Annie Mendez started at housekeeping with no professional training or experience in the field, but she knew one thing: this was a job that definitely called for teamwork. So, the first thing that she needed to do was make the staff feel that she was one among them. “I had started at the Casino Hotel reception in 1988, and six years later I was going to head housekeeping,” says Annie. “I was terribly nervous about taking on such a different role and didn’t really want to do it. But once I started, I felt that the thing to do was to observe and keep a keen eye. Along the way, I picked up things from every member of the team.”
The first thing that she learnt was about bed making. “It is one of the first things that the guest consciously or unconsciously observes,” says Annie, who has since worked at Brunton Boatyard, Marari Beach and Coconut Lagoon. Each property has its own housekeeping challenge. At Coconut Lagoon, where she is currently based, Annie finds that the team has to work against the clock to keep rooms spic and span at arrival time.“Guests mostly arrive from the houseboat cruise early in the morning, so we have to really push the team to get things in order in time,” she says.
And since the structures at Coconut Lagoon are mostly made ofwood,theyneedmoretimeandcaretoclean.“Also,the rooms here are bigger; sometimes on two levels and sometimes with a sitting area around the pool in the pool villas, so that is also more time-consuming.”
At Brunton Boatyard, the challenge is in reaching the ceilings in the lobby and the restaurant. “Usually, cleaning is done at night, but here, because it was so high, it had to be done in the morning. It was tricky finding the time to do it around guests coming and going.”The cloth in the overhead punkahs (old-fashioned cloth fans) are washed and replaced with spares in the meantime. But in the monsoon, the matting in the punkah is removed, because they tend to get mouldy. The housekeeping unit also tries to toe the eco-line that CGH adopts.“We do most of the cleaning with vinegar,”says Annie. “Also, we reuse things; curtain linen is converted into dusters, for example. We use herbal treatments, such as tobacco and spices in the garden, instead of chemical pesticides.” Rooms are cleaned—dusted and moped—every day, even during the off season when there are no guests.
“Our aim is to convey warmth,” says Annie. Guests are often charmed by the small touches. Sometimes, a staff will notice that a guest starts the day with prayer, so they will bring flowers for the puja thenext day, or if a guest is unwell, staff will make small changes around the room so that things are a touch easier for the visitor. “At Marari Beach, the floral arrangements, done with local flowers, on the bed was a big hit. Almost every day, guests would take photographs,” says Annie. So, does Annie use any of the tips from the resorts, when she manages “housekeeping” at her own home? “Not really,” she says. “I am particular about cleaning, but everything at home just feels homely.”