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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.”

All images via iStock.

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11 Behind-the-Counter Secrets of Baristas
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Being a barista is no easy task, and it’s not just the early hours and the don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-had-my-coffee customers. While people often think working at a cafe is a part-time, temporary gig, it takes extensive training to learn your way around an espresso machine, and most baristas are in it for the love of coffee, not just to pay the bills. Mental Floss spoke to a few baristas working at the New York Coffee Festival to learn what exactly goes on behind the counter, and why you should never, ever dump your extra coffee in the trash.

1. THEY REALLY LOVE COFFEE.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the profession, says New York City-based barista Kayla Bird, is “that it's not a real job.” But especially in specialty cafes, many baristas are in it for the long haul. Coffee is their career.

“It's a chosen field,” as barista Virgil San Miguel puts it. “It's not like you work in a coffee shop because it's a glamorous job,” he explains. “It's more like a passion.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF TRAINING.

“Being a really good barista takes a lot of studying,” explains Jake Griffin, a wholesale representative for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters who has worked in the coffee industry for almost a decade. “It can take a few years. You have to start to understand origins, production methods, where your coffee came from.” You have to go through an intensive education before you start pulling espresso shots for customers, so it's possible that the person taking your order and fetching your pastry isn't even allowed to make you a drink yet. “They have to be what we call 'bar certified' before they're even allowed on the machine,” he says. “Usually people start off in our cafes in various support roles, then start to go to classes and go through the training program.”

3. THEY’RE PROBABLY PRETTY WIRED.

Sure, baristas take full advantage of all that free coffee. And if they work in their company’s training programs, their whole job is to drink coffee. But it has its downsides. “I taste—at minimum—ten shots of espresso a day,” John Hrabe, who trains baristas at Birch Coffee in New York City, says. On his busier days, it might be as many as 20. You get used to all the caffeine, he claims—at least until you take a few days off. “Then when you go on vacation and you're not working ... everyone's like, 'Why's John so tired?’”

Other baristas who have worked in the field for a long time say the same. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I used to have five or six coffees a day,” Michael Sadler, who helped develop the barista education program at Toby’s Coffee, says. “Now I do two,” he says, both because of the caffeine-induced anxiety and the withdrawal headaches he would get on his days off.

4. OR THEY’RE DRINKING … SOMETHING ELSE.

Like any job, there are things that go on in coffee shops that the boss would definitely not approve of. According to one barista who has worked at both a corporate coffee chain and specialty cafes in Delaware and New York, coffee shops can get pretty rowdy behind-the-scenes. “If you see a barista with a lidded cup behind the bar, there's probably a 50/50 chance: It's either coffee or beer,” he says. “You never know.” And it’s not just the booze, either. “I’ve been a part of secret menus that have cannabis-infused coconut milk,” he explains. “I had a pretty good cappuccino.”

5. THEY GET ANNOYED WHEN YOU SKIP THE PLEASANTRIES.

You don’t want to hold up the line telling a barista your life story at 7 a.m., but even if you’re in a hurry, don’t forget to say hi before you jump into demanding that large coffee. “Walking up to somebody and saying 'Almond latte,' when they just said 'How are you today?' is probably the biggest thing you can do to get on a barista's bad side,” Toby's Coffee's Sadler says. “It's like, exchange pleasantries, then get to business.”

6. IF YOU’RE NOT NICE TO THEM, THEY WON’T BE NICE TO YOU.

Not everyone is super perky in the morning, but if you can’t be civil, you’re better off making your own coffee at home. At some places, if you get snippy with the employees, you’re going to get worse than furtive eye rolls between baristas (though you’ll get that, too).

“Be nice to your baristas, or you get decaf,” warns one barista. While it varies from cafe to cafe, multiple baristas told Mental Floss that it happens. Rude customers might get three letters written on their cup: “They call it DTB—‘decaf that bitch.’”

There’s a less potent way a barista can get back at you, too. If the hole in your coffee lid lines up with the seam of your paper cup, you’re going to get dripped on. And sometimes, it’s not an accident. “When a barista puts the mouth on the seam, they want it to leak on you,” a New York City-based barista explains.

Others are a little more forgiving of rude patrons. “I like making them the best drink that they've ever had, just to kill them with kindness,” one coffee shop employee says. “I don't want them to be like, ‘She’s a bad barista.’” Just to be safe, though, it's better to be nice.

7. THEY PROBABLY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU DO.

“The longer you work in coffee, the more when someone walks in the door you read their personality type and say, I know exactly what you're going to drink,” Jared Hamilton, a self-described “espresso wizard” at the Brooklyn-based chain Cafe Grumpy, says. When I ask him to predict my drink, he proves his skills. “What you're going to drink is like, an alternative milk, flat white or cappuccino. So maybe soy, probably almond. Nonstandard. You don't want a lot of milk, just enough.” He’s not too far off—my go-to is, in fact, a non-standard, some-milk-but-not-too-much drink, a decaf cappuccino, though I drink regular milk in it. He points to another festival visitor who is dressed in business attire. "That guy right there, he drinks espresso all day," he guesses.

Depending on the coffee shop, the barista might know what customers want more than they do. Dominique Richards, who started her first barista job in Brooklyn three months ago, says she has to order for her customers around a third of the time. “Usually if someone's looking at the menu for more than 30 seconds, I jump in and say, ‘Hey, what would you like?’” She then asks them a few questions, like whether they want hot or cold coffee, and goes from there, often recommending lattes for people who are just getting into specialty coffee. “It's kind of a learning experience for the majority” of her customers, she says.

8. CUSTOMERS CAN BE REALLY PARTICULAR.

“People treat cafes like they're [their own] kitchen,” according to Cafe Grumpy’s Hamilton. “My favorite thing people do is when they walk in and they rearrange the condiment bar. Then they order, then they go use the condiments.” Apparently, some people are really particular about the location of their sugar packets. And if you throw off their routine, watch out. One of his colleagues describes a customer who threw a fit because the shop didn’t have a cinnamon shaker, demanding a refund for both her coffee and her pastry. (They eventually found some cinnamon for her.)

9. YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER DUMP EXTRA COFFEE STRAIGHT INTO THE TRASH.

Even if you ask for room for milk in your drip coffee, the cup is still sometimes just a bit too full. It’s tempting to just pour a little into the trash can, but whoever has to take out that garbage is going to pay for it. “Please don't pour it in the garbage,” Bluestone Lane barista Marina Velazquez pleads. “Because at the end of the night, it ends up on our feet.” If the shop doesn’t have a dedicated container for you to pour out your excess coffee, take it back to the counter and ask them to dump a bit in the sink. Your baristas will thank you.

10. MAKING ESPRESSO DRINKS ISN’T A ROTE SKILL.

When you’re waiting in line, it may look like baristas are doing the same thing over and over for dozens of drinks. But in fact, every order presents its own challenges.

“There's probably not an appreciation for how much a coffee can vary,” explains Katie Duris, a former barista of 10 years who now works as a wholesale manager at Joe Coffee. High-quality coffee is “really dynamic as an ingredient,” she says. Baristas “have to make micro adjustments all day long. You have to change the grind based on the humidity in the room or a draft or how much coffee is in your hopper—if it's an espresso machine—so they're tweaking all day long … good baristas are making adjustments all the time.”

11. IT’S PHYSICALLY TAXING.

Making espresso drinks all day long can wear you out, and not just because you’re on your feet all day. There are also repetitive stress injuries to consider. “There's physical wear and tear on your joints when you're a barista,” Birch's Hrabe says. He’s worked in coffee for 11 years, and says that tamping espresso shots (compressing the grounds before brewing) day after day has given him tennis elbow. “It's totally common for baristas,” he says.

In short, baristas are probably doing more work behind the bar than you give them credit for, whether it’s dealing with customers or actually making coffee. “Being a barista is fun, but it's hard work,” Bluestone Lane's Velazquez says. “Everybody should be a barista at least once. I think it teaches humility.”

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10 Secrets of Ski Instructors
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If you’ve spent this fall wearing shorts and sandals, you’re not alone: Temperatures have been warmer than average across the United States. But no matter how warm it is where you are, there’s still snow (and skiing) in the forecast somewhere. Before you hit the slopes this winter, check out these on-the-job secrets of ski instructors, from why they love bad weather to what they do during the summer.

1. THEY LOVE BAD WEATHER.

No one can control the weather, but ski instructors cross their fingers for frosty temperatures and heavy snowfall. “Ski instructors love cold, appalling winter weather because it so often results in big snowfalls and the skier's dream—velvety powder snow,” says Chalky White, a ski instructor and the author of The 7 Secrets of Skiing.

But big snowfalls don’t always happen, so ski instructors try to make the best of whatever weather they encounter on a given day. Tony Macri of Snow Trainers, a ski and snowboard training company based in Colorado and New Zealand, tells Mental Floss that the weather’s unpredictability makes ski instructing an adventure. “I never think that weather is disappointing,” he says. “It is what creates more challenge and mystery in every day, versus going back to your cubicle that always has the same florescent light shining down on you.”

2. SOME OF THEM HAVE A BEEF WITH SNOWBOARDERS.

Although some ski instructors also teach (and love) snowboarding, the majority of them try to stay away from snowboarders on the slopes, at least when they’re teaching. “[Snowboarders] tend to push all the fresh snow down the hill with their natural movements. Gets pretty frustrating!” justind99, a ski instructor in Quebec, writes in a Reddit AMA.

But other ski instructors have a more zen attitude when it comes to snowboarders and preach coexistence. “We are all here to have fun,” rbot1, a ski instructor in Salt Lake City, says in a Reddit AMA. “The snowboarder vs skier stigma does nothing but cause problems. Share the mountain!”

3. THEIR CERTIFICATION PROCESS IS INTENSE.

Ski instructor teaching adults

Depending on the country in which they become certified, ski instructors must take classes and pass a series of tests to prove their proficiency. In the U.S., the Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) establishes certification requirements for instructors. Once instructors become certified, they can take additional tests of their technical skills to earn higher levels of certification.

“Level 1 is pretty easy to get. Anyone that can ski a blue square comfortably can pass a level 1 exam,” rbot1 says. But achieving certification for higher levels is more challenging, requiring ski instructors to demonstrate their mastery of various turns, bump runs, and drills. “A single mistake in any of those runs nets you a fail,” says rbot1, who spent two years preparing for his Level 2 test. “These drills might be easy to complete, but you have to do it perfectly.”

4. THEY’VE SEEN SOME GNARLY ACCIDENTS.

Although some people think of skiing as a risky activity, ski instructors insist that, statistically, skiing is no more hazardous than many other sports. That said, most ski instructors have seen at least one nasty injury on the slopes, including broken legs and noses, concussions, and shoulder dislocations. “The worst injury I ever witnessed was a spinal fracture from a kid landing on his back after attempting to do a jump in the snow park area,” justind99 says.

“I have seen some injuries to knees, but the worst was when a friend concussed himself so bad that he was knocked out and was actually sleeping with his eyes open,” Macri says. White tells Mental Floss that a helicopter once picked him up from the slopes because medics suspected that he’d broken his neck. “Good news—I didn’t."

5. THEIR PAY ISN’T GREAT.

The income ski instructors make can vary widely, based on where they teach and their level of expertise. Some instructors earn $10 or $11 an hour for group lessons but charge more for private lessons or longer coaching sessions. While most beginning ski instructors may make just $20,000 per year, the perks of getting paid to ski outweigh the lack of cash for many instructors. “I do understand that at some point I’ll need to either start working really hard to boost my earning potential as an instructor or find another field,” rbot1 says. “For now, it’s a blast.”

6. THEY GET CREATIVE TO TEACH KIDS.

Ski instructor teaching children

A group of young kids bundled up in ski jackets while they try to balance on narrow skis might look adorable, but teaching children to ski comes with plenty of challenges. “Some kids don't have the muscles to do it at [a young] age and some do,” explains inkybus21, a ski and snowboard instructor who has taught in Canada, Australia, and Japan. To make sure his young students don’t lose interest or give up, he makes up games that require various skiing motions and uses visuals to help kids figure out how to properly use their bodies.

7. THEIR EQUIPMENT IS EXPENSIVE.

Ski equipment can be pricey, and ski instructors know the pain of an empty wallet firsthand. From skis and boots to bindings, poles, helmets, goggles, and other accessories, ski instructors can easily spend over $1000 on their equipment. And because their gear gets more use than a casual skier’s, instructors typically go through a pair of skis, boots, and liners each season. But many instructors are eligible for steep discounts on their gear, thanks to their employer or their PSIA-AASI membership. “I haven't bought anything at retail price in years,” rbot1 says. “I can’t even imagine paying full price for a pair of boots or ski/binder set up.”

8. THEY MISS SKIING DURING THE SUMMER.

In a career dependent on the winter season, what do ski instructors do during the summer? Some of them travel to the opposite hemisphere to work at a ski resort—essentially working two winters in a row. But because it can be costly to travel and live on another continent, most ski instructors work odd jobs or use their savings to rock climb and explore the outdoors in the off season. Rbot1, for example, has spent his summers working at a ski resort’s restaurant, boxing fish at an Alaskan processing plant, and living off of his savings. “Most people have a seasonal job. The most popular is raft guiding, the second most popular is working at a state park,” he says.

9. THEY GREATLY APPRECIATE TIPS.

Ski instructors don’t always receive tips from their students, and they wish more people knew that they welcome—and in some cases, expect—gratuity. Rbot1 recounts the story of how he once earned $1500, his biggest tip to date, after instructing a family of four for five days, taking them to different parts of the mountain and even eating lunch with them. “At the end of the week it was all hugs and smiles, but my hand was left dry,” he says. “Anyways, next day I got an email that said ‘you have a tip in the office’ and BOOM $1500 in an envelope.” Rbot1 made good use of the generous tip, paying two months of rent and car payments, as well as buying new ski goggles and gloves.

10. THEY LOVE HELPING PEOPLE OVERCOME THEIR FEARS.

Although skiing is good exercise and an enjoyable winter activity, learning to ski can also help people feel more confident. “It’s not always about skiing and teaching people to be the best skiers,” Macri says. “A lot of [the job] is just about showing people a good time and helping them achieve their goals or overcoming their fears.”

Macri particularly appreciates the amazing views from the top of a mountain, as well as the feeling he gets when he takes students down a great run and everyone high-fives one another in joy. “I sit back and think this is my office and I am having just as amazing [a] time as everyone else. The only difference is that I am getting paid for it,” he says.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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