The Lie Hotels Tell To Reduce Housekeeping Costs

The New York Times covers the end of full daily housekeeping at most hotel brands and offers this quote from Hilton that encapsulates “the big lie” hotel brands tell.

“Recognizing some guests may have varying levels of comfort with someone entering their rooms after they have checked in, Hilton offers them the choice and control to request the housekeeping services they desire,” said Kent Landers, a Hilton spokesman.

Early in the pandemic there was concern about people entering hotel rooms. If you were traveling you either weren’t concerned about Covid-19, or you wanted to isolate yourself as much as possible from others.

Hotels stick with the line that guests want choice in whether or not to have daily servicing of their room, so they ask guests to request it if they want it.

  • Very few people are concerned about housekeeping entering their room during a stay anymore. There are vaccines, there are treatments, and the virus is no longer causing the damage it did earlier on. Most people have (more or less) moved on.

  • As a result, offering an “opt out” would make most sense if the concern was ‘some people might not want housekeepers to enter their room.

  • Instead this is an excuse, because opt in means fewer people will incur the cost to request housekeeping. If it’s automatic, guests enjoy being looked after and returning to a clean room. If it requires remembering to ask – calling down right before you leave the room, or stopping by the front desk, most guests don’t bother.

    Guests aren’t thinking about how much they’ll enjoy the clean room later they may just be worried about getting where they’re going, maybe with kids in tow, and the hotel may not even be picking up the phone or there may be a line at the front desk.

Hotels require guests to request housekeeping rather than to request no housekeeping in order to depress the number of rooms that need to be cleaned. That translates into fewer housekeeping staff and lower costs.

Some guests aren’t so pleased with the changes.

“What gets me is the annoyance of having to work to get services that used to be standard,” said Terry Stanton, a medical writer in Oak Park, Ill. “And for God’s sake, at least clear the garbage. I hate wandering the hallways carrying a basket with last night’s food and cans and bottles, looking for the little room where they hide the garbage can, if it’s even accessible.”

And when they do offer service, it’s usually an express service – replace towels, empty trash, basic tidying – rather than a full service.

Hotel chains are lying when they say they are empowering guests. They are empowering owners at the expense of guests, by requiring guests to incur a modest cost (the request) in order to obtain what they used to get automatically.

But in so doing they’re catering to the short-term interests of owners at the expense not only of guests but of their brands, reducing the product differentiation with homesharing, and eroding their long-term value proposition. The pendulum has clearly swung towards milking the value of a brand for short-term value to owners, out of fear of losing management contracts and franchisees.

At the end of the day blaming Covid-19 for not offering housekeeping services is better, I suppose, than still blaming 9/11. The bad news, though, is hotel chains will need some future calamity as an excuse to push down costs even further.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I now ask when checking in what the housekeeping policy is. I have just made it part of my routine like asking where breakfast is.

  2. Max of two nights before I request a refresh of the room. If the hotel wants to keep you as a return customer or avoid a bad review on social media, they’ll comply.

  3. OK Gary we get it. In addition to the larger wall mounted soap/shampoo dispensers and the airport body scanners you have a fixation w housekeeping.

    First of all most hotels will offer it if asked. Secondly most people frankly don’t need it daily and it does save resources/cost. Well before COVID I ALWAYS opted out of housekeeping. Wasn’t paranoid about health just didn’t want someone in my room that could potentially take something. Also I reuse a towel at home and with 2-3 in the room I’m good to go for a few days. If I need something I ask for it.

    It is a different world and business model. Get over it! Things will NEVER go back like they were (and not due to COVID but changing business models).

    Those that continually while about lack of daily housekeeping, award devaluations or the fact they can’t get upgraded as much as 5 years ago make me laugh. Grow up people – all the venting on the world won’t change things. Sometimes you accept and adapt.

  4. When I took my trip to Thailand back at the end of May 2022, none of the hotels I stayed at had this issue. Then again, none were part of a chain like IHG or Marriott. One was a 5 star, so I would have expected daily cleaning service there anyway, but at the other two places it ended up being a surprise, especially the first one because it was actually an extended stay hotel not unlike a Residence Inn.

    The shocker was that none of these were “refresher” services – bedding was changed daily unless you said otherwise.

  5. @AC can just keep paying more and getting less and like it

    I will at least point out that hotel chains are lying to you when they sell this

    You can choose to accept the lie, of course, but you should at least know that’s what it is.

  6. Accumulating trash in the corridors is a fire code violation in most if not all of the US.

  7. I completely agree, Gary. And I try to leave a tripadvisor review with a title like “No Daily Service” or “Service Only Upon Daily Request” so that us footsoldiers can vote with our feet,

  8. Why not strip away the “reasons” altogether? They all have their arguments—whether they’re cost savings, covid, security/theft, privacy, or environmental—and each of these may be relevant to different people. Instead, just make the 2-sided door tag say: I want/I don’t want cleaning today. THAT is a small price I’m willing to concur, even as I am rushing out the door. Not a big or expensive fix, and not discounting anyone’s rationale.

  9. I’m the opposite. I hate having staff etc al. in my room, moving things around and messing with my stuff. I immediately put on the DND light or tag. I hate having to secure and hide all my belongings every time I leave my room.

    Downside: Management might think some crime is occurring. E.g. The Paper Chase movie.

  10. I fully agree. Hotels really abused the whole “because of COVID “ thing. Some of them still have reduced breakfast service. Give me a break.

  11. It really depends on how difficult it is to ask for full housekeeping services. If easy, then the new way is fine. I am much more annoyed at the new unsanitary communal shampoo dispenser that is full of bacteria. That happens when you continually add product, not replace the bottle.

    Gary’s Covid views are WRONG.
    anymore. There are vaccines, there are treatments, and the virus is no longer causing the damage it did earlier on. Most people have (more or less) moved 
    Only 17% of Americans are up to date with vaccines. (It could be that only 3% of Americans are up to date, wear N95, and follow good habits) Terrible. The virus is doing damage. Long covid patients are suffering. Hundreds are dying daily. People blame Trump supporters as dumb but they are dumb in the way they ignore Covid precautions.

  12. I don’t know if I agree.
    Sure the hotels made a decision with money in mind.
    But also consider the role of housekeeping and it’s necessity.
    Hotel guests’ choice on how and when they want housekeeping to show up, and replace towels, and make bedding just makes sense to me. Some trips are 72 hour business things and that does not require daily service , and even longer, family stays where you do not care about the state of the room, and the guests would rather have peace of mind that no one will be looking at their stuff.

  13. We all have standards of cleanliness. I have my bathroom cleaned daily. I bring my own sheets. So there is no need for housekeeping moving about the entire room. Bathroom only. I use it daily and it needs to be cleaned daily. It’s not my home and the cleaning isn’t superb. My final comment is… Nasty is as nasty does. If the shoe fits..wear it.

  14. The other “big lie” they tell is that they will gladly provide housekeeping if requested. Of my most recent stays a Honewood (run by Ambridge of course) flat out refused, and a Hampton tried to haggle down the nights I “really” needed it. I’m really starting to question whether the rate premium for these hotels is really worth it

  15. Turns out AC owns a number of hotels 😉 🙂

    Hotels are savings lives
    Hotels are heroes for your insured safety
    eliminating housekeeping and breakfast whenever possible and any form of human contact
    Cheap scratchy rough tissues and toilet paper
    Removal of all complimentary shampoo bottles (saving the planet)
    Eliminate newspapers they may have virus living on them
    change duvets and comforters twice a year unless soaked with body fluids visibly
    never clean drinking glasses
    eliminating bellman and F&B servers & phone operators
    Offer vending machines exclusively
    offer self check in only so you can’t ask for an upgrade @ the front desk
    Removal of all mini bars & refrigerators & contents
    eliminate all welcome amenities for an enhanced contactless experience
    allow pets in all rooms for emotional support needs
    Empty pools where public may be gathering
    Put a sign at every guest room that will inform each room is safe for occupancy by spraying cans of Lysol prior to arrival
    Close club lounges so no exposure will be possible and when guests complain say it was never part of the brand standard.
    Thank You for your stay

  16. Just came back from a trip, I had to ask for hand lotion as none had, 1 woman at the front desk said she would check with the same chain next door while we were headed out. Upon our return she had 2 for me. I don’t want to begin to have to carry hand lotion whenever I go. Stayed at 6 different types , same story each one. All under 1 main name .

  17. The hotel industry (and hotel owners and brands (brands, with pressure coming from hotel owners, and reacting to hotel owners), in my opinion, are just one of many industries hiding behind the facade of Covid 19. I agree entirely with Gary Leff, and entirely disagree with participant/poster, “AC.”

    In my opinion, hotels, with flourishing revenues, rates, and profit margins that way exceed their costs (plus reasonable profit margin) are dodging, in the case of guest room housekeeping, (1) Labor costs (not limited to “the housekeeper,” but inclusive of their supervisor, room inspector, front desk agent contact, etc.), (2) linen, and their cleaning and wear, (3) equipment and product, and (4) any liability that comes with a staff person entering a guest room.

    I wonder if Marriott International, having massacred the once Marriott Rewards program (and lied to their guests about the “enhancements” to the Marriott Bonvoy program), and similarly massacred the Residence Inn breakfasts (not to mention, the once, Evening Reception at Residence Inn, and Element brands), is going to restore the Marriott Bonvoy program to its former Marriott Rewards valuations, or the Residence Inn breakfast, to its former champion (a generous point of reference) breakfast? Geez, neither Residence Inn or Element choose to serve cooked to order oatmeal, and serve, instead, Instant Oatmeal. Element, which Marriott pretends to be environmentally friendly, and carbon footprint savvy, and has no problem wasting all of the paper that they do, with the paper packets of their barely edible instant oatmeal.

    Not only is Covid 19 a facade, enjoyed by hoteliers, references to environmentally friendly, and carbon footprint savvy practices, are much the same. In my opinion, it’s all Smoke and Mirrors (call it “deception”).

    PS: I had a Marriott General Manager try to spin-sell me the other day, by calling my attention to how many more Bonvoy Points I am earning on Marriott’s new, ludicrous rate at a Residence Inn (which Marriott, and the hotel owners must think is the Taj Mahal), and how many more points I’m earning on my Marriott Visa credit card (as a result of my “spend” at his hotel). Good Lord.

  18. It’s just an excuse. It’s right up there with the polar bear hangers on the towel rack to guilt you into saving them money for a basic hotel service.

  19. Hotels used to offer points in lieu of housekeeping under Green Choice programs. That offering despite hotels claiming they want to be environmentally conscious went away

  20. I’ve been in this industry for 23 years. And I work for a management company that requires everything discussed in the article. I assure you that is not the way we looked at it. However, the reality that the most of the world doesn’t understand is that we can’t get housekeepers. The housekeepers you usually see in a hotel, have probably been worked to death. You hire someone, they never show, you hire someone they show for a week, and never come back. People that travel regularly understand this situation. People who don’t, complain about it. Hotel staffing has not recovered. And most hotels are managed hotels not owned by the brands. Management companies can easily clean your room everyday. But in our survey, out of almost 100 of our hotels, 90%+ stated that number two, they wanted to resume it to avoid the complaints and number two cannot do so due to staffing.

  21. @warren Bennett…”Facade”? We had to lay off 2,300 people and lost millions between March 2020 and late 2021. I assure you, anyone that owns or operates a hotel will inform you there was no “facade”

  22. Bottom line, the rooms are suffering as well as the guests for lack of daily cleaning. I noticed a film on a Marriott tub. Some type of beige lotion with sparkles! Housekeeping, when found, scrubbed it 1/2 hour to remove this residue. Also found baby cockroaches under the trash bin at a different hotel that prepandemic was spotless. This is a matter of good hygiene and nothing else. Clean the rooms or close the hotel.

  23. The choice was always there.

    30 years ago, Motel 6 already had a “Do not disturb” sign.

    Self serving excuse. This is why I always head to Airbnb, at least I get a house with character instead of an insipid room not even cleaned.

  24. I spent 30 years as a global business traveler and now travel even more retired. Stay out of my room! Good god, finally they don’t knock on my door with the Do Not Disturb sign out.

    How hard is it to ask for housekeeping? You guys must live a really cush life if that’s the big beef.

  25. @Mashley
    Ìf househeepers werw paid a good wage with good conditions you’d be knocked over in the rush to sign up.
    Simple as that!

  26. I’m the Director of Rooms for a small boutique brand. I’m very happy we went back to normal as soon as possible. We simply do things how they used to be. Sticking to the fundamentals is making us stand out in our competition set.

  27. I don’t clean my home every day and neither do my wife and kids, though it is clean. I prefer no one be in my hotel room when I’m not there, just as I prefer no one be in my home when I’m not there. They can clean my room when I leave. No need for housekeeping unless there is an emergency or I need supplies.

  28. I recently returned from a trip to Israel, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Paris, Amsterdam and Budapest. My husband and I stayed at solid four star hotels in each of the cities. Full, daily housekeeping was provided at each of our hotels. At each hotel, we returned each day to a meticulously cleaned room from top to bottom including changed linens. The difference between hotels in the United States and hotels aboard was stark. I’m pretty sad about and disgusted with the state of American hospitality right now.

  29. Regarding the comment above about not being able to hire enough staff to maintain the standards for which the guests are still paying: pay housekeepers a decent wage and suddenly you’ll find employees.

  30. Of course it’s about the cost. But some of us don’t change our sheets and wash towels everyday, and I’m okay with this given the waste of water and power that is avoided. Ask for service every third day, you’ll be doing good and may even keep the place a little neater to minimize your suffering. My only real problem is that they got rid of half the staff in the process, most of whom have few options. Note: I absolutely hate self-serve checkout because in that case, my labor is forced with no offset in resources except for the labor I replace. Talk about a lie.

  31. If I pay the same room fee every day then I should get the same service every day–just as if it was my first day. If they want to offer to charge less for each subsequent day then I’m fine with that option. If I decide I do want them to clean the room after the first day they can offer that at an additional charge. But if I’m paying the same fee every day they need to fully clean every day.

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