Monday, October 20, 2014

Learn To Grovel Gracefully

With wages flat and jobs scarce, what's a serf to do to get ahead while barely surviving? Where are all those ladders of opportunity that the politicians keep blathering about?

The bosses at Marriott Hotels have come up with a real nifty public relations gimmick to give the appearance of caring about their minimum wage employees while continuing to despise them with all the utter contempt at their disposal. It might be called the Neoliberal Two-Step. 

Step One: the Marriott suits are inveigling hotel customers to supplement the low wages of The Help through tasteful "tip envelopes" now being discreetly placed in all the rooms. They're partnering with Democratic celebrity multimillionaire and renowned poverty concern troll Maria Shriver, who is adding her liberal cachet to the "Envelope Please" murketing effort. She, unlike others of her class, has actually deigned on occasion to interact with the women cleaning her luxury suites:
“The Envelope Please was born from having conversations with women I’ve met who have taken care of my room during hotel stays. Their stories of hard work and perseverance inspired and informed me. They told me that room attendants, who are often the primary breadwinner for their families, are often forgotten when it comes to tipping, unlike other front-of-house employ­ees, since most travelers don't see them face-to-face. I hope this gratitude initiative will make these women feel seen and validated,” said Maria Shriver, founder of A Woman’s Nation.
Of course, Shriver would never dream of agitating for a living wage and benefits for these women, who suffer more than their share of back problems and other ailments through constant repetitive lifting and bending. And of course, the suggested tip is a mere $1 a day, with $5 being the absolute outer limit of gratitude if The Help has gone the extra distance.

 But wait! There is an even better solution to help The Help than tips, paid sick days off, and top-notch health care coverage:

Step Two: in order to make Maria Shriver feel even more self-satisfied by allowing women to be better seen and validated, a choreographer from the Joffrey Ballet is teaching The Marriott Help how to perform servile dance moves and postures -- the better to seduce their coddled clientele to keep coming back for more. And who knows, maybe even inspire them to be more generous tippers and thank-you note writers. If you're a housekeeper able to master the following stunts, Marriott guests might be more apt to put that extra buck in your envelope to supplement your meager paycheck:

We'll Bend Over Backward to Fulfill Your Every Whim....

Let Me Just Sweep Up Your Crumbs for My Breakfast....
Your Fresh Towels, Madame....

How Can I Die For You Today?
Unpaid No-Excuses Break Time: Pulling Ourselves Up By Our Ballet Straps

Of course, the New York Times is slanting this bizarre story as a positive for Marriott and for wealthy travelers everywhere, who apparently have been getting mighty sick and tired of clumsy, injury-prone chambermaids lumbering about like herds of heifers and hungry exhausted bellboys who have not yet learned the art of refined obsequiousness:
While pirouettes and grand jet├ęs may not get a porter to your room any faster, a little basic ballet training might improve their grace upon arrival. At least that’s what JW Marriott is hoping will come of a new employee training program it has developed in partnership with the Joffrey Ballet in New York. The hotel’s Poise and Grace Program is a series of video tutorials led by the Joffrey’s artistic director, Ashley Wheater. In them, Mr. Wheater demonstrates core movements and mind-sets practiced by professional dancers in order to achieve the seamless flow of a ballet sequence.
 The training focuses on four areas: warming up the body, proper breathing techniques, the flow of movement and a connection with the audience. In essence, to think and act as if they were on stage- or perhaps in a Wes Anderson film.
Or, you can make believe that you're the star of an especially dystopian remake of Cinderella. Disassociation from one's actual plantation-like surroundings works wonders for the psyche. If you embrace the mannerisms of a slave through proper breathing techniques and the like, then you seamlessly become the slave through no will of your own. Disgruntlement vanishes out the window as fast as the overworked ballerina heroine of The Red Shoes throwing herself off a balcony.

Poise & Grace Rejectee: No "Envelope Please" for You, Moira Shearer!


stranger in a strange land said...

"A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity."

Ralph Nader

Denis Neville said...

“Housekeepers deserve tips too, and timed with the kickoff of International Housekeepers Week, we’re going to provide a gentle reminder to our guests. We’re partnering with Maria Shriver and A Woman’s Nation to launch ‘The Envelope Please.’ … I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

In 2013 Marriott made $13 billion in revenue and $626 million in profits:

So how much should we tip?

Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson says $1 to $5 a night, depending on room rate.

"It is not Marriott's responsibility to remind customers to tip; it's their responsibility to pay their workers enough so that tips aren't necessary." - Barbara Ehrenreich, who tried working as a hotel maid for her book "Nickel and Dimed"

Arne Sorenson earned $9.2 million in total compensation in 2013, up from $8.6 million in 2012 — a 5.7 percent increase.

Housekeepers are paid regular wages, not tipped wages like waiters. Marriott Housekeeper Hourly Pay - Base Pay: $9/hour;,20.htm

Is Marriott is trying to turn their housekeeper into tipped wage employees?

Under federal law, a tipped employee is anyone who regularly gets $30/month or more in tips. Employers can meet its minimum wage obligation for tipped employees by reducing the hourly minimum to $2.13 from $7.25, provided tips make up the rest. The potential reduction in minimum wage obligation to the employer is thus a bit more than $200/week for each full time worker. If a tipped employee fell below minimum wage in earnings, the employer would need to make up that difference.

“There seems to be a vicious cycle at work here, making ours not just an economy but a culture of extreme inequality. Corporate decision makers, and even some two-bit entrepreneurs like my boss at The Maids, occupy an economic position miles above that of the underpaid people whose labor they depend on.

The larger society seems to be caught up in a similar cycle: cutting public services for the poor, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the 'social wage,' while investing ever more heavily in prisons and cops. And in the larger society, too, the cost of repression becomes another factor weighing against the expansion or restoration of needed services. It is a tragic cycle, condemning us to ever deeper inequality, and in the long run, almost no one benefits but the agents of repression themselves.” ― Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

voice-in-wilderness said...

Google for Marriott and fired housekeepers in Boston for a Sept 26th article in the Boston Globe.

It tells the sorry tale of how, five years ago, the Marriott duped 98 housekeepers into unknowingly training their outsourced replacements -- hired at $8/hour and no benefits. Marriott just coughed up a small amount of money to end an ongoing boycott over the firings.

4Runner said...

We always tip. But you must make sure to give the cash directly to the maid. If you leave it on the bed or nightstand, it will be picked up by the head housekeeper when, after you check out, she first visits the room.

Denis Neville said...

Bill Marriott Jr. is one of two heirs to the Marriott Hotel chain. His real time net worth is $2.8 billion.

Together with his brother Richard, Bill Marriott Jr. is overseeing a massive fortune which is estimated to be over $5 billion. Both Marriotts are listed on the Forbes list of richest people in America.

Bill Marriott, Jr. contributed $1,000,000 to Mitt Romney’s Super PAC Restore Our Future.

In another Romney 2012 move, Marriott banned its lucrative (making $175 per room annually) porn:

“We are working with in-room entertainment providers and technology vendors to transition to the next generation of in-room entertainment. This new platform of Internet-based video-on-demand will facilitate our exit from the traditional hotel video systems that included adult content in the menu selection, and will also provide guests greater choice and control over what they watch across our system. As we transition to this new platform, adult content will be off the menu for virtually all of our newly built hotels. Over the next few years, this will be the policy across our system.”

After losing the 2012 election, Mitt Romney rejoined Marriott International Inc.'s board of directors (back where he belongs taking care of himself and his fellow 0.1%ers) after resigning in 2011 prior to his campaign for the U.S. presidency. Romney received $260,390 from stock owed to him as a director of Marriott.

"It is an honor to once again be able to serve in the company of leaders like Bill Marriott and Arne Sorenson and to support the work of the tens of thousands of Marriott associates who make Marriott International the renowned success that it is," said Mitt Romney

Romney and Marriotts have a long history:,7

There is no torrent like greed:

“Marriott International will pay the government a $600,000 fine for jamming conference attendees’ own Wi-Fi networks at one of its hotels, forcing them instead to pay as much as $1,000 each to use the hotel’s own connection. While agreeing to the fine, Marriott on Friday defended the practice of jamming guests’ own Wi-Fi networks. The company said this wasn’t aimed at charging guests extra for Internet access but about protecting its network.”

Marriott operates or franchise more than 4,000 hotels around the world. A spokesman for the company wouldn’t say how many other hotels employ block personal Wi-Fi connections.

“I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.”

“In a society governed passively by free markets and free elections, organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy.” - Matt Taibbi, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America

Denis Neville said...

@ 4Runner

Another reason to make sure to hand the cash directly to the housekeeper…

Once, after leaving money for a tip on the bedside table, I discovered it wasn’t taken. I later caught up with her and asked why the money was still on the table.

She said that they are warned never to not take anything from a guest's room for fear that there might be an allegation of theft.

Also, it was widely rumored that management sometimes staged situations tempting housekeeping staff to “steal.” Those who took the money were fired.

Pearl said...

Here in Canada on the Learning or Discovery Channel originating in the U.S., a series involving all kinds of Canadian businesses in every area titled "Undercover Boss" followed by the name of the company has been appearing more and more often. The owner of a particular company decides to go work in one of their offices or restaurants or stores incognito and see how things are run by the employees. It is filmed as an excuse for making a documentary about how different companies operate. The owner is introduced as someone learning the business before seeking employment and he or she is directed and taught by the employees as to how to do a particular job. Meanwhile, the owner becomes friendly with the employees and asks about their work experiences, their families etc. It is shocking to see what difficult and exhausting jobs people have to do under usually poor conditions often with a speed up system in place. The owners are also usually shocked at how difficult it is to for them to do a particular job well.
He or she then returns to their headquarters and invites several of the employees he got to know to meet with him to discuss ways of improving conditions. He then takes off his disguise, introduces himself to them and often encourages the hard working employees to move up into more responsible positions in that business, covers their personal debts or supports the education of their children and sends the employee on a family vacation. The employees are overcome by these reward and break down weeping and throwing their arms around their employer thanking him over and over.
They then meet with all the employees (often hundreds or more)and are promised improvements in their working conditions and everyone applauds.
So never is a Union mentioned, or how the other employees will have to continue with their slavery at low pay or get the benefits the specific employees observed working hard have received. And all of course, to increase the reputation of the company for TV viewers and increase their profits.
It is a disgusting series which avoids dealing with what Karen has touched on. I think Marriot was one of the companies the local owner went undercover about.

falken751 said...

This fckin country allows it"s citizens to pay for workers that the business should pay living wages to. I saw an ad recently that asked people to send $19 a month to aid wounded GIs. The government should take care of any GI that served his country, period. I didn't see any president but Eisenhower and Kennedy serve their country, instead this country has always been in worse shape after they are gone. In fact Clinton went to Canada to escape serving his country.

annenigma said...

One summer many moons ago, I worked as a chambermaid. The motel manager would go into the rooms listed as checkouts and pick up the tips for herself. Then she'd leave the door open and that was our signal that the room was ready for us to work on - free of any loose money of course.

What a clever ploy by management to get first crack at the tips by making the staff fear being accused of theft while they were doing exactly that themselves. Makes me think they'd be a perfect fit to go into politics.

The New York Crank said...

The best tip anyone can give any low wage worker is, "If I were you I'd join a union"

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Pearl said...

New York Crank: Many low wage workers would be fired if they joined a union or organized one. Look at the Wal Mart employees' dillema.

Denis Neville said...

@ The New York Crank

Nice snark, if you are referring to:

“If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union.” – Obama, Laborfest, Milwaukee, 2014

Obama’s never done anything for labor other than talk bullshit like the above. Obama is not into labor. He could give a rat’s ass. There is no urgency on the part of labor union leaders either, who have six-figure incomes, to hold Obama the above.

It’s about cooling out the mark. Did the economy cheat us? It’s not the Obama’s fault nor labor union leaders. Con men sit on the sidelines, waiting to cool the mark out. Cooling out marks is how politicians and institutions persuade people to accept things they think are wrong. They convince us getting fleeced is okay. They convince us it’s okay that they’re corrupt. They persuade us it’s okay that they’re incompetent.

“For all the talk about the need to be a likable "team player," many people work in a fairly cutthroat environment that would seem to be especially challenging to those who possess the recommended traits. Cheerfulness, upbeatness, and compliance: these are the qualities of subordinates -- of servants rather than masters, women (traditionally, anyway) rather than men.

After advising his readers to overcome the bitterness and negativity engendered by frequent job loss and to achieve a perpetually sunny outlook, management guru Harvey Mackay notes cryptically that "the nicest, most loyal, and most submissive employees are often the easiest people to fire."

Given the turmoil in the corporate world, the prescriptions of niceness ring of lambs-to-the-slaughter.” ― Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I am concerned with the idea hotel customers should leave a tip. And not surprised after reading Denis' comment that the Mariott is trying to start this practice as it has been the excuse for underpaying employees.

In restaurants, it is common practice to pay waiters and bartenders sub-standard wages because there is the expectation they will receive tips. These servers usually have to come into work an hour or two early to do menial work like rolling cutlery into napkins and filling salt and pepper shakers as well as stay late to clean up. They are paid some ridiculous amount like $2.50 an hour, even for the non-serving, non-tipped time they work.

When my parents took us on a cruise, we were told we could leave a tip for the Filipino man who cleaned our room and bathroom each day. I only found out later that tips left by guests were the life-blood for these men who sent money home to their families but were paid a crappy wage. I can't tell you the number of people who paid thousands of dollars for a cruise but were annoyed at the suggestions and publically said they were unwilling to leave a tip. It totally puts the worker at the mercy of the person he or she is serving and allows employers to exploit those who need employment the most.

Pearl said...

Today's shootings in Ottawa were a reminder that Canada is not immune to terrorists. I was personally worried as my best friend's daughter (my goddaughter) works for the Federal Government in the area and the building was locked down. We were relieved when she called to say she was home safe and sound at the end of the workday. I hope others (Jay?) are not personally affected and I have not had a chance to check on my granddaughter who lives in Ottawa but presume she is alright. The soldier who was killed lived in Hamilton, close by my city of Burlington.
There are a large group of people whom the shooter shared Isis philosophy with that were and are being closely watched by the police.
So no place is safe anymore and as long as drones, airstrikes, invasions of countries continues by the U.S. we will all have more of the same.

Kat said...

Interestingly, this was written shortly before the Ottawa incident.

Denis Neville said...

@ Pearl, who said, “So no place is safe anymore and as long as drones, airstrikes, invasions of countries continues by the U.S. we will all have more of the same.”

“Canada, At War For 13 Years, Shocked That ‘A Terrorist’ Attacked Its Soldiers” Writes Glenn Greenwald:

“The national mood and discourse in Canada is virtually identical to what prevails in every Western country whenever an incident like this happens: shock and bewilderment that someone would want to bring violence to such a good and innocent country (“a peaceable Canadian community like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu”), followed by claims that the incident shows how primitive and savage is the “terrorist ideology” of extremist Muslims, followed by rage and demand for still more actions of militarism and freedom-deprivation.”

“It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country. Regardless of one’s views on the justifiability of Canada’s lengthy military actions, it’s not the slightest bit surprising or difficult to understand why people who identify with those on the other end of Canadian bombs and bullets would decide to attack the military responsible for that violence.

That’s the nature of war. A country doesn’t get to run around for years wallowing in war glory, invading, rendering and bombing others, without the risk of having violence brought back to it. Rather than being baffling or shocking, that reaction is completely natural and predictable. The only surprising thing about any of it is that it doesn’t happen more often.”

"This age: layers of lime harden in the sick son's blood…
There's nowhere to run from the tyrant-epoch…
Who else will you kill? Who else glorify?
What other lies will you invent?"
— Osip Mandelshtam, 1924

Since the USA has an extensive record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, our pious pronouncements on the “war on terror” are hypocritical.

They attack civilians, men, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. Their reason was quite simple: to force the public to turn to the state to ask for greater security.

There is no war. It’s an Orwellian device created to keep the kleptocrats in power.

We the people wallow in fear. We believe, like children, that our leaders are protecting us, when they slaughter the foreign enemy hordes.

“In “1984,” George Orwell described doublethink as “the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them,” and portrayed it as a device for destroying the capacity for critical thinking, for controlling populations, and for perpetuating the political status quo. Something like doublethink is occurring as the rhetoric of terror continues to immerse us in a nightmare of skewed reason and perpetual warfare. In condemning terrorism, we think of it as something to be eliminated at all costs. Yet, in sanctioning the use of modern weaponry to achieve this end, regardless of its impact upon civilian populations, we are effectively advocating the very thing we condemn, and this is closer to doublethink than we should ever wish to be.” - Tomis Kapitan, “The Reign of ‘Terror’,” NY Times, October 19, 2014

Jay–Ottawa said...

In addition to the feather-ruffling essay by Greenwald mentioned by others, there is a fresh post by William Rivers Pitt defining “blowback” (Truthout).

Elizabeth May, one of two Greens at the federal legislative level in Canada, helps us to keep events in perspective as she blogged away from inside yesterday’s locked-down Parliament, ten minutes away from my door (when the roads are open and outside of rush hour). I look forward to the day this lady becomes our PM.