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Attendants at Grand Casino happy with pay-per-room system

Work of hotel housekeeping keeps guests coming back

For overnight casino guests, hotel housekeeping departments may be the unsung heroes of guest satisfaction. Keeping hundreds of rooms clean and providing everything for guests’ comfort takes an army of workers on the job every day.

Joe Rider, director of hotel housekeeping at the Biloxi Grand Casino is responsible for 1,000 rooms and 180 employees. He says there was a period when it was difficult to retain workers, but that hasn’t been a problem since the Grand went to the pay-per-room system of cleaning. Approximately 30% of the staff is contract labor and all employees are on the system. The average number of rooms cleaned by each employee per day is 17 but they can do more if they choose.

“Employees are paid $4 per room and the rooms must meet quality standards that are checked by the supervisor,” he said. “When they come in, they get right down to work, and when they’re done they can leave.”

Rider says the system is especially appreciated by employees with school- age children who can be home in the afternoons when their children come in from school. The employees and their families also welcome the Grand’s benefits package that goes with the job.

“The system is a big plus in retention,” he said. “The majority of housekeeping’s work is done on the day shift, and everything else is paced from that. This way the laundry is picked up sooner, supervisors get done quicker and the room attendants are not sitting on the clock.”

Rider, who’s been in the business for 16 years, feels the room attendants receive good pay for the area and can make more through their own merit and initiative.

He’s never surprised at requests guests make and says he and his staff try to accommodate in every way. It might be a request for a chair from the lobby so a guest can sleep upright or for blocks of wood under the bed to raise it. Sometimes guests with allergies call ahead to ask that sheets be washed without soap powder or to have rooms wiped down without chemicals. Housekeeping provides runners to take baby bottles to be warmed and to accommodate other needs.

Rooms at the Grand are renovated every five years, complete with new mattresses. Mattresses are considered such an important part of guest comfort that they are rotated and flipped quarterly. A tag at the bottom shows how the bed should be positioned in certain months to keep the rotation on schedule. The staff will also add new services and amenities as needed.

“Those are the kinds of things that keep guests coming back, and we have a 97.8% occupancy rate for the year,” Rider said. “Our business is to take care of the guests, to think of things they shouldn’t have to think of. We’re in the fantasy business like Disney World. Guests come here to relax.”

At Ameristar Casino Hotel in Vicksburg, Marty Crevitt, director of hotel operations, is keen on retention among his staff because he feels it’s reflected in guest satisfaction.

“We spend a lot of time and effort trying to retain employees and not have a big turnover. We have next to zero turnover,” he said. “We care about our team members and give them a lot of training so they know what to do.”

New vacuum cleaners are purchased every 18 months, and room attendants may buy the equipment they have been using.

“It’s her machine. She uses the same one the whole time and at the end of 18 months it goes home with her,” Crevitt said.

The staff also has team lunches from time to time with supervisors serving staff members. Crevitt says it’s his favorite part of his job because he feels these employees are the backbone of the industry. “Room attendants perform as well as they’re treated,” he said. “I have seen operators not respect them and it comes across negative. It should not come across that way. The attendants have a hard job.”

He says the 20 housekeeping employees know they have someone to talk to and he spends a lot of time communicating with them and with guests to find out what is needed on both sides. “The lack of turnover is a win/win situation for staff and guests,” he added.

To be successful in the hotel business it’s important to be detail oriented, he feels. His staff does not look at a room the way guests do. Instead, they look for things that are not obvious. As a result, his hotel has a guest satisfaction rate that’s above the national average.

Ameristar has increased the number of rooms it deep cleans on a continual basis and is the only hotel in the Vicksburg market putting free bottled water in rooms. The average stay is between one and two nights. Crevitt feels that will increase with all the exciting things going on in the city and casino.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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