Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Fuck This Hotel and Housekeeping

Watcha, my name's Olga, I am an immigrant, and I've been working in this high end central London  hotel for six months. Rooms here cost between £600 to £5000 per night. I'd need to work two weeks to be able to sleep one night in a bed that I make. I clean sixteen, eighteen, twenty rooms per day.

I'll be frank reader - I'm treated like a piece of shit. Every day I am shouted at. Every day I am ordered around and disrespected. This shouldn't happen to anyone.

Today's dispute was with the male supervisor. He was a porter just 2 months ago.

It’s 4:05pm and I'm on my last room, finishing my shift, when the supervisor rocks up to tell he needs a room cleaning to VIP standard. I tell him that I am leaving as it’s the end of my shift now, but he insists. "You must clean a room V-I-P" (flashing eyes, pointed letters). I refuse - it’s already after my shift. It’s his responsibility to check all the rooms done previously and if something is not to his taste and needs to be redone, I tell him sure, we can do it, but, not at that time. He did not sign my rooms list for this reason. I'm seething. 

Let me take you back a few hours.

Earlier this morning when I had 2 minutes to go until my lunch break the same supervisor came to my floor – Floor 10 - and told me to go to floor 9 and inform the housekeeper that she has a service and that she can clean it when she has time.

I tell him that it's his job to do this and he admits that is the case, however he claims he is busy and has to deliver a shirt that he is carrying (points to the wrinkled shirt a client has given to be washed and ironed). I agree to do him the favour and go. 

When I go down to floor 9 I notice that the room is already being cleaned.

I leave the room and take the lift back up to the canteen. 

It’s when I enter the canteen that I see him there with his plate full already on the table. He looks up an down again shiftyly. 

Ok. So, that means he asked me to do his tasks in order for him to have more time for his lunch, when I have to count my minutes and organise my time to clean rooms and have lunch that lasts 30 minutes - And my lunchbreak is not paid.

He tucks in to his food looking at his phone whilst I wait in the lunch line looking at my watch.

When this supervisor did not sign my room list at the end of the day, I reminded him of his trick to have more time for himself. This got him upset and he reproached me that I did not do the job properly in 3 rooms and that I had to do it because it is my obligation. I told him I did not do the job because it was already done by the time I finished my floor. That is the reason why.

My defence hung in the air. He blinked a few times

This bloke y'all, is just walking around all morning, stalking the corridors pretending to look busy and passing down his shit and talking down to me and everyone on the floor. This is why this argument happened. He is well known for that and in fact there is a rumour saying that he will stop working as a supervisor quite soon.

Even if he is demoted, our treadmill keeps turning. And will the person replacing him respect us? I doubt it. I feel that noone does.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

This hotel doesn't take racism seriously

Hello my name is A.J* 

I have been a luggage porter at the Luxury Hotel** for over two years now. I like my job and I am good at it. I'm helpful, I'm attentive, I treat every guest who comes in with respect and I carry their bags to their rooms, into lifts, into their taxis. In films I might be called a 'bell boy'. But my core duty to help guests with directions, and with their bags.

I work closely with the other porters and reception. I am often the first person the guests see as I open the door to them and welcome them. I work any and all times of the day and night.

I am not from this country. English isn't my first language and I am not white. But I speak good English.

I do not have a problem with what I do, but I do have a problem with how I am treated by some of the people I work with.

For years now I have been working with a supervisor who ritually verbally abuses me. Sometimes even in front of guests.

It is as if I am his slave. It is as if I am expected to serve him and not simply work and co-operate with him, which I do.

The way he speaks to me is aggressive and so disrespectful. He has called me many names and compared me to animals. He swears at me in his own language too. He frequently tells me, that I am 'Fucking Stupid' and threatens me, telling me he can get me sacked. There is no need for this kind of behaviour and I tell him, that this is no way of speaking and that this is unacceptable here in work.

I have reported him but still we are put on the same shifts together. I fear work sometimes. I feel his hatred. Because he is a supervisor he uses his power over me to push me down. Other porters are not treated this way. When I receive a tip from a guest, if he has seen this, he will call me in to the office and demand it from me. It is my work, I served the guest, I carried their bags, I should keep the gratuity for it, not the supervisor.

I have complained so many times about his bullying but nothing gets done about it. It is as if I do not really matter here.

Apart from being threatened and insulted by him, another worker, also in a position of authority over me, has even gone so far as to physically assault me.

Again when I was doing just my job. He grabbed me, to make his point aggressively, whether he has a correct point to make or not, he has no right to put his hands on me, he has no right to shake me.

I have also had supervisors tell me that I smell due to the food I eat. This was very upsetting for me and I have never been spoken to like this in all the work I have done in London.

What is worst about all of this is that everything these people have been doing to me, I raise, I bring to higher managers but they do not take it seriously. I have evidence. But they are denying it. Others I work with are shocked. I should not be put on the same shifts as these people. They are attacking me and this goes against equality and dignity at work which we have the legal protection for. What I see though and what I feel is that the hotel does not take racism seriously. They don't take bullying seriously.

I don't want to carry on like this but I have a young family and even one month out of work would have a big impact on us. The tips I make, when they are not taken from me, help me massively. I want my children to have a better life than me. I am doing everything I can to help make a good life for them where they can succeed. I don't want them to be treated like dirt.

*A pseudenym
** A pseudenym

Thursday, 24 September 2015


Due to popular demand we finally have our Guest Guide! Here it is to download in PDF form. Share widely, thankyou very much x

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

By Giovannino again...

So who owns this place?

Yesterday the Chinese economy slumped. Billions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yuan were wiped off the values of companies and individual stock portfolios. Even Warren Buffett lost out. Crowds of conventional economists, Finance Ministers and journalists could be observed huddling together, quietly chanting “La la la, not listening, not listening, nothing to see here …”

All I thought was “Shit, another year of no payrise…”. Should I worry? How else, apart from a possible slump in demand, could this affect me? I have no shares, no real property to my name, so why am I bothered?

 I do worry, because I have no way of knowing what the owners of my Hotel have invested in, or more importantly, how deep their Bankers and investors are in the shit.  On TV there is a big Sports Day in Bejing, but right now they are doing summersaults in Shanghai, and somebody might even be for the high jump…

If you stay in a Hotel, you probably know that the name above the door is a Brand. Somewhere deep down, we all accept how Branding works – a company owns a brand, and then licences that brand out to other, smaller companies. You know that Top Shop doesn’t own factories in Indonesia, that McDonalds Restaurants are mostly franchises, that Karrimor isn’t made in the UK anymore. Just so with that Hotel you have walked into.


The Worlds biggest Hotel chains long ago discovered the secret to growth lies in the McDonalds model – franchising rather than actual ownership - at all levels of the market, as well as Management contracts. This frees up a lot of money that would otherwise go on maintenance, equipment or wages for directly employed staff. Money that would of course be better spent on Marketing, Board Renumeration or shareholder dividends.

                                  That luxury hotel you're staying in?.....It's a bit like this....

So, you enter the Hotel Lobby, cleaned by agency workers, go to your room (ditto), go to the restaurant or bar, possibly also agency staffed (your plates were cleaned by agency staff in the wash-up). The receptionist hands you the bill next morning  (now they probably are directly employed) – but your Bill has no reference to the actual owners of the Hotel, just the franchised brand they operate. Welcome to the outsourced and surreal world of Hospitality. For us too, our training will be Brand-specific, yet each month our paycheck comes from a different company. Some properties change Brand frequently – obviously the owners want a better (cheaper) deal, with HR norms that favour their interests even more, and access to maybe a bigger Marketing operation in specific markets. Some companies even operate franchises and management contracts with multiple Brands.

So who are we actually working for? How do we know exactly what to expect in pay and conditions? 


Back in 2012, with the Olympics and an election looming, Boris Johnson needed a story to prove that the fun and games would directly benefit even the lowest paid Londoners. A senior executive of a worldwide Hotel operator stepped up to the plate and announced that by 2017 all workers in his company’s London Hotels would be paid The London Living Wage – see what a business friendly Mayor can deliver!!!! That company waited a little while, then sold its flagship in London, whilst retaining the management contract. It is not even 2017 yet but I guess those workers already know the small print – “sorry, but you are no longer our actual employees…”  His HR director pockets more than £1 million a year – money well spent I would say.

It is not just the big chains – smaller operators also have their secrets. One UK chain of luxury properties went bust three years ago when it was found that its charismatic head had fiddled the books by quoting increased property values for its Hotels as profits. Overnight hundreds of people didn’t know if they would be paid that month, and as suppliers pulled out staff were sent out to supermarkets to buy food and drink for functions with petty cash. A friend who worked in this company once told me “I should have got out when the manager told me that they didn’t care about the stock take results”.

Of course, everyone knows that with the Grand Luxury Hotels, the ones you have heard of, ownership is a very rich man’s game. Non-Doms, Sultans and assorted tycoons all have their vanity projects in London and around the world. In these cases the staff will pay their taxes, the owners – well, less so, sometimes even the Hotel will get away with tax avoidance.

Another set of owners are the big banks – one company I know that specialises in luxury, and is headed by a true Hotelier, can only say that it owns a fraction of its hotels – the rest being leased from the same bank that finances it. So if you are working away trying to pay down that mortgage or overdraft, chances are your ultimate boss is the same bank sending you those stern letters. Ironic no?

You’re Welcome

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Another new blogger joins the fold...this time, a Bartender..

The dichotomy between craft and diplomacy, and the levels of pay and treatment – Part One by "Giovannino"

“Hell, you should be selling Bugattis!"*

I smile at what is a compliment from the group of off-duty business types around the table. That’s a new one, although being fairly good at this job, I do get compliments from guests: “Why aren’t you in charge?, “We’ve had so much fun!”, “You’ve made today so special…”

It is these comments that can make your day. Of course, there are other ones too, the worst being the perennial “I’m so glad we got the only English waiter…” or “We haven’t seen an English person all day…”

I usually try to keep it light, as shouting “Really? Define English you ignorant prick!” would probably not go down too well. “London is a world city” said with a smile, or “Well if they wanted the job, they would apply…” keep smiling, always keep smiling.

Working in Hotels Restaurants and Bars in London is like travelling the world without going through customs. Your guests come from every corner of the planet, with every religion, every creed, every positive and negative human trait exposed. You can easily build up a prejudice towards, say the Saudis who come in August, the vacationing Americans or the Russians who come to splurge around Christmas time. To be honest, after a few years your mind is either wide open or very closed indeed. And then there are your fellow workers …

“Bienvenuto alla Republica di Bar!” Welcome to the Republic of The Bar – that was my first introduction to working in London Five Stars. My new job was in one of the most prestigious Bars in one of the worlds most famous hotels, lets just call it The Splendide. I was the first Brit to work there in a decade, and, in the way of things, almost everyone else was Italian. I learned quickly how to count, order and swear like a Roman. I discovered the true art of making Coffee, I also found out the difference between Genova and Napoli, and how the accent of Palermo is different to Messina. My name was Italianised to Giovannino – little John.

All this for half what I had been earning outside London, just £8,000 a year. There was no service charge, but the tips, both cash and credit cards were phenomenal, and all administered with the Bar, with a clear points system, and HMG getting its percentage (tips are taxed as “unearned income” in the UK, although I have yet to find anyone from a Tax Office willing to swap jobs for a week…). Everything went into the pot, and at the end of the month we all came out alright. The first six months were very hard, as I adjusted to the levels of service and workload required, but I was truly learning a craft – although one that is at best still defined as “semi-skilled” by people who rate these things.

“Semi-skilled” my arse. Let me see you manage a station of twelve tables on a busy Thursday night, when you have a queue at the door, the Bar is four deep already and that Hen party has just ordered eight Mojitos. The German businessmen on table six are trying to buy a drink for the two ladies on table five, believing that they are escorts (they aren’t, and we don’t allow this, so I will have to inform the ladies, and also politely decline for them, leaving no hard feelings). A Hollywood star is sitting in the middle of this, and I would love to move him to an alcove, just so he gets some privacy, but the alcove won’t be free for at least ten minutes, and everybody wants it…

 …We are heaving- with that glorious mix of young and old, of The City and Westminster, Old money, New money and Once in a Lifetime guests here for that special occasion – a Birthday, an Anniversary, or just because they can, just this once, know luxury. And EVERYONE should be treated as if they are the star. A famous writer scowls on as he drinks his Champagne with his Aristocratic writer wife – don’t worry, he always scowls, Mr Grumpy, both egalitarian and snob.

After what seems like a lifetime, but in reality is only three hours, we start to wind down. 

As we close the bar – mopping up, polishing, filling in the orders for tomorrow and cashing up, a tall distinguished gentleman walks in, looking for a nightcap. He is actually the Lord Chancellor, the highest most powerful legal official in the land. However he is not staying in the Hotel: “I am terribly sorry milord, but we can only serve Hotel residents at this time” with a smile “Ah, quite so…”

                                       No Michael, no drink for you.

Or was it no drink for YOU Charles Falconer?

 or was it you Lord Irvine, Blair's first employer and the initiator of the proliferation of Zero Hours Contracts in the UK?

Either way, no special treatment when it comes to Hotel rules

This man once had lunch at The Ivy (so the rumour service has it), and had such a good time that at six in the evening he complained about the lack of food, and had to be reminded that he had eaten it already, four hours previously. Within two years, the licensing laws are relaxed. No skill was required at all this evening. You’re welcome.

 The Republic of The Bar indeed…

 *A Bugatti is a sports car

Thursday, 23 July 2015

We have another new blog! Welcome "John", a longterm hotel worker. He works in the Food and Beverage department of a hotel in the same Chain we are writing about. This is his first blog:

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

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