Economics/Class Relations

Hotels say goodbye to daily room cleanings and hello to robots as workers stay scarce

This holiday season at the Garden City Hotel on Long Island, Merle Ayers is feeling especially grateful for the Whiz.

At two feet tall and 66 pounds, the powerful robot vacuum doesn’t mind working late into the night after the parties are over. The Whiz doesn’t care that it’s the holidays. It doesn’t even need a day off.

“It just needs to be cared for. We have to change the vacuum bags periodically and keep the batteries charged,” says Ayers, the hotel’s director of banquets.

Amid ongoing staffing shortages, the two robot vacuums the hotel purchased late last year for about $30,000 each are proving their worth many times over, filling gaps in both the catering department and housekeeping.

The Garden City Hotel on Long Island invested in two robot vacuums in late 2021. The autonomous vacuums allow the hotel to redeploy staff to other tasks that must be done by hand.

Gabriela Bhaskar for NPR

“If we vacuum every floor with a robot, that saves one whole shift,” says Garden City Hotel managing director Grady Colin. “That’s one whole person per day that can be redeployed to do something else.”

These days, he’ll take all the help he can get.

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