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The Savvy Traveler : Counting the Ways That Hotels Clean Up

November 15, 1987|PETER S. GREENBERG | Greenberg is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

How clean is your hotel room? And how do you know the hotel has really worked hard to keep it that way?

The answers aren't always easy to find. More often than not, guests checking into rooms see superficial evidence of cleaning: The bed is made, there are new towels folded in the bathroom.

But when did they last clean under the bathroom sink? When was the last time they vacuumed the carpet under the bed. When did they last dust above the armoire? Chances are it may have been six months ago.

When was the last time the hotel changed the bed blanket? When was the last time the hotel shampooed the carpet, or deep-cleaned the sofa?

"Housekeeping is our most formidable task," says John VanOrdstrand, general manager of the Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Our philosophy is whether the guest can see the dirt or not, the rooms must be clean."

That thinking is not always easy to implement, based on the design of some hotels, as well as their geographic location.

At some hotels, shag carpets are breeding grounds for fleas; they also accumulate dirt and bacteria. At other hotels, humidity and mildew are the enemies. (At the Bonaventure, air conditioning units in guest rooms run 24 hours a day to combat mildew, whether the room is occupied or not.)

sh Inspection Frequency

The key to keeping some hotels clean can often be found in how frequently management inspects guest rooms.

Each day at 2:30 p.m., at the Regent in Sydney, Australia, six guest rooms are inspected at random by the hotel's general manager, chief housekeeper and chief engineer.

At the Inter-Continental Hotel in New York, department heads inspect 50 rooms each week. Every two months, guest room valences are vacuumed, and lamp shades, door frames and window shades are washed. And all wood is thoroughly polished.

Twice each year, draperies are vacuumed. Room carpets are only shampooed on an "as needed" basis. "The carpeting has a protective coating," says executive housekeeper Stefanie Georges. "Repeated shampooing will wear the coating away. We've found that the residual soap in frequently shampooed carpets tends to retain more dirt."

After changing the sheets and cleaning the bathroom, maids at the Inter-Continental also spray tile and glass areas with a bactericidal, fungicidal disinfectant.

sh Replace Blanket

My advice: When checking in to a hotel, always call housekeeping and ask them to replace the blanket on your bed. This also applies to the extra blanket/pillow that can often be found in guest room closets.

Make sure these are also replaced when you check in. At many hotels, these blankets and pillows may have been sitting there for weeks--or they may have been used the night before by someone else. After all, if you want a clean room, why shouldn't you have a clean blanket and pillow too?

At the Stanhope Hotel in New York, general manager Stefan Simkovics checks six rooms at random--two rooms that are ready, two rooms that are turned down for the evening and two occupied rooms that have been made up by the staff.

He has also started an incentive program for his housekeeping staff. Housekeepers who keep the cleanest rooms earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise and other perks.

Jim Bazemore, the owner of Perry's Motel in Daytona Beach, Fla., has instituted a different s ort news As they walk through the room, he takes back one dollar for every flaw he spots. By the end of the inspection they get to keep any money they have left.

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of housekeeping incentive program. Each time he inspects a room, he invites the maid and her supervisor along.

He then hands each of them 10 one-dollar bills prior to entering. As they walk through the room, he takes back one dollar for every flaw he spots. By the end of the inspection they get to keep any money they have left.

Does the program work? "Let's just say," he says, laughing, "that I have housekeepers begging me to check their rooms."

At the 415-room Omni Berkshire Place in New York, the staff pays special attention to the marble in guest bathrooms, as well as guest room windows--every six weeks, all 1,100 windows are cleaned, inside and out. And fabric-covered headboards are steam cleaned.

At the Regent in Bangkok, the cleaning is much more frequent. Thirty sets of guest room draperies are rotated almost daily. Carpets are shampooed quarterly. Each floor of the hotel has its own housekeeping supervisor and staff.

sh In-House Competition

"The floors actually compete against each other," says general manager Bill Black. The hotel also keeps six painters and two handymen on duty each day to re-do scuffed walls and touch up furniture.

"Our philosophy is to replace things before they're worn out," Black says. "We want to keep things fresh. For example," he says, "this hotel is only five years old, and we've already redone 200 rooms."

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