will unlock and get stopped by the deadbolt before I have the ability to even acknowledge that I was in the room”, Echo says.

In their time, training was different, and knocking was always followed by waiting for a response.

Housekeeping maid in a hotel room; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
A scene you don’t want to see coming to your room after breakfast, two hours before the check-out time

But even more serious offense happens on check-out day. Despite noon being the designated departure time, the common practice is to evict the guest as soon as possible. One might pack their stuff, but leaving the room for a moment practically calls for trouble.  

“I go and get breakfast and it’ll be 10 am, and my door is wide open, a housekeeper is in the room tearing sheets off the bed and my items are now placed in a bag on her cart to go in ‘lost and found’. Even worse, if check-out time is noon, I come back to the room at 10 am, only to discover the room has already been cleaned, my key card doesn’t work and my luggage will be downstairs at the front desk with an apology.”

There, some hotels try to convince us that the first thought behind an unoccupied room on check-out morning would not be that the guest is possibly enjoying morning coffee, but that they fled the scene and forgot their suitcase and toothbrush.

11. Walking through your rental while you sleep

With all troubles lurking from overly attentive hotels, one might hope that renting a flat would be spared of disturbing surprises.

For Nathan Russo, Director of Operations at Florida Panhandle, vacation rentals are a daily business, but what he went through at one Airbnb was everything but an everyday event.

“I’ve had pretty weird experiences at a couple of Airbnbs, but this one in particular has made me swear off them for the time being”, he tells us. “Basically, when we woke up one morning a couple of nights into our stay, it really felt like someone had been in the house – which was confirmed when someone just walked through the door a few hours later!” 

Third man in an Airbnb flat rented by a couple; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
On a couple’s retreat, you don’t expect to bump into a third man in your rental

Okay, having housekeepers attending your room when you don’t want them to is already intimidating, but realizing you’re not alone as uninvited people are hanging in the rented flat while you are asleep is next-level creepy.

“They had a key and everything, they were a friend of the homeowners and didn’t seem to even acknowledge that they shouldn’t be there”, Nathan says.

What sounds like the start of the plot for a suspenseful Hollywood thriller (well, we had Netflix‘s “The Watcher” raising our hair enough, had we not?) made Nathan and his entourage leave the property immediately. After complaining to Airbnb customer service, they managed to receive a full refund for this bone-chilling stay. 

One can experience strange homes even outside of the paying platforms. These are my most bizarre Couchsurfing stories!

12. Snooping around your stuff while you’re gone

Having strangers walking through your rented flat is terrifying, but having an unexpected prying roommate is even more disturbing. 

What Nick Valentino, VP of Market Operations at Bellhop Atlanta Movers, experienced at his Airbnb stay would make anyone gather belongings and flee the scene quicker than even the best moving company.

Those were the early days of the platform, and Nick rented a room in a family’s home for a two-night stay.

“Although the lack of a dedicated entrance initially made things a little awkward, the family was friendly and seemed very accommodating”, he tells us. “The first day and night went great, but things went downhill fast on my second day.”

Teenager hiding behind a suitcase; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Boy, that’s not your room, is it?

After an afternoon of sightseeing, Nick found his room in shambles: “The family had a teenager in the house who thought it would be funny to go through my things while I was out. The parents were very apologetic, but I felt far less comfortable on that second night.” 

After taking a thorough inventory of his belongings, he was relieved to discover that nothing had gone missing, but still couldn’t shake off the lingering discomfort. He decided not to leave the room until the next day. 

“I checked out earlier than I had planned, cutting my trip a bit short to avoid seeing the family again that morning”, Nick concludes the story of his unexpectedly shortened short-term rental.  

13. Calling to ask what you’re doing

Being a solo female traveler is no easy feat. As our next interviewees experienced during their Asian travels, even beyond just trespassing over a physical DND sign, male hosts can cross invisible boundaries too, for instance via harassing phone calls.

Shreya Patel, the same poor soul that suffered that knocking-for-dinner incident (remember episode no. 6?), got a taste of Airbnb horror after her holidays on India‘s southern coast. The problems began after she left, as her contact details were misused in a situation that had all elements of stalking.   

“I started getting random calls from someone, who had that southern accent. I don’t know anyone from South India personally and I never gave my number to anyone and have not even made any online transactions. The only place where I shared my number was on the Airbnb website. It was also horrifying for me as the person knew I spent a few days there and he had my address as well”, she recalls her unsettling experience.

Worried woman talking on a mobile phone, with a panorama of Kuala Lumpur seen through the window in the background; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
When you bring a phone to take photos, but you spend the entire battery on calls you didn’t make

Victoria Heinz, a German travel blogger at Guide Your Travel, lived in Kuala Lumpur in 2019, switching between hotels and Airbnbs while looking for a home away from home.   

“There were some fantastic apartments, but unfortunately also some that left a terrible impression. One specifically stood out, and my experience there shocked me and left me scared as a solo female traveler”, reveals Victoria.

This flat in a popular area of the Malaysian capital had fantastic pictures, but on the move-in day, the host was unresponsive. Finally, around 9 pm she managed to get access to the rental, only to be greeted by a den of filth that looked nothing like an online ad.

Besides dirty clothes lying around, she found another spine-tingling surprise: “I was shocked to see that the front door couldn’t be locked properly and seemed to be really easy to open should anyone try to get in.” 

As soon as she checked in, the unresponsive landlord suddenly became obsessively talkative. “I had given him my number, which he was now calling non-stop, asking me random questions, what I was doing, what I had planned for the next few days, things like that. I definitely felt violated and unsafe and ended up leaving the Airbnb the next morning and canceling the remainder of my stay.”

14. Knocking at your window

Unprofessional hotel employees are prone to misinterpreting signals from their guests and will figure out ways to invade their privacy. Beth Colman, the English writer at The Train Diaries, experienced the unwanted attention firsthand when she traveled with a friend to Turkey, in her 20s. 

An innocent banter with bartenders at the pool turned into a troublesome situation that crossed the boundaries of privacy. It started with phone calls to the room, to a number the girls never shared with anyone.

“When my friend picked up, we realized it was one of the barmen, asking us what we were doing that night and if we would come to the bar. She mumbled something non-commital, saying we weren’t sure yet”, Beth explains.

Not long after, the phone rang again, with another barman asking similar questions. “We were getting a bit freaked out, so when the phone rang a couple of evenings in a row, we decided not to pick it up.” 

Even if they did their best to avoid encounters with the barmen, that only fueled their interest. The phone continued ringing, night after night, and the girls persistently ignored it. But then, a spooky knock would send shivers down their spines.

Creepy barman standing behind the balcony window and holding two glasses of wine; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Who wouldn’t freak out from such a charming sight?

“It had been really hot that day and I was lying on my bed in underwear, trying to cool off a little after my shower”, Beth recalls. “We were both surprised by a knock on the door, especially when we realized it wasn’t the main door to our room, but the glass doors that led outside and should have only been accessed by us.”

One of the hotel waiters was standing there, looking at them half-dressed, with glasses of wine in his hands.

“While I scrambled to cover myself up, my friend opened the door to see what he wanted. He said he had brought the wine for us and asked if he would be seeing us later. Just like before, we brushed him off, and once he was gone, we immediately drew the curtains on the door and poured the wine down the sink.”

Beth says the experience was scary. “Being two 20-something girls on our own, we felt a bit powerless to do anything and didn’t want to make the barmen angry in case it made things worse. It not only violated our privacy but made us feel unsafe on holiday.”

15. Opening the privacy curtains to check on you

Many female travelers choose to stay in hostels, believing that being surrounded by other women in female-only dorms would protect them from possible privacy intrusion. As travel blogger Alexx Hayward from Finding Alexx learned at a budget-friendly hostel in Delhi, even your dorm bunk bed is not always the sacred space.

“The front desk staff (a few guys) were friendly, showed me to my room and I started unpacking”, Alexx paints the start of her startling story. “After heading out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, the same front-desk guys came up to me and invited me to join them for a drink on the rooftop terrace. I had no intention of joining, I was exhausted after a hectic travel day, but every woman reading this will understand that when I said ‘I’ll come up later’, I was just trying to end the conversation without having to debate why I wasn’t going to join.”

Kiwi blogger retreated to her pod-style bed for the evening and pulled down the privacy blind to immerse herself in Netflix. 

Surprised young woman behind the privacy curtains in a hostel in Delhi; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
These are called privacy curtains, not theater curtains

“About 30 minutes later, I was jolted back to reality by the light coming into my bunk because one of the hostel guys had come into our ‘female’ dorm room and literally opened my privacy blind to ask me why I hadn’t joined them on the terrace!”, she recalls.

Sitting in her pyjamas, and feeling super uncomfortable, Alexx had to explain she was tired and just wanted to sleep. It took a few minutes of her awkward excuses for the intruder to leave the room. That experience was enough to bail first thing the next morning while making sure that her hostel review warned fellow solo female travelers to avoid the hostel.

“I’m sure there was no malicious intent here, but it’s a good example of how privacy and personal space, especially that of women, is valued (or not valued) differently in different cultures and countries”, Alexx says.

16. Filming your room when you are not there

If you concluded that hotel employees who peer through the windows and privacy curtains are the lowest kind of voyeurs, what would you say about those who don’t only get a kick from looking, but also share their findings with the masses? In October 2022, members of the hotel staff in Australia entered a guest’s room, filmed it, and published it on social media.

A creepy video made by these fascinated fanatics was shot in the Crown Towers Hotel in Perth, and the absent occupant of the room was Indian cricket celebrity, Virat Kohli. He took to Instagram to unleash his fury upon this “absolute invasion of privacy”.


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A post shared by Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli)

“I understand that fans get very happy and excited seeing their favorite players and get excited to meet them and I’ve always appreciated that. But this video here is appalling and it’s made me feel very paranoid about my privacy. If I cannot have privacy in my own hotel room, then where can I really expect any personal space at all??”, the cricket star fumed.

Paradoxically, watching this clip was as captivating as watching paint dry. There was nothing Oscar-worthy or even mildly interesting in showing the sportsman’s made bed and neatly arranged shoes, toiletries, and other personal items. This fact actually made the action of the starstruck amateur filming crew that took their artwork online – even more disturbing. 

The smartheads even filmed their reflection in the mirror, making the identifying task as easy as it gets. The hotel quickly apologized for the incident and promptly fired the personnel that barged into Kohli’s room to shoot an unauthorized documentary. 

This worrying privacy breach showed that even celebrities receive no special treatment when the ‘Do Not Disturb’ hotel policy is concerned. Au contraire.   

17. Filming your room when you are there

The only thing worse than having your room violated by filming it in your absence is attacking your privacy when you’re inside. In recent years, there have been numerous scandals where hotel guests were secretly filmed. The Pandora’s box of these uncensored reality shows opened in 2019.

Spycam filming a woman in a bathrobe in a hotel bathroom; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
‘Big Brother’ you didn’t apply for, and will certainly not bring you a prize

The police in South Korea arrested men who installed tiny cameras in motels, filming intimate moments of over 1600 unsuspecting guests. Unlike previous examples among spycam-obsessed Korean voyeurs, this one was even more disturbing because the group live-broadcasted their twisted production to paid website subscribers.

At the Basant Palace Hotel in TehriIndia, the owner was arrested when guests found a camera installed in a ceiling fan, right above their bed. 

In China, guests were filmed through pinhole cameras cunningly placed in sockets at low-budget hotels, but also in smoke detectors at five-star resorts. Mr. Song, the manager of Yutai Hotel, was even arrested just for publicly claiming that 80 percent of hotel rooms in Zhengzhou have spycams. 

The same year, the USA had its fair share of candid-camera scandals. The receptionist at a Cape Cod resort was arrested for videotaping women through a hole in the shower ceiling, while another hotel employee was caught doing similar in a bathroom of a deluxe hotel in San Francisco. At Minneapolis Hyatt Regency, high school students attending a conference found numerous hidden cameras in their rooms.  

Spycams have been on the rise in Airbnbs as well. Crafty hosts disguised cameras as phone chargers (Miami), wall sockets (Vancouver), carbon-monoxide detectors (CorkIreland),­­ fire-suppression sprinklers (Philadelphia), and even Wi-Fi routers (ComfortTexas). A US survey in 2019 revealed that a staggering 11 % of Airbnb guests discovered hidden cameras in their rentals.

Unlike private hosts, hotels are not always the masterminds behind these incidents, but it still goes to show that the hospitality industry often fails to protect guests’ privacy. If you want to protect it yourself, consider investing in this hidden camera detector

18. Guarding you while you lie naked

Some interpret that entering a hotel room with a displayed ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is fine as long as the staff is conducting the wellness or security check. That would mean security guards are free to enter, right?

Security guard in Mexican hotel; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
Security is our first priority, just after finding out what you’re doing undressed

A woman sought legal advice on Reddit as, while she was lying carefree and naked next to her husband in a luxury resort in Mexico, they found themselves in the spotlight. A nosy hotel employee ignored the DND sign, poking his head inside the room. Their intimate moment turned into a front-row performance for an uninvited audience.

“It was a security guard who entered my room unannounced, veered inside looking directly at me, and the concierge came to talk to me, and said I was lying. Never coming back”, said the guest, clearly unamused by the impromptu peep show. 

The upset woman asked the online community for consolation and potential legal actions she could pursue about this invasion of privacy. At least, the hotel management was quick to react, supposedly swiftly showing the exit door to the overattentive security guard.

Sometimes, if you don't want to be caught in an awkward state of undress, the best solution is to stay in a clothing optional hotel altogether!

19. Using your room for hanky-panky

We’re now in the heated part of this surprisingly diverse list of ‘Do Not Disturb’ violations, and there had to be at least one where it was not the guest who was caught in the act. Tyler Seeger, the mastermind behind Retirement Being, tells us about a strange close encounter he stumbled upon in Serbia.     

In the spring of 2022, while on their way to Thailand, Tyler and his wife made a pitstop in the Balkans, catching up with friends and exploring Serbian wonders. At the end of their tour, just 20 kilometers from Belgrade, they decided to treat themselves to a luxury water park, S-Club in Jakovo. It was promising an unforgettable stay, and boy, was it memorable!

Shocked couple at the entrance of their hotel room, finding a sight they did not expect to see; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
When an unpleasant surprise gets a room delivery

“We enjoyed the privacy and excellent staff service despite the eerily empty resort, including the spacious hotel spa”, Tyler says. “One night, we walked to a nearby taverna for dinner, where we enjoyed the lively atmosphere, local music, and delicious pizza. However, upon returning to our apartment, we found ourselves locked out. After some struggle, we eventually opened the door, only to find a young couple occupying our room. Startled and embarrassed, they dressed and left while we took pictures of the situation to show the hotel management.”

The manager was equally shocked by the incriminating photos and story and offered a full refund plus a free night in a luxurious suite fit for royalty. Private jacuzzi and sauna included, this time without the intruders – why not? 

“Despite the bizarre incident, we left the hotel with a great deal and a unique story to share”, Tyler adds. “After more than ten years of traveling the world, I can never say that has ever happened to me anywhere!”

20. Restocking your minibar while you’re having sex

During an emergency, the ‘Do Not Disturbing’ sign stops protecting you against hotel staff entering the room. Judging by the number of cases, one of the most burning emergencies is – restocking the minibar. 

The diligent minibar inspectors on a mission are capable of completely ignoring the DND sign. No moment is inconvenient for the precious duty of keeping your in-room refreshments fully stocked!

A couple hiding behind bed sheets in a hotel room, because staff ignored 'Do Not Disturb' sign and entered a room while they were naked in bed; image by Ivan Kralj, Midjourney.
When you hope those bedsheets double as a cloak of invisibility

Scenario number one: you are sleeping.

A guest checked in a hotel, and immediately went to sleep, only to be woken up in two hours by ringing. “It was the phone call from reception telling me there was ‘someone’ (their words) at my door. Thinking I had overslept and my friend had arrived to go for dinner, I opened the door and it was staff wanting to check the minibar”, they wrote on the Flyertalk forum.

Another minibar patrol didn’t even bother to wake up the guest. The user shared: “I once had someone come in while I was asleep (I must have not heard them knock) and rather than apologize for coming in – they simply continued to check the mini bar!! Granted this was the middle of the day but the DND sign was clearly on display.”

Scenario number two: you are undressed.

Another Flyertalk user described this episode at a high-end hotel in Seattle: “Banging. I said ‘I’m in here.’ Continued banging. I said ‘I’m in here.’ Opens the door (had a top latch on). I walked to the door. She said ‘I need to get in to service the minibar. Why aren’t you checked out?’ I said ‘I have a late check-out (established yesterday when I checked in).’ She said ‘Well, I need to get in there to look at the minibar.’ I said ‘I’m not dressed, could you please come back later?’ She stood there and said ‘Well, did you have anything?’ ‘Yes, an Evian water.’ ‘Well, I need to see it.’ ‘Well, I’m not dressed.’ I closed the door.”

Scenario number three: you are having sex.

A Reddit user shared the minibar restocking story that tops them all: “I had a person restock my mini fridge while my wife and I were doing adult activities. I know this because there were M&Ms on the counter when we finished up and they definitely were not there before. I guess I was concentrating on what I was doing.”

Some people choose to get sexual when flying. This practice can be risky and surely interrupted by other passengers and crew. Learn how to discretely join the mile high club!

21. Sucking on your toes

Following the Las Vegas shooting, Hilton changed its hotel’s ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy in 2018. According to the new rule, if the DND sign is hanging on the doorknob longer than 24 hours, a security or duty manager should investigate.

In March 2023, one thorough employee at Hilton Hotel in NashvilleTennessee, put the new policy to the test in a truly peculiar way. 

The most recent case of ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy violation saw the night manager David Neal creating a replica key card so he could enter the room where the unsuspecting guest Pete Brennan was peacefully sleeping. It was 5 am when the slurping sound and a ticklish sensation awoke Pete into a living nightmare. The night manager was sucking on his toes.

Feed poking out of the bed cover, with a DND sign hanging from the toe, an illustration of hotel 'Do Not Disturb policy violation; photo by joostverbeek, Depositphotos.
Maybe that’s the correct way of displaying the DND label?

When questioned by the police about this customer care with a tad too personal touch, Hilton’s night manager explained the toe-curling story with honorable motives. Supposedly, he entered the room to investigate the suspicious smell of smoke. It seems his defense in the court could be that he tried to – blow out the fire from the guest’s smoking hot feet?

The awoken businessman was shocked by the wake-up call he never requested, especially as the sexual assault by the toe-sucker happened in a respected hotel. Foot fetish is something one doesn’t expect to find in Hilton’s room-service menu. 

Pete commented: “It’s not like you’re camping and you have to kind of keep one eye open. You have that security that’s yours, and when you close your eyes, you feel like you’re safe and you’re protected, and it was a complete violation.”

Disturbing violations of the hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy – Conclusion

In a world where privacy is increasingly threatened, hotels have become a stage for some truly disturbing violations of the once-considered sacred ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy. From unwelcome room entries to covert surveillance and direct harassment, these shocking incidents have left guests feeling violated and hotels scrambling to save face. 

‘Do Not Disturb’ door hanger was never an unwritten rule or suggestion, but a literally written request one would assume needs no interpretation. However, it almost seems that this unambiguous plea for solitude had become a magnet for the inquisitive. It’s as if some hotel employees have an irresistible urge to breach the sanctity of personal space, protected by the DND sign, the symbol of trust.   

We come to hotels as a refuge from the chaos of the outside world, and not to be exposed to prying eyes and impromptu surprise parties that rob us of the very peace of mind we sought to attain

These bizarre, unsettling, and sobering tales serve as cautionary reminders for both hoteliers and travelers alike. Hotel management must ensure their staff is trained to respect guest privacy as a fundamental principle. Implementing stricter protocols and background checks can help prevent future security breaches.

As for guests, it’s important to know your rights and take necessary precautions. While the ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs should act as a sacred shield against unwanted intrusions, remain alert and report anything suspicious to the hotel management immediately. Well, except maybe to that feet-licking night manager.

Protect yourself, and insist on preserving your bubble of privacy. We come to hotels as a refuge from the chaos of the outside world, and not to be exposed to prying eyes and impromptu surprise parties that rob us of the very peace of mind we sought to attain. 

Ignorance and violation of a DND sign is a privacy debacle, and this sin shouldn’t be brushed off by waving security measure flags. It’s time to solve the mystery and ensure that ‘Do Not Disturb’ means exactly what it says.  

Did you experience a violation of the hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ policy?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
If you liked this article, pin it for later!

DND sign is a symbol of privacy that is too often ignored in hotels. From unwanted housekeeping to management sucking on guest's toes (we kid you not), we have witnessed numerous violations of hotel 'Do Not Disturb' policy over the years. Unsuspected victims of these room attacks spoke to Pipeaway for a shocking collection of 21 testimonies when private space was not considered sacred.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you click on them and make a purchase, Pipeaway may make a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting our work!

The majority of images in this article have been created as illustrations by Ivan Kralj/Midjourney.

The other photographs were sourced through Depositphotos, my go-to platform for high-quality licensed stock images. They have great photo deals, so check them out!

In order of appearance, the authors are as follows:
Knocking hands (cover image) - Vadim Vasenin
Housekeeper with a pillow - yacobchuk1
'Do Not Disturb' feet - Joost Verbeek
Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

  1. Funny article! But not so funny 🙂
    When I was in Russia eons ago, there were employees at a desk on each floor and when you left the room, you had to give them the key. We were convinced they were going through our stuff and had ample time once we got back to the lobby for the someone to call the floor and let the ‘floor key monitor’ know we were back and get out of the room.

    1. Hi Alexa!
      Thanks for sharing your experience.
      It’s definitely a mixed bag of humor and concern when it comes to hotel privacy.
      The situation you described in Russia sounds quite unique.
      It’s always unsettling to think that someone might have had access to your room during your absence.
      Hopefully, as eons have passed, that changed in those hotels.
      As it’s not cool to have room key monitors as room monitors.

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