Health & Medicine

Chicago hotel pays its housekeepers for ratting on smokers

CHICAGO — Ever since she was a girl in the Robert Taylor Homes, Linda Davis has hated cigarette smoke. The soft-spoken Swissotel housekeeper, who wears a four-star-crisp white apron and immaculate matching sneakers and socks, winces at the memory of her mom filling the apartment with tobacco exhaust.

Davis, 34, says she fought back by flinging open the windows, even in winter. Now, when Davis walks into a Swissotel room and catches that telltale scent, she freshens the premises and changes the linens.

Then she turns the guest in. She gets a $10 reward, and the offender gets a $250 fine.

Other Chicago hotels ban smoking and penalize rule-breakers, but with a top-to-bottom renovation of 632 rooms under way, Swissotel is paying housekeepers for turning in no-smoking scofflaws. It's the only hotel in the country that rewards staff for collaring smokers, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, a trade group.

”The housekeepers spend between 30 and 45 minutes in the guest room,“ hotel manager Jack Breisacher says. ”They taste the smoke and breathe the smoke. So even without the meager $10 we give them, they're quite on board.“

The guest response has been largely positive, Breisacher says.

Swissotel also is striving for green certification from the city, meaning it has to prove the building has superior air quality.