HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Madeline Chang has been director of housekeeping at ResortQuest Hawaii since 2003. Above, Chang last week straightened a mirror in one of the rooms at the property while helping the company's "housekeeping stars" get it ready for the next guest.
On a quest to keep it clean
Madeline Chang is director of housekeeping for ResortQuest on Oahu and Kauai
Title: Director of housekeeping
Job: Coordinates ResortQuest Hawaii's executive housekeepers on Oahu and Kauai, and is executive housekeeper for the chain's Waikiki Sunset property
Madeline Chang says she had two goals as a teenager. One was to go to college and become a secretary. The other was to become a flight attendant. She achieved both, first joining Northwest Airlines
after graduating from McKinley High School, then later becoming a secretary at the former Kahala Hilton hotel. Her stint with the airline ended after about 18 months because she was based in Minneapolis, and decided she would rather live in Hawaii. Upon her return, she was hired almost immediately by the hotel. Twelve years later, it promoted her to senior assistant manager of the front desk, and later to executive housekeeper. She also worked 10
years for Sheraton
hotels. In 2003, she joined what is now ResortQuest Hawaii
as director of housekeeping for its Oahu and Kauai properties, including the 435-room Waikiki Sunset, where she also is executive housekeeper. In 2002, Chang obtained a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Hawaii. She also has an associate degree from Honolulu Business College, which she earned while still in high school. The former Madeline Richards, 60, is married to Gilbert Chang, with whom she has an adult son and lives in Hawaii Kai.
Question: How did you get to be the director of housekeeping?
Answer: Well, I had the experience when I joined ResortQuest.
Q: Were you with the company when it was still Aston?
A: Yes, when I joined, it was Aston Hotels & Resorts. I joined in 2003.
Q: What were you doing before that?
A: Before that, I was with Sheraton Hotels, at the Moana Surfrider.
Q: How many housekeepers do you supervise?
A: Right now, in Waikiki, there's a total of nine (executive housekeepers).
Q: For how many hotels?
A: There are a total of nine properties, so there's one (executive) housekeeper who has two properties, and all of us come under the Oahu properties. The Waikiki Beach is the only hotel, the rest are condo resorts. There's also a hotel on Kauai -- the Kauai Beach -- at Makaiwa.
Q: So each executive housekeeper is responsible for how many housekeepers?
A: It could be anywhere from 20 to as many as 60.
Q: Do you handle all the scheduling for the housekeepers or do they do it?
A: They (the executive housekeepers) do their own scheduling. But I do run my own property, at the Waikiki Sunset, so I do my own scheduling. I run a staff of 44 people here at the Waikiki Sunset. I also am the liaison with the laundry service for all of our Oahu properties.
I'm also trying to standardize all our ordering for all the properties -- for the linens, the amenities, kitchen supplies and general supplies -- to make sure that everybody orders from the same companies. That way we can consolidate our shipments and save money.
Of course, not only do we run this property, we also conduct training for what we call our housekeeping stars. And we meet with the executive housekeepers and conduct training for them as well.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Madeline Chang last week checked in on utility houseman Jaime Sayaman as he helped clean a room in the Waikiki Sunset to make it smoke-free. Chang, who is director of housekeeping for ResortQuest Hawaii on Oahu and Kauai, said the company wants to make all the rooms in the hotel smoke-free by the end of March.
Do the people who live in the condo resorts take care of their own rooms?
A: Not necessarily. We run a rental pool, and those owners give us the permission to conduct their units as rentals. But some of our properties have people actually living within the rentals.
Q: So you don't have to clean those?
A: No, we don't.
Q: I was told that the hotel has 435 rooms.
A: We do, but we only have 370 in the rental pool.
Q: Do they all have to be cleaned each day?
A: Yes they do. (Laughter) We don't miss a room.
Q: Do you do any cleaning work yourself anymore?
A: No. Hardly. I will do inspections, and in the course of doing an inspection, I will pick up, and if it's a rush, I will do that.
Q: What would be the typical routine of a housekeeper at the hotel?
A: She comes in, she meets at 8 o'clock for a morning briefing, she picks up her assignment and her keys, and then she collects whatever supplies she may need, and then she's up on the floors. Her first order of business is to set up her cart. She'll check her assignment sheet to see who needs early service, otherwise she does her checkouts first.
Q: What is the basic room-cleaning routine that the housekeepers follow?
A: First of all they remove the trash and soiled linen, and then they go to the bathroom and spray the cleaning chemicals and let them sit. Then they go to the bed and do the bed-making. Then they return to the bathroom and clean that up. Then they do dusting, then they do the living room and the lanai, because it's connected, and then they do the kitchen last.
Do you ever find any surprises in the rooms -- suitcases full of money, drugs, dead people?
A: (Laughter) Thank God, no. You know, drugs, sometimes they think they've found drugs, but then when they call the police and they say no, they go "shucks," because now we don't have an incident we can talk about.
Q: What's your typical day at work?
A: Well, I get here early enough so I can check my e-mails, read my notes, check the log book; we have a rooms-control log book that we read. Then I hold the morning meeting.
Q: What do you say at the meeting?
A: Usually, I tell them if there are any VIP arrivals. Or if there are any discrepancies from the day before, I bring it up to discuss the shortcomings. I'll talk about whatever messages we might have from our corporate office or general manager -- just internal stuff for the day. And then I'll listen to what they have to say.
Q: Do you ever find it difficult to supervise other people?
A: I think initially, when I first started in the business. But now I feel very comfortable supervising them, as long as I'm very clear about what I want. I try to be as clear as possible in my writing, as well communicating verbally.
Q: What do you do if a particular worker just isn't performing well?
A: I keep on coaching. I don't give up. I keep on coaching. I keep on maintaining a standard with them, and in most cases I've been really lucky. I haven't had to dismiss anyone for poor performance.
Q: What's the labor market like for you right now?
A: We're actually looking for a couple of people, but it's been good. We've been lucky. We've had some referrals and people coming in, so we've been fortunate here at the Sunset.
What do you like most about your job?
A: I think I like the people I work with. They're very giving, and they seem to understand what it takes to be in this kind of situation. They adjust very easily.
Q: Which people are you talking about?
A: My immediate "stars".
Q: Those are the housekeepers?
A: Yes, ResortQuest says we call our employees stars. We use that term quite often around here.
Q: What's your interaction with actual tourists?
A: We meet them pretty much every day. They come in here to inquire about things. We see them in the lobby areas. So there's every occasion for us to see them.
Q: Do you get a discount if you want to stay overnight at the hotel?
A: Yes. (Laughter) We do get discounts, definitely, at all of our properties.
Q: Which one is your favorite?
A: Right now I haven't really visited every one. I'd like to get Kaanapali Shores.
Q: You have properties on Maui?
A: Oh yes, we have 26 properties, throughout the islands.
Q: But you're only in charge of nine?
A: Well, we don't have a corporate housekeeper right now, so that's why the 26 properties (including on Maui and the Big Island) are sending their information to me, and I'm consolidating their ordering every month.
Q: Are you going to be with ResortQuest for a long time to come?
A: I believe so. Unless somebody tells me they don't need my services anymore. I love working here. They're good people to work for.