Doreen Clarke, Director of Housekeeping at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tarrytown, Shares Her Staff’s Wildest Guest Interactions
From dead bodies to intimate encounters, there’s no shortage of housekeeping horror stories to tell.
photo by cathy pinsky
Who taught you how to clean?
My mom—she worked cleaning hotels in Jamaica. From eight years old, I was always doing the cleaning up—I was the oldest girl and the boys weren’t allowed to do housework. They were outside playing.
What does your job entail?
I supervise twenty room attendants, or housekeepers, who are responsible for cleaning up two hundred and forty seven guestrooms—about fifteen rooms each per eight-hour shift—seven days a week.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a hotel housekeeper?
If a guest misplaces something, right away they say, ‘The housekeeper took it.’ We have a lot of wedding groups here on the weekends and, almost every weekend, one of these guests misplaces something—they leave things in each other’s rooms—and the first thing out of their mouths is, ‘The housekeeper took it.’
What’s the most expensive item a housekeeper has been falsely accused of stealing?
A pair of three-thousand-dollar Prada boots. The guest called the cops and filed a report, and, two days later, she called to apologize and tell us she’d found them in her suitcase.
What’s the most unusual item people keep in a hotel room?
Aside from adult toys and drugs? Guns—even though hotel policy requires that all firearms be placed in a safe deposit box. In one instance, a housekeeper saw one left out in an occupied room. We called security and the police, and, because he brought the gun here from out of state, this person ended up being arrested.
What’s the most disturbing thing you know of being found in a hotel room?
A former housekeeper of mine discovered a dead body at the Waldorf Astoria—a guest had killed herself. An older lady was lying dead on the bed with a plastic bag over her head. She had left a note and a tip of two hundred fifty dollars for whoever found her.
What’s the most common misconception people have about hotel housekeepers?
That they are uneducated. This is often not true—I have a woman with a degree in engineering from Mexico and another who went to boarding school, but, in this country, this is the only job they can get.
What’s the most disgusting cleanup job you’ve ever tackled?
In Jamaica, we had a guest who had a miscarriage in her room and there was blood smeared all over the mirror. Here, our nastiest room was when a person defecated all over the bed and floor and then just checked out.
What do you think about the whole Dominique Strauss-Kahn incident?
I think that there was a lot of miscommunication on both ends. It’s impossible for me to know what happened, but I do wonder why she waited until she told someone. With my ladies, if they are in a room and someone touches them, I tell them to come to me right away.
About how many guests tip their housekeepers?
About fifty percent, with two dollars a day considered an appropriate tip.
What’s the biggest tip you ever received?
In Jamaica, there was a guest with five kids who stayed in two rooms for two weeks. She left me one thousand US dollars cash in the room, but with no note. I ran to give it back to her when she was checking out. If I hadn’t seen her, I would have assumed she left it behind by accident and just turned it in.
What’s the most embarrassing experience you’ve had or heard about on the job?
About three times a month, a room attendant will walk into a room after knocking to find someone undressed or having sex. All they had to do was put on the door’s inside night latch or leave out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, and they didn’t. Maybe they get a kick out of us walking in on them.