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What Is a Desk Clerk?

Desk clerks often work in motels.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 March 2014
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A desk clerk might refer to a position in hotel reception. Typically, this form of clerk assists people checking in and out of hotels and motels, and when they have questions about the facilities or area. In very large hotels or resorts, this employee’s job might be limited to one part of the check-in/check-out process, such as handing keys to a guest or making sure baggage is taken up to a room. Usually the desk clerk does much more than this.

When people first enter a hotel or motel the desk clerk may be the first person with whom they transact. Clerks verify reservations, or affirm whether there are available rooms. Then, they may check the person into the hotel, take payment, although this can also occur at the end of stay, and furnish keys. Possibly in smaller hotels/motels, they might carry bags to rooms. When people check out, clerks may assist in this process too, reclaiming keys, taking payment, and answering last minute questions.

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While they are performing these tasks, the desk clerk may answer a stream of questions from the guest that could include inquiries about hotel policies on a variety of matters, such as about swimming pool hours. They could also serve as amateur tour guide to the area, sharing information with the guest about things to do locally or any deals the hotel/motel might have with local points of interest. For instance, hotels/motels within reach of amusement parks, major zoos, or museums may sell tickets to these at a reduced price. Again, in larger hotels, a desk clerk might not have these responsibilities and there could be an information desk that guests visit instead.

In addition to serving customers who at arrive at the front desk, the desk clerk may take phone calls from customers staying at the hotel, who have more questions. Alternately, they could receive calls from people interested in staying at the hotel and make reservations for them. This last responsibility is variable. Many hotels have 800 numbers that don’t connect directly to the hotel, and all booking is done at a remote location.

Given that desk clerks are the first, and often last, point of contact, a large share of a motel/hotel reputation may be based on the skill, friendliness and politeness of these employees. Other things count too, like hotel cleanliness and service. Yet, it is very important for these employees to have a friendly manner, know their jobs, and provide excellent customer service. They can be hamstringed in this endeavor if the hotel doesn’t have ways to resolve problems that arise.

Clerks should also expect to possibly work different shifts. Especially in motels, people may arrive at any time of day or night, wanting to check in. Certainly, problems arise around the clock that could require the advice or assistance of a desk clerk. While nighttime clerking is usually quieter, a clerk still needs to be available.

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