Top 10 Things to Know About Your Hotel Pillow

Top 10 Things to Know About Your Hotel Pillow

For most of us, we never think about our hotel pillows when we get to our hotel, usually exhausted.  Arriving at a hotel means it’s time to relax and unwind. And comfortable hotel beds and pillows and pristine-looking rooms make it easy to kick back. But if you have a terrible night of sleeping and can’t seem to find a comfortable position, the serenity goes out the window.  But there’s much to know about these under-appreciated hotel pillows.  As Keith Pierce, executive vice president for brand operations at Wyndham Hotel Group told us, “There’s more to pillows than just pillows.

1.Why Do They Put Chocolates on Pillows?
hotel-pillows-2Have you ever been lucky enough to stay in a really nice hotel? If so, you were likely nicely surprised by a wrapped mint, chocolate, or chocolate mint, cleanly set on the pillow upon your arrival. It’s a nice, small gesture, and it had to start somewhere. In fact, it didn’t start all that long ago.   Sometime in the early 1950s, actor Cary Grant was staying at the luxurious Mayfair Hotel in downtown St. Louis. He was a frequent guest and booked the penthouse suite, and he had a woman who was meeting him there. (At the time, Grant was married to this third wife, actress Betsy Drake.) As the story goes, the woman arrived at the suite before Grant did, and found that he had laid a trail of chocolates. It started in the sitting room, ran into the bedroom, across the bed, and onto the pillow, sort of a seductive “Hansel and Gretel” breadcrumb trail.” (A letter was also left on the bed, although its contents, along with the identity of the woman, and if the chocolates, uh, worked, remain undisclosed.)    The Mayfair’s manager heard about the chocolate gambit, likely because a hotel staffer had to procure the chocolates and lay them out. The manager liked the idea so much that he made a chocolate on the pillow upon arrival one of the hotel’s many standard amenities.

2.  Hotel Pillows Are Likely Younger than Your Pillows At Home

There’s a reason that pillow looks so comfy. Its not that old.   According to Kris Beck at Hilton Worldwide, a synthetic pillow lasts approximately 18 to 24 months when cared for and laundered properly, while a down or feather pillow can last 24 to 36 months.    Keith Pierce from Wyndham says that pillows at Microtel locations — the budget arm of the Wyndham Hotel Group — last less than 24 months, with properties replacing a third of their inventory every 6 to 8 months.    For Microtel, that means a purchase of 20,000 pillows in 2012.   Wyndham as a whole purchased more than a million pillows last year alone.  Americans spent $740 million on sleeping pillows in 2010, according to the industry trade publication Home Textiles Today. That figure has been rising in recent years, despite an overall downturn in home textiles.

3.  Hotels Now have Pillow menus

One of the most fashionable ways for hotels to telegraph that they are serious about sleep these days is to provide guest with a so-called  ‘pillow menu’, and the humble pillow has become the unlikely battleground on which a new battle for top-flight luxury hotel bragging rights is being fought.   More and more five star hotels around the world are now offering these ‘Pillow Menus’, giving guests a choice of up to 12 different pillows, filled with everything from spelt chaff to moulded foam.

4.  Housekeepers and hot dog vendors have something in common

“Kind of like a hot dog bun,” he says. A 10-year veteran of the hotel business, Tomsky’s New York Times bestselling book “Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality” was published last year.    The hot dog bun trick could come in handy at home. Surely there’s a Youtube video out there.

5. That annoying pillow tag? It fought smallpox

Here is a little history lesson for you.  The tags attached to pillows and comforters in the United States that list the exact percentages of fills, be they foam or down?  According to the International Association of Bedding and Furniture Law Officials, it’s known as a law label.While it might seem like government red tape, it’s actually a product of the 1800s when some less-than-scrupulous business people were stuffing their pillows and mattresses with old hospital blankets that might have carried smallpox and tuberculosis.   Sleep tight. And smallpox free!

6.  Why Do You Bring Your Own Pillow?  

Tomsky says that one thing that drives housekeepers bonkers is people who bring their own pillows.  “That housekeeper is going to see hundreds of thousands of hotel pillows,” he explains. “Why would you need to bring your own?”For guests allergic to down-filled pillows, Tomsky says that hotels keep a large supply of foam pillows.  While theft isn’t that common, (though Tomsky notes that some people will even take the batteries from the remote control) the occasional guest will steal the pillows from the bed and pack them right into their bags.

7. Not all rock stars trash hotel rooms the same way

Like the case of the pillow-abusing rocker, classic stories often have no clear ending.    Tomsky tells the story of the singer of a classic rock band who wanted 15 pillows for his bed.  As requested, the pillows were piled on Ambien sleeping pills   The next morning?   “They were scattered all over the floor,” says Tomsky. “There is no way to sleep on that.”  Tell us who it is, please? Steven Tyler? Bon Jovi? The Nuge? Maybe Meatloaf or Styx warbler Dennis DeYoung?  When pressed for the name, Tomsky, a true hotelier to his discreet core, declines to provide personal information concerning one of his guests.

8. If you want a firm pillow, Singapore is the place
Many hotels are known for their “pillow menus,” which give guests the choice of what they rest their head upon.  But few pillow menus are as varied as the list at Conrad Centennial Singapore, which has 16 pillows guests can choose from.   Alongside down and foam options are buckwheat, tatami and porcelain.   Porcelain pillows, as well as ones made from jade, wood and bronze, were popular in China from the 6th to early 20th centuries.

9. You can get your hotel pillow personalized

A The Beverly Hills Hotel, even pooches are treated to personalized pillows.   At the Beverly Hills Peninsula, VIP, suite and villa guests, and guests who have stayed five days at the property, get to sleep on pillowcases monogrammed with their initials.   The hotel has more than a 1,000 pillowcases on hand in a variety of initial combinations, though for the Isabel Isaacs and Zachary Xaviers out there, monogramming a new pillow only takes five to 10 minutes.   At the end of their stay, guests can take their pillowcases with them or opt to have them boxed for their next stay at the Peninsula.    In addition, many chains have websites such as and that allow people to purchase hotel pillows for their homes.


10. Don’t think too hard about your hotel pillow … or this article Jacob Tomsky says, like death and deli meat, people don’t think much about the life of a hotel pillow.And that’s a good thing.”When you put your head on a pillow it would blow your mind to think about how many other heads have been on that pillow,” he says. “If you go to a hotel and come back a year later and stay in the same room, you’re going to put your head on the same pillow and there are a lot of people who have done a lot of things on that pillow on the meantime. “Whatever people do in their rooms, pillows are always there. They’re either directly involved or very nearby.”

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