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Bilingual Communication Issues Can Result in Wasted Energy

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NATIONAL REPORT—The United States has developed an extremely dynamic population made up of many different nationalities. The Spanish population has become the second largest group in America. Statistics also show that Spanish is the second most common language spoken in America. We have all noticed that Spanish-speaking adults now make up a substantial portion of our workforce. The hotel industry employs a significant number of Spanish-speaking workers in all of the departments throughout the hotel. This is common in almost all size cities today.

Spanish-speaking employees pose a unique problem in the hotel business because most of the training manuals, bulletin board material and signage in the hotel is in English. The communication gap can result in situations where a significant amount of energy is wasted due to misunderstandings, ineffective communications, or even general lack of understanding. In a typical lodging property, the three key departments affected greatest by this issue are housekeeping, laundry and kitchen. The engineering department also is susceptible to this problem, but not as seriously.

The housekeeping department is the most susceptible department in terms of bilingual issues. Housekeepers literally visit every room of the hotel on a daily basis and have the responsibility of taking corrective action and reporting any problems that may be observed. There are specific procedures the housekeepers must follow to provide a quality product, while conserving energy.

The temperature setting on thermostats is the most common problem noticed. Spanish-speaking employees typically think in terms of Centigrade, rather than Fahrenheit. This can cause difficulty for them in setting thermostats to the proper temperature during heating and/or cooling seasons. Issuing each room attendant a simple placard with a sketch showing a typical guestroom thermostat setting can easily resolve this problem and overcome any bilingual issues.

Housekeepers are also obviously responsible for turning off all lights and appliances, and closing draperies after cleaning the room. They also should report any potential plumbing problems that are noticed while cleaning the room. Without proper training in Spanish, these issues will prevail on an ongoing basis.

The hotel kitchen is another area where bilingual issues can have an effect on efficient energy use. Proper temperature settings and preheat time periods for kitchen cooking equipment are extremely important. Proper thermostat settings for walk-in and reach-in coolers and freezers are critical to eliminate premature spoiling of foodstuffs and to minimize excessive cooling costs.

The last key area of a hotel where bilingual issues are almost always a common problem is the on-premise laundry. Washing, drying and ironing must be done properly to maintain the quality, comfort and use-life of the washed linens and to conserve energy, water, and other chemicals. An established and adhered to plan for preventative maintenance for laundry equipment is an essential component of any good on-premise laundry operation.

Phil Sprague is a member of the AH&LA Executive Engineers Committee and president of PSA Hotel Energy Consultants. Based in Minneapolis, PSA Hotel Energy Consultants assists lodging companies and individual properties to develop effective, cost-saving energy strategies by auditing and assessing all energy consuming devices and appliances, and delivering comprehensive, customized recommendations in an actionable format. They can be reached at 952-472-6900.

This article first appeared in The Rooms Chronicle, Vol. 13, No. 4.

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