Hotel Front Desk
Los Angeles, CA
For the past two years I've worked the front desk at a boutique luxury beachfront hotel in Southern California. My job can range from simply checking guests in & out to many other duties, including: pretending I work in different departments so that behind-the-scenes chaos is never seen by a guest, shielding guests from stalkers that come looking for them, and picking up used drug paraphernalia from a trashed room. Ask me anything.
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I know we outsource our cleaning of linens to a company that specializes in doing it for hotels and restaurants. They probably have their formula down pat as far as how much bleach and what kind of detergent they use. I was told by our housekeeping supervisor who manages the linen inventory that the water used by the industrial cleaning services is so hot it actually sanitizes the fabric, which is a good thing. Funny enough linen and how much of it is available can literally make a hotel fail to function or flourish. It has happened when we're super sold out that we've had to borrow from neighboring hotels!
Wow. Where to start. In no particular order of awesomeness, and not necessarily in the same room, but sometimes: 1. Nail scratch marks on the custom leather headboard (gross) 2. Marijuana nuggets, cocaine dust, bloody cotton swabs (what?!), it was like Keith Richards' trail mix 3. Cigarettes...in EVERYTHING! On (our) robes, in glasses, on tables, in beds, in showers, in toaster ovens, in chairs, etc... 4. We did have some kids of vaguely Middle-Eastern origin who thought it was funny to throw remote controls out of the 7th story window onto the public sidewalk...until it hit our security officer in the head. Then it wasn't so funny to them. 5. Broken whisky glasses on the floor over a puddle of blood... 6. Food in all manners of decomposition and heat exhaustion. Use your imagination. 7. Condoms, lots of condoms. 8. Alcohol bottles, broken, maybe intact. But really? You're going to fill up the minibar bottles with water and I'm not going to notice? 9. Firearms left randomly unattended until they're later awkwardly claimed? As far as trashing, it's usually the bloody rooms that contain all of the above. But the fact that the guest somehow walked away unscathed always boggles my mind!
The official definition from the Business Dictionary: "Terms used in the hotel industry to describe the cost to a customers that request accommodations for the same day without prior booking arrangements . The rack rate price tends to be more expensive than the rate that the customer could have received if he/she used a travel agency or third-party service. Rack rates can vary based on the day that the room is requested. For instance, the rack rate may be more expensive on weekends, which are usually high travel days." This holds true to my experience. It is always higher than third party reservation made through say an Orbitz or Expedia. If you ask a smaller hotel reservationist who isn't beholden to corporate rules if he or she can match an Orbitz or Expedia rate you found online, you'd get the best of both worlds because you're booking direct so you can cancel sometimes without penalty, but you are also getting a lower price.
As Indiana Jones once said, "It's not so much the years, it's the mileage." Same goes for those poor toilets. They're just getting used constantly and by people with varying levels of plumbing common sense. People really don't have the same respect often for the hotel's appliances as they would their own while at home, so they're prone to flush non-flushable items. What you also find in a hotel that is older or has more than a few floors is that pipes may be interconnected in ways that they would never be if installed to today's standards. Older outfall pipes to septic tanks can be made of clay which lets tree roots grow into it and back up the tank, and you have non-copper piping too which is less reliable.
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Weekly rates and monthly rates can usually be negotiated with the sales department, and there's definitely an interest from the hotel's point of view to have that prolonged stay, how much of a discount is involved in that will depend on the hotel's overall occupancy and availability and any requirements placed on the hotel by a parent company, if any. The benefits from a hotel's view of a longer stay is it guarantees revenue for a longer period of time and it's building a relationship with someone who, unless displaced by an unfortunate incident and being reimbursed by an insurance company, likely has reason to refer the hotel to their equally wealthy friends and clients if the stay goes well. In most localities, any occupancy tax or "bed tax" charged on a normal night's stay can be completely waived if the stay goes beyond 30 days and becomes a month. Other savings can reach into the ten to fifteen percent off per night, maybe more depending on the specifics.
I can definitely say that all kinds of films, photo shoots, music videos, and commercials have been shot on my property without obtaining clearance first. I and my co-workers at the front desk know what signs to look for that would indicate someone is up to something shady: film equipment, and of course, the "talent." Film crews and talent are a certain "type" that walk with a certain purpose. I have helped bust several unauthorized productions and shoots, because at the end of the day, my Director of Sales or Marketing is going to blame it on me first if something happened on their watch. So it's in my best interest to stop those productions from happening. As far as legal recourse, I don't think the hotel could necessarily do anything once the work is published, unless there were something posted at the entrances prohibiting unauthorized filming, the crew were caught in the act, or there were some items in the shot(s) which were proprietary to the hotel itself, which could warrant all kinds of charges from trespassing to trademark and copyright infringement.
My honest answer would be yes. Maids and housekeeping staff don't receive tips as often as bellhops and food and beverage staff, or even front desk staff, so giving them a pat on the back is nice, especially if you called for service more than is regularly provided. Typically $2 per day is the standard, but I throw down a $5 bill when checking out if they did a good job on each cleaning or did a special task for me. I leave it on the nightstand or give it to the front desk in a clearly marked envelope at checkout. At an honest hotel, 99% of the time that envelope will get to the housekeepers.
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