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Language barrier produces dirty room

Written By: Terry Foster | June 27, 2011

Filed Under: Travel

WASHINGTON D.C — There is a reason why I stay at Marriott Hotels. I pay for bigger rooms and better service.

That hasn’t been the case on the family vacation and it has been disappointing. We are staying at a Spring Hills,  which is similar to a Residence Inn. We have a nice big room with a living room and tiny kitchen area. We love the room. We don’t love the service.

We were late for our journey to the Mall Sunday because the shower broke and everybody was clean except my wife Abs. Hey, stuff happens. We were disappointed but that’s the way it goes at times.

But the second disappointment came because of language barrier and I plan on a meeting with the general manager of the hotel before we leave. Should I complain or is this my fault? Here is what happened.

We were short towels this morning and I went down stairs to get some fresh ones. The person at the front desk said they would send them up. But when I got to the room house keeping was already there so I asked for two towels and the lady gave them to me.

Two seconds later came a knock on the door.

The lady said something to me in part Spanish and English. I thought she wanted to know if we still needed towels. As it turned out she was the head of house keeping.  When we left the room I saw the woman that was supposed to clean our room. I wanted to make sure our room was cleaned.

“Hey just to let you know, we still need our room cleaned,” I told her.

She gave me that goofy look like she had no idea what I was talking about.

I pointed to the door.

“Please clean our room. It needs service.”

Blank expression. She smiled and shrugged.

No big deal. I figured she would turn around and clean our room. We got our towels and all was OK.

But when we returned from our day at the monuments, The White House and dinner I was really pissed to see our room a royal mess. No one touched it.

I understand there are people who work in this country who do not speak English. But they should have a basic understanding of the language to assists customers in need. All I wanted was my room cleaned. That woman should have been able to understand that much. If she understood English we are not having this problem and this blog is probably about how much we loved seeing the Washington monument and Lincoln Memorial.

I want some of my money back. I want coupons for some money off for a future trip. Am I overreacting? Or was I in the wrong? What do you think?



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10 Responses to “Language barrier produces dirty room”

  1. Pez Says:

    Here’s the sad part Terry, she couldn’t understand English, but in the next 20 years, she will be speaking the new “national language”… I couldn’t agree more though, you don’t have to be an English teacher, but at least understand the terminology of your job.


  2. The mayor Says:


    I’m surprised you even paid your bill. Dispute the charges on your credit card. Then go to the marriot Facebook page and post your complaint there.

    Then when you are done…. That that frame matted that abs has been after you to do.


    The mayor aka lori


  3. Mike B Says:

    I agree Terry. When Americans travel abroad we are treated very rudely when we don’t speak the local language. We should start demanding it of foreign workers here in the states. I don’t know if English is the official language of the USA but it should be. Enjoy your vacation. I am just finishing mine.
    Peace. Umbayaah


  4. Alex Wellhousen Says:

    Depending on how much you expect to get, your money back or money off a future trip might be going a bit far, Mr. Foster. Do you deserve something for your troubles though? Absolutely. At the very least you deserve and explanation for why someone who couldn’t understand, in English, that you needed your room cleaned, especially when that is their job, is employed there yes. In an effort to be objective though, perhaps you should have assumed your room would be clean (this is a hotel after all), and perhaps through your language barrier she thought you were saying not to clean the room. But regardless, as I previously mentioned, someone who’s job it is to clean rooms should have at bare minimum enough of a grasp on the language of the country/region/province that they are employed in to understand basic commands/requests that would go along with the job. If you’re in America know some American English. If you’re in France know some French. If you’re in Mexico/Spain know some Spanish. It’s a common courtesy, and plain ol’ respect, to the people you’ll be interacting with.


  5. Rory Says:

    Hey T-

    No I don’t think it’s too much to be asked for. The hotel is supposed to provide you with service and as long as your DND sign isn’t up they should have cleaned your room. Hope it didn’t put too much of a damper on the trip,hope you and the fam enjoy DC.


  6. BigBill Says:

    Terry get this stay for free and they should give you money off if you decide to ever give them another chance


  7. James Says:

    Terry your not in the wrong you paid your hard earned money for a service you didn’t get.. This is America and the language here is English! It’s not good business for the hotel to have employees that can’t speak the language when they are in the service industry.. Now I understand there are people in this country that don’t speak English but it should be a requirement for the job that you speak the language if you have to deal with customers..


  8. BID316 Says:

    Terry, you are SO wrong (for your response). You ARE, of course, correct for wanting someone to be in a position to perform his/her job effectively. Not sure if head of housekeeping and the appointed housekeeper speak the same language, but there seems to have been a communication gap. In the absence of a communication to the contrary, even if you had the adequate amount of towels, etc., your room should have still be cleaned.

    However, you could have asked for another room (assuming there was one available) with a properly working shower.

    I’d be okay with wanting a certificate for breakfast (or a freebie of some sort… Especially if you paid full price). I don’t generally like the idea of people who want a freebie for every little thing.

    BTW, I’m the Priceline King. I NEVER pay full price!!


  9. Teddy Says:

    You are wrong on so many levels!
    Where should I start?
    First , you asked for more towels and they came to your room before even you did. A decent person would give credit where it’s due. It was a fast service.
    Second, the head of housekeeping personally came to check if everything was all right. I decent person would give credit to the head of housekeeping for being courteous and showing concern for the customer – you being the customer. But instead of prizing her customer service skills , you mock her English skills . How inadequate of you!
    Third , a cleaning lady was walking down the hall. There was no indication that she would skip any room. But you decided to order her to DO her job, which she was doing anyway. To make you understand how rude you were, here is my order to you: Make sure that you check your spelling and grammar the next time when you write an article!” I didn’t ask if you do, or don’t. I just ordered you to do your job. Did you like it?
    Fourth, rooms get cleaned/serviced, unless otherwise specified. The guests do that by either hang the “Do not disturb” sign, or telling the cleaning person that they DO NOT WANT service. If they say nothing, the room gets cleaned . You TOLD the cleaning person. So if she didn’t have good language skills, it’s just natural to thing that you are requesting something other than cleaning, because cleaning IS the rule.
    Fifth , usually there is a designated person to whom you speak , if you have special requests. In the hotel – to the front desk. To illustrate how inappropriate your reaction to the cleaning lady’s not knowing English was , here is an equivalent situation in a restaurant: You have food allergies. Maybe to nuts. Maybe to eggs. Maybe certain spices, usually put in the sausages. You don’t tell that to your waiter. Instead , on your way to the bathroom, you meet one of the cooks and tell him. ( the cook could be Japanese , Greek , Indian, Polish , etc) And all he knows is, that you followed him to the bathroom, talking about nuts , eggs, or sausages.
    At least the cleaning lady didn’t think that you want her to get in the room with you for something . Because she was cleaning, and you wanted something…else.
    Sixth, people go around the world to do all kinds of jobs, and they don’t necessarily speak the local language. You wouldn’t expect an American violinist to speak Czech language in order to perform in Prague , would you? So to play violin, you don’t need to speak the foreign language , but to make the beds, you need to speak the foreign language?
    Seventh, if you are from Detroit , you must be used to people not speaking English. I’ve been to Detroit and what people speak is definitely not English. Imagine what foreigners, who actually bothered to learn English , would think of the Detroiters , if those foreigners were as rude to the service stuff, as you .
    Eight, I bet you don’t speak any foreign language!


  10. ryan Says:

    Teddy set down the law with that response. Surprised Foster didn’t respond.


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