As Marriott Workers Strike, Guests Stuck With the Full Bill But Less Service

8,000 Marriott employees are on strike in 8 cities. That encompasses 23 hotels in Boston, Detroit, Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, and Hawaii out of about 6500 Marriott properties worldwide and includes housekeeping, bartenders and others represented by union UNITE Here.

These are the affected properties:

Detroit San Francisco
Westin Book Cadillac Detroit San Francisco Marriott Union Square
The Palace
Boston W San Francisco
Aloft Boston Seaport Westin St. Francis
Element Boston Seaport San Francisco Marriott Marquis
Ritz-Carlton Boston Common Marriott Courtyard San Francisco Downtown
Sheraton Boston St. Regis San Francisco
W Boston
Westin Boston Waterfront San Jose
Westin Copley Place San Jose Marriott
Oakland Hawaii
Oakland Marriott City Center The Royal Hawaiian
Sheraton Maui
San Diego Westin Moana Surfrider
Westin Gaslamp Quarter Sheraton Princess Kaiulani
Sheraton Waikiki

Not Just About Housekeepers

The union is making housekeepers the face of this dispute. That’s because it’s easy to understand the hard — and sometimes disgusting — work that they do. To me it doesn’t help that Marriott has been at the forefront of saying that hotels shouldn’t cover housekeepers’ full wages, that should be left up to the guest.

It isn’t just housekeepers, though that are striking. And in many large cities unions are a driver of high cost and poor service. I know of one New York property that shut down room service and started delivery from their restaurant, only to bring back room service once their union contract stipulated they had waited enough time to hire better workers. A manager at a legacy Starwood hotel told me about a food service worker that was fired for drinking on the job and stealing. When they went to replace her the only candidate sent was… that same woman (because she was ‘seeking treatment’).

There are two sides to every labor dispute and I’m not in a position to judge what the right level of pay and benefits is for a given property. What I am interested in, though, is the service that hotels are providing to guests and what they’re doing for service recovery when failing to meet expectations.

Service is Suffering

Marriott’s position has been that hotels are open and they’re ready to welcome guests. Ownership of the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and the Sheraton Maui in Hawaii acknowledge “some adjustments to staffing levels and services being offered at our properties.”

That includes guests who report rooms not being cleaned, and having to pick up their own towels in the lobby along with pools and bars that are closed.

“On the higher levels, they’ve left all the shampoos and conditioners, toilet papers out and you got to get it yourself until they work out what’s happening,” [a guest reported].

One guest at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco writes about subpar housekeeping and delayed check-ins, though noted that the hotel seemed to be “hiring and training a lot of replacement workers in a conference area.”

At the Sheraton Waikiki a guest says check-in took over an hour — and it was only then they discovered no rooms would be ready until after 6 p.m. Picketing could be heard until 10 p.m. and started again at 6 a.m. And there was “[v]ery limited housekeeping (self-service shampoo, water etc beside the elevators) and a few of the restaurants are closed / limited hours.”

The Ritz-Carlton Boston was said to be a similar scene with “extremely limited housekeeping, no room service, no bar, no turndown, no lounge, very limited restaurants, etc.” Housekeeping staff “were wearing jeans and t-shirts.” Hardly the expectation at a Ritz-Carlton.

Hotels are informing guests about limited services — albeit, it seems, at check-in rather than setting expectations in advance.

What is Marriott Doing For Customers?

I asked Marriott three simple questions about taking care of their guests since the hotels remain open. Here are their responses.

Why aren’t hotels notifying guests in advance of limited service levels?

    All hotels where strikes are taking place remain open and welcoming guests. At many of the hotels, service levels remain intact. Where there may be altered services, the limited availability of the service may be short lived and not impact the guest experience.

Shouldn’t guests receiving less than the full-service experience receive some form of compensation?

    In the event a guest feels their experience did not meet their expectation, the hotel would address this as they do any other guest concern; on a case-by-case basis.

Are guests on prepaid stays or within cancellation deadlines being permitted to cancel their stays since Marriott isn’t going to deliver the product that was promised at time of booking?

    We are not waiving cancellation fees at this time as our hotels are open and welcoming guests.

Marriott offers brand standards. When those standards – the product guests are paying for – aren’t delivered, Marriott isn’t fulfilling its end of the agreement. You’re stuck with paying Marriott though either way, it seems.

Bill Marriott said they acquired Starwood for more “clout in the marketplace.” That includes with their customers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Employees have the right to be heard, thus the right to strike. This didn’t come as a surprise to Marriott, as there was a vote, and I believe a warning. Unions are not perfect, but they are the best choice we have to allow employees to organize to get better working conditions/pay, and that should be supported. Surely Marriott should have a contingency plan for workers striking, and it seems that its not well thought out.

  2. Everyone has the right to be heard, but employees today make a decision on where they seek employment (as well as to some degree what education and skills they acquire). Nobody is forcing these people to work in high cost of living areas.

    Unions are a relic. This isn’t 1904 where this was no governmental oversight. Unions reward the bad performers and erode overall quality.

  3. “Employees have the right to be heard, thus the right to strike.”

    Employers have the right to be heard, thus the right to fire any employee.

    If you’re going to accept the rights of the employee, you have to accept the rights of the employer. If your goal is to be principled and remain consistent.

  4. All these comments about unions are missing the point.

    Marriott is inflicting collateral damage on guests as a result of the labor dispute.

    Customers should be canceling stays at these properties and demanding the Marriott issue refunds for prepaid stays if they cannot provide the services advertised as the time of booking.

  5. Just returned from Sheraton Maui. Was there for a week and the strike began on our second to last day. Service interruption was apparent immediately. Much slower valet service. It looked like Sheraton management hired or asked teenage kids to help! They were working their butts off, constantly sprinting to get cars back and forth. The hotel set up baskets of soaps/shampoos/towels in areas of the hotel for guests to grab. Room cleaning stopped entirely for us, despite calling and asking if it was possible to have our room cleaned. They did provide clean sheets, but we had to change the sheets ourselves. Crossing the picket lines to get to an from the hotel was a bit awkward, but the employees picketing were very courteous. They would immediately stop their picket line, ensure they were out of the crosswalk and direct cars into/out of the property. Tough situation all around. First world problem to complain about lack of room cleaning at a hotel in paradise, but we had certain expectations when booking a resort hotel that weren’t met 100%. At least we only had to adjust for a day and a half to the labor dispute. Guests checking in during this strike start off their well earned vacation with a bit more of an adjustment! Hope it all ends soon with a beneficial solution to both sides.

  6. There are not two sides to every labor dispute. There are three. Employer, employees and union, each of whom are looking out for their own interests.

    Perhaps even four, including the executives.

  7. “And in many large cities unions are a driver of high cost and poor service.”

    CITE YOUR SOURCE, LEFF!

    Signed,

    VERY angry proud retired union worker.

  8. They should fire them all and close the majority of rooms. The gradually start re-opening up rooms as new staff is hired and trained. Unskilled staff can easily be replaced – customers can not.

  9. @Carl – kind of common sense, is it not? Whether a union supporter or opponent, I suspect the main benefit to workers of being supported by unions are protections that the union is able to afford the workers through its collective bargaining power. That may come in the form of higher wages or restrictions around expectations of workers (e.g. benefits protections). That is the purpose of the union, is it not? I suspect a good part of the reason you are a “proud” union worker is that your union achieved some of this for you.

  10. sad what the Unions do to all industries esp hospitality and healthcare…striking !!If they do not like the job go elsewhere vs torturing all the guests and patients… The picketing for a living wage in Calif is nuts as you need !00 an hour to survive there..That is why san fran is paying workers $184,000 with benefits to pick up human waste and needles from the streets and homeless camps!!!!

  11. Just returned from San Francisco where workers were on strike. I agree with the above post. If you can’t afford to live where you work without having a second job, move. You are the one who has chosen to live in the most expensive city in the US.

  12. Zero sympathy for workers who chose to move to, remain in and/or even raise families in high cost cities. I have lived all over this world and made living wages in all of them, including 50% young unemployment areas while I was young. If you can’t afford to breed don’t do it.

  13. I’m all for not making the guests pay for services not rendered BUT, at least in SF the cost of a room in the hotels has skyrocketed in the last few years (from say 200/night to more like 500-600 night for many or more when big conventions are in town which is quite often).
    Okay, so the owners are making a LOT of profit but can’t they share a little of the windfall with the workers?

  14. CoachellaValleyFinalSolution: “Zero sympathy for workers who chose to move to, remain in and/or even raise families in high cost cities.”

    BB: “Everyone has the right to be heard, but employees today make a decision on where they seek employment (as well as to some degree what education and skills they acquire). Nobody is forcing these people to work in high cost of living areas.”

    Fine, don’t move to and work in an area where you can’t afford to live.

    But there are hotels in those areas. They need employees to do this work. From where do either of you expect they will come?

  15. “But there are hotels in those areas. They need employees to do this work. From where do either of you expect they will come?”

    Exactly. I and many of my friends live in NYC because that’s where the job is. For many of the hotel workers, it’s a choice between making below living wages and making zero.

  16. Marriott appears to be indicating that the strike-hit substandard service is the new normal for their merged group – in future service will be bad whether or not there’s a strike, so stop complaining and pay the full rate

  17. Carleton MacDonald: “But there are hotels in those areas. They need employees to do this work. From where do either of you expect they will come?

    Uhm, the hotels got scabs to fill in, so someone in that area was willing to do the job for the same, if not lower wages. The current problem is that Marriott can’t train the scabs fast enough, they are inexperienced, and Marriott isn’t compensating for the service shortfalls.

    Tom “Exactly. I and many of my friends live in NYC because that’s where the job is. For many of the hotel workers, it’s a choice between making below living wages and making zero.”

    When you aren’t doing shots with your Brahs at 230 Fifth, have you bothered to notice that almost all the service workers in Manhattan DON’T live in Manhattan!?!?! Somehow they get by commuting into the city and are able to fit food on the table.

    Let’s just blame the owners of all companies for making low wages b/c we didn’t get an education past high school….

  18. Just returned from Sheraton Waikiki; we checked in the day the strike started. We arrived at 4:30, stood in (gold/platinum) line for an hour — room wasn’t ready, they took our number and promised to call. Came back at 7:30, same thing. We were given access to platinum lounge, but only because we asked. Came back at 9, had to wait another half an hour, finally got access to a room, not as nice of a room as we had booked but a room nevertheless.

    We stayed three days and had zero maid service. There were notes taped on the walls of elevator banks saying if we wanted limited maid service (trash removal and towel replenishment) we had to call and request. Extra toiletries could be picked up in the hallways. We asked for them to pay to move us to a different hotel, which they (not surprisingly) refused, but they gave us one night free and some meal vouchers. However, the meal vouchers turned out to be for a restaurant that they were unable to keep open for normal hours due to the strike, so then we got room credit to use anywhere in the hotel. However again! Never in my life has it been so difficult to charge purchases to my room in a hotel. Most of the hotel-owned eateries were closed; other vendors within the hotel made it clear they did not like us paying in room credit. Instead of just signing name and room number onto the receipt like every other place I’ve ever been to, there was a special pad with carbon copies and they had to call the (understaffed/slow to answer) front desk and make sure we were really guests staying there. Every time it took 5x as long to pay, and in two cases vendors flat-out refused to accept it. We weren’t even able to use it up because of how difficult it was — even though I was promised initially that we could use it aaaanywhere in the hotel.

    I felt so bad for the staff that was there; they were running themselves ragged and working incredibly long days, and mostly did a great job of keeping a pleasant attitude. I noticed one of the women running the platinum lounge had a nametag that read “Online Marketing Manager”. She went above and beyond.

    The first day was the most chaotic, and consequently the staff was the most apologetic/helpful. As we were there longer, the attitude seemed to adjust to status quo and I felt we were treated as though we shouldn’t have expected better.

    At least as far as the Hawaii properties go, the five that are striking are owned by the same company, and that company does not seem interested in either a) bargaining in good faith (the local papers have details) or b) being honest with their customers about the strike/being fair with their customers about the lower level of service. Customers have a right to know before booking/arriving that they’ll be receiving sub-par service and half the restaurants on the property are closed. The first night we were there, the check-in line stretched through the lobby and into the driveway, and yet the property continued to advertise on Kayak, etc. that it had available rooms and was taking guests. No — if you’re completely failing to manage the guests you have, operate at lower capacity.

    These properties have made it abundantly clear that they will not operate in good faith with their customers; therefore I have no problem believing they do not operate in good faith with their employees.

  19. I am a Marriott Rewards member for 21 years and thoroughly disgusted with the merger and what is being taken away from it’s Loyal members….I am sure they are taking away from there workers also…..Marriott has ruined it’s reputation and is going down hill because of the merger…HOW SAD !!!!!!!!!

  20. If you are not providing the services advertised then people should be allowed to cancel. If you don’t disclose which services will be closed down then people are entitled to compensation. For example, if I book a hotel with a pool it is certainly not acceptable to arrive and be told that there is no pool access. Maybe that was my primary factor for selecting that property? I also believe its nonsense that customers are responsible for paying staff. The hotel should pay their own employees. I’m not sure why the US allows this continued practice of tipping where the tipping really isn’t optional and is actually part of the employee’s compensation. Pay your own employees. As far as unions I have always found that unions lead to a decline of service and productivity and an increase in costs for customers. I honestly could care less about the sob stories of housekeepers. Did I tell you to drop out of school or not get specialized training? You don’t like your compensation find another job. I mean seriously you took the job knowing what the compensation was so that’s on you.

  21. I think saying if you don’t like your wages move somewhere cheaper ignores the fact that many workers have families. Not that easy to move. I think the bigger issue from the perspective of guests is if they block our entrance or yell at us etc would you want to ever stay in that hotel in the future and deal with that person again. Workers have the right to strike but should be aware that their behavior could have long term negative effects on their future employment. Just stayed at the Westin Copley in Boston and while they banged the drums they didn’t bother us as we walked thru the line.

  22. @Carlton Mcdonald I expect them to fill the positions at whatever wage they feel prepared to offer. If they cannot keep staff for what they are offering they clearly are not paying enough. But to accept a position and picket rather than find new employment strikes me as going back on their word. I don’t respect people who go back on their word.

  23. The Sheraton princess hotel in Honolulu has been particularly bad. The level of indifference is shocking. No breakfast for the guests who are entitled by their status. Absolutely no compensation was provided. Shame on them. Should a law suit be considered.

  24. I didn’t expect the comments section here to be full of Heritage Foundation idiots. The fact of the matter is that you have an entire class of elites making millions of times more money than the average worker in today’s economy, and that’s just plain immoral. The government doesn’t do enough to tax those SOBs and nearly every employer has ridiculous amounts of leverage over employees. It’s not like Marriott can’t spare the money to increase wages for their lowest paid employees, they just would rather have the money go to executive pay, shareholders, and offshore bank accounts. The level of greed in modern capitalism should be criminal and I would love to live in a world where these ruthless CEOs can be sent to prison for their evil.

  25. @CoachellaValleyFinalSolution – “But to accept a position and picket rather than find new employment strikes me as going back on their word. I don’t respect people who go back on their word.” —> Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s had a life of poverty and for whatever reason (economics, family issues beyond a child/adolescent’s control, simply not being intellectually gifted, whatever). You need to put food on the table however you can. You are a vulnerable individual and businesses like Marriott see that vulnerability and use it to pay them pathetic wages while telling them they should be thankful they even have a job.

    The reality is we’re a first world society and we should have some basic human compassion and expect that we as a society can ensure that anyone contributing at a level commensurate with their abilities should be able to live a decent life. We all do better for it. I don’t want to catch some nasty disease on the bus because some guy a few miles down the busline in the poor neighborhood commuting downtown for their housekeeping job couldn’t afford to see a doctor or take a day off. See it as compassion or selfishness, it still gives everyone a better life. What will it cost? Maybe Mr. Marriott will need a yacht that’s a few feet shorter. It’ll still be bigger than the next guy’s.

  26. I can’t even imagine how many guests were in a Hawaii property for the trip, literally, of their lifetime. It is so easy to forget that people save for many years to either relive a honeymoon or to finally get to take that well earned retirement trip. I also can’t imagine how I would react to arriving to total chaos, being forced to cross a picket line just to sleep, dealing with your own room care, and finding the restaurants, lounges and bars closed. How can this delivery be considered adequate for the expense of a Hawaiian vacation? Even if the property comped the room (which of course they won’t), that trip of a lifetime is not going to meet expectations. We will be staying at the Ritz in Maui in January and I would almost be happy to spend the rest of 2019 disputing every SPG property charge if the management wanted to defend these actions. So very sad for the 70 year old guests that have nobody speaking up and standing up for them.

  27. The Sheraton princess hotel in Honolulu is becoming unbearable. The Management refuses to compensate the guests, while charging full money but not providing any services like house keeping, pool or restaurant. What is the resort fee for ? They are blaming the striking workers, but they are being dishonest and unscrupulous by charging customers for services not provided. This is illegal. A lot of guests with status are entitled to breakfast (due to their status, having spent several 10’s of thousands with them during the year), and they at least expect to be compensated for this. Nope, not happening. It is not just immoral, but illegal as well. Breaching the contract with their most valued guests.

  28. While unions have their own negatives to combat, let us not forget that the middle class that was the cause of the economic rise of the USA came about due to the presence of unions. The systematic defanging of the unions has led us to greater and ever increasing unequality.

  29. Sorenson is the problem and Sorenson should go. This man is a professor of rhetoric, a criminal, a hypocrite, shamelessly unethical and a disgrace to the profession of hospitality. His beloved merger with Starwood was illegal. Marriott also behaves disgracefully with local communities particularly in developing countries. Sharp practice is seeping from every corner of Marriott Corporate Headquarters with sub-management across the globe meekly (and sometimes proudly) following their open ‘Licence to Deceive’…
    “Take care of the associates and they’ll take care of the customers”. That is deception in itself. Marriott now stands solely for “profit before people” and “growth through corruption”

  30. Any recommendation on how we either get out of a prepaid stay? or how we go about getting some compensation? We paid regular rates and to not have access to food or housekeeping etc only seems fair that we not pay the full cost or at minimum the resort fees.

  31. Continuing further on my previous comment, these strikes are only the surface symptom of a much deeper-rooted intention to screw people across the globe, no matter who they are. The traditional, much lauded Marriott modus operandi has been covertly corrupted. Executive liars, groomed during the Sorenson era, are now guilty of creating enormous reputation risk for Marriott Plc. The public rhetoric no longer matches the reality thereby creating bubbles in the nebulous tangible asset value of the company’s stock.There is danger ahead for Marriott International. The corporate veil will eventually and inevitably be lifted.

  32. If you don’t like what you are getting paid, quit, and get a higher paying job. If you don’t have skills for a higher paying job then figure out how to get those skills. I agree some people are underpaid, but it does not require a lot of skill to make beds and clean bathrooms.

    In SFO Marriott Union Square the strikers are obnoxious. They beat drums, blow horns, and yell in a megaphone right in front of the doors. You have to walk right through them to get in or out of the hotel. I feel sorry for the front desk personnel working and having to listen to the noise all day.

    Marriott should automatically adjust room rates for guest stays or offer bonus points. My room had fresh towels every day so room not bad. The lounge was closed most of the day; it was open only in the evening for drinks only, no food.

    Not a pleasant stay and I will be staying at a non-striking hotel for the next 7 weeks that I will be traveling there.

  33. I arrived at Sheraton Maui for my honeymoon the first day of the strike. The management tried to brush it under the rug as if nothing was different at the hotel however it was total chaos. We had to take out our own trash and get our towels from the lobby. At one point people were not leaving the towels outside of their rooms to be picked up so no clean towels at all were available. The restaurants and pool bar was closed for a majority of the week. When one of the restaurants finally did open they offered a limited menu and you had to eat it in a takeout box with plastic silverware. You also could not get a drink from the restaurant where the food was served or food where the drinks were served. Sheraton only offered to take off our resort fee…total BS!

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