Essays & Confessions/Travel

A Cleaner’s Perspective On All The Ways Tourists Waste Money

By | Thursday, May 17, 2018

Being a cleaner is an unglamorous job that gives you plenty of insight into other people’s lives. I’ve been working a holiday season in a high-end mountain resort, cleaning different rental properties from chalets to studios. Having this job means I couldn’t help but notice some wasteful habits people have, especially when staying in a rental apartment. Considering I’m living on a budget, I probably noticed these behaviors more than others might, and frankly, I ended up being quite annoyed by some of them. If you’re planning a big trip this summer, take note — these are the top ways I’ve noticed tourists end up wasting money through my job as a cleaner.

1. Cash

This is obvious. Most people don’t care about leaving a few coins behind, especially if their vacation took them to a place with a different currency than their home country. It just doesn’t make sense to change a super low amount of money and pay a big fee to do so. There are some people, though, who leave behind banknotes, or even their entire wallets! The latter consequently have to spend money trying to retrieve them or to replace their credit/debit cards, etc. That’s costly, a huge inconvenience, and a requires a lot of time and paperwork.  

2. Expensive items

People leave their belongings behind more often than you’d think, and I’m not talking about random socks or a toothbrush. I think the costliest item I’ve ever found (so far) while cleaning was an intact package of a very expensive medication that the owner must have spent a lot of money and trouble to replace. And this is just one example, as cleaners routinely find clothing, sports equipment, electronics, dentures, phones, personal IDs, and lots of other items that are expensive to either replace or retrieve. The bottom line is, be very thorough when inspecting the apartment/room before leaving, as you may forget something very valuable. Resist the urge to spread your belongings everywhere, and if you’re forgetful, try to keep them in specific, designated spots. The places where people tend to forget most stuff? Behind doors, in hallways, under the beds, and between pillows or duvets.

3. Food and beverages

Cleaners have to empty and clean fridges and freezers every time there is a changeover. While it’s normal to leave a few (often half-eaten) items, poor meal planning and excessive shopping result in a lot of food and beverages left behind (which might be great for the cleaners that get to keep them, but it is wasteful for the guests!). During this season, I found and brought home plenty of groceries: I once even found two big bags worth of untouched goodies in a single apartment, probably more than $100 worth of food and beverages. It’s not even uncommon. Other, more experienced cleaners have told me it happens quite frequently. 

4. Your mess

You don’t have to deep clean the place before checking out, but it would be sensible to leave it as tidy as possible, because leaving the apartment very dirty and messy can result in higher cleaning fees! You should always check the lease/contract to make sure the final cleaning is included in the price of your stay. It usually is, but some places charge you extra money if the place is particularly dirty, as that requires more cleaning hours and sometimes even special treatments (like professional cleaning for carpets or upholstery).

When cleaners find big messes, they often have to document the situation with pictures and a description, so there’s no getting away with this. Load and turn on the dishwasher, strip the beds, don’t leave any trash around, and clean any big mess you made during your stay. I witnessed some guests leave a huge tomato sauce spill on a kitchen counter and then just keep on using the kitchen, neglecting it. Yuck!

5. Damage

You know what can really cost you a lot? Damaging the property or anything inside of it, resulting in fully or partially withholding a deposit or adding on extra charges. This is especially egregious if you don’t report the damage to the property owner/manager, which is the ethically right thing to do. Accidents happen, and property managers know that: a broken dish or a stained carpet is not the end of the world, but even those require time and planning to be fixed, especially if cleaners are on a time crunch waiting for new guests to arrive. So please, save everyone the trouble and just notify who’s in charge if anything breaks or malfunctions, whether it’s your fault or not.

And don’t even think about hiding any damage: cleaners (or property managers) are instructed to inspect the place they clean and look for damaged and malfunctioning items, and they will document and report any breakages straight away. You will only look like an ass, and you will lose money.

Marta works a seasonal cleaning job in a popular tourist destination.

Image via Unsplash

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