Unsung Heroes: A Ritz-Carlton director of housekeeping on 60-hour work weeks, keeping rooms “surgically clean” and more
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How many times have you returned to your hotel room after a day of enjoying a new travel destination (or a tiring work event), relieved to see the sheets pulled tautly across the bed and fresh new towels hanging in the bathroom that you left a mess as you rushed out the door?
Those room attendants you catch glimpses of in hotel hallways — pushing their carts as they clean from room to room — are the people making sure your home away from home is readied with all the creature comforts.
You might think of them — and the hard work they do — differently after reading how these unsung heroes work to intuit guests’ needs and keep comfort at the forefront of every night’s stay.
Unsung Hero: Javier Tamajon, 36, Director of Housekeeping, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
TPG: How did you get into working in housekeeping at hotels?
Javier Tamajon: I actually got into it because of my mother, so I’m a second-generation hotelier. She’s director of food and beverage for The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami. I started my career there as a front desk agent and worked there while studying business management. I held various positions where I was a doorman, bellman, overnight manager. Then I went into the world of housekeeping, and that’s where I fell more in love with the industry.
I’ve been in housekeeping for the last eight years now — including the past two years at this property.
TPG: What does a typical work week look like?
JT: From an operations perspective, it’s making sure every single room is surgically clean for our guests that are arriving and making sure the people I’m working with are set up for success and have all the tools they need.
I usually work from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM, so between 50 and 60 hours a week. I start the mornings with a lineup with the team so everyone knows what’s going on for the day. We all gather in a room and go through our commitment to quality and talk about our service value for the day. We talk about any VIPs who might be arriving and special projects we need to do, too. Every day we are working as a team.
TPG: What is your favorite part of the job?
JT: It’s the people. The ladies and gentlemen I work with. We have such a huge diversity of people working here in housekeeping from different countries and they’re here to give themselves a better life. They come from places like Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. It’s rewarding just working with them. One of the biggest things for me in being a leader is being a teacher and seeing people learn and grow.
Someone might start off as a room attendant, cleaning rooms and giving that special service. But it’s about knowing that next step for them. I manage 100 ladies and gentlemen here and get to know every single one of them — their preferences, how they work, who their kids are — that’s what I’m passionate about.
I learn a lot from them, too. I love creating new things for our guests and creating that level of service. You learn to read a room when a guest isn’t there. Together, we look for what we can do extra for guests — whether that’s providing extra towels for a family with kids or leaving something particular at turndown that a guest might like.
TPG: What is your least favorite part of the job?
JT: Not having enough time. I’d love to give more time to the people I’m working with and to this business. But I know have my family and kids at home to take care of, too. It’s about balance. Time is the best thing we can give to each other.
TPG: What’s the one thing you wish more people understood about your job?
JT: I wish people know how much effort and love a room attendant puts into your room when they clean it. I know nobody is perfect and we make mistakes. The day-to-day of our room attendants is they’re here to give passionate service. And if they make a mistake, we’re here to make it right for the guests. One thing I love about The Ritz-Carlton philosophy is if you make a mistake it’s okay — but learn how to fix it and make it right for the guest.
TPG: What’s something anyone can do to be a better traveler in 2021 and beyond?
JT: Know that a “thank you” goes a long way. Where we come to work and we recognize our guests in the hallway and say “Good afternoon,” just getting that same recognition back goes a long way. Just a greeting to your room attendant when you see them in the hall can really brighten someone’s day.
TPG: Are there any VIP-type treatments a guest could score from you for good behavior?
JT: We try to understand what each guest is here for. They’re all here for a purpose. Some people might have worked all year. Maybe it’s their first vacation during the pandemic or maybe they’ve worked 70 or 80 hours a week. We just try to figure out what they’re here for and give every guest that extra-special service.
TPG: How does working in the hospitality industry change your idea of travel, or going on vacation?
JT: I provide genuine care and comfort to everyone. I understand what it is to be behind a front desk. So if mistakes happen, I am very understanding. What’s great, even when I’m traveling to other resorts, is the chance to take opportunities to benchmark and see what I can take from those experiences back to my own. I can relate to things more because I’ve had many different jobs in the business.
TPG: If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be and why?
JT: Hawaii. My girls have always wanted to go there, they’re 10 and 5. There’s The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui, and I’ve always wanted to experience that one. I want to experience Hawaii’s island living. We have topical weather here in Florida, but I want to see how theirs is different.
TPG: Tell us about the best vacation you’ve ever taken, or the best place you’ve ever traveled.
JT: Bangkok was phenomenal. Just seeing the city and the culture and the different types of luxury hotels there. Just experiencing the level of service there was unbelievable — the small touches, the amenities in the rooms. I was there four years ago. The city itself is beautiful, the street food was great, the people were genuine and the pad thai was so good. When you eat pad thai in Bangkok — the spices, the way it’s cooked — it just tastes so good.
Feature image courtesy of Marriott.
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