EP #37 – An Open and Shut Case for Cleaning Guest Rooms

Cleaning guest rooms with the door 0pen or closed?

Open the door of hotel room.

Hotel housekeeping can be a dangerous job.


A harmless ask. A simple delivery. General cleaning. Restocking rooms. Greeting guests in the hallway. These are all duties performed by hotel housekeeping staff every day in millions of hotels across the world. Tasks that seem routine and relatively safe. But the fact is staff puts up with a lot and often their safety can be at risk.


Take the example of the well-known Dominique Strauss-Kahn allegations from 2011. Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and once-front-runner for French President, was arrested and later settled for sexual assault charges leveled against him for brutally sexually assaulting a housekeeper that was cleaning his room while he was present. Read more here. This was the case that encouraged many New York City hotels, and eventually others in major cities across the U.S., to provide their housekeeping staff with panic buttons.


Another example comes from the Sunshine State where a Holiday Inn Express housekeeper in Collier County, Florida, was sexually assaulted at gunpoint after a guest entered the room she was cleaning and claimed she didn’t make the bed well enough. He then demanded she “treat him well” or he would kill her. Read more here.


Yet another recent example where a millionaire in a Washington, D.C., hotel harassed a maid who was making his bed by grabbing her buttocks and making lewd comments about her. A situation many hotel workers say is all too common. Read more here.


And it’s not limited to those simply cleaning the rooms. Any staff making deliveries might be at risk too. That was the case in the story of a New York City hotel employee that was asked to bring tissues to a guest. Upon making the delivery, the door was shut behind her and she was asked for her phone number. She gave a fake number and explained she wasn’t interested which gave her enough time to unlock the door and leave but not before becoming extremely uncomfortable.


How do you keep your hotel employees safe?


The list goes on and on. And unfortunately, many of these occurrences aren’t even reported due to workers being afraid they won’t be taken seriously or fear of upsetting the guests or damaging the hotel’s reputation.

The guest is always right, except when they're sexually assaulting the staff.Click To Tweet

They say there are three sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle. But for this episode, there’s no gray area – when it comes to cleaning with doors open or closed, the answer is an open and shut door case. Keeping your hotel employees safe when they clean rooms is a paramount concern in today’s climate. And in an industry where the “customer is always right” we have to be vigilant to make sure the customer is happy, but also that housekeeper safety is at the forefront of our minds.

In this episode, I’ll cover what I feel is the best approach to the door open or shut debate based on my 30 years of hospitality experience and countless feedback from hotel managers and employees.

Topics include:

  • Keeping housekeeping staff safe with closed-door cleaning
  • Keeping guest belongings safe
  • Best practice for cleaning rooms when the guest is present
  • Policies surrounding room cleaning and safety


When to close and when to leave open.


Cleaning with doors open or closed shouldn’t even be a debate, but it is. There is a great debate among the hospitality industry about best practices for room cleaning – and both sides have merit – but I stand firm that the door should be closed when cleaning vacant rooms. I discuss specific reasons why and strategies for making this as efficient as possible for your staff in this mini-episode.


The same goes for cleaning a stay-over room when the guest isn’t present. Door closed. This helps keep the guest’s belongings safe and keeps potential threats from having an easy way into the room. You’ll hear more details in the podcast above.


The only time the door-closed practice should change is when the guest is present in the room. Only then for housekeeper safety should the door be propped open. And additional security methods should be put in place when the guest is there too.


But what to do when the guest opts to stay in the room? Simply tossing in some towels and going on your way may not be enough in today’s world of service excellence expectations, so I cover why your staff should cover this type of room in pairs.


I’ll also talk perceptions and dispel myths of closed-door cleaning and productivity monitoring in this episode along with giving tips on how to create policies that both support the safety of your staff and the satisfaction of your guests.  You can find additional resources on managing housekeeping labor in episode #17 of the podcast and some great tips on how hotel staff can guard against sexual assault in this publication from HCareers.


I want to hear from you too. If you’ve got a story or best practice share, sound off! And if you like this mini-episode or have ideas for future podcasts that you’d like to hear more about, let me know about those as well.


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