Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why everyone should, at some point in their life, work in housekeeping.

Getting back on track to make my blog up to date, I'll publish the last post that I have access to that I wrote before the unfortunate break-in. There were 4-5 more I hadn't published yet, but they will have to be re-written in time. For now, try out a little housekeeping with me!

I’ve heard people say that everyone should be a server at some point in their life. I have always been appalled when people treat waiters and waitresses poorly, blame them when food is not up to par, and (in the states anyway) tip according to the quality of the food rather than the service. I worked as a server for a few months before I came to NZ and had a bit of a slap in the face while learning how difficult of a job it can be! People are demanding, chefs can be moody, hostesses might seat too many tables at once, and you might not sit down once during your shift. While I agree that everyone should experience this type of stress at some point in their life – in order to better understand how you should probably treat others in similar positions – I have since experienced another job that is just as important for the average consumer to consider walking in the shoes of those on the other side.

My first weekend in Wanaka, while couchsurfing at a motel/apartment complex, I wound up doing a couple days of housekeeping to help out my host and earn a bit of cash. A month or two later, I heard from my host again and he asked if I was still looking for work. They needed someone to do the spring cleaning at the apartments and wanted to know if I was interested. I called in the next day and visited the manager, who said he liked the way I worked before and offered me the job on the spot. I was up front with him about applying to the ski field and not knowing exactly when we would be called in to start training and work, but I was desperate for a paycheck at this point (1-2 days of paragliding work wasn’t exactly making my bank account grow) and couldn’t see much reason not to take the position.

During a regular service of the apartments, you have to change the sheets, clean the bathroom, do the dishes, dust, and vacuum. For spring cleaning, however, you have to clean each room in each apartment from top to bottom until it shines. Dust on top of all the shelves, wipe down the walls, wash all the linens, clean the windows, move all the furniture to vacuum and dust, empty each cupboard and check that the dishware is clean and the glassware has no spots, do an inventory of all the bits and bobs that are meant to be in each apartment, clean all the nooks and crannies, pull out the washer and the fridge to clean behind them, and scrub the bathroom until it sparkles. I found it interesting that this “spring cleaning” process takes place in May – just before the ski season starts – rather than in, say, the springtime.

I was told each apartment should take about 5 hours to clean and if I worked about 25 hours a week, I was expected to finish all 24 of them in about 5 weeks. He also wanted someone to stay on for regular housekeeping through the winter, but I definitely wasn’t about to promise I’d stick around.  I agreed to the spring cleaning and said we’d have to see about anything after that.

I set out to clean the first apartment with the same thoroughness my mother has taught me to be acceptable, and didn’t finish until about seven hours later. I guess “Anne Webster clean” was a little more than my boss was asking for. It was the same problem I have in most jobs; I went into a bit too much detail and had to learn how to cut corners to work more quickly. I’ll tell you, I may have taken longer than what was expected of me, but when I was done, those apartments were spotless!

Occasionally my boss would spring turnover days on me where I had to do regular housekeeping or do a brief service for guests who were staying there. One of these days, I had to turn over a room that I had spring cleaned the previous day. When I entered, I found boxes of beer piled near the door, cups, plates and mugs strewn around the apartment, chairs in all the wrong rooms, an empty dishwasher (while there is clearly a sign that requests guests to start the dishwasher before they leave) rubbish in every corner except the proper bin, wet towels all over, and food smeared on the counter and floor. Lovely. I had spent how many hours cleaning this room the day before? And now had to do it all again! Thank you very little, kind bachelors who don’t even try to pick up after themselves!

The spring cleaning bit wasn’t too bad, since I was scrubbing rooms that were meant to be already “clean”. I struggled when it came to servicing rooms and seeing the messes that people just leave for you to take care of. I suppose I am used to staying in hostels where I am expected to clean up after myself, but I would have assumed most people would realize there are other human beings who have to clean up after you when staying in a motel, so perhaps you might think to at least put your rubbish in the bin.

After re-reading this I realize it sounds a bit more like venting than sharing an anecdote. While it wasn’t my favorite job, I actually didn’t mind cleaning as much as I thought I would – as long as I was cleaning already “clean” rooms that is! Still, I do believe it’s a good idea to think about what you leave behind for others to clean up, or even try out a job on the “other side” for a day!

1 comment:

  1. Aye, two years at McDonald's taught me similar lessons.


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