Tuesday, 14 July 2015

**NEW BLOG, by "Charlotte"**



A day in my life as a room attendant...

Hi, my name is Charlotte*. I've been working as a room attendant in a reputable central London Hotel for quite a while now.


I wanted to tell you about one of my average days at work, so that you could see it from my perspective.

 

I bet most of you think that the work of a room attendant is nothing much. She comes, cleans, and goes home, and it might seem this way but this is just how it looks from the outside, to the hotel guests or friends who have never worked in hotels.

Yes our work depends on cleaning rooms and having them ready for new guests, as well as maintaining cleanliness in those already occupied. However, noone really knows that room attendants are often physically and psychologically plagued.

Noone is aware of the fact that supervisors often 'feed' on the room attendants in many ways, maybe because they they are in a bad mood, or the boss upset them or they simply don't like your face. 
 
In hotels there is a division of labour, or as I'd call it, a class system. It's composed of the following: the room attendant, the supervisor, and 'The Top', ie the bosses ruling over the workers. This division of classes all too often results in a heirarchy of oppression. The Top abuses the supervisors, and they in turn abuse the room attendants - because they can, or they think they can. 
 
On more that one occasion, a supervisor will give me an additional room to clean, because they simply don't like me, or because they're in a bad mood. Nevermind that I already had many of my own rooms to clean – a list of some ten departures and nine occupieds, which means 19 rooms to clean in a day, and within those a few linen changes – and despite other girls having better luck and less rooms on their lists, But, because this supervisor doesn't like me, she keeps giving me extra rooms to do.

The second issue I'd like to mention on additional rooms is that it's happened to me a few times that I DIDN'T KNOW that I had been given extra rooms, at all, even though the supervisor knew this at probably 10am but didn't deign to inform me until 5pm. I found this out once and was so mad than in the end I talked back to the supervisor, asking him why didn't he inform me of this earlier because surely he was informed of this a good few hours ago? Do you know how he responded? He said, 'Because I forgot'. And I was there, already psychologically prepared to go home (I was finishing my final room) and then this. Anyone in my position would be annoyed, and moreover, there was no option to refuse.

'You have to do that room and that's it', he said, and left the room slamming the door behind him.

Another situation I found myself involved someone from 'The Top'. It was already past 4pm, I'd finished my work and had got to the office and handed back my list of completed rooms and my keys, and signed out, when the boss came in.

He said to me, 'You won't be going home yet there are still rooms to do on the X floor'. 
 
I immediately turned to the boss and said, 'I'm very sorry but Ive handed back my keys, list, and I've signed out so, I am not actually technically at work anymore, and I have an appointment which I must attend to, so, if you'll excuse me, I have to leave'. 
 
Do you know how he replied? He said, 'I have not said that you have finished your work, you will leave when I let you' and he wouldn't let me get a word in. My nerves were storming within me but I held my tongue because I was scared, if I said anything at all, I would lose my job.

Working in the hotel, we're often under huge pressure. It's frequently the case that we're overwhelmed with rooms to clean, huge 'busy', with loads of rooms, including VIP rooms which you must clean to perfection or even better, and which take an hour or longer to complete, or group rooms which you need to finish to a deadline because if you take 'too long' you're hurried with 'Why is this taking you so long'? 'Hurry up, the guest is already waiting in reception'. 

 If that wasn't enough, in such days you often also get 'pending' rooms which are rooms which need to be ready immediately and or better, by yesterday. On such days, work is simply tragic, you don't even know where to look or where to lay your hands; the supervisor keeps coming in every five minutes to rush you and this just cumulates into unbearable stress.

It's really hard to clean so many rooms and to such deadlines, especially when you've got really dirty rooms. Sometimes you walk into a room and your hands just fall to your sides when you see the mess. 
 
Hotel guests don't respect the work room attendants need to put in to make a room perfect, they leave everything all over the place and just walk out, whereas we really try hard to make sure everything looks neat and pristine.

And if it ever happens that guests do 'value' our work by leaving us a pound or something, often we won't know it because before we get to the room, the supervisor will have already been to check if the room is free and ready to be cleaned and will have simply pocketed the tips for themselves. On more than one occasion I have walked in and caught them doing exactly this, startling and confusing them in the process.

Alright, one more issue I'd like to mention here is the canteen food. You probably think that in luxury hotels they give us delicious food, 'caviar', but you are much mistaken. 
 
Our food, often, I'd say even every day, reminds me of nothing you'd ever want your lips to touch, farm animals are probably given better food than us. On more than one occasion I've gone the whole day hungry, getting by on some nasty drink from the machine, because I just couldn't let that food pass my lips, just the very look or it, nevermind the smell or taste of it. I couldn't eat it.

                            Really horrible food, you wouldn't eat it.

At times all that's really edible is just a few slices of tomatoes with cucumber, really nutritious huh? I've been thinking I really need to sort out bringing some food from home, bring some sandwiches in, because working without energy or sustenance, you just can't carry on. 
 
At the end of the day, what's most important here is keeping up our energy, which we need bags of, but how do we do this when we have nowhere to draw it from? The very smell of that canteen food, just thinking about it now makes me sick. 
 
I know we need to change this situation, this system. I know that. And I know, that we can do it.

*Name concealed for security reasons

21 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. All room attendants deserve to be treated with respect and as equals. Not just by "the top" and your supervisors, but by us, paying guests. I hope things do change. Wishing you all the best.

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  2. Thankyou, that means a lot to us. We'll be sharing a guide soon about how guests can play their part in supporting the respect, dignity and fair conditions that everyone working in this industry should have. Thankyou, X

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  3. That guide sounds like an excellent initiative - anything that encourages people to think about the person behind the price can only be a good thing. And thank you for the blog - cogent and compelling. I wish you all the best in your organising

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  5. I did this job thirty years ago and it obviously hasn't got any better. Keep on campaigning. I will help where I can. And good on you for finding the energy to blog on top of all that.

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  6. I did this job thirty years ago and it obviously hasn't got any better. Keep on campaigning. I will help where I can. And good on you for finding the energy to blog on top of all that.

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  7. Hi Charlotte, and thanks for sharing your experience. Never forget that hotel housekeepers are not alone, they're fighting together for dignity and better working conditions. More stories from the IUF's global "Make my workplace safe" here: http://www.iuf.org/show.php?lang=en&tid=221

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