Hotel maids get little respect (or money) for their physically demanding work. We wanted to learn what their job is really like, beyond the “Do Not Disturb” signs and chocolates on pillows. Here are a dozen secrets about their duties, including the constant time crunch, the bizarre (and horrifying) things they have encountered in guest rooms, and the reason they suggest you don’t use the hotel cups.
1. THEY’RE CONSTANTLY PRESSED FOR TIME.
Hotels have different housekeeping policies, but most maids are allotted 28 to 40 minutes to clean each standard room and up to an hour for a suite. Depending on the hotel, maids may be assigned a list of rooms to clean or choose rooms to meet their daily quota, which typically ranges from 10 to 16 rooms.
According to one maid at a five-star hotel in Orlando, Florida, maids often feel pressure from their supervisors to clean rooms quickly. “I find it annoying when a guest has made too much mess to fix in the given time,” she tells Trivago. “To be honest though, management is more annoying. Sometimes they have high expectations, but they don’t give you enough time.” Because of the time crunch, most maids are not able to clean each room as thoroughly as they'd like, and they skip tasks such as vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub, and cleaning under the bed. “I hated leaving a room not fully cleaned, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it,” another former hotel maid admits on Reddit.
2. THEY KEEP ITEMS THAT GUESTS LEAVE BEHIND.
At most hotels, maids must report any items they find left behind in a room after a guest checks out. If the items go unclaimed for a set period of time (perhaps 45 to 90 days), some hotels allow maids to keep the items they've found. “They're supposed to go back to the person who found them and anything they don't want is donated to charity, but usually the supervisors go through and take the good stuff first,” Booboo_the_bear, a maid who has worked in several five-stars hotels, shares in a Reddit AMA. “I’ve gotten a ghd [hair] straightener and a designer jacket.”
3. THEY MIGHT USE THE TOILET IN YOUR ROOM.
Although most hotels forbid maids from napping or using the toilet in guest rooms, some maids break the rules. Exhausted maids who have more time than usual to clean a large suite may secretly catch a few minutes of shut-eye in a guest’s bed. “Something else we do sometimes is that we use the toilets in the guest’s bathroom, but only if we are super busy and don’t have enough time to go to the staff toilets,” the maid in Orlando says. “It is something we are not supposed to do, but many do it anyway.”
4. THEY ENJOY WORKING SOLO.
While some hotels pair up maids to clean larger rooms, most maids work solo, and interact only on a very superficial level with guests and coworkers. According to Booboo_the_bear, the best part of her job is the peace and quiet it affords: “I probably spend about 20 minutes of my work day interacting with other people. For an introvert its [sic] ideal.” But if the alone time ever makes them feel lonely, maids may sing and talk to themselves as they clean, entertaining and distracting themselves from the monotony.
5. THEY ENCOUNTER SOME PRETTY HORRIFYING THINGS …
Horror stories abound among hotel maids. Most have seen (or have coworkers who have seen) drugs, blood, vomit, sexually explicit materials, fecal matter, and even dead bodies. Evidence of illegal activity in a room necessitates a call to the local police or HAZMAT unit, who remove drugs and process a crime scene. But many hotels still make maids clean up the bodily fluids and excrement that remain in a room where criminal activity has occurred. Although maids are usually given extra time to deal with this type of extreme mess, it's never a pleasant part of the job.
6. … BUT THEY ALSO STUMBLE UPON AMUSINGLY BIZARRE ITEMS.
For all the disgusting scenes they encounter, most hotel maids also stumble upon some comical and downright weird stuff. One hotel maid shares on Buzzfeed that she encountered an amusingly bizarre scene in a room that a guest had recently checked out of. “It smelled a little funky, but I couldn't find the source of the stench. I went to strip the bed, pulled the sheets back, and the bed was filled with coleslaw,” she writes. “Coleslaw! I had no idea why, and I do not want to know why!”
The maid in Orlando says that she once found an abandoned baby lying on the bed and promptly carried it to the hotel’s management. “It turned out to be a robot or fake baby that would make noises just like a real one,” she says. “It was left by guests attending a medical or science convention or something.”
7. THEY COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER FOR ROOMS AND TROLLEYS.
Besides feeling pressure from their supervisors to clean rooms quickly, some hotel maids also vie with their coworkers. “The more senior [housekeeping] staff can sometimes make it stressful. They fight for the more expensive rooms or suites because better items are left behind for the taking if nobody claims them,” the hotel maid in Orlando reveals. “They also fight to take the better trolleys, leaving myself and others with old ones that don’t have the right products or supplies, meaning a lot more running around.”
8. THEY SUGGEST YOU DON’T USE THE CUPS.
Although you’ve probably heard warnings about the bacteria teeming on your hotel room’s remote control, hotel maids reveal that there’s another item in your room that's rarely cleaned as well as it should be. “Not using the cups is my number one rule that I tell everyone,” Booboo_the_bear says. “I’ve definitely seen [other maids] polishing glasses with the same cloth they just used to dust the room. I’ve never seen the toilet brush used but knowing some of the people I work with, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.”
Author and hotel worker Jacob Tomsky adds that the minibar glasses need to be spotless, but maids don’t have dish soap in their housekeeping carts. “So some housekeepers will wash the glasses in the sink with hot water and shampoo. But many of them use furniture polish because it leaves the glasses spot-free,” he tells USA Today.
9. SOME OF THEM USE THE TITLE "CERTIFIED GUESTROOM ATTENDANT."
Some hotel maids study to become Certified Guestroom Attendants at the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). This certification prepares maids with the knowledge and skills they need to clean and maintain rooms. The AHLEI offers a variety of classes, workshops, online education, and on-the-job training to aspiring hotel maids who hope to enter the hospitality industry. After completing their courses and passing a 30-question multiple-choice "Guestroom Attendant" exam, maids can get certified. While some hotels require their maids to be certified, many maids use their certification to find higher-paying housekeeping jobs.
10. THEY MIGHT GO DAYS WITHOUT GETTING A TIP.
Tipping customs vary around the world, but no matter what country they work in, most maids rely on tips to survive. In the U.S., where maids’ median annual salary is just $21,820, many hotel maids can go days without receiving a single tip. Reddit user JustBeth22, a hotel maid who works at a four-star hotel in upstate New York, estimates that only 40 percent of guests leave a tip. She emphasizes, though, that tipping can vary greatly: “Some people tip, some don't as a rule, some don't realize they can. I have gone days with no tips at all then in one day I made $40.”
Maids suggest that guests leave a dollar or two each day rather than a larger tip at the end of their stay. That way, the maid who cleans your room on any given day (rather than just the day you check out) receives a tip. And if you’ve ever wondered if your hotel maid would appreciate food and drink as part of their tip, the answer is yes! Many hotel maids enjoy receiving unopened snacks and beverages. Because hotel policies vary, though, make sure to leave a note indicating that the food and drinks are for the housekeeping staff.
11. THEY’RE VULNERABLE TO ASSAULT.
Besides being exposed to a variety of strange bodily fluids, hotel maids—the majority of whom are female—face the potential threat of being assaulted every time they enter a room. While movies such as Maid in Manhattan (2002) romanticize relationships between hotel maids and guests, the reality is that maids are vulnerable to abuse. “People frequently open their doors naked or just in a towel or underwear,” Booboo_the_bear says. Some male guests—as well as male members of the hotel staff—make advances, grope, or try to intimidate maids into having sex with them.
12. THEY TRULY APPRECIATE TIDY, CONSIDERATE GUESTS.
Hotel maids sing the praises of guests who are tidy and considerate. “We have a lot of business people that come in to have a quick sleep, take a shower and leave,” Booboo_the_bear says. “A handful of times I've had to check if the guest had actually checked in because they've left the room so tidy.” To make a hotel maid’s job easier, you can make sure you put your trash in the bin, leave used towels in a pile in the tub or on the floor, and flush the toilet. “I’d say at least 1 in 3 [people] don’t flush. It boggles my mind.”
All images via iStock.