Premier Inn guest at Banbury shared Covid-19 fears after discovering staff were washing sheets and towels at home

A man who stayed at the Premier Inn in Banbury said he was shocked to find that staff were taking sheets and towels home to wash for guests' bedrooms.

Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 10:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 10:20 am
The Banbury Premier Inn where staff had taken sheets and towels home to wash because of a shortage

Mike Stevens, who lives in Sussex, was horrified when he saw staff members loading bags of dirty laundry into the boots of their cars to wash at home.

Whitbread - which owns Premier Inns - said this was a one-off incident that should not have happened over a weekend and that the sheets and towels had been sent to a professional laundry as soon as management were aware of what was happening.

They said the sheets and towels had been washed at hot temperatures but Mr Stevens said no one could know how they had been treated.

He said: "The leaflets and on the website it says they guarantee, as part of their COVID response, all sheets are washed at 60 degrees with anti-bacterial washing powder. You can imagine if you find out it’s done at home in a domestic washing machine you actually have no idea what that person has done. Or even if they have been washed.

"It’s not just the risk of taking dirty things home - they could be bringing things back in on towels or sheets that aren’t washed properly. Not everyone has a the same standards for a clean home after all. I’d love to know how they could have pinpointed the items washed at home against those properly laundered and how they’ve managed to track each piece."

Mr Stevens was staying at the Premier Inn near the M40 over the weekend of August 8 - 9.

"I noticed people, staff, loading bags in cars. I found out this was dirty washing they were being forced to take home - cleaners, receptionists, managers etc. This was used, dirty towels and bedding as well as cleaning cloths. They brought them back and were in use at the hotel," he told the Banbury Guardian.

"Domestic washing is not sufficient. No guarantees of killing the virus can be given as you won’t know for how long and how hot items were washed. Or what people’s homes are like. It feels very deceptive to me as on the web it guarantees your safety.

"One of the staff members told me management had decided this needed to happen as they did not have enough towels or sheets and had attempted to shame those who refused in a group message. It seems it wasn’t a regular occurrence and that they felt they had no choice but to help out."

When he returned to his home in Sussex, Mr Stevens wrote to Premier Inns (who passed the complaint on to Whitbread) and Public Health England who said it was not an area of its responsibility.

He received an apology from Whitbread who said as soon as the manager returned on Monday an urgent linen delivery was ordered and the items were returned to a professional laundry. Future, adequate supplies had been established, they told him.

In a statement, Whitbread said: "This entirely one-off situation at our Banbury hotel which has arisen from a unique set of circumstances during these unprecedented times, is clearly unacceptable.

“Nothing means more to our hardworking teams than making sure they go above and beyond to give our guests the best possible customer service.

“Finding themselves short of linen owing to a lower-than-usual stock due to a COVID-related issue, some of our site team believed a solution could be to wash the linen at their own expense at home, using what they believed to be the correct detergent and a hot wash temperature. This decision was not checked with their manager, who was on a day’s holiday.

“While the actions were taken with the very best of intentions, clearly they do not comply with our stringent brand standards and as soon as this decision was explained to the manager all the items were immediately returned as dirty linen to the laundry supplier to be washed by standard procedure.

“While we appreciate the commitment and enthusiasm of our team, clearly the decision made on this day was not the right one and the team members involved have already undergone retraining”.

Mr Stevens said: "The comment about the manager taking action on Monday is interesting as the conversation I had was that it was the management who had asked employees so he or she must have known and sanctioned this.

"I don’t see how they can know what was from home and what was from a supplier so I can’t see how they can have so easily fixed this. If the issue was so desperate then the items would have been used for guests surely? I’m not planning I’m staying at a premier for a while that’s for sure."