Sevier County native Gabby Shults says she loves to clean. And the booming short-term rental market of the Smoky Mountains provides ample opportunity for Shults to do just that as an area housekeeper.
“This job is therapeutic for me because it’s my escape from reality sometimes,” says 20-year-old Shults. “I put my music on and clean and feel so proud knowing that the next guest will walk into a cozy clean place to stay during their vacation.”
But as Shults and others who work in the hospitality industry are well aware, being a housekeeper in a busy tourist town like Sevier County can also mean a lot of hard work and long hours.
Such was the case last Monday when Shults was nearing the end of a difficult shift and preparing for her final clean of the day when she spotted what looked like a $60 cash tip waiting for her in the kitchen.
“I was having such a horrible day. I had six condos to clean and was already very tired,” says Shults. “I walked in the door and headed straight for the kitchen to find three $20 bills … I was so excited!”
But little did Shults know at the time, that joy would soon be reduced to tears when she learned she was instead the victim of a cruel prank.
What looked like three folded $20 bills, turned out to be nothing more than note-sized prank money, with a note that read “Got’cha” on the back.
“I was devastated,” says Shults. “I cried.”
Shults says she never expects tips from her clientele. In fact, she estimates that she only sees a tip in roughly two out of every 100 rentals she cleans.
However, she admits, if that $60 tip had been real, it would have made an impact in her life.
For perspective, as a one-woman show Shults usually earns about $30-$70 per house.
“That $60 could have paid for the new tires I’ve been needing, or it could have gotten me gas for the rest of the week, or could have paid for my grandmother’s heart medicine … I could have used it for a lot of things,” says Shults.
“Tipping is not anything I ever expect because every guest pays cleaning fees and I know times are very hard right now. But if someone leaves a horrible mess, a tip would be greatly appreciated.”
Some of the bigger messes Shults regularly encounters in her career include dirty dishes piled sky-high in the sink (despite guests being asked to do dishes before checkout) and human waste such as bodily fluids.
Shults originally shared her story of the prank on the Sevierville Speaks Out Facebook group, where it received over 1000 reactions and nearly 500 comments from horrified community members.
“I just want people to understand that kindness is needed in this world,” says Shults.
Undeterred, when asked what she sees for her future in the industry, Shults says she is currently looking to expand her business, hire help, build a team and expand her clientele to larger cabins and private homes.
If you or someone you know is interested in getting in touch with Shults to inquire about either joining her team or employing her services, you may do so by emailing GabbyShults@gmail.com.
Do you tip when you check out of a short-term vacation rental? Have you or someone you know been the victim of a cruel tipping prank? Let us know in the comments!