If you’ve stayed at a hotel property in recent years, you’ve no doubt seen those cards that suggest that you re-use your towels and linens, rather than having them replaced daily. But now, some hotel chains are even giving you the option of declining housekeeping services entirely in exchange for loyalty program rewards points or food and beverage credits. While it might seem like it’s a no-brainer to take these small steps to help the environment, did you know that you might not be doing so much good, when it comes to the housekeeping staff?
While some housekeepers are paid by the hour, others are paid per-room, so, when you decline housekeeping entirely, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that the housekeeper assigned to your room or floor will earn less. When you check in to a hotel, you won’t necessarily know how that friendly housekeeper who says “hi” to you in the hallway is being paid. And, while some hotel employees have a union that can negotiate the terms and conditions of the hotel staff’s employment, other hotels are non-union (sometimes aggressively so). And at other properties, housekeeping might be outsourced, so that the hotel doesn’t directly employ the housekeeping staff. With so many factors that can come into play, the truth is, that your average hotel guest has no way of knowing whether they’re depressing wages for the housekeeping staff by taking those food and beverage credits or loyalty points.
Still, if enough guests decline service, it’s pretty much a given that the hotel will do what they can to reduce labor costs—either by sending staff home early, or by employing fewer housekeepers in the first place. So, while you might not be able to determine whether your individual choice is actually cutting into the wages of the housekeeping staff, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s having some sort of effect, overall. After all, the hotel wouldn’t be offering you free points or food credits, if declining housekeeping didn't reduce their costs by more than the cost of the points or credit, right?
Keep in mind—it’s not like those rooms don’t need to be cleaned and serviced, eventually. If a hotel provides housekeeping services, it's not some kind of nice thing that they’re doing as a favor to their guests. Housekeeping is work. It has value, and it’s what housekeepers are paid to do.
So, what’s a traveler to do? If you’re staying in a hotel property and using those services, there are ways you can make housekeepers' lives easier, and help ensure that they’re treated fairly. Here are our suggestions:
Stay in a union hotel. While a union contract might not always guarantee fair wages and benefits, it’s at least a sign that the workers have an opportunity to negotiate about their wages, hours and working conditions.
Pick up after yourself. The housekeeping staff will have an easier time of it, if you’re less of a slob when you travel.
Declining fresh sheets and towels if you don't want or need them. There’s a difference between declining housekeeping entirely, and declining to have your linens changed.
Leave a tip for the housekeeper. In most hotels, $1 or $2 per night is an acceptable tip. In luxury properties, leave $3 to $5 per day. Always leave a note next to the money, to make sure that the staff understands that it’s for them.
Consult with a travel advisor like Huckleberry Travel. We monitor trends in the industry, and we prioritize travel that’s environmentally and economically sustainable, whether it’s a resort, a cruise line, or another type of travel provider. If you share those values, we can look for accommodations that have a demonstrated commitment and good track record of promoting sustainable travel.
If you’re ready to plan your next trip, and you’d like to do some good with your travel dollars, drop us a line. We’d love to help you plan your next trip!