No-Tell Motel

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

It's the sleazy motel that rents rooms by the hour. The clerk doesn't ask what for, and doesn't want to know.

Also called a "fleabag motel", the No-Tell Motel is where philandering affairs and criminal deals take place. Human nature being what it is, that also makes it the site of gruesome unsolved murders.

Low-lifes on the run, prostitutes turning tricks, and the detectives who want to talk to them, will all end up here sooner or later.

See also Smithical Marriage, and Love Hotels for Japan's more glamorous (or cleaner, at least) equivalent. Detectives usually end up here by Going by the Matchbook. May also be a Hell Hotel.

Examples of No-Tell Motel include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books


  • In Highlander, the motel that The Kurgan stays at in New York apparently has at least one door-to-door hooker (Candy). It's neither shown nor explained exactly what he does there. (For anyone else it would be obvious, but this is The Kurgan we're talking about.)
  • Seen in 12 Monkeys, where Bruce Willis and his psychiatrist visit one to work out just what the hell is going on with their lives in privacy.
  • When he is released in Psycho II, Norman Bates is shocked to find that this is how the Bates Motel is being run. He promptly sacks the manager, the hilariously sleazy Dennis Franz.
  • In Jab We Met Adithya and Geet end having to spend the night in a Love Hotel of this type. Complete to having to be thrown in the middle of the night along with the rest of the clientele and guided by a secret route to avoid the police cracking on immoral acts. Hilariously, Geet doesn't even realize what kind of place she was being dragged into, and the fact that There Is Only One Bed doesn't clue her at all (Adithya did notice, but he kept mum because it was their only rest place option at the time).


  • Vlad Taltos and Kiera both find one of these immensely useful in Orca. Which fits the trope quite well, considering they are, respectively, an assassin on the run from an organized crime syndicate and the best thief and, secretly, most feared demigoddess in the entire Empire.
  • L.A. Confidential has two examples - one is El Serrano motel, where Buzz Meeks waits to be snuck out of the USA ( he doesn't make it) and Victory Motel, headquarters of Mobster Squad run by the resident Magnificent Bastard Dudley Smith, where out-of-town gangsters arriving in L. A. are hauled over and persuaded to leave and never come back (usually through applying cut rubber hose).

Live Action TV

  • Shown perfectly in the "Full Moon" episode of Homicide: Life on the Street.
  • CSI's Las Vegas has lots of these, generally complete with dead body.
  • With more hotel-like places, appears in The Bill, such as with the Chandler-McAllister relationship. The one that ended with him raping her on their wedding night and then shooting himself during a Hostage Situation as she was in labour (with him in the room).
  • In an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, Arthur Carlsen tries to spice up his marriage by taking his wife back to the hotel they stayed at when they eloped, but since then its aspirations have declined a bit...

Carmen: "Arthur, there's a machine in the bathroom that sells... things."


  • One features in the Heart song All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You.
  • And then there are The Eighties bands Honeymoon Suite and The Motels – where a honeymoon suite is a novelty motel room with an oversize bed, heart-shaped tub or similar amenities.

Video Games

  • Lupino's hotel from the first Max Payne game, which you have to blast through twice, was of this type.
  • The Visual Novel Hotel Dusk: Room 215: Room 215 for the Nintendo DS takes place in one of these.
    • Though it's rundown and out of the way, it's more a place for people with troubled pasts than dirty goings on. Rosie wouldn't stand for it.
  • "King Arthur & the Knights of Justice" (SNES Action-RPG game) had a motel called literally, "No Tell Motel"
  • Also featured, in all places, in the explorable landscape of the game Bully. You can't take girls there, of course, being fifteen (and rated T) but... well, other people do.
  • Galerians features one of these, complete with drug pushers, a sketchy maintenance man, pedophilic priests, men making nuclear weapons and a whore.
  • Fallout: New Vegas has the Bison Steve hotel, where you can find ransom notes and a murder/suicide. It's also where a group of criminals are currently holed up.
  • No More Heroes Motel in No More Heroes is the residence of one Travis Touchdown. While it does seem bright and cheery, don't forget it's in Santa Destroy.

Web Original

  • The Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Decemberween special is called "Cactus Coffee and the No-Tell Motel". There is, of course, neither a No-Tell Motel or cactus coffee involved, but Eh! Steve's mouth does explode the universe, and Ready For Primetime does a tiny, tiny dance. Even Strong Bad is stumped and he created the show.

Western Animation

  • The motels frequented by Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons. In particular, the "SLeEp-eAZY" Motel that Marge and the kids stay at during the episode "The Cartridge Family", complete with prostitutes at the entrance, coin-operated vibrating beds, and a corpse in the pool. Homer, Marge (and Mayor Quimby) go to one closer to a Japanese style Love Hotel in "Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy" too. There's also a "Worst Western" (ask about our sheet rental!).
  • The Family Guy episode "Screwed The Pooch" hits all the notes in this tune: prostitutes, sleazy proprietors, crime, roaches, non-working switches, Murphy beds, insane residents, people on the run, America's Most Wanted, police raids.
  • Rocko's Modern Life, king of the Parental Bonus and Getting Crap Past the Radar extraordinaire of The Nineties, has a cut scene with one named the No Tell Motel. The cut version of the episode just shows the exterior of the hotel. What they didn't cut just makes it even worse once you know what this trope is about!
  • This trope was referenced in Chowder, where a hotel is called the No Tell Motel. We don't actually see this trope in action, though.

Real Life

  • There is a hotel shamelessly called the No-Tel Motel in the sleazy part of Tucson, Arizona. According to the Tucson Weekly, it lives up to its name.
  • A website dedicated to the (now-demolished) Coral Court Motel (1941-1995) on US66 in St. Louis County, Missouri describes it as "The No-Tell Motel with a Touch of Class."
  • The stereotype is often less held in real life. Most who would use such hotels in fiction tend to go for normal places; a three or four star motel the likes families and businessmen would use, though occasionally they choose somewhere more up market.
    • Maybe the worst motels are simply bad for business? Apparently there are online forums (who style themselves "escort review boards") where clients are prone to write negative reviews if a service provider attempts to work from the worst hotel in the city.