What is a Seedy Motel and How to Avoid One

Categories Practical

Seedy motels. We love them in fiction. In real life, they’re best avoided. If you love motels but don’t love seediness, this is the guide for you. We give some quick tips on how to find character and a great experience instead of strange and sketchy going-ons, cockroaches, bed bugs, or worse.

This one has everything, and more.
CC Image Courtesy of Brent Moore on Flickr.

What is it that makes a seedy motel seedy?

Even before the decline of motels in the 70s and their descent into ever more negative associations with drugs, prostitution, poverty and overall antisocial weirdness, they had an edge. For one, criminals on the run loved to use them. The other side of this iconic American fixture has always been a dark one, dating back to the Bates Motel of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and recently revisited for the eponymous TV show Bates Motel. But, if you’re anything like Fiona or I, you probably don’t want to stay at a run-down hell hole just for the “gritty” appeal. Here’s a quick guide to avoiding a bad time.

In the movie L.A. Confidential, a dead body is found here. In real life, well…
CC Image Courtesy of Tony Hoffarth on Flickr.

How to avoid bad motels from the start

The first thing might seem a bit obvious, but here it is – read the reviews! Get on Booking.com or Tripadvisor or Expedia and find some reviews that seem like real customers. Flip through a few of them. If you’re on the highway already, pull into the parking lot of the hotel you’re thinking about, then use your phone’s 3G to look up the place you’re looking at IRL. If you can find people’s cell phone pictures of the rooms, even better. These are likely to give you solid perspective outside of the motel website’s almost-always idealized shots of its offerings. If you’re already at the motel office, just ask to see the room first. If they don’t oblige, you’re in trouble – time to go. If they oblige and there’s some weirdness, just politely opt out. If everything looks fine, go for it. When you go to have a look, make a beeline for the bathroom first. Bathroom cleanliness is next to godliness when it comes to motels. After that, the sheets… yes, the sheets. If the bed has been made (with no weird rumple marks) and you pull back the sheets to find crisp fabric and maybe even a waft of laundry detergent, you’re probably all set.

No dead body floating in the pool? A good start.
CC Image Courtesy of Christopher Sebela on Flickr.

A no-tell motel, or just a bit rough around the edges?

Of course, maybe the room looks fine, but there’s a terrible catch. Maybe you’ll settle in for a good night’s sleep after a long drive, only to be interrupted by the sounds of “true passion” or some crazies yelling in the parking lot. If you’ve got ear plugs, it’s time to put them in. If you don’t, time for crumpled up kleenex. You’re past the point of no return. Even in nicer, reputable renovated motels you may catch an off-night where a lover’s quarrel pops off, teens show up to do teen stuff on the property, or some other unexpected interruption arrives to blight your night. However, if the staff seems apathetic to the problem, especially if you call to complain and they shrug it off, then congratulations! You are in a bonafide seedy motel. Please make sure the deadlock is done up on the door. Have any funny or freaky seedy motel experiences? Let us know in the comments!

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