Work Experience 12: Hostel Worker
Travel is one of life’s greatest adventures. As well as enjoying the cities, towns, natural landscapes, wildlife and dining experiences each destination has to offer, one of my favourite parts of travel is meeting so many different people from different walks of life. Working at Nomads Backpackers Hostel in Brisbane was exciting for me as I was able to hang out with people from all over the globe who were enjoying their own travel adventures in Australia.
Nomads is located near Central Station in Brisbane, and sleeps more than 400 people over five floors. It has a variety of rooms including shared dorm accommodation, female-only dorms and private rooms. Underneath the backpackers is the Down Under Bar/nightclub, as well as the Zi bar which offers a quieter atmosphere.
What did I do?
My first two shifts at Nomads were spent on reception. The hostel prides itself on being a party hostel, and as such has music pumping in reception during the day. What a great vibe! I didn’t break into song or dance at any stage (well maybe a little bit of a boogie) but a couple of my colleagues did. Fun! People were coming and going, there were backpacks with shoes hanging off them everywhere I looked, and quite frankly for a moment I wished I was 20 years younger carrying a backpack like the guests. I couldn’t help but wonder where everyone had been and where they were going.
As I started at 9am and checkout is at 10am I quickly learned the system for checking people out. To make the process as efficient as possible, a printout including the names of each person due to check out as well as their room numbers is provided at the reception desk. I collected keys, checked the names of people leaving and put a dot beside them on my list, and showed them where to put the pillow cases they’d borrowed. Once the rush was over, I was shown how to check people out on the computer, crossing out each name on the printed list as I went.
11am is an hour past checkout time, so it was time to knock on doors to do the ‘kick-outs’. We had to check the rooms of anyone on the list who hadn’t presented to reception. We knocked on doors, identified ourselves as Reception staff and let ourselves in.
As most of the rooms have multiple beds, it was just a matter of counting how many empty beds there were and cross-checking that against our list. On day 1 every single person that was supposed to check out had left without going through reception. I was slightly disappointed I have to admit. I wanted to see how the ‘kick-out’ process worked. I definitely had my chance on day 2. I’m not sure if it was a particularly good party in the Down Under Bar the night before, but nearly everyone that was meant to have checked out was still asleep in bed! We called out the names of the people on the list and when the people awoke it was quite funny to hear their responses. From ‘What day is it?’ to, ‘What time is it?’ to, ‘I thought I was meant to be checking out tomorrow’ to, ‘Oh no sorry!!’. We instructed them to quickly get down to reception to either check out or extend their stay. Everyone was really nice when we did our kick-outs, although I’m sure sometimes the reactions aren’t quite as pleasant. Late check-outs incur a $10 fee.
I spent the rest of my time in reception greeting guests, looking on as people extended their stays, seeing how the check-in system worked and chatting with the lovely staff. I even got to write on the flashing sign above the reception desk to advertise the night’s pub crawl.
My third day at Nomads was spent in the Down Under Bar, helping out during the lunch shift. I’ve never worked behind a bar before so was really looking forward to it. First up I learnt how to pour a beer on tap.
Straight after that I had my first customer who requested a jug of beer. I didn’t even know where to find them! He was nice enough to point above my head to show me where they were, and was not too fussed when I said I was a learner pourer. He even explained to me again how to pour. Thanks Mister! I ended up pouring plenty of beers throughout my shift.
There are always a few raffles on Fridays, so many of the customers were regulars out to enjoy a tasty meal and try their luck. Some groups had rows of raffle tickets laid out before them in anticipation. When it came to raffle time, I was offered the chance to call out the winning tickets but chickened out when presented with the microphone and was happy instead to draw out the lucky tickets from a beer jug instead.
My other bar duties included listening out for the bell from the kitchen to deliver food orders, and clearing plates and glasses. It was really busy during the peak lunch period! I can only imagine how busy it’d be in the evenings.
What did I learn?
It was really interesting to get some insight into the workings of a busy hostel, including how rooms are advertised and priced. I didn’t realise that prices can fluctuate from one day to the next depending on special events being on in Brisbane, or on the availability of beds.
You definitely need certain skills to be able deal with the range of people and problems that exist in a very busy city hostel. I think it takes a good sense of humour, understanding, and the ability to be assertive when necessary.
To gain some insight into Ali’s job as a Hostel Manager, click here.