Staying in a Hotel is Less Relaxing in the COVID World — and It Likely Won’t Change Back Again

Rose Bak

If I Have to Make My Own Bed, I Might as Well Stay Home

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Photo by Nik Lanús on Unsplash

I travelled out of town recently — with an abundance of caution—and it was totally weird.

It was the first time I had traveled since we entered the pandemic. My little brother was getting married for the first (and presumably last time), and that’s probably the only thing that would make me get on a plane right now. Flying is unpleasant in the best of times and it’s even worse now.

Since the wedding was in another state, I also needed to stay in a hotel. I chose someplace I had stayed at before and liked during my previous visits to see my brother. I remembered it as being clean and having nice amenities.

It turns out that amenities have gone to the wayside during the pandemic. The gym was closed, the pool was closed, and the front desk looked like some place you buy money orders in the inner city, i.e. heavily fortified.

Along with all the “Here’s what we are doing to keep you safe from COVID” information they told me about when I checked in at the front desk, there was this disturbing piece of news: “There will be no housekeeping during your stay.”

“No housekeeping?” I asked in confusion. “Why not? What if I need more towels or toilet paper or something?”

“Call us and we will leave you some at the front desk,” the desk clerk responded in the bored voice of someone who has already answered the same question fifty times this shift.

“But I’m staying for three days. What about the trash?” I asked. “With the restaurants closed, we have to order carry-out. I don’t want smelly old Italian beef containers and pizza boxes in my room for my entire stay.”

“There are large trash receptacles by the elevators on each floor. You can dump your trash in there if you need it emptied during your stay.”

I thought to myself, “Let me get this straight. I have to make my own bed, empty my own trash, and scrounge around for clean towels. Jeez, I might as well be at home.”

I know it’s a pandemic and all, but I was the tiniest bit disgruntled. I have to confess, I really love the luxury of staying at a nice hotel.

I like the large comfortable beds precisely made up with snowy white soft linens and an abundance of pillows. I like the in-room refrigerator where I can keep cold drinks close at hand. I like the large screen tv that swivels so I can watch free cable from anywhere in the room.

But what I love most is housekeeping services. Hands down it’s the best part of staying in a hotel.

Staying in a hotel is the only time I get to see what it’s like to be a rich person.

Every day while I am gone doing whatever I’m in town for, someone slips in and makes the bed with perfectly crisp corners, cleans the bathroom until it shines, replaces the towels, re-fills the toilet paper and leaves it in a cute little point so you know it’s fresh, and dumps the trash.

Every day the room looks brand new. It feels like such a luxury.

The first morning after my arrival I had another great disappointment. I discovered that what used to be an awesome complimentary breakfast at this hotel had been greatly scaled back, also in the name of pandemic response.

Gone were the variety of pastries, the giant urn of hot coffee that was available all morning, the toppings bar for yogurt and oatmeal. No sign of my favorite thing — the waffle maker — that I had enjoyed so much on previous stays at this hotel. Instead, there was only a sullen teenager slouched behind a table, slopping cold eggs and some soggy potatoes onto a paper plate, and reminding me to take the food up to my room since the dining room was closed.

Good luck getting a second cup of coffee from the sullen teenager — it was like asking for a kidney.

I’m not sure sullen teenager touching my plate and cup was any safer than if I could have grabbed it myself self-serve style.

That night as I looked around my hotel room and saw my rumpled and hastily self-made bed, my overflowing trash, and my empty toilet paper spool, I got a little pouty about it all.

As I trudged down the desk, mask firmly in place, to rouse the desk clerk and beg for a new roll of toilet paper, I thought about how many people were out of work because of the “no housekeeping” plan.

The hotel industry has arguably been one of the hardest hit by the global pandemic. With most travel curtailed, almost anyone who works in a hotel has been impacted by lay-offs or work reductions.

Then I wondered, is this no amenities plan the “new normal” for hotels?

“You know they will never bring back maid service,” my sister said when I mentioned this to her. “People are getting used to not having maid service. Staying at a hotel is like an AirBnB now. It will be a big cost-saver for the hotels. They won’t go back when the pandemic is over.”

That’s the biggest rub for me. There was no price reduction at the hotel, the per-night costs were the same as previous stays for significantly reduced service levels.

At least with an AirBnB the rates are usually cheaper. And you don’t have to listen to people talking or enjoying other nighttime activities on the other side of your wall.

It feels like hotels are using the pandemic as an excuse to increase their per-room profits.

The hotel saved a lot of money by cutting down breakfast, skipping housekeeping and expecting me to empty my own trash. Meanwhile, there is a legion of housekeepers, maintenance staff and a breakfast crew sitting on the unemployment line.

I want us all to be safe during the pandemic. But I really hope that my sister is wrong, and that the hotel services will come back. I hope that all of those jobs will be reinstated when it’s safe to travel again.

And I hope I’ll be able to feel pampered again in the future. I hate emptying the trash.

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR
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