|By Pamela Gould, The Free Lance-Star,
Fredericksburg, Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 31, 2008 - In an industry where about half the front-line employees turn over every year and some people barely last a day, Rosie Bumbrey obliterates the statistics.
Bumbrey, who turns 50 this week, has worked in housekeeping at the Days Inn-Fredericksburg North for decades -- essentially, longer than her general manager has been alive.
The hotel, off U.S. 17 in southern Stafford County, opened in 1972, and she's been there -- apart from some child-bearing breaks -- since 1973.
"She is extremely dependable, and that is a quality you don't find in this area," said general manager Duke Abu-Gyamfi, who is 33.
"In 30 years, I can look back on schedules, and if she's not here, she's not scheduled to be here."
Hotel housekeeping is the only work Bumbrey has ever done -- though she was asked to leave her first job.
As a teenager, the Fauquier County native started at a downtown Fredericksburg hotel, which has since gone out of business.
Her first day, she was assigned 14 rooms and completed them by 1 p.m. When she told her manager she'd finished, she got a surprising response.
"He said, 'I can't use you anymore. You work too fast,'" she recalled last week.
"I said, 'Are you kidding me?'"
In her decades on the job at Days Inn, Bumbrey has cleaned rooms, risen to head housekeeper and now works in the laundry.
She enjoys her co-workers and begins each workday with the same attitude.
"My approach is, come here every day, try to keep a smile on my face and do what I've got to do. That's my goal," said Bumbrey, who now lives in Hartwood.
CONFOUNDING THE STATS
Abu-Gyamfi has been Bumbrey's boss for five months and said she goes beyond simply pleasant.
"She helps me out," he said.
Bumbrey's saved him money on linens because of her ability to deal with challenging stains, and she's given him insights on resolving staffing problems.
"This is a very, very high turnover industry. Everybody knows it," he said.
In the U.S. lodging industry, studies have found a roughly 50 percent annual turnover rate for nonmanagement employees, according to Bruce Tracey, an associate professor of management in Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.
Still, Abu-Gyamfi said he was "going crazy" with his inability to hold on to personnel and some who just didn't show up.
"We thought we were doing something wrong as a company," he said.
But Bumbrey set him straight.
"She said, 'This is the area. This is what it is,'" he said.
Bumbrey also told him some people work only long enough to qualify for public assistance.
"Just by her knowledge, she would look at somebody and say, 'She's not coming back,'" Abu-Gyamfi said.
Stafford Tourism Manager M.C. Moncure was impressed with Bumbrey's work record and said efforts like hers help in marketing the region.
"Tourism is a service industry. If you go to a place you've never been before and they treat you well and you feel safe and comfortable, then you will go back," Moncure said.
Bumbrey shies away from attention but recognizes that her tenure is unusual.
"I have seen a lot of executive housekeepers come and go, and I'm still here and I'm proud of that," she said.
"I have to pat myself on the back sometimes," she added with a smile.
To see more of The Free Lance-Star or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://fredericksburg.com/flshome.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.