If you’ve stayed in a decent hotel at any time in the past five years or so, I’m sure you’ve noticed your opportunity to save the world by not getting new towels every day. This, the hotel informs you, will mean they have to do less laundry, use less water, and release fewer terry cloth fibers into the atmosphere.
Maybe you went along with it, or maybe you prefer towels that weren’t laying around on the bathroom floor all morning. The Earth probably didn’t think less of you if you did.
Recently, however, I had occasion to stay overnight at an Embassy Suites in Marlborough, MA. Let me say in advance that I actually like Embassy Suites hotels because they’re all virtually identical, so you can find your way around easily. Also, the rooms at Embassy Suites, while maybe not luxurious, are, in fact, suites, so a spouse has another room to go into if one of them is, say, snoring extremely loudly, not that I’m mentioning any names.
Anyway, on this particular day, there was some sort of junior hockey tournament nearby, so the hotel was full of pre-teen boys running around with large sticks. This is not as relaxing an environment as you might expect. I’m surprised that there were no enterprising local dentists handing out cards in the lobby.
But I’m not here to write about the use of English muffins from the breakfast buffet as hockey pucks. I want to tell you about the door hanger I found in our room:
read the headline in, of course, green type. Then this:
Before 2:00 am:
You may choose to DECLINE HOUSEKEEPING SERVICE FOR THE NEXT DAY by hanging this card on your door. In return for Going Green, we will issue a voucher for a $10 Food Credit that may be used in our Restaurant, Lounge or Suite Service. Gratuity not included.
Considering all the germs those TV shows are always finding in hotel rooms when they are cleaned, this certainly seems like a fine idea for travelers.
But, okay, so here comes a guest, staggering in at 1:58 am. He is very drunk, possibly from the wild partying he has done after the junior hockey tournament. He reads the door hanger and, in his inebriated state, thinks “Oh, sure,” and leaves it hanging on the door, after which, at precisely 2:02 am, he throws up violently in a manner that is remarkable for sheer square footage, not to mention aroma, and all the time he is vomiting he is remembering about the door hanger and the fact that he’s spending another day here, and if he can only make it to the…ack…ack…door before they pick up the sign but…bleeggghhhh!
This is definitely not what he had in mind when he considered “going green.”
You see, even though the card had copy like “We appreciate your assistance in conserving our natural resources,” the assumption on my part was that they really meant “We appreciate your assistance in increasing our profits.”
But I felt a little guilty about that. Maybe Embassy Suites’ motives are as pure as unpolluted water. Was my cynicism justified? Could I discover, through good, old-fashioned investigative journalism, just how much it does cost to clean a room?
More importantly, could I find that out using bad, new-fashioned lazy journalism of the type most often practiced in the media these days…the only kind of journalism I’m willing to do? (If I worked for CBS news, their Sunday night show would be called Two and a Half Minutes.) Fortunately, the answer was yes; all it took was a simple Web search to find out that Embassy Suites’ cost to clean a room is: $2.67.
At least it is in Orlando, FL, where an Embassy Suites is participating in a fundraising effort to provide cooling apparatus to people who have to dress up as theme park characters when it’s 105 degrees.
Kidding. The funds go to an organization called Shatterproof which deals with addiction. Every time a guest declines housekeeping service, the hotel promises to donate the cash equivalent of what it saves. Here’s the math, according to the website:
- 20 Minutes Time per room
- $8.00 Average Non Premium Hourly Rate
- $2.67 Cash Equivalent Contribution
Using this as a guide, even if the hourly rate is higher in Marlborough, MA, the hotel there would seem to be taking a loss on the $10 credit. This became easier to believe when I found, while doing further painstaking research that involved visiting my mother in Ft. Lauderdale and staying at a Sheraton, that the Starwood company has a similar program wherein they only give guests a $5.00 credit (or 500 Starwood SPG® Starpoints®) for eschewing cleaning services.* I would think that this gives Embassy Suites a tremendous marketing advantage, since travelers will obviously stay where they have the highest incentive to sleep in their own filth.
In any case, I guess I owe the Embassy Suites in Marlborough an apology. It seems they are incurring some expense to improve the environment. Unless…
Unless they’ve factored in “breakage”–people who don’t use the $10 voucher. After all, why else would they give you a physical voucher rather than just automatically putting a $10 credit on your bill if you make a food purchase? For every voucher that’s not used, the hotel saves $2.67 or more. And what if they figured that people who do use the $10 will spend more on food and drink than they would have otherwise. Maybe for every $7.33 ($10 minus $2.67) the hotel spends, it gets back $20 in additional sales.
And, well, pardon me for thinking this, Embassy Suites, but I wonder how many guests would have to decline housekeeping before you’d be able to lay off a housekeeper or two. Then you’d get to save on employee benefits, too. And if you can do that at all 200+ Embassy Suite locations, plus all the Hiltons, and Doubletrees, and Hilton Garden Inns, and Homewood Suites and other brands your parent company owns, well, that would add up nicely, wouldn’t it?
Plus it would be so good for the planet!
Bottom line: it never for a moment occurred to me that the “green” Embassy Suites had in mind was anything but money.
And I like clean towels.
See you soon.
*Starwood’s door hangers also include some details: “Please note this includes all room cleaning and trash removal. Housekeeping will not enter your room, so items such as coffee and bathroom amenities will not be automatically replenished.” In other words, you may run out of soap and shampoo before you dry yourself with your dirty towels. But at least the Earth will be cleaner.