Hotel Housekeeping Overprocessing, Waste, and Customer Annoyance


I'll try to lighten things back up a bit. I may have written about this before, but as a frequently traveling consultant, the hotel room is my “gemba” many evenings, so it's hard not to find waste. I actually gave some feedback to the management at my current hotel, so I'll copy and paste and post it here (somewhat edited). Do you think there's a little waste of “overprocessing” here? Bonus points if you can guess the chain from my possibly subtle clue.

Dear Local Management of Franchised Large Mid-Priced Chain Hotel: I appreciate the clean and comfortable rooms at your hotel, as a frequent guest at your establishment. I have some feedback and suggestions for your housekeeping staff that would improve my customer experience. The ideas might also save you money!

  1. Please ask your housekeeping staff to not turn down the thermostat to 65 during the day when they clean. I normally have it set at 72 and it is neither pleasant nor comfortable to return from work to an icebox. The last two nights, I turned the temperature up and the heat kicked in. This overcooling and unnecessary heating costs you $$.
  2. I do not need a new fresh bar of soap every day. The one that I started using this morning would have been acceptable tomorrow morning, there was still plenty left! I hope you are not replacing the ink pen on the desk (there's still some ink left) or the refrigerator (there's some non-freon refrigerant left) every day.
  3. When I take the extra pillows out of the storage bag in the closet, please do not put them back in the closet, in the bag, until I check out – they can remain on the bed. This is wasted effort for your staff and I don't enjoy repeating the same motion of taking the pillows back out each evening.
  4. If I've placed your book and promotional materials on the lower shelf of the nightstand, they do not have to be placed back in the middle of the desk, where I have to again move them so I can work.

I think it would be “smart” to avoid these extra costs and irritations to your frequent guests. Thanks for listening to my feedback, as did your front desk manager when I talked to her in person.

I didn't complain about it, but the in-room refrigerator froze the soda and leftovers I had in there, frozen solid. More overprocessing!! :-)

I know these are, relatively speaking, nice problems to have. I have a great job, a loving family, and a roof over my head (surrounded by freezing air when it's 102 outside). So please take my complaining with a grain of gourmet salt.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. I feel the same way. Vacuuming every day? I handle it by leaving a “Do Not Disturb sign” on the door and asking for service only every other day or every third day. Bill

  2. Traditional thinking: We’re overbudget on housekeeping (or doing worse than benchmarks), so let’s cut corners.

    Lean thinking: We’re doing more than the customer requires, so scale back the overprocessing and spend more time on the REAL cleaning (or cut costs through attrition).

    Traditional thinking, if they’re meeting their budgets or benchmarks would never consider cutting the overprocessing, would they?

  3. As an itinerant Lean consultant, I often spend whole weeks at mid priced hotels. I try to have this conversation with the front desk staff.

    If I leave a towel on the floor, it’s yours.

    I sweep all local directories, menus, etc into the bottom drawer of the desk. Please leave it there ’til I leave.

    I tip housekeeping staff, generously, on the last day of my stay.


  4. This is just one of the many ways that green building and sustainable design cross over with lean processes. Take a look at what Starwood hotels are doing in their new “1” chain of eco-friendly hotels: Link

    Only downside I can see is that they’re not (yet) doing this across their other chains.

    Smaller hotel chains have been going green/getting lean, too–take a look at the Lenox in Boston, part of the forward-thinking Saunders Hotel Group Link

  5. Try moving the Do Not Disturb sign from the inside doorknob to the outside doorknob. Reverse the process when you’re ready for service. It worked fine for me in my days as a road warrior.


  6. I may begrudgingly try the do not disturb sign. It’s a bit of a workaround… and I do like having the bed made (although I could see the argument that re-making the bed is overprocessing if I’m just going to unmake it to get into bed at night). So, I wouldn’t necessarily want them out of the room completely.

    I think the approach of talking to the front desk at check in might be a workable approach.

    Thanks for the comments!

  7. Thank you for the nice post. I enjoy reading your posts. Thank you for the
    time and effort you spend for keeping blog lively and attractive and that
    makes it worth visiting and re-visiting.

  8. The hotel room in which I’m staying this week has its water lines switched. The hotel is 5 months old and it’s the first time I’m staying there. You have to turn the shower to cold to get hot (which I didn’t realize the first day, not enough checking on my part). The toilet fills with hot water (you can feel the warmth if you touch the tank). I told a staff member that they are wasting money everytime a guest flushes the toilet and it gets replaced by nice, heated water. I’m not sure that anything will be done as the hotel has been open for a while now.

  9. Hanging the “Do not disturb” tag on the doorknob is the first thing I do after checking in. I take the soap/shampoo/lotion/etc and donate it to the local homeless shelter. Easy to do and really appreciated by people who need it way more than I do.

    Living in different places around the world has also taught me to “turn it off” when I’m not on the clock.


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