Over the years, I’ve stated in cheap hotels. In some cases, I didn’t want to spend the extra money on a nicer place, and sometimes I had little choice. As a college basketball referee for more than two decades, I’ve been away from my home many nights, which results in many hotel stays.

Here are 3 signs you are staying in a cheap motel …

#1: The price for the hotel is fixed.

I remember officiating a game in Cedar Rapids, IA. Because I was working multiple games in the Midwest, I used Kansas City, MO as my hub. The game at Cedar Rapids finished around 9 p.m., and I began the 6-plus-hour drive back to Kansas City. After a few hours, I was having a tough time staying awake, so I decided to call it a night at the first hotel I could find.

In a small Iowa town, I found vacancy at the Orbit Inn. It didn’t look too nice, but I just needed a few hours of rest. When I approach the night clerk, I asked for the nightly rate. Without hesitation, he said, “$30.”  I asked for the total price, including tax, and he responded, “$30.” I suppose that one way to keep hotels cheap is by charging a nice round number.

#2: The all-in-one engineer approach.

Several years ago I was attending a meeting in Laredo, TX, and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. This chain of hotels is not always cheap, but it can be described as “economical.”

Upon entering the room, I noticed that the air conditioner was kicking out hot air, so I called the front desk to have a technician take a look at it. I was informed that an “engineer” was on his way. In short order, Samuel walked in and resolved the issue. Several hours later, I was having issues connecting to the internet. I called the front desk to report the problem, and they dispatched an engineer. Surprisingly, Samuel also served the role of technology engineer. He didn’t have the skills set for this problem, but he did recommended re-starting my computer. I figure that a motel can be characterized as “cheap” when there is just one engineer to field all types of problems.

#3: The only room service options are Pizza Hut or Chinese delivery.

An advantage of staying in a high-end hotel is ordering room service. At cheap hotels, however, room service takes on a totally different dimension. In most cases, a black-and-white flyer is placed near the old RCA-style TV detailing the restaurants that deliver to this hotel.

Without fail, a pizza and Chinese restaurant will be on the list. When placing your order, don’t be surprised if these eateries are unable to process credit cards. When they do, they will ask for an additional 5% to cover their merchant fees. The point here is that cheap hotels will make you jump through several hoops just to get a bite to eat.

When staying at a hotel that Hotels.com or TripAdvisor give just one or two stars, you should read the reviews. Invariably, you will find comments similar to the ones I shared here. I am somewhat surprised, though, that people give poor reviews despite knowing that there is a direct relationship between the cost of the hotel and the quality one should expect.

Even after many years, I remember my $30 hotel experience. It wasn’t too great, but for that night, it served the purpose. Sleep well!