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Let’s just say I have a long list of travel-related pet peeves but I can narrow my hotel-related pet peeves down to a short list, which include guests talking way too loud in the hallway late at night and those (oftentimes blinking) lights from smoke detectors, air conditioning units and/or TVs. My full list is going to have to wait for another time but for now, I’m on a rant about hotel toiletry containers.

Toiletries at El Encanto hotel in Santa Barbara.
I understand why hotels have moved away from small, disposable toiletry bottles. Hotels will claim that the communal wall-mounted dispensers are more eco-friendly but it’s more likely that the driving force behind the change is cost savings.

According to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The shift from single-use toiletries to bulk-size dispensers allows hotels to make a gesture of environmental goodwill — reducing waste by eliminating 200 million to 500 million mini plastic bathroom containers each year depending on the chain — while also lowering their costs over time.”

I don’t mind using the dispensers but what really bothers me is that the writing is so small, I can never see what I’m using. Sometimes I feel like I’m playing Russian roulette in the shower, unsure which one to choose. I’ve washed my body with conditioner before and once, in a hotel in Argentina, my wife washed her hair with body lotion. It took a long time for the lotion to fully wash out (I’m talking days).

FYI: According to Smart Eyecare, “everyone is different, but most patients get their first pair of readers sometime between the ages of 41-60.” These are my favorite readers, which I have all over the house and my wife and I share.

Gary Leff over at View from the Wing shared a funny Reddit post (embedded below) where somebody relabeled the toiletries so they’re legible without glasses. If you’ve got great vision or are under 45, you’ll probably have no idea what I’m talking about but just wait until you have to start using readers.

Hey Marriott: fixed it for you
byu/CanadianBurger inmarriott

Gary commented in his newsletter: “While we’re at it, a pet peeve of mine is bulk toiletry bottles in the shower that say what they are in small, light print. I’ve taken my glasses off by the time I get in the shower. It would be nice not to have to get back out of the shower, put them on in order to read what’s what (and remember!), before returning to my shower.”

I got a good chuckle because I feel exactly the same way. I find it laughable when luxury hotel toiletry containers have the print so small that I have to:

A. Get out of the shower to find my glasses.
B. Ask my wife to read what they are to me.
C. Remember to look at them before getting in the shower.
D. Remember what order they are in.

These dispensers need a large, legible font size and if I ever run for president, this will be one of my campaign promises to all of you. You’re welcome.

Bottom line: The first takeaway is for hoteliers to make sure that the text on toiletries is legible. The second is for guests to either keep their glasses near the shower or remember to check what the toiletries are and the order they’re in just before stepping in the shower. Do you agree?

FYI: The photo above is from my hotel review of El Encanto in Santa Barbara, where the toiletry containers were on point.


I just checked out of The Shore House at the Del (a Hilton property) in Coronado, CA and thought I’d share this example of a hotel that gets it right. The shampoo and conditioner are separate from the body wash, they’re all in transparent containers so you can see the difference between the shampoo and conditioner and most importantly, they’re in tamper-proof dispensers. Stay tuned for my full report on this historic hotel.


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11 Comments On "The hotel pet peeve we can all relate to after 45"
  1. Nicole Neal|

    This is so factual it’s comical. I’m happy it’s not just me that feels this way.

  2. Barbara|

    What is just as bad with these new dispensers is at a hotel with both shower and bathtub there are no dispensers or individual containers for the bathtub. This has happened at two different 4 stars. After sanitizing the bathtub I had to pump bodywash from the shower into a glass to take my bath.

  3. Betty|

    I’m on this bandwagon as well. Ditto on the bathtub. In a 2 bedroom timeshare in Hawaii and bathtub is actually in another room and no supplies. Thank goodness my memory is not shot so I could remember what order whey were in. In the shower was the shampoo, bath wash and conditioner and no where to be found in the room was any body lotion. Guess I will have to remember to bring my own. Equally as frustrating is when you get in for first time and the shampoo is all gone…….

  4. Davidm|

    Sorry JJ, this is small fry until California remedies the slights of inequity and injustice caused by the presence of…(do I dare even say the word)…CLEAR…in the state’s airports. Oh the humanity…

  5. 30West|

    42 years after the first major product tampering deaths, how are we ok with sharing toiletries with strangers? kicking ice cream and putting it back is considered entertainment, you think people aren’t tampering with these toiletries? I look up and hack my hotel thermostats so I can sleep, people defeat security pretty quickly and pass it around. enjoy that “lotion”.

  6. Christine Flaherty|

    My pet peeve with the large toiletry bottles is that they are often placed at shoulder height…for people using the shower. I took a bath and could not reach them. I had to stand up. OK. But the non-slip coating on the tub was just at the front for those showering. And the safety grab bar was so far forward (again for those showering) I could bearly stand safely…but at 75, I was forced to do it several times to get each of the three products and then get out of the tub when finished. It was not the relaxing bath I had envisioned.

  7. Andrew Loftus|

    How about establishing an international color standard, using primary colors? Shampoo in a red bottle, conditioner in a yellow bottle, and body wash in a blue bottle. The same colors, all over the world. Maybe with apologies to the color-blind travelers … there would still be printed labels.

  8. KenP|

    Agreed! Not only are the fonts small, why so are they also light grey on dark grey!

  9. IdahoLark|

    Thankfully I still carry my own toiletries and soap, because I wouldn’t be able to read any labels without glasses, either. A complaint I’m seeing more of in hotel reviews is that many housekeepers don’t check to see if the dispensers are low or empty, and instead wait for someone to find out in the shower and then report it.

  10. jujube28|

    My pet peeve with dispensers in the bathroom is that they always seem to be empty and no matter how much I pump, nothing comes out.

  11. Buzzy Gordon|

    I had to pry one dispenser off the shower wall to read what was in it — and even that did not help! A related pet peeve: when they replace the bar soap at the sink with a liquid soap dispenser — which they then install far away from the faucet.

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