8,000 Marriott employees are on strike in 8 cities. That encompasses 23 hotels in Boston, Detroit, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Hawaii out of about 6500 Marriott properties worldwide and includes housekeeping, bartenders and others represented by union UNITE Here.
These are the affected properties:
|Westin Book Cadillac Detroit||San Francisco Marriott Union Square|
|Boston||W San Francisco|
|Aloft Boston Seaport||Westin St. Francis|
|Element Boston Seaport||San Francisco Marriott Marquis|
|Ritz-Carlton Boston Common||Marriott Courtyard San Francisco Downtown|
|Sheraton Boston||St. Regis San Francisco|
|Westin Boston Waterfront||San Jose|
|Westin Copley Place||San Jose Marriott|
|Oakland Marriott City Center||The Royal Hawaiian|
|San Diego||Westin Moana Surfrider|
|Westin Gaslamp Quarter||Sheraton Princess Kaiulani|
Not Just About Housekeepers
The union is making housekeepers the face of this dispute. That’s because it’s easy to understand the hard — and sometimes disgusting — work that they do. To me it doesn’t help that Marriott has been at the forefront of saying that hotels shouldn’t cover housekeepers’ full wages, that should be left up to the guest.
It isn’t just housekeepers, though that are striking. And in many large cities unions are a driver of high cost and poor service. I know of one New York property that shut down room service and started delivery from their restaurant, only to bring back room service once their union contract stipulated they had waited enough time to hire better workers. A manager at a legacy Starwood hotel told me about a food service worker that was fired for drinking on the job and stealing. When they went to replace her the only candidate sent was… that same woman (because she was ‘seeking treatment’).
There are two sides to every labor dispute and I’m not in a position to judge what the right level of pay and benefits is for a given property. What I am interested in, though, is the service that hotels are providing to guests and what they’re doing for service recovery when failing to meet expectations.
Service is Suffering
Marriott’s position has been that hotels are open and they’re ready to welcome guests. Ownership of the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and the Sheraton Maui in Hawaii acknowledge “some adjustments to staffing levels and services being offered at our properties.”
That includes guests who report rooms not being cleaned, and having to pick up their own towels in the lobby along with pools and bars that are closed.
“On the higher levels, they’ve left all the shampoos and conditioners, toilet papers out and you got to get it yourself until they work out what’s happening,” [a guest reported].
One guest at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco writes about subpar housekeeping and delayed check-ins, though noted that the hotel seemed to be “hiring and training a lot of replacement workers in a conference area.”
At the Sheraton Waikiki a guest says check-in took over an hour — and it was only then they discovered no rooms would be ready until after 6 p.m. Picketing could be heard until 10 p.m. and started again at 6 a.m. And there was “[v]ery limited housekeeping (self-service shampoo, water etc beside the elevators) and a few of the restaurants are closed / limited hours.”
The Ritz-Carlton Boston was said to be a similar scene with “extremely limited housekeeping, no room service, no bar, no turndown, no lounge, very limited restaurants, etc.” Housekeeping staff “were wearing jeans and t-shirts.” Hardly the expectation at a Ritz-Carlton.
Hotels are informing guests about limited services — albeit, it seems, at check-in rather than setting expectations in advance.
What is Marriott Doing For Customers?
I asked Marriott three simple questions about taking care of their guests since the hotels remain open. Here are their responses.
Why aren’t hotels notifying guests in advance of limited service levels?
- All hotels where strikes are taking place remain open and welcoming guests. At many of the hotels, service levels remain intact. Where there may be altered services, the limited availability of the service may be short lived and not impact the guest experience.
Shouldn’t guests receiving less than the full-service experience receive some form of compensation?
- In the event a guest feels their experience did not meet their expectation, the hotel would address this as they do any other guest concern; on a case-by-case basis.
Are guests on prepaid stays or within cancellation deadlines being permitted to cancel their stays since Marriott isn’t going to deliver the product that was promised at time of booking?
- We are not waiving cancellation fees at this time as our hotels are open and welcoming guests.
Marriott offers brand standards. When those standards – the product guests are paying for – aren’t delivered, Marriott isn’t fulfilling its end of the agreement. You’re stuck with paying Marriott though either way, it seems.
Bill Marriott said they acquired Starwood for more “clout in the marketplace.” That includes with their customers.