What’s The Correct Etiquette When Hotel Housekeeping Is In Your Room?

This isn’t intended to be a “slow news day” post, but rather it’s something I’m genuinely curious about. I’m someone who thinks a lot about travel etiquette, be it about hotels, flights, or something else. I’ve discussed this a lot on the blog, and I have another “topic” where I’m curious to hear what you guys think.

One of my favorite things about constantly being on the road is housekeeping — I don’t have to make my own bed, wash my towels, etc. At the same time, the lack of organization around housekeeping is often frustrating to me. Since I largely work from hotel rooms, I typically call housekeeping when I leave my room and ask for my room to be made, since I’m often not out of my hotel room all day.

This brings me to a weird habit of mine (apparently?) — when I see that housekeeping is servicing my room I turn around and don’t enter the room. Why?

  • I don’t want to startle the room attendant, and find the whole interaction weird
  • I spend a lot of time thinking about hotel security, and I think one of the biggest potential security flaws is guests entering rooms while housekeeping is in there, since they’re often opening and closing the door; so on one hand I’d rather knock so I don’t startle them, but at the same time if they open the door and I just enter, then it sure seems like I’m trying to break into the room
  • I just find it awkward to be in the same room as a stranger while they’re cleaning the room, even if it’s a suite and I can sit in a different room
  • I try to put myself in the housekeeper’s shoes, and I know if I were a housekeeper, I’d hate having strangers sitting in the room watching me, since you don’t know anything about those people

Westin-New-York-Times-Square - 4

However, a lot of people I travel with have the opposite approach. When they see housekeeping in the room they have no problem entering the room, sitting there in silence, etc.

That’s not to say my approach is any more right than their approach. Perhaps it’s just that I’m an introvert and avoid interaction with total strangers as much as possible. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

I’m curious — am I really the only person who doesn’t enter a room when housekeeping is in there? If you’re not like me, do you just briefly enter the room, sit there while they perform the whole service, or what?

Comments

  1. I do exactly the same as you. I’d usually go a find somewhere to sit for a while until I think they’ve finished. Otherwise it’s just… incredibly awkward!

  2. If you’re scared of having to interact with people, fine, but some of your reasoning is absurd!

    “Startle” the room attendant!? I’m sure they’re much more used to being around people than you are, the presence of a human isn’t going to scare them.

    It doesn’t seem like you’re trying to break in unless you act suspiciously (though granted, your apparent awkwardness around people could do that!).

    I’m sure they do hate mute strangers staring at them, so don’t… Either start a conversion or excuse yourself and then don’t stare at them.

  3. I had a a housekeeper make it even more awkward. I ran back to my room after breakfast because I stained my shirt. I walked in and said “hello. I just need to change my shirt really quickly. It won’t take long.” To which, she replied “no problem sir.” And then… she kept cleaning. So then what?

    I just changed my shirt and assumed she didn’t care. I don’t really care but thought it might be awkward for her. I imagine they are used to everything.

  4. If I come up to my room and housekeeping is there and the door is open, I knock to get attention and then show them my key and put it in the key slot to activate to show that I am the registered guest. I have had housekeepers ask that when I enter the room and I appreciate it, so I do it automatically now to make sure they know, especially if I am coming in and grabbing my lap top or I Pad to go down to the lobby or to the exec lounge for a few minutes.
    If I am in the room when housekeeping arrives, I either leave for a full cleaning or, if I don’t feel like leaving, I simply ask them to empty the trash, replace the coffee and replace a couple towels. I have to confess that I can not leave a bedroom (even a hotel room) without making the bed. I have to force myself to not make the bed on days I am going to check out. Even then, I kinda make it.

  5. Housekeepers at most properties work under tremendous pressures. They follow a routine that is specific and detailed. This procedure is a fix sequence of actions that ensures that everything is accomplished in a uniform manner and nothing is left to chance. Having somebody in the room disrupts this on many counts: they have to direct at least some attention to interacting with the guest, they have to work around the person which inevitably disrupts their routine, and it slows them down. To absent yourself from the room while staff are at work is both considerate to them and ensures that they will be able to follow their routine to achieve a uniform result.

  6. If the housekeep is in, I am out. I will let her do her job and I will find another place to do work if I need. I had cases when I forgot something in my room and when I got there the room was being serviced so I knocked the door, showed her my key (with the room number on it) and said I just needed to grab something and I was leaving.

  7. If you enter a room where the door is open, how is the service person supposed to know it’s really your room? Especially if you are there to pick up a laptop, tablet, or phone. I’d be very angry if they allowed a thief to take some of my valuables.

    If I was the service person, I’d also be wary of being alone with a stranger. Unless I had a concealed carry license, of course. 😉

  8. I think it depends on the service and the room. If it’s a minor service where they’re just emptying the bins and changing the towels I’ll stay. Also if there’s an office desk and I’m sitting there working I’ll stay. Unless I have exec lounge access, in which case I’ll
    ask roughly how long they’ll be and go work in the lounge. If. It’s a major service then I’ll go grab a coffee or something to eat while they work.

    My etiquette question is around housekeeping moving personal items. I’ve had notes left because my laptop was sitting on the bed and they didn’t make it as they weren’t allowed to touch it. Similar for clothing – in some instances they didn’t make the bed because there were clothes on the end of the bed.

    On the flip side other hotels I’ve found my laptop not only moved, but sitting on the bedside table with the charger plugged back in, and if there were clothes on the bed then they’re either hung up in the closet or folded neatly.

    Personally I’m on the trusting end of the scale, so have no problem with things being tidied and moved. In fact I was so grateful that housekeeping plugged my laptop back in otherwise it would have been flat for my flight!

  9. It’s an excellent post, Lucky. As a rule I do not ever enter a room with staff inside or allow staff inside when I am in. As an example, room service I will accept only at the door and sign the check there. In this litigious age where hotel staff may see an opportunity to file harassment charges I see no need to invite any moments of behind closed doors interaction and set myself up for legal extortion in the way of milking a settlement. I have seen too many cases of this in the news (be them legitimate or not) to invite any sort of atmosphere that can otherwise be taken advantage of.

  10. I don’t give it a second thought, unless it’s a small room and they are vacuuming.

    You are overthinking it by a mile. They are used to it; as long as you don’t approach them physically, they don’t care.

    Why would you stare at them if you did go in?

  11. If housekeeping shows up while I’m in the room, I usually head downstairs to take a walk. If I come back to the room while they’re still there, I typically go back and hang out in the lobby for a few minutes. Whether that’s the “right” etiquette or not, I don’t know, but a) I feel like I’m in the way if I’m there, and b) the sound of the vacuum bothers me.

  12. Everyone has a different approach. Who cares what it is. As long as you’re polite and prove you belong in your room, do whatever makes you happy.

  13. I also dont spent time in my room when its being serviced. However, i just say hi to the person(s) in there, and maybe even ask how long they will take (and usually say that im in no rush), then go to the bar/lobby/lounge

  14. I think hotel chains — might be harder for independent hotels — should add the following features to their apps:

    1.) Allow a guest to request housekeeping at a specific time of day (and allow this to be changed before a certain time each day).

    2.) Alert a guest when the room is being cleaned and also alert a guest when the room has finished being serviced.

  15. Lucky, interesting that u brought this up. Recently in a hotel stay, i had housekeeping cleaning up when i was returning to my room.

    I saw some practices that stunned me. Like putting new toilet rolls, new towels etc, into the dirty trash bin that was just emptied. Its convenient for the housekeeper (and speed up processes) but extremely unhygienic. What will u do when u see that?

  16. Unless I need to run in and grab something (in which case, I’d do it quickly and announces as not to startle whoever is in there!), I usually would turn around and come back later!

  17. My husband and I have a cleaning business. I have been in the business for over 25 years. I do not like cleaning around people, it’s awkward and even if they try to move they are still in your way. I just want to get the job done without distraction, I’m sure many housekeepers feel the same way. We travel often, and we stay out of the room when housekeeping is there.

  18. Recently I had that experience when I needed to grab something from the room and it was being fully serviced. I let housekeeping know I was walking in to grab something and leaving. I too saw housekeeping practices I was not fond of for instance pillows on the floor that were being recovered. But I realize no one cleans the room like I clean my house. Should I have said something? There was a bench at the foot of bed, it was one of their suites. This was Grand Hyatt Kauai.

  19. As others mentioned, I never enter if I see the cart outside the door. Why do I want to get in their way and have award interactions.

  20. Ben- I’m with you on this one. If I’m heading out for a while I’ll go out of my way to let the housekeeper on the floor know that I’m heading out. And on the flip side if I’m heading down just to grab something and coming back up I’ll let them know that I’m not leaving so they don’t start on the room.

  21. That’s an interesting point – could anyone just enter a room that’s being made up and pretend it’s theirs, then steal things after housekeeping has left? In the reverse do housekeeping teams have some kind of protocol for managing when apparent guests return to the return and just sit there and wait? In any case I’m like you Lucky, I’d prefer not to be there. I think it’s much more comfortable for those cleaning not to have guests around.

  22. If you have to be in the room while they’re servicing it, Be sure to give them $10 or $20 for that specific inconvenience. You don’t sit in your car while it’s getting detailed. You don’t play volleyball on the lawn when the yard service comes. You don’t cook lunch or dinner when you’re getting a new fridge or dishwasher installed. And you should not be texting or using your phone when you’re getting your hair cut. Cmon people. Work is work. Allow people the space to do their job as quickly and professionally as possible. Being courteous to others usually ends up with people being courteous to you.

  23. I place a strong value on good housekeeping. Having a guest just hanging around the room is a hindrance to a housekeeper doing her job. I will leave and take a walk if I return to my room and find it is being serviced.

    My favorite hotel in North America is the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. One morning, I returned to my room while housekeeping was still diligently cleaning it. No problem. I just headed back up to the lobby on the 23rd floor to wait it out. One of the front desk staff noticed me and suggested that I wait in the more comfortable tea lounge. While there, the lovely hostess brought me some complimentary tea and snacks for the “inconvenience”. I just love that hotel!

    @Mark F. brings up an important issue: if you desperately need an item from your room while it’s being serviced, do not neglect to put your key into the slot first. And to greet the housekeeper! I’ve seen so very many hotel guests treat housekeepers as if they were inanimate objects.

  24. I’m the same – I usually just leave and wait until I think housekeeping is finished. I did have a funny experience in Osaka once: I went back to the hotel room because I had forgotten something I needed and housekeeping was cleaning the room. I knocked on the door and they actually closed the door and wouldn’t let me in until they finished about 5 minutes later.

  25. I’ve been working as a housekeeping manager for the past 10 years for small and big chains. For the housekeeper is better if the guest is out of the room so she can focus on the work. Unfortunately cases of harassment are very common. Also in the US, a housekeeper cleans 12-16 rooms a day depending of the union contract so having a guest in the room can slow down the process. But as guest perspective you should be able to stay in your room while the room attendant clean the room. As some commenters noticed some room attendants have different standards (pillows on the floor or using garbage bin as storage) and it can make guests very uncomfortable. I personally always wait outside or try to call front desk to request service during a time i will be out of the room.

  26. If I need to use my room when the housekeeper arrives, I usually just ask for fresh towels and have her empty the trash. Occasionally, I’ll return to my room and need to use the bathroom and they always leave for a minute and return when you’re leaving. I don’t want to be in the room when they’re cleaning.

    About hotel room security with the door open, some people travel with cable locks, like the kind used to secure bicycles, for strapping their suitcase to a heavy piece of furniture when they depart their room.

  27. We decline service. I do a towel exchange with housekeeping in the hallway and let them know we do not need service. We don’t like anyone in our room AND we do not need anyone tidying up after us, we pick up our own stuff. I also love giving someone the break from having to work in another room. We still tip at the end of our visit because we know these individuals work very hard to turn the room once we depart.

  28. I find the number of comments on this topic interesting… There are obviously alot of opinions and Lucky has hit a nerve with this one. 31 comments on a Saturday within a few hours…Pretty solid.
    I don’t mind being in the room if I need to grab something but I try to avoid hanging out in there with them at all costs. If there’s a balcony or outside sitting area, I might go out there but that’s it. You wouldn’t want someone silently sitting in your cubicle at work or worse yet trying to chat you up would you?

  29. Agreed — I always stay out of the room during cleaning. The housekeeper’s job is hard enough.

    That said, I keep the Do Not Disturb sign on my door at all times unless I’m sure I’ll be gone for a long time, more than sufficient for room cleaning. Nor do I need daily housekeeping, and will often tidy the room up myself as needed. I do, however, tip regardless of how often I do or don’t request housekeeping. I’m very frugal with my travel spending in general, but I like to tip the hardest-working hospitality folks.

  30. I get 2 beds.. 2+2 =4 Days then I need it cleaned . They leave me alone and when I C them I get 2x what I want then TIP them . They love me and I clean up before I leave nice people . I TOAD one to leave sign on DOOR .Go away but still came it .

    CHEERs

  31. In general I stay out of the room when housekeeping is in. The exception was a very nice Wyndham in Green Valley Arizona and a perfectly horrible Starwood in Orlando. In both cases, housekeeping came very late in the day (around 5 pm) and I needed to be there. In the case of the Wyndham, I complained at the front desk and housekeeping came much earlier for my remaining stay. We only stayed 2 nights at the Starwood and the first night they didn’t come at all.
    We stayed several nights in a small hotel in Geneva Switzerland. I was in the bathroom with the door open when housekeeping came in without knocking. We were staying on a high floor at the Swiss Hotel in Chicago when I stepped out of the bathroom in the full monte. The blinds were open because the room faced the Chicago River and nobody could see in without a telescope. I was, however, surprised to see window washers on scaffolding peering in and giving me a wave!

  32. My most interesting experience was when I needed to get some work done on my laptop. I was in a remote area so the hotel was a very inexpensive run-of-the-mill type. Housekeeping kept trying to get into my room but I kept asking for another hour to finish my work. Finally, I had to let her in while I continued my computer work. I felt so bad I slipped her a $20 tip. For a person who I’m sure rarely gets any tip at all, this was pretty special.

    The next morning when I came down for the free breakfast buffet, she was there doing her busing and replenishing work. When she saw me, she insisted that I sit down and she would serve me. Wow! The truck drivers, retired folks, etc. wondered. “Who the heck is this guy?”

  33. If I have returned to the room to shower/change I go ahead and do it. I dont find it awkward, but understand many do.

    I’ve paid for the room so its up to housekeeping to work around me for those 5-10 minutes. I always try to say hello and be friendly.

    They should always ask for a room key, otherwise its a free for all.

    I also tip $1 or $2 per night, because those folks work hard.

  34. I never give entering a hotel room with housekeeping in the middle of cleaning the room because I usually prefer *not* to have housekeeping at all during my stay. I’m one of those people that doesn’t like strangers in my room and am generally staying just 2-3 nights. There are plenty of towels for that length of stay and I don’t need someone to make my bed for me – they aren’t going to change the sheets for that short a stay anyway. I pick up after myself and wipe down countertops as needed.

  35. interesting post; i never gave this a thought before. if housekeeping is in the room, we just say hi to each other and do our own thing — whether they come in when we are in the room or vice versa. maybe we’re just comfortable having grown up in a developing country with household staff the norm rather than the exception, unlike people who have grown up in the west.

  36. Oh, it’s no big deal. I always just smile and greet them in the usual way:

    “Hola. Mi aerodeslizador esta lleno de anguilas.”

  37. As an Aussie, I find some of the comments here from Americans amusing, especially about feeling the need to tip a housekeeper because they work so hard. Typically a housekeeper is there to check for management that you’re not stealing stuff or trashing the room. Yes the do replace the sheets and towels, if you haven’t signed the waiver that is very commonplace these days allowing them to simply leave them there to conserve water, power, hotel owner’s money, whatever. After all how many people change their own sheets and towels every day. And yes they do check the consumables and put replacement items, many of which are billed at extortionate rates to your account (water in cities where its not recommended to drink the water coming out of the taps is the most extortionate abuse).
    The tip is amusing, because it implies that the hotel doesn’t pay their staff correctly for the work they do.
    But I find the best housekeeping happens in Asia where people know how to work hard and don’t usually expect a tip unless they’ve become accustomed to Americans making a big deal about it. They usually have larger rooms to clean and they are usually kept immaculate.
    Just an observation.

  38. I think it’s polite and respectful to leave them alone in the room. I might call out and ask how long it will take, but I don’t enter the room. The (mostly) female housekeeping staff are at risk of assault from the (mostly) male business travellers. At risk – in case anyone misunderstands me. I don’t say they are at high risk, but there is a risk. I don’t want them to be uncomfortable, nor do I want to mess with their routine. If I need something, I will show them my key and test it in front of them, get whatever it was, and then go to the cafe or lobby.

  39. I spend an average of 175 nights a year in hotel rooms and I never once have been in there with housekeeping. However, I generally don’t get service unless I am there 5 days or more, as I prefer just asking for what I need if anything than having them in my room.

  40. Since “housekeeping” is working, we normally don’t go into the room to allow them to finish without us being in the way. But, of we have a balcony we sit out there until they are finished, especially if we have no where else to go.

  41. Matt
    Ur being GREEN,Saving them money,my stuff is better then theirs and I only need towels when need be .

    Always B nice .

  42. I find it ridiculous you guys find it “awkward”. I have no trouble going in, and just doing whatever work I need to do on the bed or desk.

  43. Although these are all typos, I found them hilarious -:

    @Callum – to which religion do you generally attempt ‘conversion’?

    @Jack ‘Why do I want to get in their way and have award interactions’ – how apropos for a website devoted to awards!

  44. Sometimes I’ll make stinkies and clog the toilet and just leave it (not my fault for low flush systems). If that’s the case, I’ll be sure to steer clear if I see housekeeping anywhere. Once in Guadalajara I left a mess in the toilet and was coming back to the room about 4:00 pm. I figured it would have been handled by then. But the hoisekeeer was on the radio calling plumbing up to unclog. I kept walking past the room.

  45. I generally leave the room when the housekeepers come for the same reason that I leave my house when my housekeepers come…because I don’t like to be around while the work is being done but I enjoy coming back to a freshly made bed and a tidy room. By the way, I always tip the housekeepers; my mother taught me to do this and I have taught my children to do the same. But when they travel with their friends, their friends are always astonished that they tip the housekeeper. Apparently this is something which has not been taught to most Millennials.

  46. I worked as a motel cleaner for a couple of years while studying at university, in two New Zealand motels. I preferred to service rooms when guests weren’t there, mostly because I had an efficient routine and it threw me out a little bit when people were in the room. I’m also introverted so it was easier not to have to interact with strangers and make small talk. But it wasn’t a big deal, more a personal preference.

    There was only one occasion where I genuinely didn’t like the guests being in the room, and that was when I had to service one of the rooms with a small kitchen and the guests had cooked the night before using various pots, pans, dishes etc. It would have been fine if the guests weren’t there, or even if they stayed out of the way while I was cleaning, but instead they sat in the dining area and just watched me as I did the dishes. I’m not sure why (maybe they enjoyed having someone else clean for them? Maybe they thought I was going to start rifling through their stuff if they took their eyes off me for even one second?) but it made me feel extremely uncomfortable.

    Now when I’m staying in a hotel or motel, I either decline service or stay out of the room during the service. I don’t know if that’s the correct “etiquette” but it works for me.

  47. I generally take the same approach and avoid interaction at all costs. The exception is when I am at a hotel where the room is the destination, like say PH Hadahaa or IC Thalasso. In those cases I will remain at “the room”, but will tend to stay on the outdoor porch area.

  48. My reaction is exactly the same as yours.

    I have to say, I like your potential-slow-news-day posts!

    Malc

  49. If I’m still in the room, I only ask them to change towels and skip cleaning since even at home I won’t clean on a daily basis.

  50. I have about 100 nights a year on the road. I will leave and come back if they are cleaning when I get back to the room.
    If I’m in the room working all day I’ll ask them to empty the trash (what is with tiny trash cans in hotel rooms?) And replace the towels.
    I try to tip $2 a day, leave in on the bed so they know to take it. I will try to remember and tip them if they service the room while I’m in there. I also make sure they keep the door open if I’m by myself. I don’t leave valuables in my room and if I have to I put them inside my suitcase and lock it. I won’t use the safes as housekeepers can open those anyway.

  51. I decline room service, it’s rare I’m anywhere for more than a day or two, and I usually just request some fresh towels or replacement amenities only if needed. Surprised though some people leave their portable valuables behind in their room, and don’t secure them in the safe before stepping out. Takes only a few seconds, and it’s better for everyone all round.

    If room service is compulsory – I always secure then leave, or organise for when I am out.

  52. Surely it can depend on whether we are talking leisure or business and business or resort type hotel? Whereas I might sit on a balcony or a terrace whilst housekeeping goes about their job that’s about it. Lucky always mentions how he likes to work in a lounge – I don’t find it a hardship to work in a lounge for a while if housekeeping needs the room – but similarly to others here if I’m there for a couple of days with work I might not need the room cleaned. On holiday I’m out of the room or there’s the terrace etc.

  53. Like others, my policy is:

    If I am in the room when they arrive, and am not ready to leave, I’ll tell them I don’t need service, and request some clean towels.

    If I’m dressed when they arrive, I’ll leave the room.

    If I return to the room and they are in the room, I’ll turn around and leave. If I need something (like a sweater etc), I’ll grab what I need, and leave.

    I don’t feel comfortable having someone else clean when I’m not cleaning myself (I have the same issue in my own home…)

  54. I have a strict policy of always leaving $20 daily. I plave it on my pollow neatly arranged so it will be obvious it is a tip rather than accidentally dropped. It’s proven to be a good investment over the years having been rewarded with BJs on a couple of occasions and sex once with the room attendant already knowing where I stashed my condoms.

  55. My last trip I did both stayed in the room finishing getting ready, and left. It was akward when they were there. And one time I had to come back to get my wallet because I rushed out. I though I was being curtious allow them in, but heard them talking about after I left. Looking at me like I did something wrong. I talked to my Aunt who use to run the house keeping at a 4 star hotel. I asked if I was wrong letting them in and not leaving right away, or rushing out when they showed up. She said both are ok. I learned my lesson though, either leave or ask for towels and toileties, or not to do the room that day.

  56. In terms of security, when a guest enters the room when the room is being made, the housekeepers will often ask to see the guest opening the door themselves to make sure that the guest belongs to the room. So it is not much of security issue, usually.

  57. Wow, lots of comments! Walked in on Housekeeping once and they insisted I use my card to get in (door was open with cart blocking entrance). Great security. This last trip to Disney, I used my band to get into room and there was a housekeeping person without cart just standing in my room. She wasn’t doing anything; hadn’t refreshed towels (this was at 7:30 at night; turndown was requested for 6:30). She hadn’t left asked for items. I wasn’t entirely sure she was there for turndown or from a shakedown! Never got a satisfactory answer when I called the front desk either. If I see them working, I generally leave unless I’ve got to grab something quickly (like in my first example). Leave them alone, get out of the way and let them do their stuff. I do hate it though when I see pillows on floor when, as someone else mentioned, plenty of room on bench or chair. And you know glasses are never cleaned.

  58. Always love reading this site. I have no issues with staying in the room while they are cleaning. Even taking a shower. I’ve occasionally gotten some action as well. If you search pornhub for “maid”, you’ll see what I am talking about.

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