Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
We didn’t expect it to be like the luxurious Hawaiian hotel featured on the HBO series, “White Lotus.” We aren’t on our honeymoon and I’m not the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. We did, however, expect some of the amenities described in our hotel brochure.
This was our first post-quarantine vacation. It didn’t require airline tickets or passports. It was a planned long weekend on the Oregon coast complete with gorgeous scenery, a spectacular surf with whales migrating south, sunsets as magnificent as the ones in Hawaii, a reunion with our grandson and his girlfriend after a year, seafood dinners fresh from the ocean and time with our granddogs.
We decided to stay at the family vacation home for a few days of noise and activity before treating ourselves to the nicest hotel in the area. We checked in masked and socially distanced. Reservation clerks were seated behind Plexiglas shields. We approved of the precautions and were able to handle our rollaway luggage ourselves. We knew the buffet breakfast usually served in the dining room was to be replaced by room service. No problem, maybe even a nice treat!
Our room, right on the ocean with amazing views of breaking surf and dense beach foliage lining walking/bicycling paths, was perfect. There was even a fireplace. We filled out a breakfast menu before leaving to enjoy the outdoor scenery and surroundings. After joining our family for dinner and a post-prandial walk, we returned to the room for a quiet night with only the sound of crashing waves to lull us to sleep.
In the morning, breakfast was delivered to the room. We spent the day watching our grandson surf and visiting area attractions. Before dinner, we returned to our room to rest and were greeted by an unexpected sight. The breakfast dishes were where we left them. The beds were unmade and wet towels were still in the bathroom. We called the desk for an explanation and were told there were no housekeeping services due to the virus. The small print on the back of our confirmation/reservation informed us, we were told.
Presently, there is a shortage of labor in the hospitality industry but over a million jobs were cut during the pandemic. Some hotels are thinking about making the current changes permanent: daily housekeeping only upon request, contactless check-ins, technologically-enabled services, fewer bathroom amenities and extra charge for services previously part of the room rate. Despite the loss of taken-for-granted hotel services, the room rate remained the same. We wondered if the labor savings were not offered as compensation to the out-of-work employees.
Restaurant workers in the fast-food industry, however, have found themselves in a better position than when the pandemic began. In businesses on the streets of many cities you see “help wanted, inquire inside” signs. United Here, a hotel workers union, reported that eliminating daily housekeeping as the industry-standard would cost at least 180,000 jobs and $4.8 billion in lost wages overwhelmingly for women of color.
The discontinuation or cut back of services, while disappointing, are unlikely to deter vacationers or business travelers from avoiding a hotel stay. It didn’t stop us. It just made the time away from home feel more like home.
Dorothy Dworkin is a freelance writer and writing teacher in Boynton Beach.