Mar 11, 2024

Hotels Have Vacancies—in Staffing

Some inn-sider thoughts before a hostel takeover occurs

By Ed Goldman

Hotel owners have been on an epic hiring spree,” the Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago. “Yet even after clawing back hundreds of thousands of jobs during the past two years, the industry is still light on staff and struggling to adapt.”

I’d say that my heart goes out to hotel owners but in reality, my heart goes out as often as my back. And both go out more often than I do. So I wouldn’t rush to chalk this up as empathy or compassion. 

Edgy Cartoon

Welcome to the Hotel Catastrophic

Even so, my rescuer gene is tweaking me to offer some unsolicited advice to hoteliers. If we had more time, it’d include changing the suffix of your job from “ier”—which works fine for less executive positions such as cashiers, sommeliers, costumiers and perfumiers—to “ist.” 

This wouldn’t be a comedown. Physicians who work exclusively in healthcare facilities are called “hospitalists.” Doctors who’ll see no financial gain in curing you are called “psychiatrists.” If they didn’t go to school long enough, but still won’t see any financial gain in curing you, they’re “psychologists.” (It should be noted that podiatrists and dentists, who also don’t go to school as long as MDs, do benefit financially from curing you, mainly because you’ll tell all your friends they did so.)

Here then are 7 tips for forlorn hotelists on how to trim expenses without reducing guest traffic:

1. Keep putting little chocolate mints in the rooms but on the sheets, not the pillows. Sell the pillows on eBay.

2. Instead of having a full housekeeping staff, hire two vocal impressionists who can wander the halls at 6:30 a.m. shouting to one another in various voices and accents. They’ll sound annoying enough to simulate a full complement of help.

3. Hire bank robbers to be your valets. They can use guest vehicles to flee after the job, then return them to the hotel parking lot and stroll back nonchalantly to their stations. Just be sure they split the loot with you. (Caution: Don’t try to be clever about this by advertising that your hotel is for “perfect getaways.” The cops are bound to have at least one detective who’s into wordplay.)

4. Keep the room costs stable but charge for bed rental and bathroom usage (keep the soap in the minibar so you can charge for each time that little door is opened).

5. Traveling professionals love having a “business center” on the premises. There’s no reason to charge them only for Wi-Fi and modem access. How about $10 a minute for making calls on their own phones and $45 per auto-correct? If you have a college nearby, get one of its English majors to edit the guests’ memos. (For a few bucks extra, have them start the memo with a quote from Søren Kierkegaard. The exec’s colleagues will be loath to admit they have no idea what “Discussion of sufferings can always be beneficial if it addresses not only the self-willfulness of the sorrow but, if possible, addresses the sorrowing person for his upbuilding” has to do with the company’s HR policy on sick leave pay.)

Be sure to charge the guests $100 per hour but promise to pay the English majors in course credits, even if you haven’t arranged this with the college. It’ll take months for the college to figure it out, even though they’re scholars.

6. Make check-in and check-out times more obtuse than they currently are (4 p.m. arrival times and 11 a.m. checkouts? Come on, people!). I suggest noon check-ins and 6 p.m. checkouts. But on the same day. Anything over that gets put on the bill

7. Instead of expensive cable TV hookups, why not bring kids from a junior high school drama department to perform scenes from current movies in the guest’s room? Since this time you obviously can’t promise to pay in college credits, tell the teacher in advance that the guest is a famous talent scout. If you do this, however, be prepared for some drama-class teachers—who never got over their moms saying they’d grow up to become movie stars—to also perform.

One cautionary note: As you may have noticed, films and TV on cable feature a great deal of profanity. You may want to bring back that college English major to clean up the language. For credits, of course.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).