Advice And Insider Info From Four Luxury Hotel General Managers

Want to find out things you don’t often get to ask about hotels?

I spoke with General Managers and executives of four luxury lodgings around the country: Peter Young, Managing Director of Walker Hotels in New York City; Anton Moore, general manager of Gansevoort Meatpacking Hotel in New York City; Sergio McClain of Mac & Lo hospitality, operators of Shinola hotel in Detroit. And Brian Engelhardt, General Manager of Maison de la Luz in New Orleans.

Lea Lane: What should a guest expect in any hotel, be it budget or luxury?

Anton Moore: I think whether it be a two-star lodge on the side of a highway, or a five- star hotel in New York City, cleanliness is number one.

Sergio Maclean: The housekeeping team does their job and then the supervisor comes in, checks the room and releases the room to the front desk.

Anton: And then we do a final disinfectant, which is a lot of the CDC products that were added after the pandemic.

Peter Yeung: Duvets don’t need to be changed every stay over date; but on checkouts, duvets always get changed, laundered properly and then replaced.

Lea: What about the throw pillows?

Sergio: They’re cleaned every time a housekeeper goes there. On rotation, you take them to the laundromat.

Lea Lane: What’s an appropriate tip for the housekeeper?

Anton: I think between $5 and $10 a day. I can’t stress how hard those housekeepers work.

Brian Englehard: Our housekeeping teams get to meet almost every guest that arrives in the building, so it helps immensely. I think probably 90% of our guests tip the housekeeping team.

Lea: Please remember that housekeepers. Okay, What odd things have been left behind by guests in your hotel?

Brian: We had a fake leg left behind and, and everybody was scratching their heads. It was a medical company there on a meeting, but it had us all concerned for a couple of days.

Peter: Each hotel has a different holding pattern. We keep ours for 60 days, and if you call we do return it to you. After 60 days, we just donate.

Lea: Do you open the safe after every guest leaves?

Peter: We do go in there after you check out to make sure you didn’t leave anything; that’s a protocol. If it’s a stay over, obviously, we don’t go into it.

Sergio: It’s also a safety need. There might be medication there and another guest might not interact well with medications; and sometimes there are weapons. The only thing that I haven’t seen left behind are babies and dogs. I’m still waiting one day to go into a room and find a baby.

Lea: How about pets?

Sergio: They are absolutely allowed in every hotel we’ve managed; at Shinola hotel we’re pet friendly. We do not charge a pet fee. We do have a waiver if there’s damage, and we may charge after that. But otherwise we consider them part of the family, and we welcome them.

We keep two floors clear for people with no pets. If anybody has allergies, that’s where they will go. We have a Preferred Guest floor for pets with a terrace and a dog walk so they don’t even have to leave the property.

We do draw a line on the weight of the pet, whether it’s a dog or a cat; and no exotic pets like big parrots or snakes.

Anton: The best are celebrity pets. We had a guest and the dog’s name was Audrey. And when the handler would call room service, they would act as if the dog was the actual guest. So “Audrey will be dining at three o’clock this afternoon. She would like organic boiled chicken cubes.” And she got it served on a room service tray each day.

Lea: What about other strange demands from guests?

Sergio: If there’s anything you can think of, somebody has asked for it somewhere, some time. If it compromises safety or property —somebody wants a helicopter at the rooftop — we’re not going to do it. To the extent that we can offer an alternative, we will.

Peter: One that we deal with here — not often, but it’s a very uncomfortable demand — is the requests for drugs or companionship. And there’s an appropriate way of telling the guests: “We can’t help you with that one.”

Lea: What’s the best way to get a good rate? Should you book through the hotel directly?

Sergio: Always the hotel directly in the luxury segmentation. There are hotels that compete on rate rather than services, but I think everybody here competes on services, and it’s fairly priced. If you’re loyal, if you contact us at the hotel, and you communicate in a good manner, there’s a good chance that you’ll get the best deal possible for that day.

(The interview was edited for clarity. For more on hotels and to hear the full interview, go to Episode #70 of my award-winning travel podcast, Places I Remember. Follow on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or at my website.)

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