L.A. Story Spotlight: Maria Paredes

L to R: Irma Saguache (Director of Housekeeping), Maria Paredes, and Pilar Galvez (Assistant Director of Housekeeping). | Photo by Daniel Djang

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. For Maria Paredes, a long time team member at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel, her actions speak volumes and represent the thousands of unsung heroes in the hotel industry who make guests want to return to a particular hotel again and again.

Maria’s L.A. Story was introduced in an email from Babette Ray, Assistant Director of Human Resources at the Hilton. Ray wrote that Paredes was unable to speak until she turned 21, when she learned how to communicate in Spanish. Paredes subsequently learned English over time.

Paredes began working at the Hilton in May 1985, when she landed a job as a room attendant with the assistance of the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD). A GLAD sign language interpreter helped Paredes with her application and interview.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Los Angeles Airport, Facebook

Located just a quarter mile from the airport, the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel features 1,234 guest rooms and 55,000 square feet of meeting space. Ideally suited for families and business travelers alike, the hotel is conveniently situated a mile from Manhattan Beach, and is a Green Seal certified property. Ray said, “[Maria] loves the hotel and takes great pride in her work, making sure our guests are very satisfied with their stay and the cleanliness of their room. When the guest arrives to the room, she will ask the guest to please check the room, because she wants it to be perfect and the guest will always say it is perfect.”

A guest's note praising Maria Paredes | Photo by Daniel Djang

Ray’s email continued, “Maria has some communication challenges, but she has learned to please our guests and make them extremely happy to be at our hotel. The guests have shown us how happy they are by mailing the Housekeeping Department numerous letters complimenting Maria on her great service and wonderful personality.”

At the Hilton, the Assistant Director of Housekeeping, Pilar Galvez translated for Paredes. “When [Maria] came to the hotel and she started as a room attendant, she had no experience whatsoever. She basically started from the bottom following the supervisor instructions, and it’s been 29 years already and she’s one of the best. We used to have a raffle for best housekeeper, and she used to be the winner every single month. And every time she had a room check or room inspection, everything was perfect.”

Asked what she does that makes her so good at her job, Paredes said she goes to her floor, does her job and is really not paying attention to the people around her. “And that’s been her success,” said Galvez.

The conversation continued with Hilton’s Food and Beverage Supervisor, Ana Kephart, who provided Spanish sign language interpretation. “Maria has guests that come in for a couple of days and when they tell her they’re leaving she’ll say, ‘Oh I’m going to miss you.’ But they’ll be back the next month, and when they come back they look for her. She respects [the guests], she’s always smiling and says that anything that they want, they can always come and ask her.”

Paredes noted she’s gone through numerous management changes, but she has “tunnelvision” and always stays focused on her job. A typical work day is an eight-hour shift, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. When the hotel is especially busy she’ll start an hour earlier. With a laugh, Paredes said, “When I first started [at the hotel], I was young, I baptized my children, I lived with my sister and always had a good time. Now I'm a grandmother and everything hurts!”

Hilton’s North American properties feature a seasonal employee recognition program called “Catch Me at My Best.” From June through August, guests, managers and peers can acknowledge employees for outstanding acts of hospitality with a comment card, or “catch.” Managers tally the results and recognize employees that have been “caught.” Galvez said, “Maria always gets one or two - sometimes three or four - Catch Me at My Best notes a day.”

On the weekends, when she’s off, Paredes will call, and through an interpreter let her managers know that if she’s needed she’s available. “She is always willing to help,” said Galvez. “We understand why the guests are always [asking for] Maria. She’s one of the best housekeepers that we have, and we’re talking about a team of over a hundred people.”

In her email, Ray said, “Maria has touched so many of our guests in a huge way ... she has contributed to raising our Loyalty scores, won employee of the year during her time with Hilton, and has won over our guests. We are so thankful to have such a wonderful and caring team member on our team.”

Paredes has a simple piece of advice for visitors to Los Angeles: “Just be happy and enjoy your stay.”

L.A. is a city of stories. Not just screenplays and novels. But real life stories that can only happen in L.A. A close encounter with dolphins. A brush with a celebrity. A cupcake from a vending machine. It could be an event, an exhibit, a song. But the moment it happens, you can’t wait to tell everyone back home about it. What's your L.A. story?