In college, my husband and I both worked at hotels. We were married by the summer between my 2nd and 3rd year of college, so we had to have our own place + jobs that paid the bills. I was lucky enough to know a gal who ran a hotel and she gave me a job in housekeeping until a front desk spot opened up. Then when it was time to get hitched, we moved to Maumee, Ohio and I transferred to another Ramada. Which doesn’t make any sense, really, because they are all individually owned. Either way, it worked out well for me. My husband got a job in maintenance at the same hotel. And we worked there for almost 2 full years.

In that time period, we went through ELEVEN front desk managers, two owners, and three general managers. I was the only front desk employee who made it through all of the changes. All in all, before we settled down in Ohio with my husband teaching full time, I worked at four hotels. I learned a helluva lot.

Here’s the best of it:

1. The best way to keep your job is to keep your mouth shut.

When I first started working at the Ramada in Maumee, I was there for 2 weeks when the general manager left and the new guy moved up from the Comptroller position. He was an ass. He hated the Front Desk lady, and fired her immediately. He brought in a new gal, and while I was really ambivalent – I did my best to get along with everyone. Within 2 months, I was the last woman standing. I needed the job. I wasn’t emotionally invested in my coworkers, and while I liked them, I didn’t make waves when they kept running their mouths and causing problems over their ire. The last one did herself in by “borrowing” one of the hotel vans and skipping town for the weekend. (Some people are nuts).

2. Treating your regulars right = taking care of yourself.

This hotel happened to have contracts with an airline and a railroad. This means that the same guys came in every few days or so. I had my favorites, but I tried to take care of all of them. A travelling job sucks, and this was their home away from home. If I knew they would be in, I’d make sure they got the rooms they liked best, took care of their wake-up calls myself, and kept a list of their cell numbers so I could get in touch if dispatch called and they weren’t answering. What this did for me was that they in turn took care of me. They would bring me supper, and when I graduated from college and was moving on, they all brought me gifts to say goodbye.

3. No one believes that you accidentally started that porno.

While I haven’t ever had this happen to me, because I’m not a dude, and I’m more interested in the real thing than a movie about it; it happens a lot. And while we would never tell you this to your face, we can see exactly how many minutes of this accidental purchase you watched.

Also, don’t ever come down to the front desk after watching every single porno on the docket and tell me that you aren’t paying for any of them because they weren’t hard core enough for you. Because you are paying for them.

AND, don’t come to the hotel with your dad once a month to watch porn. That’s just wrong.

4. When you are staying at a hotel, strip the sheets off the bed when you leave.

I learned this one in housekeeping. The nastiest things I have ever witnessed were on sheets. If you ball it up and leave it on the floor, I’m less likely to touch it. Not that people who would do such nastiness would ever be worried about the person cleaning up after them.

5. There is no point in yelling at the Front Desk clerk…EVER.

He/she has little to no power over anything. And you catch more flies with honey anyway. One dude called me a bitch and ran out the front door when my muscle-bound husband who happened to be standing nearby insisted he should apologize. I couldn’t fix what he was upset about – and he was lying about it anyway. By being nice you will get free stuff. By being mean, we will schedule multiple wake-up calls for you.

In fact, if you are super nice to the front desk, even when things aren’t going well, you could just find yourself upgraded to the jacuzzi suite for your troubles.

6. Don’t lie to the Front Desk. We know better.

This kind of goes along with the #3.

Really lady? You locked yourself out of your room and you think we should give you a discount because of it? Oh, but that wasn’t you climbing out of the first floor window 5 minutes ago and walking around? Yeah, we saw that.

Oh, and you want a refund because there were roaches in your room? Well, why did you sleep in that room all night and THEN mention it at checkout? I know that I would never sleep in a roach-infested room, much less a hotel. (That was the dude who called me the b-word…)

7. You must hold your composure at all times.

Even when there is a man with a comb-over and mustache standing in front of you in a skirt and fishnets. And there are a half-dozen pilots standing behind him making faces and laughing uncontrollably. And you have to tell this dude where the model search is going on in the hotel.

Even when everyone is complaining because the 4th floor smells like someone died. Yeah, that happened. It was a suicide. And it took us a week to figure it out. We took Do Not Disturb very seriously.

Even when one of the housekeepers makes a move on your husband. Never mind. I didn’t hold my composure that time. I flipped. Almost got fired over that one. 🙂

8. Always tell the truth. And don’t be afraid to confront people.

One of my coworkers decided she didn’t like me, so she started some not very nice rumors about things I supposedly said about our manager. Another coworker didn’t believe it, and tipped me off. Rather than going to the manager and defending myself, I called the original coworker at home. She acted like she had no idea what I was talking about, then backpedaled and claimed that I did in fact say those things. We spoke for about 20 minutes and I never heard from her again. Every single person we worked with believed her because she had been there longer. But after the phone call, she just stopped showing up for work. Innocence proven. And they all apologized to me for doubting me.

9. If the owner likes you, you are set.

This is a general life lesson. Be nice to the people who are in charge. Genuinely nice, not kiss-ass nice. At one hotel, the owner was a French guy named Giles. He never ever ever spoke to anyone except the General Manager. Except one day when he spoke to me because his room key stopped working. I fixed it, and we got to chatting. He offered me and my husband a discount in any of his hotels because he liked me so much and gave me his assistant’s number so I could call if I ever went anywhere. We only ever stayed at the hotel in my hometown. We should have gone to Antigua or something.

At another hotel, the General Manager ended up buying his own hotel – and whenever I’m in town, We can still stay at the employee rate.

It pays to play nice.

10. Network

I cannot stress enough the true importance of networking and really getting to know people. Not just knowing their names, but knowing things about them. Remembering where they are from, and making recommendations on things to see based on things they’d done before. I am still in touch with some of the people I met back in those days. And they’ve been invaluable connections. The real lesson in this one is that it really is a small world, and if you make true connections with people, you will always have someone who can hook you up when you need something. Just be ready to do the same for them…

11. This is a bonus. One of the best things I learned is what my husband’s face looks like when Thea reaches into her cleavage and pulls out a wad of cash to tip him for helping her with her bags. It was fantastic. (He traded the $10 in with me at the desk for a new bill…)

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