For many people, arriving at a hotel means it's time to relax and unwind. And comfortable hotel beds and pristine-looking rooms make it easy to kick back. They also make it easy to forget all the hard work that went into making them look so good. We spoke to hotel housekeepers and experts across the country to find out what really goes on behind the scenes. So before checking into your next hotel, check out everything the housekeeping staff is really thinking.
1. Those luxurious beds are wreaking havoc on my back.
The same hotel amenities guests love, like lavish mattresses and stacks of pillows, actually make a hotel housekeeper's job a lot more difficult. "The trend over the last couple of years has been to significantly increase the amenities in the rooms. The luxury mattresses are harder to lift, and some hotels have quadrupled the number of pillows on each bed," says Annemarie Strassel, a spokeswoman for Unite Here's Hotel Workers Rising campaign. Brigida, who has been a housekeeper for 19 years at a chain hotel in Toronto, has to change the linens on 8 pillows in the 16 rooms she cleans on her usual shift-that's 128 pillows a day! "Plus, each time we shake out the new plush blankets, dust and fluff fly everywhere, which we then have to spend time cleaning up," she says.
2. There's a lot more to preparing for a new guest than making the bed and stocking clean towels.
Have you ever arrived at your hotel early and huffed and puffed because your room wasn't ready? There's a good reason for that: Preparing a hotel room for a new guest can take twice as long as cleaning a room for a guest who is staying over. "For a new arrival you have to go through the full inspection list, which may have around 100 check points," says Lara Weiss, Managing Director of K Hotels. "There are so many things that must be attended to that you wouldn't think of, including making sure the proper TV Guide is there, checking for stains on the amenity cards and ensuring the bed linens are completely wrinkle free."
3. We wish you'd think twice about participating in eco-friendly programs.
Many hotels are now offering green initiatives in their rooms by letting their guests opt out of a daily room cleaning. And while the eco-friendly programs seem great, in some cases they can deprive housekeepers of much-needed work-and pay. "If 100 guests choose not to have their room cleaned at my hotel, then the next day six to eight housekeepers get a call that they don't have to come in to work," says Brigida. And since housekeepers are paid hourly, that's a problem. "It's really hurting people."
4. We don't want to wake you up by knocking on your door in the morning, but we have to.
On average, housekeepers clean 13 to 15 rooms a day, but it can be as high as 30 at some hotels. And they're expected to clean them all in one eight-hour shift. So, even if you do put your "Do Not Disturb" sign out, sometimes they still have to knock. "If you're due to check out that day, the housekeepers must clean your room first [so it's ready for new guests]," explains Weiss. "They have to find out if you've left yet in order to stay on schedule." Instead of being annoyed at that rap on the door, try to remember that the person on the other side is just doing his or her job.
5. There is no standard hourly wage for housekeepers-even within the same chain.
Because of unions, hotel workers' wages vary widely. "In a city like Chicago, where the majority of hotels are unionized, housekeepers make $14.60 an hour," says Strassel. "But in a city like Indianapolis, where there are no union hotels, a housekeeper at that same chain will be making about half that. There's a very wide range, and we've certainly seen places where people are getting paid more or less than that as well."
6. We have the most dangerous job in the hotel.
According to Unite Here, housekeepers have a 50 percent higher injury rate than all other hotel workers, and a survey of more than 600 hotel housekeepers in the U.S. and Canada revealed that 91 percent have suffered work-related pain. "The worst is lifting the mattresses," says Lisa,* a housekeeper in Long Beach, California, who cleans 22 to 30 rooms a day. "It really hurts our backs. My coworkers complain every day about leg pain, knee pain, arm pain, everything."
7. We'd love it if you would leave us a tip.
According to Brigida, most people don't tip housekeepers. And even when guests do leave cash in the room, she usually can't take it. "If people leave money on the dresser or table without a note, we won't take it because it isn't clear that it's for us," she explains. "But leaving money on or underneath the pillow usually means it's for housekeeping." So always leave a note with your tip to be sure it gets into the right hands. While there's no standard amount for tipping, Lisa says, "If every room left just one dollar a day it would be great-I'd have an extra $22 to $30 each day."
8. We see and hear everything.
Just because the housekeeping staff is discreet doesn't mean they don't observe your bad moods or rude behavior. Brigida reports taking all kinds of attitude from guests: "When we knock on their door and they don't want us to come in, they sometimes yell and swear at us. I try not to take it personally, but it's the kind of thing that can stay with you all day." She also reports many brushes with indecency: "Some people answer the door naked. I've seen it so many times!"
9. We aren't trying to make it hard for you to find your things.
If you're the type of person who prefers to keep your belongings in a pile on the floor, don't be surprised if your room is more organized when you return for the day. "If someone has stuff lying all over the place, it is typical procedure for housekeeping to pick up the clothes, fold them and make a stack," says Weiss. It's not your housekeeper's job to leave the room in the exact condition in which you left it.
10. Yes, it's our job to clean your room, but some of the messes you leave are beyond the call of duty.
While some guests are so tidy housekeepers can hardly tell they've slept in the bed, others go overboard with the messes. And we're not talking a few extra crumbs or an overflowing trash bin. "I've cleaned rooms where there's soda all over the walls and pizza on the ceiling," says Brigida. And sometimes the messes guests leave in the bathroom are so bad "it's like, 'How could you do this to us?' It's made some of my coworkers cry." Besides the gross-out factor of cleaning up a room in such a state of disarray, it takes so much longer to finish, making it even more difficult for housekeepers to meet their daily room quotas.
*Some names have been changed.Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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