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*Knock knock* Housekeeping!

Updated: Oct 6, 2018


I have twice in my life been a housekeeper, both times in rural, rustic lodges (once in Wyoming, once in Alaska). The scenery was stunning, and the job itself wasn't so bad (mostly because latex gloves are a thing that exist). However, one aspect of the job that wasn't as great was....tips.


Did you know that you're supposed to tip housekeepers? I grew up in a family that always left a couple of dollars in the room, so it wasn't until I became a housekeeper hat I realized most people do not do this. Nor do I think this is out of any vindictiveness or selfishness, but purely because people do not think of housekeepers as needing to be tipped. But ohhh, they do.


Yes, housekeepers tend to make minimum wage or slightly higher, which negates the reason we are supposed to tip waiters. But that's just it. They make minimum wage while performing a physically demanding job that requires special training on how to handle every type of bodily fluid. Your bodily fluids.


At the lodge I worked at in Alaska, the housekeepers worked in teams. With two people, changing a room after someone has checked out took about half an hour, while merely cleaning around people's things while they were out for the day took less than ten minutes. Typically when turning over a room, we would switch off tasks each room - Room 1, I would do the bed and vacuuming while the other person did the bathroom, and then in Room 2 we would reverse the roles.


One day, I was working with A.J., who was always one of my favorite people to be partnered with. Not only did he have a good personality and great taste in music (this particular day, we rocked out to Lady Gaga's "Born this Way"), but he liked to clean the bathrooms. Which meant that I often got a daily break from cleaning strangers' poop stains the days I worked with him. This day, A.J. did the bathrooms until after lunch when he asked if he could do the beds from then on, as he had grown bored of the mundane work of the same thing in every room. Of course I agreed to switch. So there I was scrubbing the tub, straining to hear the chords of "Electric Chapel" coming from his phone, when suddenly there was a loud shriek, "AHH NOOOOOO!!!" I poked my head out to of the bathroom to find him rushing to the sink in order to wash his hands...because he had accidentally picked up a used condom that had been hidden in the sheets. I struggled not to laugh as I made some snarky comment about, "well, it's your own fault for abandoning bathroom duties!" He smiled despite his disgust, though he insisted on switching back to bathrooms after that. Meanwhile, I wore gloves for the rest of that day.

And, you guessed it - there was no tip in this room. Or most rooms, no matter how many poop stains, used condoms, blood stains, or broken beer bottles we found. This is by no means a shaming post, I'm certainly not going to pretend I haven't left these things behind in hotel rooms before. But condoms go in the garbage, folks. Beer bottles, broken or otherwise, go in the recycling. And if they're broken, why on earth weren't they cleaned up? I get someone not caring what happens to lowly housekeepers, but weren't they concerned for their own safety?? I would say it was impressive how often we found these things, with no accompanying tip, if it hadn't been so frustrating.

At the housekeeping position in Alaska, housekeepers also acted as bellhops. We carried people's (often very heavy) suitcases from the lodge to their cabins, and maybe, maybe 20% of people tipped us for it. I know that people might forget to tip housekeepers on their way out, or perhaps aren't even aware that they should tip housekeepers, but everyone knows to tip bell-hops! I remember one time, I could barely carry a suitcase up the stairs of the cabin. The older couple whose bag it was simply watched and all I got was a very curt "thank you" when I got to the top of the stairs. Meanwhile, my wrist hurt for the rest of the day. I've never worked in the food services industry, and have heard that you lose your hope for humanity when you do, but carrying luggage cannot be far behind.


It was always an odd dance of customer satisfaction, being a housekeeper. I once had a complain card written about me because the guest had "found a spider in our room and it scared my wife." On the days when a guest was not checking out, cleaning around their possessions was often difficult. We weren't allowed to touch their stuff but we also had to ensure that the bathroom counter was clean and the bed was made. It was quite the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. So please, on non-check out days, ensure that your things are out of the way of the housekeeper so that they can do their job.


Overall, I enjoyed my two housekeeping gigs. It was quite physically demanding, so I was in decent shape without having to go to the gym. But those who are housekeepers longer than I was face actual physical problems because of this, so let me make the disclaimer that I enjoyed the physicality because I only held the positions for a summer. For those who are career housekeepers, they often face challenges to their physical health while also not having the health insurance coverage necessary to do anything about it.


I also was a housekeeper in two beautiful locations, which helps keep my vision of the job more romantic than it should be. But pretty mountains aside, it was these positions more than any other experience I've had that taught me how entitled many in the world feel. Tip your housekeepers, guys. It's the least you can do for someone whose wiping your fecal matter away.

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