Today I’d like to talk about guests getting friendly (in some cases too friendly) with hotel/cruise ship staff and other workers in the hospitality industry and where one should draw the line.
(The above hotel – Hyatt Centric Madrid – is used for illustration purposes only and not case related).
Especially regular guests will find themselves in the position where, over time, you start to chat with some employees in a more personal way than it would ordinarily be the case in a sterile business relationship.
If these occasional conversations remain casual and platonic, that’s one thing but I’ve now witnessed more than one occasion where both guests and staff have pressured the other party to exchange social media and messenger contacts.
Such behavior on either side does (in my opinion) cross the line and can create a lot of trouble for either party down the road, either in terms of privacy or even issues with the employer.
Usually, companies have a policy as far as how much fraternization with the guests is permitted. Still, it’s often not easy for the employees (who in many cases depend on tips) to shoot down a guest’s advances to connect on social media in a firm but sensible way.
Let me give you a few examples of situations I personally encountered that I felt were way over the line.
JW Marriott Delhi Airport
A very good friend of mine, an attractive female, often has to stay at the JW Marriott Delhi Airport to the point of even becoming Bovoy Ambassador due to the high volume of nights and spend at this property. This hotel has LOTS of service issues, but that’s not the point (or well, it’s partially the point). If you stay at a hotel for months then you might fall into the trap of being too nice to the employees and they start thinking that you’re their friend rather than a customer.
Contributing factor is the exchange of WhatsApp with individual employees which was first meant to help with service requests. This is wrong, and it’s dangerous. I have said many times that it’s better to keep a distance, but eventually, she also noticed that the staff at this hotel don’t show any more respect and engage in stalking-like behavior to the point of where she now has to avoid this hotel where possible. After all, what can you do? Refuse all housekeeping and try to anonymize your Bonvoy account information? Once this situation had manifested itself there is zero privacy at that property anymore.
Various Cruise Ships
Many times now (the latest one I witnessed this morning), guests pressured cruise staff to exchange social media information. Most staff members on cruises work very hard and provide excellent service. Often times they come from South East Asia and are by nature equipped with a cheerful and sweet personality. Cruisers (for whatever reason) like to become extremely friendly and personal with them which is totally fine but again, TO A POINT. I witnessed an awkward conversation this morning where an older lady pressured one of the workers to connect via Facebook, and it was clear by the answers given that the staff member didn’t feel comfortable. After the guests left she even looked and me and shook her head and I asked what that was all about. She said it happens all the time and many crew members create secondary social media accounts just for guest interaction.
Intimate relationships with staff
This is probably the pinnacle of problems and you sometimes hear about it in the media or at hotels where staff got fired after having intimate relationships with a guest. The most famous case was that of the General Manager of the Grand Hyatt Tokyo accused in a rape case who then left the country (and company) before it could ever become a criminal case. But again, something like this asks for a lot of trouble and if for whatever reason you really hit it off with someone to the point of you start a fling or relationship it’s probably best if one party decides to no longer frequent said hotel, either as a customer or change the employer.
My suggestion would be to keep your social media and messenger information to yourself unless it’s an official account that the hotel provides, for example, for the concierge or butler service.
Being too pushy with nice, hardworking staff where the employee feels uncomfortable to decline out of fear there could be a bad review or withholding of gratuities (cruise ship example) is absolutely over the line.
The point of my writing about this today is not to push some ulterior motives or woke ideology but to highlight the problems it can cause when one isn’t able to differentiate between a position of being a customer, employee, or a person’s friend or personal acquaintance.
You can be friendly and respectful but at the same time keep some professional distance just like you’d do at your workplace (unless you’re a sucker for lawsuits). Being overly friendly, making advances, and pushing people to exchange social media erases that veneer of professionalism.
The best is to keep in mind that the employee is there to do a job, being nice is part of that job so don’t read too much into it. At the same time, guests at a hotel are still guests and have to be treated as such. The responsibility here swings both ways and I’d expect management to make this clear, even if it means admonishing some guests and severely punish staff that went over the line.
As my examples show, there are many cases where these kinds of situations have gone awry, be it simply to a point of feeling uncomfortable to downright dangerous cases and borderline behavior by both staff and guests that’s very difficult to control once the train is on the wrong track.
Have you had any such experience before, and what’s your opinion about it?