I’ve Worked as a Hotel Clerk for 4 Years, I Want to Share Some Things Hotel Guests Don’t Realize
I’m a hotel clerk and a lot of our hotel’s success depends on me. My job is much more than just checking in guests and giving them key cards. I have to make people want to come back.
I want to tell the Bright Side readers about the secrets of the job of a hotel clerk, what the main advantages and disadvantages are, and also about the funniest situations I’ve witnessed. And at the end of the article, there is a useful bonus with life hacks to help you have a more enjoyable time at a hotel.
The main requirements for getting a job are a college degree that has to do with tourism and being proficient in English.
Our hotel is not a chain and it is not very big, so the conditions here are pretty good and the team is not that big. But it’s also rather inexpensive to stay here and the potential for career growth is unlikely.
The biggest advantage for me is the schedule — I work one 24-hour day and have 3 days off. This means that I only have about 7-8 shifts a month and the rest of the time, I’m free and I can work a different job. Of course, in the beginning, it is very unusual to spend 24 hours at work — on my first days working this schedule, I kept looking at the clock thinking, “Is morning ever going to come?” It was a bit scary to sleep at the hotel. The rules say that we should sleep at least 2 hours a day. But how much you can really sleep is something you can never predict.
Sometimes we have very quiet shifts, where there are very few guests and they are in their rooms, and sometimes, the shifts are very noisy, especially on weekends and holidays: people keep calling on the phones, drunk couples check in in the middle of the night, guests come to the reception desk to ask for something — you hardly ever have any time for some shut-eye. By the way, we have a special small room with a place to sleep. But you can never fully relax — at any moment, the phone might ring or someone might come in.
The first day after this shift is when I come home, take a hot bath, fall on my bed, sleep for 12 hours, and get up in the evening. This is why I feel really bad because my schedule is never fixed and the first day after this shift, I sleep and that day is completely lost. The next 2 days are the only days that I can call my days off.
Of course, this schedule is not for everyone. For example, mothers with small children can’t leave them for 24 hours. Most clerks that go on maternity leave don’t usually return to work. And of course, it’s a tough schedule. But I think it’s very nice, and a regular work week with 5 working days seems like a nightmare to me.
I also think that the uniform is a huge advantage too (you don’t need to think about what to wear every day). Also, we have a small team (the boss leaves at 5 pm, and I see my colleagues only when I start and when I finish my shift), and I can let my friends and relatives stay at our hotel at a huge discount.
The 3 most important things about our job are people, documents, and money.
Desk clerks are supposed to be polite with anyone, no matter how they act. Introverts who easily get their feelings hurt can’t work here. We had an intern that was angry all the time, “Why does she talk to me like that? How can she do that?” 2 weeks later, she left.
But there was an opposite example, too: we had a very communicative and friendly clerk that almost gave people tours around the hotel. She was ready to do anything. Of course, the guests loved her, but during her shifts, there was constantly not enough money in the cash register. So, a friendly attitude is great, but you can’t forget about counting money correctly and checking all the proper papers.
We have quite a lot of paperwork — we have some internal documents for the maids and the restaurants, the bills for the guests, and the questionnaires with personal info about the clients. We have to be very careful — several years ago, my colleague was fined because she checked in a guest who had an outdated ID.
Because our hotel is not in a huge city, but in a small town in the North, we really feel the seasons — in the summer and on Christmas holidays, we have a lot of tourists, but the rest of the time, it is pretty quiet here and the hotel is only half-occupied, if not less. This is why in summer and in winter, it is hard to take a vacation and all the shifts are very busy, but in the fall and the spring, we have a lot of free time.
In the off-season, we offer huge discounts just to make the clients come to visit. Most reservations come through special services. It is not very good for the hotel, because it has to pay a huge commission to these services. This is why, when a client just comes in, and they don’t come from some other travel service, this is the best case for us. If someone calls us or comes in, I have to do everything possible to keep them in our hotel. We even get a small bonus for these types of check-ins.
How many stars a hotel has is a very relative thing.
Recently, all hotels have been made to undergo a classification. This is how it works: a hotel pays money to a special organization for the estimation, and the expert comes to estimate the hotel by different criteria and gives it a score. The higher the score, the more stars. But in fact, a lot of things depend on the company that gives the estimation.
Last year, our management introduced several improvements for our clientele, hoping to get 3 stars, but the expert only gave us 2 stars. The certificate for the category lasts for 3 years. After the procedure, the expert told us that next time, we might get 3 stars. I know a hotel where some rooms got 3 stars, and others got 2. Also, a local hotel, as far as we know, invited a very expensive organization for their estimation and got 4 stars, even though the hotel doesn’t have a swimming pool and a sauna, which is a requirement for 4 and 5-star hotels.
Over 4 years, I have identified several types of guests.
Of course, the nicest guests are foreigners. They give tips (but not very often), and the maids say the same things. But we try to treat all guests the same. In general, if a person is polite and kind, we can do something nice for them, like offering them a longer stay without additional payment or letting them stay with a pet.
And the people who are never satisfied and treat everyone like slaves only get a smile and this reply: “Sorry, we don’t provide this service / this service is not free.”
By the way, a couple of words about pets. Usually, it’s only cats and small dogs, and we allow guests to stay with pets if they don’t damage anything in the room. If they damage something, the owner will have to pay a fine. Once, when my colleague was at work, a couple with a spider came. And somehow, the spider fell right onto the desk and really scared the clerk. But the owners remained calm and advised her to not be scared.
“I want a room with a big bed, please.”
Another special type of guest is a married man with a lover. They usually want to rent a room for a short period of time. Most of them are regular clients. And it is interesting to watch how the romance evolves: at first, the men are generous, they wear cologne, and will even let us keep the change. Several months or even years later, they ask for a cheaper room, and they look so ordinary, that it is hard to believe they are on a romantic date. And the women try not to be seen — they just quickly run into the rooms. One of our clients even asks us to pretend that we have never seen him before so that he doesn’t look bad in front of his new love interest.
Some of these stories have spicy endings: a couple of times, the wives came into our hotels looking for their husbands. But we have no right to share information about our guests. And once, a husband tracked his wife’s location and tried to break into the room where his wife was with her lover. The couple escaped through the window (the room was on the ground floor).
Another lady made us pretty nervous too. She checked in with a young man that was much younger than her. And then she disappeared. Everyone got scared, but it ended in a very regular way.
She was here on a business trip. And then, on my shift, someone called us from her company and asked me to contact her, because she was not at work and she wasn’t returning her calls. I called the number and the lady said she was on her way back (to work). But she never made it to the office and her phone was switched off. The man who was staying with her told us he didn’t know where she was. The situation looked really suspicious, but the next day, the lady appeared safe and sound. It turned out that she and her boyfriend had a fight and she got sad, so she went to the bar instead of going to work. She doesn’t remember much of what happened next. After this incident, her business trip was canceled. I don’t know if she got fired or not, but next year, she came to our hotel again. With a new guy.
Newlyweds are probably my favorite guests.
It is always nice to choose a room with them and then congratulate them on the wedding day. They often give us flowers or some tasty food. By the way, many times I have seen a couple that was very picky about their room, the view, and the decorations, but when they came back from the wedding celebration, they were so tired that they just wanted to crash on the bed and fall asleep.
So, in my opinion, there is no point in spending a lot of money on a luxury wedding room — you will spend only a night there and you won’t have enough energy to enjoy the room itself.
But newlyweds can be different, of course. Once, a guy came to our hotel wearing a crumpled shirt and asked for a wedding room for that day. When I asked him about the decorations, he just said, “This is my fourth wedding, we don’t need anything.” When they were checking in, the newlyweds had several gallons of drinks with them and they looked really happy.
But we had another couple that truly amazed me. Late at night, the groom, who could barely stand, was carrying his wife into the lobby. When they found out which floor their room was on, the guy just said, “Give me a moment to rest,” and he put his wife right down on the reception desk! Just imagine: me, shocked, looking at a woman in a white dress, mumbling something I can’t understand.
Even though there was a couch nearby, the groom decided to sit on it himself. Then, he got up somehow, took the woman into the elevator, and judging by the sound, she fell inside. It was a huge challenge for them to get to the room (I watched the CCTV footage). Soon, the best man appeared in the same condition, and he was trying to bring the newlyweds all the flowers but he kept dropping them on the way. Well, I guess it was a fun wedding. I don’t know what happened to them next, but I’m sure that they will be together for a long time.
Bonus: Useful life hacks for staying at hotels
- Before reserving a room, always read the reviews. If the guests are constantly complaining about some flaw, and the employees keep saying, “We’ll fix this,” don’t hope that the issue will be fixed by the time you arrive. For example, our hotel doesn’t have soundproofing. Every time, we say that it will be fixed sooner or later, but in fact, our management is not ready to do this now. If you notice some flaw at a hotel you’re staying it, call the reception desk right away. We often get the reviews like, “There weren’t enough towels and it was cold.” We don’t understand why the client never told us about it while they were still here.
- Before coming, make sure you check out what the room has and what it doesn’t have in order to not have to carry unnecessary things with you. Most of the time, we have enough hair dryers, irons, chargers, and many other things. However, when you come to a 2 or a 3-star hotel, don’t hope that it will have slippers, bathrobes, and stuff like that.
- Please, remember that you will need an ID to check in. You can, at least, have a photo of it on your phone.
- We store forgotten things for no more than a month (if something is really valuable, we usually make an exception). Guests often call and say, “I was at your place a year ago and I left a belt there. I’m coming back again soon, do you still have it?” Unfortunately, no we don’t.
- Desk clerks will do everything that is in their power to make you feel comfortable: they will consider your preferences about the rooms, give you a discount if possible, wake you up in the morning, give you the phone number of the cheapest taxi service, the best restaurant, the most interesting sights, and help you reserve a table. You can learn a lot of things from a desk clerk if you are polite.
Would you work as a hotel clerk? Do you think this is a difficult job?