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12 Secrets of Hotel Maids

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Hotel maids get little respect (or money) for their physically demanding work. We wanted to learn what their job is really like, beyond the “Do Not Disturb” signs and chocolates on pillows. Here are a dozen secrets about their duties, including the constant time crunch, the bizarre (and horrifying) things they have encountered in guest rooms, and the reason they suggest you don’t use the hotel cups.

1. THEY’RE CONSTANTLY PRESSED FOR TIME.

Hotels have different housekeeping policies, but most maids are allotted 28 to 40 minutes to clean each standard room and up to an hour for a suite. Depending on the hotel, maids may be assigned a list of rooms to clean or choose rooms to meet their daily quota, which typically ranges from 10 to 16 rooms.

According to one maid at a five-star hotel in Orlando, Florida, maids often feel pressure from their supervisors to clean rooms quickly. “I find it annoying when a guest has made too much mess to fix in the given time,” she tells Trivago. “To be honest though, management is more annoying. Sometimes they have high expectations, but they don’t give you enough time.” Because of the time crunch, most maids are not able to clean each room as thoroughly as they'd like, and they skip tasks such as vacuuming, scrubbing the bathtub, and cleaning under the bed. “I hated leaving a room not fully cleaned, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it,” another former hotel maid admits on Reddit.

2. THEY KEEP ITEMS THAT GUESTS LEAVE BEHIND.

Maid entering a hotel room

At most hotels, maids must report any items they find left behind in a room after a guest checks out. If the items go unclaimed for a set period of time (perhaps 45 to 90 days), some hotels allow maids to keep the items they've found. “They're supposed to go back to the person who found them and anything they don't want is donated to charity, but usually the supervisors go through and take the good stuff first,” Booboo_the_bear, a maid who has worked in several five-stars hotels, shares in a Reddit AMA. “I’ve gotten a ghd [hair] straightener and a designer jacket.”

3. THEY MIGHT USE THE TOILET IN YOUR ROOM.

Although most hotels forbid maids from napping or using the toilet in guest rooms, some maids break the rules. Exhausted maids who have more time than usual to clean a large suite may secretly catch a few minutes of shut-eye in a guest’s bed. “Something else we do sometimes is that we use the toilets in the guest’s bathroom, but only if we are super busy and don’t have enough time to go to the staff toilets,” the maid in Orlando says. “It is something we are not supposed to do, but many do it anyway.”

4. THEY ENJOY WORKING SOLO.

Smiling maid in a hotel room

While some hotels pair up maids to clean larger rooms, most maids work solo, and interact only on a very superficial level with guests and coworkers. According to Booboo_the_bear, the best part of her job is the peace and quiet it affords: “I probably spend about 20 minutes of my work day interacting with other people. For an introvert its [sic] ideal.” But if the alone time ever makes them feel lonely, maids may sing and talk to themselves as they clean, entertaining and distracting themselves from the monotony.

5. THEY ENCOUNTER SOME PRETTY HORRIFYING THINGS …

Horror stories abound among hotel maids. Most have seen (or have coworkers who have seen) drugs, blood, vomit, sexually explicit materials, fecal matter, and even dead bodies. Evidence of illegal activity in a room necessitates a call to the local police or HAZMAT unit, who remove drugs and process a crime scene. But many hotels still make maids clean up the bodily fluids and excrement that remain in a room where criminal activity has occurred. Although maids are usually given extra time to deal with this type of extreme mess, it's never a pleasant part of the job.

6. … BUT THEY ALSO STUMBLE UPON AMUSINGLY BIZARRE ITEMS.

Multi-colored and dressed coleslaw

For all the disgusting scenes they encounter, most hotel maids also stumble upon some comical and downright weird stuff. One hotel maid shares on Buzzfeed that she encountered an amusingly bizarre scene in a room that a guest had recently checked out of. “It smelled a little funky, but I couldn't find the source of the stench. I went to strip the bed, pulled the sheets back, and the bed was filled with coleslaw,” she writes. “Coleslaw! I had no idea why, and I do not want to know why!”

The maid in Orlando says that she once found an abandoned baby lying on the bed and promptly carried it to the hotel’s management. “It turned out to be a robot or fake baby that would make noises just like a real one,” she says. “It was left by guests attending a medical or science convention or something.”

7. THEY COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER FOR ROOMS AND TROLLEYS.

Besides feeling pressure from their supervisors to clean rooms quickly, some hotel maids also vie with their coworkers. “The more senior [housekeeping] staff can sometimes make it stressful. They fight for the more expensive rooms or suites because better items are left behind for the taking if nobody claims them,” the hotel maid in Orlando reveals. “They also fight to take the better trolleys, leaving myself and others with old ones that don’t have the right products or supplies, meaning a lot more running around.”

8. THEY SUGGEST YOU DON’T USE THE CUPS.

A cup in a hotel room

Although you’ve probably heard warnings about the bacteria teeming on your hotel room’s remote control, hotel maids reveal that there’s another item in your room that's rarely cleaned as well as it should be. “Not using the cups is my number one rule that I tell everyone,” Booboo_the_bear says. “I’ve definitely seen [other maids] polishing glasses with the same cloth they just used to dust the room. I’ve never seen the toilet brush used but knowing some of the people I work with, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.”

Author and hotel worker Jacob Tomsky adds that the minibar glasses need to be spotless, but maids don’t have dish soap in their housekeeping carts. “So some housekeepers will wash the glasses in the sink with hot water and shampoo. But many of them use furniture polish because it leaves the glasses spot-free,” he tells USA Today.

9. SOME OF THEM USE THE TITLE "CERTIFIED GUESTROOM ATTENDANT."

Some hotel maids study to become Certified Guestroom Attendants at the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). This certification prepares maids with the knowledge and skills they need to clean and maintain rooms. The AHLEI offers a variety of classes, workshops, online education, and on-the-job training to aspiring hotel maids who hope to enter the hospitality industry. After completing their courses and passing a 30-question multiple-choice "Guestroom Attendant" exam, maids can get certified. While some hotels require their maids to be certified, many maids use their certification to find higher-paying housekeeping jobs.

10. THEY MIGHT GO DAYS WITHOUT GETTING A TIP.

A hotel maid getting a tip

Tipping customs vary around the world, but no matter what country they work in, most maids rely on tips to survive. In the U.S., where maids’ median annual salary is just $21,820, many hotel maids can go days without receiving a single tip. Reddit user JustBeth22, a hotel maid who works at a four-star hotel in upstate New York, estimates that only 40 percent of guests leave a tip. She emphasizes, though, that tipping can vary greatly: “Some people tip, some don't as a rule, some don't realize they can. I have gone days with no tips at all then in one day I made $40.”

Maids suggest that guests leave a dollar or two each day rather than a larger tip at the end of their stay. That way, the maid who cleans your room on any given day (rather than just the day you check out) receives a tip. And if you’ve ever wondered if your hotel maid would appreciate food and drink as part of their tip, the answer is yes! Many hotel maids enjoy receiving unopened snacks and beverages. Because hotel policies vary, though, make sure to leave a note indicating that the food and drinks are for the housekeeping staff.

11. THEY’RE VULNERABLE TO ASSAULT.

Besides being exposed to a variety of strange bodily fluids, hotel maids—the majority of whom are female—face the potential threat of being assaulted every time they enter a room. While movies such as Maid in Manhattan (2002) romanticize relationships between hotel maids and guests, the reality is that maids are vulnerable to abuse. “People frequently open their doors naked or just in a towel or underwear,” Booboo_the_bear says. Some male guests—as well as male members of the hotel staff—make advances, grope, or try to intimidate maids into having sex with them.

12. THEY TRULY APPRECIATE TIDY, CONSIDERATE GUESTS.

A maid putting an orange daisy on hotel towels

Hotel maids sing the praises of guests who are tidy and considerate. “We have a lot of business people that come in to have a quick sleep, take a shower and leave,” Booboo_the_bear says. “A handful of times I've had to check if the guest had actually checked in because they've left the room so tidy.” To make a hotel maid’s job easier, you can make sure you put your trash in the bin, leave used towels in a pile in the tub or on the floor, and flush the toilet. “I’d say at least 1 in 3 [people] don’t flush. It boggles my mind.”

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11 Secrets of Personal Shoppers
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Personal shoppers aren't just for big spenders—they can help regular folks find clothing and accessories that are flattering, stylish, and budget-friendly, too. We spoke to a few of these fashion mavens to get a behind-the-scenes look at their job, whether it's how they can save you money, when they might encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, or why their feet are probably sore.

1. THEY DO MORE THAN SHOP.

“When I tell people I am a personal shopper, they think all I do is shop and hang out at the mall,” Nicole Borsuk, a personal shopper in Atlanta, tells Mental Floss. While buying clothing is a big part of the job, it's not as simple as it may sound—personal shoppers work closely with sales associates at retail stores to hunt down elusive pieces, put promising items on hold, and determine when new clothing will arrive at the store. And whether they are working with sales associates or advising their clients on what looks fashionable, personal shoppers need excellent communication and people skills. “You have to be very good at building relationships,” Borsuk says.

Personal shoppers who work as independent consultants also spend considerable time running their business: they write blog posts, search for new clients, and manage their finances. “Finding ways to grow and market my business … is one of the most important things I do,” Borsuk says. “However, I would much rather be spending time with my clients and be putting fabulous outfits together.”

2. THEIR WORK STARTS LONG BEFORE A CLIENT HITS THE DRESSING ROOM.

A young woman helping another woman assess a dress in a dressing room
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According to Lori Wynne, a wardrobe consultant and personal shopper who owns Fashion With Flair in Atlanta, a personal shopper's work begins before a client is trying on clothing in a store’s dressing room. “My service starts by analyzing their closet and current wardrobe, creating ‘new’ outfits with the clothes they already own, culling items that do not fit their body or lifestyle, and creating a personalized shopping list,” she tells Mental Floss. Based on a client’s current wardrobe and shopping list, Wynne then chooses a store that best fits the client’s needs. “I shop before the client arrives in the store. I load the dressing room with the items, then the clients arrives. No sifting through the racks or going from store to store,” she says. “It is a very effective use of time for my busy professionals or stay-at-home moms.”

3. THEIR FEET ARE PROBABLY SORE.

Personal shoppers have firsthand knowledge of what it's like to "shop ‘til you drop." The constant walking through stores and standing in front of racks can make for some seriously sore feet. “My least favorite thing [about my job] is how much my feet hurt after a long day of shopping,” Wynne admits. Personal shopper James Gallichio adds that a desk job would be much easier on his body. “The hardest part is the constant exercise. Four days a week I do 5-8 hour shopping sessions where I’m walking around constantly, which takes a fair drain on energy,” he writes in a Reddit AMA.

4. THEY HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO SHOP FOR ALL SHAPES AND SIZES.

Turquoise women's t-shirts of various sizes from small to large hanging on wooden hangers
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Personal shoppers emphasize that shopping for other people requires a vastly different skill set than shopping for oneself. “Some people may think that if they have great style, they can dress anyone,” Wynne says. “Your individual style doesn’t look good on every body type, age, and gender. A personal shopper must understand styles for all ages, budgets, and body types.”

Competent personal shoppers, then, have a comprehensive understanding of types of fabric, garment construction, and how different clothing brands flatter (or don’t flatter) diverse body types. Personal shoppers also pick clothing and accessories in colors that will complement a client’s skin tone and hair color, rather than opting for hues that they personally like.

5. THEIR FEE STRUCTURE CAN VARY CONSIDERABLY.

Personal shoppers who are employees of department stores are usually paid a salary and receive commissions on any items they convince a customer to buy. But independent personal shoppers, who are not affiliated with a store or line of clothing, have more flexibility. Because they directly bill their client, they can charge a variety of fees for their services, whether it's an hourly fee, a flat rate, or a package of multiple sessions. Some personal shoppers even offer a "complete makeover" package that includes additional services such as makeup application and hairstyling.

6. WEALTHY PEOPLE AREN’T THEIR ONLY CLIENTS ...

A woman in sunglasses carrying multiple pastel shopping bags
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“Most people see hiring a personal shopper as a luxury,” personal shopper Lauren Bart tells Vogue Australia. But personal shoppers disagree. “You do not have to be wealthy to hire a personal shopper. I actually save my clients money and time,” Wynne says. By guiding them toward quality pieces that will last many years (rather than pieces that wear out after a few months), personal shoppers can save their clients some serious moola. Plus, they can discourage clients from buying clothing and accessories that they don’t love, minimizing the chance that clients will get bored of their purchase.

7. … BUT THEY PULL OUT ALL THE STOPS FOR BIG SPENDERS.

That said, personal shoppers also know how to cater to big spenders. Nicole Pollard, a celebrity stylist and personal shopper in Los Angeles, tells The Hollywood Reporter that she arranges for stores to open early, has a tailor on call, and pops expensive champagne for VIPs. “I live on text. It’s the fastest way to get things done such as opening Chanel on New Year’s Day or any other Rodeo [Drive] boutique at the crack of dawn,” she says. “Champagne, chocolates, coffee—whatever the store needs to do to keep the clients happy. The sky is the limit.”

Pollard will also go far to ensure her celebrity and royal clients don't end up in the same clothes as someone else at a big event—for example, by researching the colors of a particular dress shipped to local department stores and then ordering other hues unavailable locally for her clients.

8. THEY COAX CLIENTS OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONES.

Two women looking at books of samples in a clothing store
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Besides giving their clients advice on which garments complement their body and skin tone, personal shoppers also encourage people to go a little wild. Without a personal shopper’s gentle nudging to experiment with a patterned blouse or shimmery sandal, a client may never consider certain items wearable. “I love it when my clients say, ‘If I had been shopping by myself, I wouldn't never [have] chosen that item. Now that I have it on, I love it!’” Wynne says. “It makes me feel good that I have encouraged them to try something new or out of their comfort zone. They immediately see the benefit of my expertise.”

9. THEY GO THE EXTRA MILE TO PLEASE THEIR CLIENTS.

Personal shoppers don't just bend over backward to please their uber-wealthy clients—they also go the extra mile when it comes to their regular customers. Many clients text and email their personal shoppers at the last minute for fashion emergencies, and personal shoppers often work on tight deadlines to find the perfect outfit. When Borsuk worked with a client who was hard to find tops for, she scoured stores looking for the perfect outfit for an upcoming bris. “I went to every store I could think of in metro Atlanta. We thought we had found the perfect outfit, but the skirt couldn’t be altered because of the way it was made,” Borsuk says. “The week before the bris I went to Neiman Marcus. They had items overnighted and had a courier take outfits to her house.”

Thankfully, a skirt that Borsuk threw in at the last minute worked with the original top. “Everyone thought she looked amazing, and she got so many compliments. She was thrilled! I was so happy that my client looked so good on such a special day,” she says.

10. THEY’RE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH THEIR CLIENTS’ INSECURITIES.

A woman contemplating two different dresses on wooden hangers
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In the process of seeing a client’s home, closet, and naked (or barely clothed) body, personal shoppers can get to know their clients quite intimately. In the course of working together, some personal shoppers may even spot signs of body dysmorphia, compulsive buying disorder, or hoarding in their clients. Personal shopper and stylist Michelle McFarlane tells Cosmopolitan that helping people try on clothing requires vulnerability and trust. “People bring all kinds of insecurities and hang-ups with them when it comes to their clothes and their image, so you have to be adept at making people feel at ease,” she says. “Part of it is just having a kind, friendly, and understanding personality; the other part is prepping things ahead of time so the shopping experience goes off without a hitch.”

11. THEY LOVE USING CLOTHING TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY.

Personal shoppers stress that helping people find clothes they like is about more than clothing. With the right skirt or top, people may experience profound shifts in their body image, confidence, and self-esteem. “I love seeing how happy my clients are after our session, and how good they feel in their new clothes,” Borsuk says. “It is a great feeling to be able to make my clients feel more confident about the way they look.”

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10 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hand Models
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You don’t know Ashly Covington, but you’ve probably seen her hands. As one of the top hand models in the industry, her digits have appeared in ads for McDonald’s, Huggies, L’Oreal, Nikon, UPS, and hundreds of other companies. She’s on billboards and TV, in magazines and books. “Most everyone has seen my hands and has no idea,” Covington says.

Indeed, hand models are in high demand. Every brand from Revlon to Taco Bell needs someone to show off their products with perfectly buffed nails and smooth, spotless skin. After 13 years in the industry, Covington still loves her job, but says there’s more to it than just having a pretty hand. We spoke with her and a few other people in the business about what it takes to have famous fingers.

1. THEY’RE OFTEN DISCOVERED IN PUBLIC. 

Most hand models didn’t grow up dreaming of this career. Instead, they fell into it by getting noticed. Covington, for example, wanted to be an actress, but early in her career, an acting agent told her to forget her head and focus on her hands. “I was like, should I be offended by that?” she recalls.

Carmen Marrufo, a “parts” agent, sometimes stops people on the street or in the office to tell them they could have a career in hand modeling. “I once had a woman come in to the office and leave me an envelope,” she explains. “I looked at her hands and said, ‘Oh my god.’ I ran after her. She was in the business for a while and made a lot of money.” 

What are agents looking for in a hand? Long, straight fingers and wide nail beds for showing off polish. No lumpy knuckles, lines, or scars. And an even skin tone is key. But all of this can also depend on what “category” of hand modeling you’re hoping to break into. Female hands with shorter nails and nude or no polish are “mom hands,” good for cooking, cleaning, and showing off household items (sexist, but true); longer nails are great for “fashion hands” that model jewelry and high-end fashion items; smaller hands can even be good for holding kids’ toys, since kids don’t always have the attention span for sitting still under hot lights for hours on end.

2. THEY CAN MAKE A LOT OF MONEY …

According to Forbes, a successful hand model can make upwards of $75,000 a year. Covington says she once made $13,000 for two hours of work.

3. … BUT, THERE’S A CATCH.

Because most hand models are freelancers, the amount of work they get in a month can fluctuate wildly. So while $13,000 for one day of work might seem like a small fortune, it might have to last for a few months if the work dries up. Plus, hand models get called in for last-minute work all over the country and often have to pay their own way. Covington splits her time between the east and west coasts, and once flew to California twice in one week for an indecisive client. It’s for times like these that she keeps a go-bag packed and ready. “The last-minute flights are the really expensive ones,” she says. “They won’t book us until a day or two before and so it’s not as lucrative as all these people make it out to be.”

4. THEY DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT THEY’RE MODELING.

Courtesy of Ashly Covington, handmodelusa.com

Hand models aren't always given a lot of detail about their assignments. For example, a model might know the client is Baskin Robbins, but only find out on-set that she’ll be playing with Oreo cookies for the shoot. Kimbra Hickey, whose hands grace the cover of the book Twilight, only knew she was shooting a cover for a teenage romance novel. She had no idea the book would become an overnight sensation, and has since tried to get in on the fame by touring with the cast, recreating the cover shoot in public, and selling apple-scented lotion.

5. THEY’VE PLAYED CELEBS’ HANDS. 

Courtesy of Ashly Covington, handmodelusa.com

The next time you see a commercial featuring a famous actress applying a skin cream or mascara, remember this: That’s probably not her hand. Parts model Adele Uddo has doubled for celebs such as Natalie Portman and Reese Witherspoon. And trying to maneuver around a celebrity so that nothing but your hands are in the picture can require some awkward acrobatics. “A lot of times it’s me crouched behind them trying to hide with my hand coming up under their arm and over their face,” Covington explains.

6. FINGER EXERCISES ARE A THING.

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Sometimes a hand model needs to move a single finger just slightly in one direction without moving the rest of the hand, which can be really difficult. To practice, Covington started doing finger exercises designed for musicians like flute players, in order to gain muscle control over her individual digits. “I’d be on the subway or at home watching TV and I would run through them,” she says. “I still do. I can move most of everything independently. I invented my own sort of school for that.”

7. BEER-SLINGING IS AN IMPORTANT SKILL. 

Much of being a hand model involves handling objects with absolute precision over and over again. For example, a beer commercial required Covington to slide a few beers across a table so that they stopped with the labels facing the camera. “What you don’t see is there’s a camera over my neck, my head is bent all the way to one side, and I can only see with one eye what my hand is doing,” she says. “It’s all about speed and pressure. It’s like how baseball pitchers think when they’re throwing.”

Sometimes, it can get awkward. If the hand model is affecting how the light hits the object, they’re covered in a sheet from the wrist up (see above). “I’ve been positioned between a director of photography’s legs a couple of times,” Uddo says. “And sometimes I have to do intricate moves where I can’t even see what I’m doing, like pouring while I’m underneath a table.”  Here’s a picture of Uddo hidden behind a screen on set:

A photo posted by Adele Uddo (@adeleuddo) on

Covington taught herself to pour a beverage so that it splashes at just the right angle in the glass. And because some clients want her to chop things on camera, she takes a knife skills course every year. 

8. OLIVE OIL IS THE BEST LOTION. 

Covington’s key for smooth hands? “Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.” She usually uses olive oil or coconut oil. Uddo has been making a concoction for years in her own kitchen that includes coconut, almond, and olive oil with vitamin E. A good, thick layer of moisturizer gets slathered on multiple times a day.

Also, many hand models don’t wear jewelry because rings and watches can leave marks on the skin. Covington says she hasn’t worn hand jewelry for 13 years. 

9. GLOVES ARE WORN ALL YEAR ROUND.

A scratched finger, bruised knuckle, or broken nail is really bad for business, so many hand models wear gloves when they’re out and about. “I got a cut once because a lady was pushing her way onto the subway and her big gaudy ring hit my hand,” Covington says. “Most people have cuts on their hands all the time and they don’t even know where they got them. If that happens to me, I can’t do the job tomorrow.”

10. TEA BAGS AND GLUE ARE A HAND MODEL’S FIRST-AID KIT.

Need a quick remedy for a broken nail in a pinch? Find a tea bag and some nail glue and you’re good to go. “The first big job I booked in New York was for Dior and I broke a nail like two days before I was flying out there,” Uddo recalls. “I called a celeb nail technician and she came over the next day and re-secured it with a tea bag and glue. It was amazing. You couldn’t even tell.”

The glue sets the nail in place, and the tea bag acts to bind the two pieces back together. Top with a layer of polish and nobody would know it was broken. If you want to see how it's done, here's a demo.

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