Should you say 'no' to housekeeping when you stay in a hotel?

August 27, 2018, 12:41 PM · Should you say "no" to housekeeping services when you stay in a hotel?

Some hotel chains are offering their guests that chance, with the claim that skipping everyday cleaning is good for the environment. But a recent Boston Globe report suggests that what hotels are really helping is their bottom line, not the Earth.

When a guest declines cleaning service, the hotel isn't just saving the supplies and water its housekeepers would have used. The hotel's owner is saving money by not paying the housekeeper to work for that time, too. What's worse? The room is still getting dirty, meaning that the housekeeping staff will have to work harder, and use more chemical cleaners, to get the room prepared in the same amount of time that they will have to clean the room after you check out.

Some chains offer guests an incentive to decline daily housekeeping, but if the incentive is reward points, those often don't cost the company real cash. You're saving corporate profits — and costing workers income — more than you are saving the planet.

At least Disney has been offering to kick back some of its savings as cash to its guests. Under a trial program, Walt Disney World hotels have been offering selected guests the choice to opt out of "mousekeeping" for their rooms, in exchange for gift cards. Disney has been offering cards adding up to $10 for each night of the stay, minus the last one, when mousekeeping is required to clean the room for the next guest.

Is skipping daily cleaning worth it? I've stayed in some hotels that no longer offer even the option daily cleaning services, with housekeeping coming just every other or every third day. And if you've stayed in an Airbnb or other alternate lodging, you've likely gotten used to cleaning up after yourself, too. I am sure that the hotel industry would love to find another way to cut costs by further reducing service without the public objecting. Soaking us for "resort fees" only goes so far. The environment provides a convenient excuse. There's nothing that companies love saving more than profits.

And consider this response from a reader:

My advice? If you want to help the environment, be a responsible guest and enjoy the best possible experience, learn to tread lightly as you travel. Don't trash hotel rooms. Keep things straightened up, throw away your garbage, don't be wasteful in the shower or at the sink and do take up an offer to reuse a towel for a night to save on laundry. Use reusable bottles for water, walk when you can and use mass transit instead of private cars where possible. Eat less, don't smoke and don't buy souvenirs that will end up in a drawer, the closet, or the trash.


Replies (20)

August 27, 2018 at 12:52 PM

Yeah this is totally a business working on the bottom line. First they will see a reason to drop housekeeping labor, then they will market more towards people who will opt out of the housecleaning. Even capitalism likes the path of least resistance and would prefer paying customers who want fewer services.

August 27, 2018 at 1:28 PM

I think I stand on both sides of this argument. If a hotel is offering something I find valuable in exchange for agreeing to not have my room serviced, I'm all for that. However, I think that what are currently used as "incentives" will eventually become worthless (reward point values decline/trade-ins prices increase, or incentives have so many strings attached that they become untenable to use), or hotels will shift their strategy from giving guests something for refusing daily service to charging guests more for wanting their rooms serviced daily. Unfortunately, the later is what I eventually see happening as has happened in other areas of the travel industry where nickel and dime al a carte fees on top of bare bones services has become the norm (see airlines with baggage and seat add-ons, or car rentals with radio, GPS, and other add-ons).

Honestly, I don't care what reason is used to make changes in service (environmental, bottom line profit, or convenience), I'm going to go with the cheapest alternative possible at the minimum level of quality I can tolerate. I don't go on vacation to pay someone else's bills, and don't care about the job market in a region hundreds of miles away from home. I also don't mind picking up after myself if it saves me a few bucks ("extended stay" hotels have been marketing this for over a decade). So, if performing less cleaning means I get a $10 gift card or enough hotel points to get a night for free, I couldn't care less if it means the hotel/resort employs one less housekeeper. The local employment market is just not a consideration when I'm comparing prices and amenities for hotels, and I would prefer to not even think about making political or sociological statements while planning a vacation - it's hard enough to compare and evaluate different choices without going into the ramifications of staying at a hotel chain that is laying off workers because they are automating processes or reducing service levels to meet guest needs/requests. I guess more power to those that make their money do their political talking for them, but I'm a simpler traveler that will always gravitate to the best/cheapest deal possible regardless of the effect on unemployment or the environment.

FWIW, I simply don't buy the Globe's argument in regards to the lack of environmental savings in performing less frequent cleanings. It's a fact that when a room is cleaned, the sheets and towels are washed every single day. That's a HUGE expense in electricity and raw materials (in addition to reducing the lifespan of those linens) that ultimately damages the environment. Also, the notion that more cleaners and detergents are needed for cleaning a room every 3-5 days versus every day is pure folly. It may take slightly more time (assuming guests don't take a modicum of care to tidy up their rooms a bit each day themselves), but a housekeeper is still spraying the same amount of chemicals on a dresser, window, and sink after one day between cleanings as they would after 3-5 days between cleanings.

August 27, 2018 at 1:52 PM

I think this is an unusual approach given a change in industry philosophy since the Las Vegas tragedy. Some hotels have declined allowing guests to skip housekeeping services or put "Do Not Disturb" signs up for more than one day so that each room can be checked for any unusual or suspicious activity inside. This doesn't square with that approach toward hotel security and proactive safety.

August 27, 2018 at 1:57 PM

Russell Meyer:
Just to correct you on your claim in that last paragraph. For the last 8 years my wife and I ran a guest house which meant cleaning rooms and bathrooms every single day (we always cleaned all rooms to check-in standard regardless of whether or not guests were checking out or staying on. Over the last winter we have converted the guest house into self catering apartments so we now only clean the room and bathrooms at the end of a guest’s stay, so after a minimum of 3 nights, but often 4 and sometimes 7. I can assure you that it takes a LOT more time to clean a bathroom after a week’s occupancy than after just a night and you simply can’t clean the room with the same amount of ‘chemicals’ as you can after just one night.

That said would you use 3 times as much and take 3 times as long to clean after a 3 night stay compared with a one night clean-up? No. More definitely but not pro-rata.

August 27, 2018 at 2:24 PM

That's kind of my point David, which the Globe seems to discount to a certain extent. I definitely recognize that it takes more time, effort, and perhaps some more chemicals to clean a room after multiple days of neglect than it would for a daily cleaning. However, the amount of time, effort, and chemicals required to clean a room every day for 3 days would far exceed the amounts needed to clean the room once every 3 days. There's also a lifespan issue with the linens (and the expectation of frugality from the guests in regards to the toiletries, which is why some hotels have moved to bulk pump dispensers in showers for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash) that the Globe completely ignores when comparing the environmental impact of daily cleaning versus less frequent cleaning. To say cleaning a room every 3 days is just as environmentally friendly as cleaning it every day is patently false. Yes, there is an underlying cost savings to less frequent cleaning (undoubtedly made up more predominantly by lower labor costs), but part of that cost savings lies in using less chemicals, electricity, and water over the course of the year. Using fewer raw materials to clean and maintain a room is by its nature more environmentally sound.

August 27, 2018 at 2:42 PM

Vacation is a luxury product, no one NEEDS a vacation but it's fun. Don't have to clean your home is part of the fun. A luxury as Disney is downgrading itself by not keeping up the high standard they pretend to have. If you want to go cheap go to I 192 and rent a cheap motel room, you save tons of money if that is your reason.

August 27, 2018 at 3:06 PM

No one needs a vacation?


August 27, 2018 at 4:12 PM

With the tight job market and labor costs going up, as well as strong competition on price, it should not surprise anyone that hotels are looking to cut labor costs any way they can. All around the country people who were being paid $8-10 an hour just a few years ago are moving up to $15, and raising prices when you have to not only compete with dozens of other hotels but also Airbnb comes with a lot of downside. This has been happening in pretty much every industry for decades as business competition has heated up just look at the airlines.

IMO this is a smart move on the hotels side. A lot of people including myself would gladly take this option as I don't want someone coming into my hotel room when all my stuff is in it.

August 27, 2018 at 4:39 PM

One of the pure joys of vacation and stays in hotels is coming back to a clean room after a busy day. I always want fresh towels. I always ask for fresh sheets (not daily, but at least every three nights) and I ALWAYS leave a tip for the housekeeper.
We also frequently come back to the room mid-day to rest and shower so we also call for turn down service which includes new towels and often having the bed prepped for sleep. It's so civilized and helps make the vacation feel more luxurious.
Having worked in several Hotels I also know there is no harder working team in any hotel than the housekeeping staff. They want the hours and are proud of their efforts, so I would feel horrible, no matter what the minor benefit may be to me, to deny them the hours.

August 27, 2018 at 4:57 PM

There is one other thing to consider.

Not everyone wants the room cleaned every day.

I am one of those people.

I don't need fresh towels, and sheets and every surface wiped down every day, I am in there to sleep, shower shave (occasionally, when my wife makes me) and change my clothes, not have a party.

As for there being no benefit, one room will have minimal impact, one hotel will have minimal impact, but if this is rolled out across the USA or the world, that is a major impact.

according to an old report from:

hotels in the U.S. consume enough water to fill over 44 thousand Olympic-size swimming pools each year.

Now obviously these are estimates, these are also on a website that has a product to sell so may not be 100% accurate, but that is a lot of water, now couple that with the running of the machines (and the impact on the environment from the energy they consume) and it starts to have a much larger ecological toll.

and yes a financial one, let's be honest, big companies generally don't give a F about the environment unless it is in their best interests to do so, as another commentator pointed out, the plastic straws removal isn't for environmental reasons, and they are right, the more non-recyclable, no bio-degradeable product that Disney (and other companies) put out, the more they have to spend to dispose of it. A simple bottom line.

Now the hotels are definitely thinking of their bottom line, but that can (note CAN, not will) have a better impact on the economy either through cheaper rates directly and thus an increase in tourism, or as the savings they are making will allow for more profit, thus allowing for a more ammenities, better amenities, or more staff in front of house, or possible even greater and easier capital investment leading to capacity expansion.
Again, CAN not WILL

August 27, 2018 at 5:35 PM

I generally say no to daily housekeeping if it's an option even if we're going to be there for 4/5 days. I don't need clean towels or the bed made everyday, (you can always call down and get extra clean towels delivered up if necessary) and we are not slobs, we actually picked up and semi-clean after ourselves, But, outside of the room, if we are staying at a pricy nice resort, everything damn well better be spot on.

August 27, 2018 at 5:32 PM

Labor should not be the cause for Disney to not build the 4th hotel resort at Disneyland. Disney is just strategizing for some advantage that won't ever happen. Not building sooner will just defer costs. Costs will always be higher later.

August 28, 2018 at 1:27 AM

I was a housekeeper at a 4-star hotel for about 12 and a half years it's better to clean the room everyday. You get double the work especially if there's kids in the room. And the way their hotel prices are now if you have no service you should get a free night. A $10 gift card isn't nothing. That would barely buy one drink at the bar.

August 28, 2018 at 11:34 AM

The only thing I've ever come across is the use a towel for more than one day saving, and that's something I usually take up. Being a lone traveler I keep things pretty tidy, and the only time I do stop housekeeping coming in is when I've got a room full of my fishing gear, as that's something I don't want them going anywhere near. If they had dumpsters allowing us to throw out the garbage I'd be OK with that. They can even leave a vacuum in the room and I'd be quite happy to clean up if I made a mess. I'm not interested in incentive's and a $10/day gift card isn't a good enough reason for me to stop housekeeping. It'll be interesting to see if I encounter any of these changes on my travels next year.

August 28, 2018 at 11:00 AM

This is also a trend in Asia (I saw it in Japan and Hong Kong a few months ago), where "clean less often, replace the linens less often" is a guest room option, framed as a "green planet" initiative. I can't speak to the labor costs there, but "less water and electricity" is an obvious cost consideration.

We all know about "don't disturb" door hangers, which are now sometimes printed "don't disturb room / please make-up the room" on opposite sides. At the Villa Fontaine Kobe-Sannomiya (a branch of a business hotel chain), it's more specific: there are several magnetic cards that you can affix individually to your door -- replace linens, make the bed, etc.

If the concern is "it takes more effort to clean a room after several days," then part of the equation is "how many guests are in the room?" and "can the guest gauge their own needs?" A single guest is going to consume fewer linens and generate less rubbish than a family of four. Moreover, if a single guest is staying only two nights, the initial supply of consumables may be sufficient, and the guest can spread all their stuff (toiletries, laptop, tourist pamphlets) without worrying that the housekeeper will trip over it.

August 28, 2018 at 12:29 PM

No issue here as long as it remains a choice that the guest gets to make. But sure Disney and others consider the bottom line when they implement a policy like this (or any policy change for that matter). At the same time it is possible that there are other factors beside money at play as well. They can save money AND help the environment. Then they market it as "green" and increase goodwill with the guests too. Not much downside for Disney.

August 28, 2018 at 12:35 PM

One of the greatest joys of being on vacation is coming back to the room and finding it clean. I also know from working in hotels for over ten years that the housekeeping team is scheduled based on occupancy. If the hotel is slow, those folks don't get hours. By doing this, those folks won't get hours. Do yourself and them a favor and take the housekeeping service. You get to come into a beautiful clean room with fresh towels and bed linens and some of the hardest working and most dedicated people in the world of hospitality get to put food on their tables.

August 29, 2018 at 11:31 AM

the_man said " I don't want someone coming into my hotel room when all my stuff is in it." That's exactly how I feel. Normally I keep my nightshirt out on the bed but when staying in a hotel I feel compelled to put it back in my suitcase, as I don't want anyone from housekeeping handling it; don't want to put anything on my body that's been handled by someone else. Also I feel compelled to hide the single malt scotch miniatures I always take with me when travelling. So I'm more than happy to decline housekeeping services for a stay of several days.

August 30, 2018 at 10:09 AM

Look! When I go on vacation, usually Orlando, I never decline housekeeping. It’s nice to come back to a room freshly made (especially staying on Universal or Disney properties, you pay for it in the nightly rate). In regards to valuables or small bottles of liquor, there is a safe for that. I have declined housekeeping a few times while at Disney back in 2006-2007 “it’ll save the environment “ but the. I realized, how is it saving the environment if Disney keeps giving out straws, plastic cups, sell items made in China (it costs fuel to transport over here), etc. so that’s when I decided if Disney is asking me to do this, why can’t they do I stopped electing to skip Housekeeping & have it done each day. I do put items in the proper container in the room (recycling vs trash container). Now, if Disney would like to up the $10 to $20 a day, I’m good with that as well, might skip every other day. That way I still get some $ out of it and apply the rest towards the daily parking fee that they NOW CHARGE!!!

August 31, 2018 at 6:56 PM

Not so much when I'm somewhere visiting theme parks or know I'm going to be out all day but if I'm likely to want to return to the room at some point for an hour or so in the middle of the day I will stick the do no disturb sign on the door so that I don't have to wait for housekeeping to finish up.

That said, in general I don't bother having the room made up unless I've been there a few days and need fresh towels or the rubbish bins are full and trash is piling up.

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