tl:dr skip to the bottom for the list of tips
Working for Disney Housekeeping left me with the deepest admiration and respect for the women and men who work there.
All the women I talked to told me similar stories. Most of them were immigrants with little or no education. They’d cried every day for the first couple of months working there.
They got yelled at every day for hard, thankless, minimum wage work. They didn’t quit because they had families to provide for. Eventually, you learned to deal with all the yelling from management.
One mom told me she got through the stress of her job by praying everyday that her children would go to college.
One woman, Lorenza, stands-out in my memory. She was the happiest person there.
She might be upset for a moment when she got yelled at (once she got yelled at for being too happy) but she’d always bounce back. She was a short, portly woman and called everyone Sexy or Pretty.
She called me Chiquita. I appreciated that since the other interns got nicknames like “the white girl” and “the fat one”.
Lorenza was a Mexican immigrant who had been a migrant worker with her husband. They’d picked oranges for 12 years in Florida. She told me about the 12-hour work days they had.
Her husband knocked oranges out of the tree, then she put them in a big bag.
She’d bend with the bag between her legs and drawstring around her neck, then shovel oranges in as fast as she could.
The couple worked as fast as they could to meet their quota by the end of the day. They got yelled at if they didn’t get enough.
(more about orange pickers from NPR)
She told me that compared to running around bent over for 12 hours a day in the hot sun, running around to clean rooms for 7 hours with some A/C was a piece of cake. The yelling was the same.
That woman worked harder than anyone I’ve ever met. And she was nothing but grateful for it.
The last time I saw Lorenza she was on day 13 of work without a day off.
I cannot scratch the surface of all the exploitation of immigrants and blue-collar workers in the U.S., but here’s a list of ways everyone can help housekeepers.
5 tips to help make life easier for your housekeepers:
- If you don’t really need your room cleaned, leave a do not disturb sign on your door.
- leave all your dirty towels/sheets in a pile on the bed or floor
- leave a tip on the bed every day not just checkout, at least $3-$5 (your housekeeper likely changes from day to day)
- Don’t be a slob. I shouldn’t have to say it. Don’t leave crumbs and food and trash all over your hotel room. Use the trashcans.
- If you want to go above and beyond, leave thank you notes for your housekeepers, even if it’s just on a hotel napkin or coaster. A little kindness can go a long way to making someone’s day better.