338.3: Managing Housekeeping Operations
Third Edition-Chapter 6
Case Study 1
Herbert McMurtry, the general manager of the Hotel Commodore, convened a 10:00 A.M. meeting with the hotel’s front office manager, executive housekeeper, and chief engineer. Mr. McMurtry was frustrated because that morning’s report revealed six vacant rooms charged to guests who had already left a day or two earlier, an error that has become too common.
As his imposing figure entered the small meeting room, Mr. McMurtry opened the meeting: “I want to thank you all for meeting with me this morning because I have a number of things to cover and I don’t want to hold you up from your jobs…Oh,” he paused, furrowing his brow, “Where’s Todd?”
Just as Mr. McMurtry finished his question, Todd, the front desk manager, burst into the room, “I’m so sorry to be late, Mr. McMurtry,” Todd said. “I had another darn discrepant room to deal with.”
“That’s just why I wanted to speak with all of you.” Mr. McMurtry continued. “I’m getting pretty upset because the property has been losing revenue due to chargebacks. To make matters worse, last week I had to deal with a very angry Ms. Spencer, of the Spencer Spinet Company, who flew here all the way from New York just to check into a dirty room. She is a regular, high-paying customer of our hotel and now she’ll probably take her business elsewhere. And this wasn’t the first time I had to face this sort of complaint. I’d like to find out what’s going on here. I have a feeling your departments aren’t communicating. If this keeps up, it’s going to affect our bottom line and your bonuses.”
Todd quickly spoke up, “Well, most of the time we get a chargeback because a guest neglects to notify the front desk upon checking out, sometimes days before the expected check-out time. We bill guests as originally booked but, if they claim that they checked out earlier, we have to reimburse them, their room is never rented, and we lose out. I think we should physically check all the rooms for occupancy each afternoon.”
Isabel, the executive housekeeper, immediately responded, “I don’t know, Todd, you have to consider the increased labor costs and the demands on my staff. Room checks are just Band-Aids to cover up bigger problems. There must be a better way to handle it. Let’s think of ways to encourage guests to let us know when they’ve checked out. Perhaps the housekeeping staff can help.”
“I don’t know about chargebacks,” Tomas, the hotel’s chief engineer said, “but I think if everyone just followed our established procedures for out-of-order rooms, we wouldn’t have problems with guests checking into unready rooms.”
“Oh, c’mon Tom,” Todd chimed in. “I’m under pressure to fill rooms. Frankly, maintenance can be too slow for me. If I have a potential sell-out, my staff checks the out-of-order rooms. If one looks good, I sell it.”
Mr. McMurtry cast Todd an irritated glance. “While we can’t afford to have rooms sitting vacant, giving someone an out-of-order room is just plain bad for business, Todd,” he stressed. “There’s no guarantee that your staff will know what’s wrong with the room from a brief visual check. We need a more experienced eye than yours.”
Tomas agreed, “Remember when the Paper Clip Manufacturers Association was in town for a convention and we checked someone into a room with a plumbing leak? The room was out-of-order when he checked in but, because we were at full capacity, we used the room anyway. We had to move him to another hotel because he wound up with two inches of standing water in the bathroom!”
“There’s also the problem with discrepant rooms you faced before coming to this meeting, Todd,” Isabel added, “My staff cleans rooms by noon and then an hour later the rooms are listed as dirty. How does that happen?”
“If guests check into rooms and then aren’t satisfied,” replied Todd, trying not to get defensive, “I move them to other rooms. The computer is programmed to default their original rooms as dirty.”
“But I know that some of those guests never even see the room,” Isabel replied. “They just change their minds right at the front desk. It would be better for all of us if the front desk would automatically redesignate those rooms as clean and vacant.”
“I see your point,” Todd said, trying to be patient, “but my staff is really busy too and it interferes with our other work if we are constantly switching back and forth on our computer screens. The worst thing I can do is keep guests waiting while I fiddle with the computer.”
Mr. McMurtry quickly responded to Todd’s last point, “Yes, but there’s also no sense in hurrying guests to unprepared rooms or making them wait for rooms that are ready.”
The conversation was heating up and Mr. McMurtry could see that they might be sitting there for the rest of the day if he didn’t cut it short. “We’ve talked about a lot here. Now I want you all to agree on at least three solutions to these problems and come back to me with an action plan by the end of the day.” With that he excused his managers and waited for the good news to roll his way.
1. What solutions would you suggest for reducing chargebacks within the hotel?
2. How can the different divisions within the Hotel Commodore cooperate to resolve conflicts over room status?
3. What are some ways in which the front office could eliminate room discrepancies?
Case Study 2
Lean Profits in a Land of Plenty
The 600-room Knightsrest Hotel, a property catering largely to business travelers, is in a good location near an airport and a busy government facility. Though the hotel seldom reaches full occupancy, it does good business. Still, the owners have been disappointed by the profit margins. The general manager, Nancy Wood, has determined that one element contributing to the hotel’s unacceptable financial performance is that housekeeping expenses are way out of line. When she mentioned this to Sue Miller, the executive housekeeper, they agreed to hire Bonnie Hansen, a housekeeping consultant, to come in and look at the Knightsrest’s housekeeping operations.
Bonnie begins her consultation by asking Sue how supplies are ordered. Sue explains that the hotel has a standing order placed every two weeks to replace supplies “assumed” to have been used.
As Bonnie walks around the property, she notes a number of things. All room attendants have access to the main storeroom, which is left open, and are expected to stock their own carts. Throughout the hotel, most housekeeper caddies are stocked with the same brand name cleaning supplies (purchased, as Sue explains to Bonnie, at great savings from a discount house), although the amount of supplies on each cart varies widely. Bonnie hears some room attendants explain that they occasionally stock their carts with extra supplies because the main storeroom too frequently runs out of certain items. Some carts have brand name items Bonnie did not see in the main storeroom. Bonnie also notes that the linen closets on each floor are filled with housekeeping supplies; in fact, housekeeping supplies seem to be stored in just about every nook and cranny available, including telephone equipment rooms. Some supplies are crammed so tightly into spaces that they are damaged. This is particularly true of guest stationery items imprinted with the hotel’s logo.
As Bonnie looks through the guestrooms, she notes that the same high-quality amenities are used in all rooms. In stayover rooms, new soap and shampoo are left every day. She sees a room attendant using furniture polish on Formica(tm) surfaces. The room attendant tells her that this is her own personal touch. “They want us to use just water,” explains the room attendant, “but this smells nice.” This room attendant also explains to Bonnie that the cleaning chemical provided by the hotel for use on bathtubs refuses to suds up, so she and many other room attendants add the hotel guestroom shampoo to improve the chemical’s effectiveness.
Throughout the day, Bonnie observes housekeeping staff using only large 3.0 mil garbage bags, many only half-filled when discarded. Walking through the kitchens, she notes employees wearing shower caps with hotel logos over their hair. She watches as the public space cleaner, Tom Harper, runs back and forth for supplies. First, Tom notices a bit of mud on the floor, so he leaves to get a mop and bucket. After cleaning up the mud, he notices some smudged windows, so he returns the mop and bucket and eventually returns with window cleaning supplies. Finally, he leaves once more and returns a few minutes later with a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum’s suction is weak; apparently the bag is full.
On her rounds, Bonnie sees several employees reading USA Today during their breaks. Sue explains to her that the hotel orders one copy per room. Bonnie also notes that virtually all employees-including managers-use the hotel’s logo notepads, ordered as guestroom amenities.
On her way to the general manager’s office to talk with Ms. Wood and Sue, Bonnie sees that each of the executive offices has its own coffee maker and everyone seems to use the single-serving coffee supplies that are charged to housekeeping for guestroom use. Bonnie sees guestroom hand lotion bottles sitting on many desks as well as tissue boxes, pens, and desk organizers like those she saw stocked in the main housekeeping storeroom.
1. What problems and weaknesses is Bonnie likely to identify in her discussion with Ms. Wood and Sue?
2. What suggestions might she make to address these problems and weaknesses?
The following industry experts helped generate and develop these cases: Gail Edwards, CHHE, St. Louis, Missouri; Mary Friedman, Edina, Minnesota; and Aleta Nitschke, CHA, founder of The Rooms Chronicle(r), Garfield, Minnesota.
(c)2008 American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute