When your hotel is hip – and too loud

Each Friday on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin travel blog, I have the pleasure of answering a reader’s travel-related question.

This week I got to answer a question based on my own experience:
What can you do if your hotel is hip – and too loud?

Frequent travelers are no strangers to hotel rooms with rattling heat and air conditioning units or soundproofing so poor it’s easy to listen to, and occasionally chime in on, the conversation next door.

And while noise topped the list of irritants cited by respondents to a 2011 J.D. Power and Associates North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, most travelers soon learn to tune out the most common sources of hotel room noise.

But my tune-out skills failed me during a recent midweek stay at the Aloft Brooklyn, a recently opened property in Starwood’s chain of hotels positioned as a hip, “affordable alternative for the tech-savvy, design forward crowd.”

The décor, the desk staff and the guests hanging out at the pool table and at the bright lobby bar were indeed very hip. And in my room, I enjoyed amenities such as Wired magazine, free Wi-Fi and a 42” LCD flat panel TV. But late at night, with the TV turned off, my room filled with loud music coming from what I assumed was a night club next door.

The soundtrack proved impossible to sleep through, and I called the front desk to find out when the club closed down. “There’s no night club,” the desk clerk informed me. “That music is coming from inside the hotel.” And even though it was already 3:30 a.m., there was no plan — or offer — to turn the volume down. “That’s just how loud we play it here,” he said.

A few days later, Paige Francis, vice president of marketing for the Aloft brand, told me that while “music is definitely part of the DNA of the brand,” the Brooklyn Aloft property was still fairly new (it opened in June 2011) so “it may still be working on getting the music levels right.”

Still, I’m left wondering if a hotel can be too hip — and too loud.

“The answer is yes,” said Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University’s Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. “While the role of the hotel lobby has changed dramatically in recent years, with hotels adding elements such as entertainment and hangout areas where guests can snack and listen to live or recorded music … the music should not follow you to the room.”

There are some basic hotel attributes valued by all travelers without regard to age (hipness) or other demographics, Hanson explained, adding that “a quiet hotel room is among the most valued.”

To make sure you get an acceptable room, quiet or otherwise, Hanson offered this advice: “When arriving in a hotel room, open the door and explore. Does the TV work? Can you access the high-speed Internet? Is there an odor? Do an inspection, which should include listening for sounds. If there’s something wrong, speak up so the problem can be taken care of right away.”

Wait too long to say something, said Hanson, and the hotel might not have staff on hand to fix a problem or another room to move you into.

As to the music level in your hotel room, Hanson added that “a guest with time to spend can find out about the noise level at a hotel via TripAdvisor.com or some other social media. But that burden shouldn’t be placed on a guest.

“Because even the hippest travelers do need to sleep sometime,” said Hanson.