Bad Club Lounge Etiquette — At What Point Do You Say Something?

Filed Under: Hotels

I stay at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport quite frequently, as it’s by far my favorite Frankfurt Airport hotel. The location can’t be beat as it’s connected to the terminal, the tower rooms are nice, and the club lounge has a great spread that’s available for several hours in the evenings.

Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Towers Room

As I’ve mentioned a million times before, I like to get work done in club lounges, since it’s a nice change of scenery from hotel rooms. When you live in hotels and spend 8-10 hours awake in hotels working, you go crazy sitting in a room all day. Beyond that, club lounges usually have water and coffee, which helps.

Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Club Lounge

One thing I find interesting is that every single time I’ve stayed at the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport there are some US military people in the lounge. Let me start by saying that I appreciate their service, of course. The only reason I know they’re military, though, is because how loudly they talk about it. They’ll frequently have conversations that everyone can hear, though it doesn’t really bother or faze me much. I even noted this back when I reviewed the property in 2012.

I stayed at the hotel last night, and there were four guys that were even more crass than I’ve experienced in the past. They were sitting in the lounge drinking beers, and both what they were talking about and how loudly they were talking left me shaking my head. For starters, every second word was “f&$%.” And it’s not like I was eavesdropping, but rather I was seated a few tables away from them and couldn’t not hear what they were saying.

One guy talked about how he recently bought his wife a new pair of t!t$.

Another guy was saying how a “f%&^ing corporal” dared give him lip and that he can “go f%&^ himself and suck a d*&$.”

I’m not easily offended — you don’t have to look far beyond the comments section of this blog to realize that. 😉

But at a certain point it’s just embarrassing. It’s embarrassing anyone would act that way in public. And it’s especially embarrassing that this is the impression they’re giving to others of the US.

While I’m usually pretty outspoken, I stayed quiet in this case. I don’t know if they were headed abroad or home, but gave them the benefit of the doubt. At the same time I really wanted to tell them that I thought it was inappropriate how they were behaving in front of others (including children), and especially that the impression they were giving others of the US was embarrassing.

But I restrained myself and didn’t.

Not necessarily specific to this situation, but at what point do you call other people out for bad club lounge etiquette? Do you ever? If so, how do you approach it?

  1. It’s a shared space. If you can’t deal with the way they are conducting themselves, you are free to leave. Or bring the issue to the attention of the management. I would not risk a confrontation by dealing with them directly.

  2. The club representative has the responsibility to maintain decorum….you should have said something to that person.

  3. My big issue is people who treat the lounges like a buffet dinner. I once saw a family wipe out an entire sushi selection with heaped plates etc in a hyatt leaving nothing for others and staff scrambling. They then complained because there was no food.

  4. Germany kind of gave up the right to complain when they lost WWII they agreed to permanent American military bases…

  5. Unfortunately, the idea that people sharing a space should err on the side of quiet and respect for others is lost on many Americans, military notwithstanding. This is evidenced by the comments that boorish behavior in the lounge should trump common decency. When I was in the Navy, I frequently traveled last-minute on full fare economy, which allowed me to upgrade international trips with a few thousand miles (sometimes less than I earned from the trip) and I frequently extended this courtesy to colleagues who didn’t travel as much or weren’t as savvy with points. Same with lounge access.

    But I stopped doing this because my military “guests” would treat the business class experience like they were in a mile high sports bar, much to the detriment of other passengers and the FAs, to say nothing of my embarrassment.

    When I encounter unruly military people–which isn’t often, mind you–and I feel sufficiently provoked to say something, I very quietly tell them that I appreciate their service but that their behavior isn’t very becoming of the uniform and would they mind toning it down so others can enjoy their experience as well? Works wonders. The one time it didn’t, I asked for the name of his unit and commanding officer; if he was acting appropriately, surely he wouldn’t mind explaining his behavior to the CO. Shut him up instantly.

  6. The club personnel should have asked them to keep things civil and to turn down the volume. You might have discretely asked them to do so.

  7. They talk about serving and protecting their country and this is how they portray it? Disgraceful. Then again, with the all the “hero” worship, no wonder they think they can do whatever they want.

  8. Lucky,
    It’s kinda just bad manners – just happened to be in the Lounge! I stay in the Taj Club Rooms across India monthly, and see everything from crass Aussies (yep, we’re as bad as the yanks), drunk businessmen (locals and expats), and rudeness beyond compare – seems particularly prevalent in India. I guess it could be a factor of ‘when on tour’ but some business people seem genuinely unconcerned for their fellow travellers, and probably feel that they’re out there changing the world one deal at time. The club floors at the Taj hotels are spectacular in many ways, and provide 2 free hours of cocktails every night. Obviously, it can get messy and somewhat embarrassing – especially the way some people treat the staff.
    I have kids, and some of the potty mouth is a bit much. However, I’d probably refrain from having a go if it was just me versus four army-folk, but if I had kids there, I’d most likely ask for the ‘cussin to stop. If it’s after bed-time for little ones tho, you’ve got to expect that these guys will let off some steam. As for the embarrassment, it only really reflects on them so I wouldn’t worry!

  9. It’s a tough spot, I think during the day the Lounge is definitely kid/work friendly, but at a certain point it does become a place to unwind and enjoy the ‘happy hour’. I’d always anticipate a bar atmosphere, but it does sound like these individuals were going over the line.

    Also the same with airport lounges – split between business and pleasure travelers. I’m never shocked to see people having a few drinks and being loud in the bar areas, and if I’m traveling for work I know to stay away from those areas.

    To your original point though, this seems worse than what most would consider acceptable, even at a bar.

  10. I experienced a similar situation in the club lounge at the Hilton Tokyo. The captain from our AA flight to Tokyo was holding court there and issuing F-bombs left and right. I considered mentioning it to him, but figured it would not be well received.

  11. There are about three dozen ways a confrontation goes south and very few where it works out ok. To me, though, you would have been completely in the right. Not for them being loud, or even crass. (Though I suppose a parent with a child would perhaps have an objection.). The point at which I think you or any adult had a right to ask them to stop is when they decided to disparage the lippy corporal using homophobic language. Nobody is required to sit silently and endure that, any less than if they had been calling the corporal a bad name related to his race or relgion. Of course many do not recognize that using expressions like c***s***** even are homophobic, so it’s tough slogging to have that conversation. But the suggestion that it’s “shared space” definitely has limits and that’s unacceptable.

    For those piling on crass americans, there is nothing magically genteel about Europeans. I spent part of the summer on a cruise that was about half Germans. Holy crap, I could not believe the behavior. Buffets and elevators were unbelievable. Pushing children out of the way to get the last sausage, rushing to be first on the elevator before everyone was off. People are just selfish all over, not just in the USA.

  12. I’m a current military member and this type of behavior is, as stated, unbecoming of the uniform. Unfortunately, these type of people exist in all walks of life and unless someone their senior is there to tell them to calm it down respectively they are likely to not.

    On the flip side, I don’t travel nearly as much as Ben but I do travel enough to be CP on US and Platinum on UA and I can say that I have never witnessed such behavior in lounges or in the J/F cabins. Thankfully.

    Like Will pointed out, sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re not in the shop and instead in a business lounge and language and behavior need to adjust appropriately. A gentle reminder usually helps them understand that not everyone is enjoying their f-bombs.


  13. The majority of military personnel I’ve come across, like police, think of themselves as more ‘privelliged’ then those they protect and serve so as much as I’d suggest saying something to anyone else I doubt doing so would have any effect on this group. Even if an attendent would have mentioned something to them the likelyhood of them listening in my mind is pretty small. And consider if they hadn’t even been drinking what the situation could have been like if they were inebriated. The best you could do is leave or put on headphones cause like Ron white said: ‘you can’t fix stupid.’

  14. If this was yesterday you must’ve left before the kid’s party started.

    It is amazing how certain groups of people behave as if it was their own living room. However, I gotta admit that is not really limited to US or any other category. I usually try to stay quiet as long as I can, drop the Club Lounge guys a note and, if really necessary give those group an idea of their impression.

    I did either miss those US guys yesterday… or the kids were to loud 😉

  15. The point is that regardless of your nationality, race, gender, age, sexual preference, wealth or profession, you should always carry yourself in a dignified manner no matter where you are. That is what separates you from the neanderthals. This is especially true when you are in a foreign land representing your country. Stereotypes evolve because when you repeatedly see a group of people behave in a certain manner, it’s hard not to begin to generalize.

  16. I was in the Grand Hyatt for breakfast fighting for space and there was a family who apparently got in early(breakfast time) and the room was no ready. The women decides to take her shoes off and lie on the full length of the couch.

    The host even asked if they could do anything and the man rudely responded to get their room ready.
    I wanted to say…..”4pm Check in time”

    To top it off she had really nasty feet too.

    To the credit of the host, he opened up 2 conference rooms that are usually for rent to help with the overflow. There were no bare feet in the conference room.

  17. I would have done what you did, Lucky. I wouldn’t tell a bunch of drunk soldiers to tone it down a bit at a club lounge (but if it bothers me to my breaking point — I’d talk to the manager.)

  18. I would have no problem asking them to tone it down. They may honestly be clueless that they are bothering others. Just let them save face in your approach.

  19. I had this same situation at a baseball game once. I had a season ticket and the people behind me usually sold their tickets. Two guys were behind me and from the first inning on, they were were in deep family conversation not watching one minute of the game, non-stop talking very loudly and the one guy using the f-word every other word. It was so bad I thought I was on candid camera. I finally turned around after an hour of this and just said”could you please ease up on the cursing?” He was shocked, but he stopped, but had to ridicule me by saying, ” can you believe this, where are we in church? There ain’t that many children around?” It wasn’t even the fact that he was cursing so much, it was that this “educated” individual couldn’t complete a sentence without saying Fuc…six times, and I’m not exaggerating. They left around the 7th inning showing they couldn’t give a crap about the game as I suspected. As I was leaving, I mentioned it to the usher whom I knew from being a season ticket holder and she said I should have just told her and she would have said something to them. It’s really a coarsening of society in general. Look at what they allow on TV now even in prime time…..rap music lyrics etc. Sadly this is becoming “normal”.

  20. Lucky says: “But at a certain point it’s just embarrassing. It’s embarrassing anyone would act that way
    in public. And it’s especially embarrassing that this is the impression they’re giving to others of the US.”

    On the plus side at least they’re giving the locals an accurate impression of the sort of behavior they can expect should they ever choose to visit the US. If they want tact and sophistication then maybe they should choose someplace else.

    William says: “The majority of military personnel I’ve come across, like police, think of themselves as more ‘privelliged’ then those they protect and serve so as much as I’d suggest saying something to anyone else I doubt doing so would have any effect on this group.”

    When I was a boy I assumed that being in the American military meant you were held to a much higher standard than an average civilian. As an adult I’ve met more than my fair share of American military over the years (both active and retired). Many of them have made it clear that they couldn’t care less what a civilian thinks about their language or behavior. You didn’t serve so you’re forever below them. Never mind if they’re acting like bullies or thugs. In their view they’ve earned the right to act however they wish and see nothing wrong with it.

  21. Ben-
    I would say that if in a normal situation, if this was just some random Joe Blow American acting boorishly and you would ask him to pipe down and show some respect to others in the lounge, then don’t be afraid to say it to Americans in uniform. I love how nobody seems able to say anything bad about the behavior of the military without first saying…”I appreciate their service, but…”.

    I do tend to think that the hero worship of the military can open up the potential for negative stuff. Both in terms of public policy and the feelings of special privileges and entitlement that some military personnel can probably feel.

    Just treat them as you would any other American, or anyone from any country, and you’ll be good.

  22. Chris writes, “As for the embarrassment, it only really reflects on them so I wouldn’t worry!”

    No, if they are in uniform, their behavior reflects on the United States. That is what a uniform is all about.

    I like the idea of walking up to them and authoritatively asking for the name of their unit and CO. But I suspect that only people who’ve been in the military, or are otherwise familiar with it, would be able to pull that off.

  23. good chance to video some of their acting out and post it on you tube.

    it might lead to a lecture by an officer as to how they should conduct themselves in public.

  24. I have to say I’m with you on this one. Also shocked by some of the people replying here. One idiot mentions WWII so he wins the award for biggest retard but others saying your at a bar deal with it have missed the point of the space completely.

    Bring British I do t worship the ground of US personal but I do respect them, I would expect them to represent their uniform and country in the best possible way. These guys don’t and do the other people in uniform a massive discredit.

  25. @Sean M @anon When I was first sent to Germany with the Army, the very first thing they drilled into our brains was “As a servicemember abroad, you are an Ambassador of the United States. Conduct yourself well, as you represent the United States to the world.”

    @mike You’re clearly not a very smart person. I’m sorry the education system failed you.
    The US military bases are there due to Germany’s request as a NATO partner, not as some penalty for World War II. If the military bases were a penalty, then we wouldn’t have BRAC cutting the number of bases we’ve had in Germany since the Cold War ended. That said, if you can find some sort of documentation to the contrary, I’d be quite interested in seeing it.

  26. I wonder if people would respond with comments like, “just wear headphones” if they had been using racial slurs.

    Cursing is one thing. But homophobic slurs are another. I understand fully that the world is not yet at the point where it equates comments about trying to demean a man by telling him to suck a dick is viewed on the same footing as using racial language. But I hope we’re getting there, and am pretty confident we’ll be there in no more than one more generation.

    At a minimum, I hope we can agree it’s starting to be in the same ballpark. Nobody should have to listen to that crap.

  27. Can we all drop the obligatory, “of course, I thank them for their service.” It’s been a volunteer military for over 30 years. Today, it’s a career choice just like any other.

    Based on some of the jingoistic comments here (“Merica, hell yeah! We won WW II. Never mind the 24 million Russians who lost their lives fighting and eventually crippling the German army on the eastern front) and the obnoxious attitude of the military, is it any wonder that the USA is held in such low regard?

    Oh, by the way, those “charming servicemen” are going to board their next flight before first class. Another empty, lame gesture by the US airlines. Next time Ben, just tell people your Canadian.

  28. Ben, one suggestion if you (or any of your readers) find yourself in a similar situation in the future is to look around and see if you see me or any of my fellow Service Members. Tell us how their behavior is offensive to you and we will typically go to them and settle them down. Poor behavior by any of us reflect poorly on all of us. Since we are not supposed to be traveling in duty uniform any longer, just look for guys with a really good haircut and tell us your complaint.


  29. Who are these people? I was in the military and never got lounge access while on TDY.

    Sometimes you can’t “get away from it.” I was on a IAH-LAS flight last night. This (obviously inebriated) woman kept loudly yapping the whole flight to the poor guy next to her. She asked him personal questions about his family, even making sexually suggestive comments about him and his wife. Then she started talking about his daughters experiencing ovulation. I heard her through my noise canceling headphones! The guy was too nice. I would’ve told her to shut up. When the door opened he couldn’t dash out of that plane fast enough.

  30. As a retired military officer I would have immediately gotten up and walked over and said, “Gentlemen I don’t know if you realize or not but all your conversations are carrying to everyone in the club and I know that you have given great sacrifices for your country so you should make sure that that service is not discredited in this civilian place”.

    I am “certain” they would have immediately changed their conversations.

    While it seems my direct approach might be a little too much to say for someone who had not been in the military but I would urge you to have that conversation next time and I am certain they will respect your comments and request.

  31. Well, I once had 2 people dry humping on a sofa in the United Club. Lounge manager was this buff guy in his middle 30s and got that taken care of right quick.

  32. As a senior military officer who enjoys lounges as much as you, I can assure you I am appaled by this behavior. It is unprofessional, period.

    What I can do about it is certainly more likely to get their attention than anything you can do. I suggest telling the lounge attendant or hotel management about the issue. No sense in you running the risk in getting them agitated, especially if they have been drinking. They will see the management of the hotel adam authority figure and likely calm down.

  33. Sounds like the same riff-raff I encountered in there in January of this year; there was an NFL play-off game on, and it was unpleasant being there (and I love football – went to the lounge hoping the game was being televised).

    I grabbed a quick bite & left!

  34. To all my fellow military officers and NCOs this is not a problem to sluff off on the club staff. We don’t leave our troops on the battlefield and we we shouldn’t allow trash in a civilian club to bring discredit. and if you are a senior leader at or near this location perhaps it is an issue to bring to the command table……..these guys know better and they will jump in line when corrected……this is a club room not a dive bar…………we need to clean up our own mess…………

  35. I think you’ve spent too much time behind a computer screen which might have given you a false sense of confidence. You would be creamed by 4 soldiers if you told them to stop swearing :p

  36. The most recent appalling example I witnessed was the mother perusing the lounge food spread while her young obviously sick daughter proceeds to sneeze right on various trays of food repeatedly while they’re over there.

  37. @Larry is barking up the wrong tree. Are you saying that his comment would be less offensive if the CO was a female? Those comments are offensive whether you are male or female, it has nothing to do with homophobia.

    @Lucky – I wouldn’t really pay attention to their military status, I would confront them (or not) as if they were any other businessmen or leisure travelers in the lounge. If that meant a direct confrontation, I might throw in some polite conversation about where they are stationed/traveling as an icebreaker and to let them know you recognize them as US military – it might put them on notice/remind them that they are representing their country.

    @david22 – Definitely, I would have said something immediately to the parent of the sneezing child, and notified the lounge attendant which food trays need to be replaced.

  38. @Janet It potentially would be demeaning if said to a female, and possibly even sexual harassment depending on context. It likely would not be homophobic. Trying to demean a person by suggesting that person have sex with a member of the same gender, thus implying that doing so is wrong or makes them weak or contemptible, is homophobic.

    By the way, your form of argument is highly disingenuous, and a classic internet type of argument. There is nothing in my posts to suggest at all what I would have said if I had understood Ben to be saying the corporal was female. I simply said that what was reportedly said was homophobic and unacceptable. The suggestion that a similar comment made to a different person might also be offensive is both nonresponsive to what I said and also does nothing to change the fact that what was said was homophobic.

  39. Oh man.

    Like the military folks above, had I been there, I most certainly would have gone the direct route and addressed the group.

    It helps that I’m in a drill sgt unit.

    Justsaying- I see where you’re coming from sir, and I agree with its sentiment. A stern “Who’s the highest ranking here? Come with me, let’s have a chat,” will do wonders, I am certain. But the vast majority of travelers in lounges will not be current or former military, and may not be comfortable dealing with a group of inebriated service members.

    In those cases, the offended civilian should bring the property manager to address the misbehaving individuals. It reduces risk and liabilty to all parties, and will almost always lead to a quieter situation.

    Travel safe everyone.


  40. @Tony C I appreciate the comment. What I would say to all the civilians without military service is that I actually have more faith in “all” our military members in this situation and if you respectfully let them know you are uncomfortable because of their language they will respond in a positive way. I say this “only” because this is a club not a dive bar where I do think the response could be quite different. I remember being on a plane a few years back where a troop “in uniform” was obviously intoxicated and spewing venom into the aisles of the plane as he off boarded…… took a simple “soldier, what unit are you in” and he became stone cold sober and courteous instantly……..some military will disagree with this approach and some civilians will disagree with this approach but I have a lot of faith in our troops and if challenged to do the “right thing” I believe the odds on compliance are extremely high………..

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