Not enough to do the job right, according to a column in Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel “Confessions of … a hotel housekeeper.”
“I cut corners everywhere I could,” said Allison Rupp in the tell-all, attributing the lack of motivation to equally lacking tips and fair wages.
If my friends at the International Executive Housekeepers Association are reading this, I apologize for casting a bad light on the profession. What I mean to point out is, what if Rupp is right? Hotels just aren’t paying people enough to care about their work. (For more on this concept, see Chip Conley’s PEAK philosophy.)
Another notable account of the hard-work-for-low-pay job of housekeepers appeared in Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America” where she experimented in entry-level work as a hotel housekeeper, residential maid, waitress, nursing-home aide and Wal-Mart employee. The test was whether or not someone could survive on minimum wage or close to it—Ehrenreich claimed the answer was “No.”
Between reading “Nickel and Dimed” and reading this recent column, I’ve had to write stories about the minimum wage issue in the hotel industry. And I have to admit the company line about “offering fair wages regardless of a federal minimum wage” was enough to get my story done. But what if? What if hotel employees really aren’t getting paid adequately for the work they do? Just how big a problem is this? How many companies are pinching pennies (even pre-recession), forcing men and women to get second or third jobs to pay the bills? What if these employees were looked after for the long term—not because it takes a college degree to clean a hotel room, but because a company valued its employees and wanted them to stick around?
Armed with my second-hand knowledge of the job (although I have been on assignment in a hot hotel laundry room!), I cringe thinking about a suggestion I heard for cost savings at a hotel conference recently: increase the daily quota for housekeepers. What would that accomplish save for unhappy employees and the increased likelihood of unhappy guests? In times like these, those precious guests don’t need a reason to go someplace else.
This blog is dedicated to Cigdem Duygulu and Gary Nushida: two enthusiastic, authoritative and inspiring executive housekeepers who have helped me write about the profession.