A good idea gone bad? What do you think? It was almost a decade ago that the “Make a Green Choice” program first emerged at a couple of Sheraton hotels. It then began spreading throughout Starwood Hotels & Resorts. In case you are not familiar with the program, it allows guests to opt out of housekeeping for up to three or four days in exchange for a vouchers or loyalty points. Once Marriott acquired Starwood, it continued the program and added a similar “Your Choice” program at some of its hotels.
When the program was first gaining traction, I remember asking whether housekeeper hours would be impacted. I can’t remember with whom I spoke, but I remember the answer being no and that they would simply be given other tasks to take up their time. According to UNITE HERE, the union representing housekeepers and other hotel workers, the housekeeping opt-out programs have indeed been impacting working hours. According to a 2018 survey of 60 housekeepers at the Westin Copley in Boston, 91 percent of more recently hired housekeepers—those with 10 or fewer years on the job—have been left off the schedule or lost hours because of the Green Choice program.
I certainly do not have the data to make any kind of blanket statement about how things happen at all Marriott properties, but red flags are certainly waving here. Would guests, many of whom believe they are doing a good thing for the environment, still opt out of housekeeping if knowing their choice could impact a person’s hours—or more?
You see, hours are not the housekeepers’ only complaint. They say that “choice” rooms are more difficult to clean and take longer to clean—up to an hour in some cases. In the Westin Copley survey, 92 percent reported that cleaning Green Choice rooms is harder, compared to rooms that are cleaned daily. Ninety-seven percent reported that Green Choice rooms are dirtier than rooms that are cleaned daily. Because these rooms are dirtier, housekeepers are having to use bleach to get the expected level of cleanliness. Of course, bleach can cause eye damage, severe skin irritation, and impact the throat and respiratory system. That does not sound like “green” cleaning to me. Having to work harder and faster to clean rooms is also resulting in more injuries, UNITE HERE says.
Guests Will Forget They Opted Out
Those of you who run “choice” programs know that even though guests opt out of housekeeping, they still ask for additional towels, amenities, etc. Yet another flaw in the programs.
The “choice” program is one of several main concerns of UNITE HERE housekeepers who are striking in cities around the United States.
Marriott did respond to some of my questions about these housekeepers’ concerns. The company certainly can’t be blamed for all the problems associated with “choice” programs. They should, however, be at least reassessing the program to make sure that no Marriott property becomes an unsafe workplace or a place where you must worry about whether you are going to make enough money to pay your bills.
“Choice” programs are good for the environment and good for the bottom line, yes. However, says Lior Appel-Kraut, Researcher, Local 26 for UNITE HERE, “Green Choice can really turn housekeeping into a horrible job.”
Quite the dilemma, isn’t it? Your thoughts? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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