AWP, Travel, Vacation Planning

Be kind to the help

MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room
Do you ever walk into a hotel room and wonder if those are really clean sheets on the bed? | MCL-ETYCB Single Suite Hotel Room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, I came across this article begging attendees at the upcoming AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference in Seattle not to be “assholes” to the help while they’re in town. The article specifically focuses on the hotel housekeepers who will be cleaning up after AWP guests throughout the conference. As a former hotel housekeeper myself, I have a few points that I would like to add.

I worked at a small hotel right after high school. I was paid minimum wage, and like one of the housekeepers mentioned in the article, I had only a few minutes to turn over each room. It didn’t matter how big the room was or how badly it might have been trashed. If the room wasn’t completed within the allotted number of minutes, the hotel docked my pay. Which meant there were days when I did this disgusting, back-breaking work for LESS than minimum wage. Needless to say, I only lasted one summer before rushing to a cushy job down the block at Wal-Mart. Some of these workers don’t have that option.

Ever since that summer, I always think of the housekeepers whenever I stay at a hotel. As I leave a room for the last time, I always ask myself what I can do to make the housekeeper’s job a little easier on my way out. The following are my tips for helping out the help during your next hotel stay:

  • Always strip the bedding right before you leave. Not only does this ensure that you haven’t accidentally left your favorite nightgown tangled up in the sheets, but it also cuts down on the amount of time the housekeepers must spend in the room. BONUS: This also ensures the next guest will get clean sheets. Once the sheets are off the bed, it’s easier to throw on new ones than it is to reuse the dirty ones.
  • Place all bedding and towels in one pile near the door. This cuts down on the number of steps the housekeeper has to take to get the used bedding out of the room.
  • Gather your garbage. Don’t be a pig. Don’t leave your empty fast food containers scattered all over the room for the housekeeper to collect. Instead, use the garbage cans. Of course, those tiny hotel room garbage cans are never large enough to hold all of your refuse. But, do the best you can to stack everything together in one place. I make a habit of bringing extra plastic shopping bags along with me when I travel, and I’m always glad to have them on hand.
  • Empty your drinking vessels. If there’s a coffee maker in the room, empty it and your coffee mugs. Depending on the layout of the room, I might stack these items next to the sink to save the housekeeper a few extra steps. However, if you’re not going to clean the cups out well enough for the next person to use them, make sure they are placed in such a manner as to make it obvious that they have been used. You should also empty any soda cans or fast food cups before placing them into the garbage can so they don’t spill out all over the carpeting when the housekeeper takes the garbage out.
  • Throw out your used toiletries. Don’t leave your nasty, smooshy soaps melded to the bathtub. Not only is it a bitch to clean up, but no one wants to think about the last body part you washed with that bar of soap right before leaving it on the side of the tub for someone else to clean up.
  • Empty the fridge and wipe out the microwave. Don’t leave your fast food leftovers stuffed in the refrigerator for housekeeping to clear out. You don’t always have to wipe out the microwave. However, if you forget to cover your lunch leftovers, and they then explode all over the inside of the microwave, you really should be the one to clean it up.
  • Clean up your own vomit. I can’t believe I really have to tell you this, but judging from some of the messes I cleaned up in my day, apparently I do.
  • Clean up after your pets. When you leave your pet’s mess all over the room, you not only make more work for housekeeping, but you also increase the chances that hotel will decide not to allow pets at all anymore. I once cleaned a hotel room where a massive dog had scattered his food all over the ENTIRE room. He was also a terrible shedder and left dog hair on EVERYTHING. That was a below-minimum wage day for sure. I’m not even going to mention pet feces. If I really have to tell you to scoop your dog’s poop, then you probably shouldn’t be allowed to have a pet at all.
  • Tip your housekeeper every day. The aforementioned article mentions this one, but it bears repeating. If you’re staying more than one night, be sure to leave a dollar or two each day rather than one lump sum at the end of your stay. This ensures that each housekeeper who has a hand in cleaning up after you gets a piece of the tip rather than only the one housekeeper who clears the room after you’ve left. I recommend that you tip, at minimum, one full dollar for each night’s stay.

Now, some of you may question why you should have to worry about the help at all. After all, it is their job to clean the room. You probably paid far more for your stay than you really wanted to. I mean, seriously, as expensive as it is to rent a hotel room these days, don’t you think the hotels could pay their employees a bit more, or at least refrain from docking their pay if they need a few extra minutes to clean an extra messy room?

Just remember, you are not only helping the housekeepers, but you are also helping the next hotel guest who gets your room. We’ve all heard the horror stories. We’ve probably all wondered just how clean those in-room coffee pots really are, or if housekeeping really put fresh sheets on the beds after the last guest left. If you were cleaning a hotel room on a day when your pay was about to be docked, do you think you might be tempted to cut corners by straightening the sheets that are already on the bed and throwing the comforter on it? And don’t you think you’d be less likely to fall prey to that temptation if the sheets have already been stripped off the bed and tossed in a pile by the door?

Whenever I stay at a hotel, I always pick up after myself and my children throughout our stay, so it only takes me a few minutes to strip the bedding and gather garbage on our way out. You never know when this tiny bit of extra effort, coupled with the few extra dollars left on the nightstand might be the difference between the next guest getting the spotless room they paid for and unwittingly sleeping on your dirty sheets.

Do you have your own ritual for checking out of a hotel room? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

P.S. Are you going to AWP this year? I so wish I could go! If you’re blogging about it, please share links so we can read what you’re up to while you’re there!

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