The Hotel - land of the forced smile
When you come to stay at a hotel, you're probably in a good mood. You're looking forward to a well-deserved holiday, or maybe you're coming because of work - a conference or business meeting or some kind of training.
At reception you're greeted by a smiling woman who will reel off the wide range of services and support you can access during your stay, in detail and with impeccable politeness.
The porter, with an equally professional smile, will take care of your luggage.
The room attendant, slightly afraid and sallow, will greet you in the coridor and flash you a smile, clean your room immaculately, bring you extra towels, shampoos, carry out your trash, and then vanish like an un-noticed, smiling little ghost.
It's the same story at breakfast. You walk in and the waitress beams at you. You get to the buffet and the chef grin-grimaces as he talks you through your options before loading up your plate and wishing you Bon Apetite.
Welcome to the hotel, welcome to the land of forced smiles...
Have you ever considered what the people who offer you all of the above are really feeling?
Have you ever wondered where all these smiling, happy workers all around you come from?
You've probably never really thought about it. I think it would be worth it, just to reflect on it for a moment. But then maybe you'd say, well, what for? I'm on holiday. I paid for this hotel service, and so I expect it to be of the highest possible standard and that includes service with a smile...
Ok, but, take the receptionist who you met at the entrance. She carries out her work, all day, Standing Up, she can't sit down for a whole 7.5 hours a day. Sometimes her legs swell up from the constant standing, especially when her friend calls in sick and she had to cover her shift meaning standing up for 16 hours. Do you think, that after 7 hours of standing at the counter, you'd still have the energy to greet and smile and present the same options and services to guets, over and over and over, politely, and kindly, politely and kindly, non-stop...?
The luggage porter glibly lifts up your suitcases, with a smile, those same suitcases that you struggled to get into your taxi. You couldn't even barely handle one of them, and he's carrying hundreds every day. You were all crooked and panting, and there he is there coping with it, smiling away.
The room attendant who cleaned your room? She cleans 18 of those Every Day.
She lacks confidence because she doesn't speak English, yet back home she completed an MA in Philosophy.
And what if you asked her why she's cleaning rooms for a living?
You might hear that, becuase in her country of origin, there's an economic crisis, or, that a disaster befell her family and they lost their home. So now she's got to earn here to help her parents and raise her children.
And do you ask why she's still smiling?
No, you're not going to ask that, because if you did, the answers would put you off your breakfast. You'd come to see that behind those immaculate uniforms and well-learned behaviours, are ordinary, exhausted, hotel workers.
I'm sure that you probably never asked yourself how much we earn, for our politeness, our service, our patience, and our smiles. You will probably have paid a fortune for your room, and therefore might think that this frees you from taking any responsibility.
You wouldn't have much to smile about knowing that we are paid the lowest possible wage – the National Minimum Wage, of £6.50ph – while all the cash you (over)paid goes into the coffers of a greedy corporation.
So, after a few days, you'll leave the hotel. You'll put up a few photos on your Facebook profile; you on a giant hotel bed, you at a lavish bar in an elegant restaurant. You'll say how fantastic it was, and how the service was so good, with everyone so polite and friendly.
But when of your friends asks you where you were, you should tell them this: I was in the land of the forced smile..
Can we change this?
Yes We Can
Today's there's a tendency towards exploitation and the making of everything as cheap as possible.
Supermarkets can sell products cheaply because they save money on us – on our pay and 'productivity. They can lower the price of goods when those working for them are agency workers deprived of bonuses, holiday pay, sick pay and social support. They can lower the price of goods because they've lowered the price of labour. It's the same in the hotel sector. The companies offering the same services – contract cleaning in housekeeping
departments for example, or catering, don't want to raise their rates through the client when the price of water, electricity and gas etc rises, so instead they seek to make savings, 'cost efficiencies' (maintain profits) through their workers instead.
The thing that suprises me about all of this, is that so many of us accept this, and we still keep smiling.
- A hotel worker