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