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April 28, 2007

Somebody Answer Me This

What the hell is it with hotels and pillows these days? My hotel bed came with eight pillows on it, including one tubular thing that stretches across the whole bed, which means that it's actually taller than I am. I mean, that's just freakish. And then I have to throw the majority of them off the bed to sleep, so then it looks like my room was the scene of a kicky slumber party. Which, as a 37-year-old man, I'm not entirely sure I want.

Somebody explain to me the pillow thing. I'm finding it more annoying the further along I get on my tour. Really, I want to know.

Posted by john at April 28, 2007 12:35 PM

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hugh57 | April 28, 2007 12:58 PM

I don't usually have a problem with lots of regular pillows; I just use two or three and shove the rest aside. I do agree with you about that long tubular pillow (I had one of those at the Hilton at Penguicon) - I don't know what's up with that.


David Klecha | April 28, 2007 01:01 PM

Mostly it's just a trend towards greater comfort. "Ha ha!" they say, "You complained about hard beds and thin pillows? Well no more! Now: beds that you sink in so deep you're practically suffocating and enough pillows to smother an army!"

Seriously, when I worked in hotels, such complains came regularly enough that the conventional wisdom was that it was cheaper to try to max out the needs, then deal with the complaints and keep a "house man" whose job it was to run extra pillows and whatnot up to the rooms.

The hotel industry is practically driven by customer survey responses. Fewer people will complain about too many pillows than about too few.

KevinQ | April 28, 2007 01:01 PM

Yeah, I hate that. I'm used to cheap hotels where you get two pillows, and if you wanted more, you had to call the desk, and hope that somebody nice answered the phone. But I've stayed at a few nicer hotels lately, and they just pile on the pillows.

I suspect the hotels think that pillow overdose makes the room look more "plush," which is probably a "good thing" in marketing.

As long as Tor is putting you up in nice hotels, you're probably stuck.

You could, of course, test the system. After checking in, stop by the desk on the way out, and ask them to send somebody up to remove all but two of your pillows. Tell them you don't use that many pillows, and you're afraid of tripping on them in the night. My guess, since you're in nice hotels, is that they'll do it cheerfully, and the next time you stay there, you'll find fewer pillows on the bed when you check in.


Malcolm Tredinnick | April 28, 2007 01:02 PM

John, there are some things you just have to accept as part of staying in a hotel. If the number of pillows and lack of storage space for them is the part you've chosen to focus on as "worst", that may not be so bad.

For me, it's the bed covers that are so heavy they would be appropriate if I was visting, say, the North Pole, without heating. Not so useful in a hotel room. So I have to remove them from the bed every single day. I guess we're just not cut out for the life of all-encompassing luxury and sloth. Getting back to my appropriately furnished bedroom is always one of the nice things about coming back from a trip.

David Klecha | April 28, 2007 01:03 PM


At the Troy Hilton at Penguicon last weekend, when we tossed excess pillows and the bedspread on the floor, the next morning housekeeping stacked the excess in the closet.

Julie | April 28, 2007 01:05 PM

It's actually better for my back if I sleep with a pillow between my knees. The long tubular pillow makes it easier to do that and gives me something to throw my arm over as well.

Maybe the hotels got tired of people calling down for extra pillows and are pre-emptively striking at that.

Jeff Hentosz | April 28, 2007 01:06 PM

Re: the long pillow. I'm dead serious about this — I think you're supposed to cuddle it. [waits for general guy tumult to die down] I have friends and family, mainly women, who say the support, and the cushioning between the knees, is good for your back and makes foe better sleep. Can't do it myself; I usually toss it aside within 20 minutes or turning out the light.

hugh57 | April 28, 2007 01:08 PM

I do have to add that if too many pillows is your biggest complaint, then you've got it pretty damn good. ;-)

Nathan | April 28, 2007 01:11 PM

I'd take your pillow problem in a heart beat. The hotel I'm at in Stamford puts 4 pillows on the bed. They're really small and don't even touch each other when spread across the top of a king bed.

Cassie | April 28, 2007 01:15 PM

I'd heard that hobbits don't like pillows.

Tim of Angle | April 28, 2007 01:24 PM

Ah, but we are ignoring the more serious problem of the *quality* of pillows -- hotels apparently have a Secret Factory where they can buy pillows that, when you lay your head on them, mystically disappear so that your head is about half an inch above the mattress. Really, you'd be better off using the ice bucket. We'd be miles ahead if they just gave you several sheets of closed-cell foam; at least then you could stack them up and get at least an approximation of a down pillow.

MWT | April 28, 2007 01:29 PM

Send 'em all to me! I can never have too many pillows!!

One for my head, the tubular one to cushion my knees and elbows, another one stacked crosswise on top of it to also cushion my top shoulder, one (or two) behind my back, one across my stomach in lieu of a blanket (blankets are overrated when you have enough pillows!)....

Beth Meacham | April 28, 2007 01:34 PM

I travel with my own pillow. One of those dense foam shaped ones, which I need to keep my neck and shoulders in a configuration that means I don't have neck and shoulder pain when I wake.

I have grown accustomed to throwing all the hotel pillows into the closet, or on a chair, or the floor. I usually borrow one of their pillow cases. Every morning, they carefully put all the pillows back on the bed, for me to remove in the evening.

Angie Rush | April 28, 2007 01:58 PM

There can never be enough pillows. One between my knees, one under the blanket pulled up to my chest, two for my head, and in a perfect world, one or two behind me to lean against. (I sleep on my side.)

And yes, I do share a bed with another human, but I don't like to actually be -touched- when I'm sleeping, I just like having the pressure of being surrounded. Pillows don't shift and move according to their own needs, they just comfort me me me.

And it's all about me, isn't it? ... :P

John H | April 28, 2007 02:05 PM

I believe David Klecha has it right -- it's cheaper to buy extra pillows and just leave them in the roon than it is to pay someone to bring extra pillows to you...

Shawn Powers | April 28, 2007 02:22 PM

Well, if the long pillow is normally mounted, er, "cuddled" by others, I'd avoid using it to nestle you face into.

Also, I'm always creeped out in hotels, knowing the bedspreads and blankets are not washed between guests. I tend to sleep with just sheets, or strategically fold the sheets around the edges of the blanket to avoid blanket-face contact.

Maybe I have issues...

Dr. Phil | April 28, 2007 02:23 PM

I second the nomination that you often need more than one hotel pillow to equal one home pillow, so with in theory providing for two people in a bed, this gets you to at least four pillows. Stacking them around makes it easier to lie on the bed and work/read/watch TV.

I hadn't thought about cuddling the long cylindrical pillow, but it could make people sleep better -- I know if I'm alone in a hotel room that piling the extra pillows on the other side of the bed produces enough "lumpiness and drag on the sheets" that keeps me on "my" side of the bed rather than sleeping in the "unnatural" center.

Last year I was in the Palmer House in Chicago and had a bad sinus cold. That big bolster was perfect for placing in the corner of the room on the back of a big arm chair to make a head rest. Wrapped up in a blanket (see next para) I was able to doze in the late afternoon and evening comfortably while not really watching the Winter Olympics.

I've been too hot in hotel rooms for years, but these days I travel with a woven cotten blanket (fundraiser from the Michigan Tech University library) and sleep at home with a similar blanket (Hope College, where I taught one year). It allows for a lot more consistent and familiar temperature control. Of course, at home we like to keep windows open most of the year and in the winter enjoy a bedroom temperature of 55degF -- try accomplishing that little trick in most hotel rooms...

Dr. Phil

John H | April 28, 2007 02:33 PM

Dr. Phil: I can't remember the last time I didn't have control over the A/C in my hotel room. I get the room temp down to around 65 and leave it there...

Camron | April 28, 2007 02:34 PM

Because of my - er - dimensions, if I want to sleep on my stomach, I must use two or three pillows. Add to this the knee pillow, and you're already up to "too dang many pillows on this bed!" (That last part was my husband's voice in my head.) In fact, it's probably partially (miniscule part) my fault that your hotel room looks like a slumber party. I'm one of those who always calls down for extras. Sorry to annoy you...

Diatryma | April 28, 2007 02:59 PM

The body pillow is one I haven't encountered, but a know a few college-aged women who swore by them. Me, eh.
I think part of the pillow thing is that pillows are fancy. If you watch home-decor shows, they usually put some accent pillows on the bed. They aren't there for sleeping any more than the shelves are for books (stupid home decor people) but they make the room look more interesting, or at least more finished. Add textiles, they say.

B. Minich | April 28, 2007 03:02 PM

Im in ur hotels, droppin off more pillowz.

Gabriele | April 28, 2007 03:28 PM

I wish I'd get some extra pillows in German hotels. Because I'm used to sleep with my head somewhat elevated (I have a special bed at home) and I use to stuff the pillows under the matress. Not much of an effect if you only get one. ;)

K. | April 28, 2007 03:34 PM

The long tubular pillow might be what I know of as a "Dutch wife". You sling yourself around it, toss one leg over it or whatever, this getting more cooling air to the bits and pieces that tends to cook easily. Very much recommended if you are in the tropics, where I first came across them.

Oh, and thanks for "Old Man's War".

Shawn Powers | April 28, 2007 03:42 PM

K. - your descriptions makes me second my own motion not to bury one's face into the long tube pillows.

Kate | April 28, 2007 04:12 PM

Hrm. How does one wash a tubular pillow? If you're putting that thing between your juicy bits, that's the last thing I'm touching when I sleep at a hotel.


Also, does anyone notice that when you finally get all the decorative pillows off the bed, the pillows they leave to actually let you sleep on offer no support what-so-evah.

Anna | April 28, 2007 04:33 PM

I've always known that extra long one as a "body pillow". I find it useful to, well, cuddle it, as some have said - having it between my legs helps with my lower back pain.

I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be using one in a hotel room like that, though...that's just kind of weird.

Ted Lemon | April 28, 2007 04:35 PM

If you're lucky, there is a selection of pillows, some firmer than others. If you're unlucky, they're all loafs, and then you have to either sleep with no pillow, or with a pillow that's too big and bends your neck uncomfortably the *other* way.

So personally, if they're providing a selection, that's a good thing, and I don't mind tossing half of them off the bed.

Just remember, there are drivers in India who sleep in their cars overnight with their hands for pillows.

Sam | April 28, 2007 04:39 PM

I have issues with hotel pillows be it too many or not enough. They are damn too fluffy. I wake up with neck pains. I need my 20 yr old ratty, flat, pillow that offers just enough neck support. If i were to sleep using those hotel monstrocities I would wake up with neck pains.

Ella Runciter | April 28, 2007 05:26 PM

I never use pillows when I sleep (if I do, I put them on top of my head...go figure), so excess pillowage at hotels ends up on the floor. I'm sure the housekeepers just love me.

As to the long, tubular job- during my student days en France, such pillows were usually the only ones provided at hotels. They stretched across the bed right underneath the headboard and were often attached to the matress, so the best one could do was to sort of prop one's head up against it. Great for the neck. After a couple of weekends of that, I wised up and got one of those travel pillows that squooshes into a bag for easy packing.

Kate Nepveu | April 28, 2007 06:39 PM

The business hotel I was at for the last two nights gave me four down pillows and one "lumbar" pillow, which was tubular but less than half the width of the bed.

I'm just enough allergic to down that I can't use down pillows. And the hotel didn't have anything else.

Fortunately the lumbar pillow sufficed.

Amyzon the Oracle | April 28, 2007 08:10 PM

Can you have too many pillows? I personally have six pillows on my bed. I only really use four of them, so most of the time the extra two end up on the floor. I could put them in a closet, but in my mind, if you have them, you should put them out. Those two pillows are in case someone comes to visit. I'm not always sleeping alone, and it's just hospitable to make sure my guest has a place to rest his head.

The hotel probably assumes that you're traveling with someone else, and they might want some of the pillows. They may even assume that you're both huge pillow hogs, and the hotel wants to make sure you both have enough. It's really not the hotel's fault that you have more pillows than you can use. It's your fault for not bringing Krissy along like they assumed you would. Then you would have NEEDED those pillows.

Bryan | April 28, 2007 10:33 PM

I have never had too many pillows on a bed. I for one am always looking for additional pillows when I stay at most hotels.

Libbet | April 28, 2007 11:51 PM

The longer I read this thread, the less "pillow" looks like a real word.

Samuel Tinianow | April 29, 2007 02:53 AM

I always just figured it was the same reason we have 8-megapixel digital cameras and 30-speed bicycles. Increasing sales through adding extra crap that does absolutely nothing.

Thena | April 29, 2007 08:17 AM

What you need to do is take the excess pillows, the casual chair, and maybe the table and the bedspread and build a fort.

That'll show 'em.

rochelle | April 29, 2007 09:44 AM

To me, the pillows telegraph that there is a decent mattress to be found beneath. As someone who has a pretty crappy mattress at home, I'm always happy to chuck a bunch of pillows off to get a godd night's sleep. Writing this from Doubletree in Madison, WI and appreciating all the pillows there are to prop me up in bed.

Daniel B. | April 29, 2007 10:26 AM

My wife calls the tubular pillow a "bolster", which seems to hold up in a google search.

I couldn't see hugging it at night, since they usually don't come with their own, washable case. Yuck!

It does make a good, "bolster-ing" foundation for the tower of pillows I always construct when sitting up in bed reading, though, so I'm all for 'em.

My hotel peeve is the quality of the bed side lights. Not bright enough, shadows thrown everwhere, seldom a broad enough halo of light to read well by.

-Daniel B.

Gabriele | April 29, 2007 03:58 PM

Oh yeah, Daniel, that's a peeve of mine, too. Do they usually only get people like Victoria Beckham? :)

Nate Von J | April 29, 2007 07:40 PM

I'm getting pretty excited for your arrival to the Twin Cities Scalzi, but I've got a question. Is there a limit to the amount of book schwag we can bring for your signage? I'd only have three things, but I still don't want to feel like the old guy who hounds Bill Murray in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." Just asking.

John Scalzi | April 29, 2007 08:26 PM

Nate, three things is fine. If you bring any more, we'll just send you to the back of the line after the first three to let other people get a chance to get their stuff signed.

Shawn Powers | April 29, 2007 09:05 PM

/me wonders if you will be asked on this tour to sign a large pillow...

Taisto Witt | April 30, 2007 03:50 PM

What's wrong with too many pillows?

If you get enough, you can make a fort!!

And who doesn't like making forts?

Spherical Time | May 1, 2007 02:48 AM

Sorry I'm late, hotel worker here:

It isn't cheaper to have pillows already in the room because hotels usually don't have a specific houseman or maid on in the evening to take requests for more pillows that they can fire if there are already enough pillows in the room. In fact, most nice hotels (where you are likely to find excessive pillowing) have maids that do turndown service anyway. So they're already paying someone to be there. It doesn't matter to us if you ask for another pillow or not, because it doesn't cost us any more to provide that.

Besides, people will still want hypoallergenic pillows, and we still are required to carry those up.

The reason as I understand it is: Pillows = Luxury.

If you are in a decent hotel (Marriotts and up), they want to cultivate a reputation for luxury. Having extra pillows gives that impression, and when you buy pillows in huge bulk quantities it isn't that expensive compared to other costs.

You might not really like all those pillows, but you will probably remember that whatever chain of hotels that you're staying at has a lot of them, and you'll mark the hotel as a nice one. If you ever travel to the same places again, you'll probably want to stay at the same place because it will have a positive association in your mind.

Oddly enough, you can never satisfy everyone in regard to bedding. There is always someone for whom the beds are too soft or too hard. You can never win at that game.

piddow | May 7, 2007 06:13 PM

Yeah, as a former housekeeper, I found people wanted more pillows than less at motels and hotels. I'm sure not complaining! I totally love bed pillows and feel you can never have enough. I used to own nearly two dozen feather and down pillows. Now I only have 10, just enough now to make a nest.

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