How One Hyatt Is Cracking Down On Club Lounge Abusers

Filed Under: Hyatt

With most major international hotel groups, top tier elite members receive complimentary access to executive lounges.

The quality of these varies greatly around the world. In general they’re great in Asia, where the lounges largely have food that could be a substitute for dinner, and complimentary alcohol.

Meanwhile in the US they typically have an “honor bar” (where you have to pay for alcohol), and the food spread may look like it’s intended for rabbits rather than humans.

If you have access to an executive lounge you’re entitled to access for two people per room, and/or for the registered guests in the room. That being said, enforcement isn’t very consistent.

At least in the US you can typically open the door to the lounge with your key card, and there’s often no one checking how many people you bring into the lounge. Staffing in these lounges is often low, so it might be that just one person is replenishing the buffet, and there’s not really a full time attendant.

Meanwhile outside the US I often find there’s a “concierge” in the lounge who verifies everyone’s credentials when they enter the lounge.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen people bring an outrageous number of guests into a lounge in the US. Now, I never know for sure whether they’re violating the rules since it’s possible those people also have access, but I imagine at least a good percentage of the time people exceed the guesting limit by a lot.

I’ve never really seen a mid-range hotel crack down on access (at least one with a fairly small lounge — I imagine it’s different at hotels like the Grand Hyatt New York), until this weekend. I just stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tampa, where I’ve stayed dozens of times before. This time around I was told that they had implemented a new system to “better manage who uses the lounge,” and it seems kind of smart to me.

A key is no longer sufficient to enter the lounge, as you’re also given a club “card,” which is essentially the size of a business card and has your name on it. Then the second guest in your room also gets a card with their name on it.

There was someone standing outside the lounge during the breakfast and evening service hours checking these as people entered.

I thought it was a smart system, as it’s a good way to verify eligibility. However, I was surprised they actually invested in the staffing to have someone standing outside the door to verify this. Then again, perhaps that person is actually generating revenue, because it’s possible that people now pay to bring guests into the lounge.

Also, I’m not sure there’s a huge advantage to this system compared to having someone inside the lounge at a desk verifying eligibility as each person walks in, and in that case the attendant could also help with concierge-style services.

The lounge was noticeably quieter than during past stays, though it’s also possible that this is due to it being the Thanksgiving weekend, so there aren’t many business travelers.

Have you ever seen any US club lounges crack down in a similar way? Would you like to see this practice spread?

Comments
  1. If people could pass their key cards to friends/family for lounge entry, they might as well pass this “business card” to them too…

  2. Any particular reason why they can’t simply ask room numbers like pretty much every international hotel with a lounge does?

  3. Lounge access is a big benefit as a globalist. I like this system. I’m sick of lounges that are full of people’s kids and kids friends.

  4. Mid range hotel chain Drury has evening snacks for all guests. This afternoon an substitute for dinner (macaroni, sausage, chips, etc). Now they check to make sure you are not off the street or a guest of the neighboring hotel.

  5. Meh..I have seen worse in Orlando, basically south Florida for ya. Rules and regulations go out the window

  6. ITS ABOUT TIME and I hope they do this in Europe. Never fails to have 27,000 people enter the lounge to grab every morsel of food in five minutes and then leave.

  7. Off topic @Lucky, but Alitalia has failed to get any offers and the rescue plan has failed (surprise!). Great quote on Reuters saying how the amount of money the Italian government has spent propping up Alitalia is enough to have bought 6 other airlines, including Air France, KLM and SAS!

  8. Oh my goodness, I have the ultimate story about this. I was doing a show in Houston, a convention for a bunch of Indians at the Hilton Americas. I had access to the lounge, and I went up on Saturday morning, and the place was so packed with Indians you couldn’t move. All of the food had been picked clean. Obviously a handful of people had access to the lounge and they had clearly let their friends and family into the lounge en masse, in blatant violation of the rules.

    The next morning, I laughed out loud because they had a security guard and another hotel employee posted outside, checking everyone to make sure that they were supposed to be in the lounge. There were only a few people inside as normal.

    Indians are known for being extremely frugal despite their wealth. PS before anybody gets their panties in a wad, I’m Indian myself.

    So yes, I’m all for cracking down and making sure that everyone who is in the lounge is supposed to be there.

  9. Marriott Marquis & Marina does much the same. In addition to the entry card, they counter check it against their own list of eligble guests. When I was there, this policy generated a line of guests that required 10 or so minutes to process.

    All of this for quite disappointing food.

  10. Thanks Ben. I am staying at the Grand Hyatt Tampa next month and your last review of the hotel from 2014 stated the club lounge is closed on the weekends. Do you know if that is still the case?

  11. I always love the fellow travelers that assume if there are kids present, it is because someone has gamed the system, versus you know, families actually springing for club level rooms and/or having sufficient status to allow use during leisure trips.

  12. Yeah they did this at the Marriott Marquis SF as well where there was an attendant outside the door. It was also by far the best domestic hotel lounge I have been to so it was worth the brief wait.

  13. The Westin Seoul limits lounge access to two evening seatings: 5-7 or 7-9.
    Arrive at 6:30 and they’ll tell you you only have 30 minutes for lounge, or, leave and return at 7, but get in line. At 6:45, they tell guests to finish up and leave.

    This hotel also has a tap room key at desk where staff confirm access and number of guests.

  14. Just seems like a typical devaluation of product and people abusing a system to me. Open something up to everyone – without warranty and validity – and the majority will cut corners and not value it.

  15. @Sean S. – Thank you, and agreed! I have 8 kids, (one married), and when we all travel together, sometimes with grandparents, we book multiple rooms with club access. My wife and I are both Hyatt Globalists, so always get access, including for multiple rooms. Not all large groups are privilege abusers…

  16. I am not sure that the percentage of abusers is that high and perhaps the extra cost in staffing will reduce the offerings in the lounge.

    As a diamond/globalist for the past 20 years, I really haven’t noticed people trying to sneak in. Maybe once or twice I have wondered, but pretty rare. If people can afford to pay $200-$600+ a night for a hotel, I am sure they can afford to pay another $50-$100 plus for a club room.

    An extra hassle to carry a business card and be checked before entry. I think this is an unnecessary cost.

  17. Sort of similar earlier this year the Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam changed from having a nightly wine hour from 5-6 PM to offering a cocktail in the cafe / bar area on presentation of a drinks mat left in the room as proof of stay.

    The lounge is certainly a lot quieter than it had been.

    When I checked in in June the receptionist (who recognised me from previous visits) said something like ‘We had to change the wine hour …’ rather than ‘we have changed …’ so they must have picked up on non guests coming in for a free wine.

    A dozen or so bottles of wine everyday pn average soon adds up cost wise even if it’s ordinary table wine

  18. So I have mainly stayed at Hyatt’s in UAE, Asia (including India) and Australia. At GH in Melbourne they always check to see if you are a registered club lounge guest. If not, and the lounge is at capacity (think New Years Eve) then they do not allow extra people (the lounge can get really busy). If they have capacity then they charge you for the additional person. Same in Singapore. BTW I had no idea that you do not get free booze in the US. Is this all club lounges in the US? I am a globalist so get it for free (actually not a big drinker). If there was no alcohol and poor quality food, there is no way I would pay for it as it does not seem good value for money. I picked a random date in May and played with bookings. In Melbourne a standard room costs 331 (AUD), a club room which is same size (maybe a higher floor but the view is not that exciting anyway – I am from Melb) – cost for a club room is 395 (AUD). That is a lot of food and alcohol you would need to drink – even for 2 people. IMO far better restaurants close by. In Singapore the equivalent sized room to the club room is 315 (cheapest room is 245). Club room is 395 (SGD). Whilst I really like the evening canapés at GH Singapore and the staff are lovely, there is no way I would pay an extra $80. In Dubai a standard room is 90 USD (I imagine it is low season in May) and a club room 145 (USD). The club lounge there is really good and includes alcohol. I also checked the GH in NYC. The cheapest room is 216 vs the club lounge of 316. I love NYC and it has lots of great food options (cheap and $$$$$) so unsure why someone would pay to eat rabbit food!

  19. I am sick of people like you Emily who obviously was never a kid yourself! My daughter who is 8 travels more than most business people, is well behaved and frequently goes to the lounge, when allowed with me and my wife. Don’t lump all children into one category please! She is better behaved then most adults I know.

  20. No objection to well behaved children. If people realized I don’t want to be part of their FaceTime/skype conversations without headphones in, often at a volume that is unwarranted- people modern technology means you don’t need to shout.

    Also people things like spoons and serving tongs are there to be used I don’t want to follow behind you after you have helped yourself with your fingers.

    Often some of the adults are more badly behaved and entitled than the children.

  21. Ben,

    I stayed quite a bit at the LA Airport Marriott while they were remodeling their lounge into the current M Club (very nice BTW and worth staying at that Marriott to go there). When it opened, and I assume still today, there was an attendant outside verifying guests’ name and room number before they could enter. I really like it and wanted to point it out since I’m not sure if other Marriott’s are doing this (every other Marriott Lounge I’ve been in was room key access and no checks) but it makes a lot of sense to limit access to those that should be there and also the appropriate number of guests

  22. I particularly like it, similar to the Airline lounges, when hordes of kids come in, and then run rampant with no parental supervision.

    Its time for AMEX and the Airline clubs to say, enough is enough. NO GUESTS.

    One person per paying membership. That includes your spouse. If your spouse travels with you, they should pay too.

    Its to the point, that the lounges are just (if not more) chaotic then being outside the lounge.

  23. Last hotel lounge I was at we had two rooms and the young grand kids. We got our food and found a quiet area for them to eat. After they ate one of the adults took them to their room. We all knew they were full of energy and people wanted to relax and not have kids running around. People need to control the kids or don’t take them out.

  24. @AC I was at the LA Marriott in May and August of this year and they did not do any extra validation beyond the room key letting you in or not. I will agree it is a nicer M Club lounge with great selection, and if I remember correctly, I was told it was the largest M Club in the US.

  25. Then there are the abusers of the freebies in the lounge. At one of the Hilton’s I stay at, the attendant is very conscientious of what goes on in her lounge. She essentially rations out the water and “fizzy water”, as she calls it, because of the guests who strip the fridges of it if left on their own.

  26. I love it. Happy to hear that someone is stepping up and doing something about this.

    Every time I read these comments and folks with kids get so upset it makes me wonder if the comments of others have “hit too close to home”? I see no reason for folks who aren’t abusing the system and have well behaved kids to take offense as they clearly know that the comments aren’t directed towards them thus wouldn’t feel the need to take the defensive approach.

    If the comments about kids and abusing the system upsets you it does make one pause and think if the comment did indeed hit too close to home.

    Hmmm…..

  27. I’m currently a Marriott Envoy Titanium Member (but also Platinum Life Member) and just had a 3 night stay at the Le Meridian Piccadilly. There is a small Club Lounge that’s available for Envoy elite members as well as paid Club Room Floor rooms. Entrance is by room key via elevator that opens directly into the Club Lounge on the mezzanine level. For two of my three nights in the lounge, it seemed like a U.S. family of 10-15 members (Including adults and teenagers) took over the main area with drinks and food all to themselves, talking as loud as they could. Not sure if they actually paid for the Club Rooms or if one person was a Bonvoy Elite member. In either case, the staff did nothing and it made for a horrible experience. No choice but to listen to their stories and going ons which frankly I didn’t care. Ok granted it was a holiday week in the U.S. and this was probably an extended family get away but some of us are there for work, some of us make an extra effort to be loyal in a hotel program and it devalues this benefit and recognition when you put up with this type of behavior. And you wonder, what is the value of my elite status that allows club lounge access if anyone and everyone can enter? The second night I went into the back room (which many don’t know about) and there was one gentleman working on his lap top and I thought perfect! It’s quiet, I can read, enjoy the benefits and have a calming environment (although the backroom isn’t as inviting as the main area). No sooner had I sat down with a drink and some food, two English women with their four children (probably no older than four years) takes over the two tables next to me. The children were not well behaved, loud, restless, and wanting to play. Not an acceptable environment for kids. The staff did nothing other than ask the two women if they wanted the appetizer selection.

    This happens at Club Lounges all over the world – who are these people that have access? They all can’t be elite member? I know some hotels will let guest “buy” access into the Club Lounge as a way to make ancillary revenue. But again it just devalues the privilege of being an elite, especially if you make an effort to be loyal in a hotel or air program,

    Don’t even start on air. I’m a Delta Diamond Medallion member. And I buy business class fares for international travel. On this same trip, flying on Alitalia and KLM, zone 1 (business class, Flying Blue Platinum and SkyTeam Elite Plus) and zone 2 (all other Sky Priority) boards at the same time! Do you know how many people have Sky Priority on their boarding pass? Long queue. No differentiation with boarding, they make the announcements for Zone 1 and 2. Although I will say on the KLM Trans Atlantic flight, one of the agents pro actively looked for World Business Class passengers and brought them up in the queue and we boarded ahead of other Zone 1 and 2 passengers. But again, a huge devaluation in the SkyTeam Elite Plus benefit if I’m lumped into zone 1 and 2. On a paid (or even award) business class ticket.

    Whining…I know…

  28. They could confirm your room number, without the waste of a club lounge access card. It works all over Asia and the Middle East. Why not the USA?

    In addition to working in the club lounge, I go to the club lounge to handle reservation issues than standing at the front desk in a lobby that might be busy. Club lounge attendants are practical and helps make the club lounge actually useful, instead of a room that serves free drinks and food.

  29. I’m sure there are some large groups where just a few of them are entitled to Club Lounge.
    However, I think the vast majority of large groups use the lounge because they can… I mean I always book multiples rooms with lounge access (when traveling with a big group) so everyone can use the club lounge. I’m sure other do the same

  30. Magnificent Mile Marriott in Chicago has a monitor at the door at breakfast time to check off your name on a list. Efficient and polite and the club is not overcrowded.

  31. I agree you need to have this policy enforced I am a globalist and work hard for this privilege it is own my own dime as I do not travel for work. I think if a child is behaved then they should be allowed to go to the lounge some lounges have a area for children and one for no children. Dan your article made me laugh out loud. I have had a number of Indian Clients and they are as you describe but also some of the nicest people ever.

  32. I have pretty much given up Regency Club being a calm place. Lounge access is not just for Globalists. You can just buy it, and it makes sense when traveling in groups.

    Many Hyatt hotels in the US did away with the lounge altogether.

  33. At the better Hyatts in China and elsewhere in Asia, there is often no appearance of a gatekeeper at all at the lounge. Yet there’s someone quietly keeping tabs in the background who knows pretty much every person who’s entering the lounge, and if they generally belong there or not. Classy and professional.

    Some of the literalists here are arguing for the lounges to be used by hotel guests only. This ignores how I’ve commonly seen Hyatt lounges being used in global financial capitals like New York and Shanghai. They are places of formal and informal business. I’ve watched an administrator interview a parade of well-dressed youngsters for her $50,000 year international school over a course of weeks, and I’ve seen multinational batches of expats discussing the finer points of 50 million dollars worth of manufacturing. These are not generally price-sensitive clients and Hyatt is wise to offer them some leeway on lounge use.

    As for me I sometimes bring a guest to dinner or breakfast in the lounge, and have often introduced them to the manager of the hotel, who knows well who is and is not an official guest in my room. I’m prepared to pay for them or surrender one of my “club access passes,” but as yet nobody has asked for anything except to offer us a warm welcome. In January I reserved two rooms for a family trip in NYC, paying for both rooms and thus technically being disqualified for the “guest of honor” program, which normally only applies to points stays. The manager of the hotel nonetheless extended club privileges to our family staying in the second room which we greatly appreciated.

    Lo and behold, we keep returning to Hyatt hotels even though we’ve long since pushed past the final 100 rewards milestone for 2019: we’re on track to exceed 130 days for 2019. Mutual respect serves everyone. Keep it classy, don’t abuse, and Hyatt will generally take care of you.

  34. Interesting article and great comments from my fellow travelers. Quick background: I have Hilton Diamond Status…here’s what I’d like to see from Hilton (and other competitors to honor their most valued guests):

    There should an Executive Lounge in every property at the Hilton brand level and above. This maybe-they-do-maybe-they don’t thing is irritating. (Hilton does that very well already…all Hampton’s have breakfast…all Embassy Suites have an evening reception, etc.) If necessary they could make it property-optional at the Doubletree level.

    In addition, there should be at a minimum, an evening reception that at least offers complimentary beer/wine.

    What should be the give-back? No children under 18 (sorry folks…before my kid became an adult there was lots of places we couldn’t go…adults deserve the space). Second, allow entrance to the elite status guest only but allow for an entrance fee for up to two guests whose names are on the room of the elite member. If the lounge is worthwhile…I bet lots of folks won’t mind. Right now they are not (especially in the U.S.).

    Finally, this business of leaving the lounge on it’s own like it’s a vending machine must end. Have staff there in the morning and evening and a bartender to control possible under-21 drinking or just basic intoxication.

    At least that would be a decent start…

  35. Wow…so many levels of entitlement. Does anyone realize that club lounges did not start as a perk for super elites? The initial concept was a private floor, with a higher level of services and amenities. To access, you reserved a room. As chains added elite levels, they chose to honor those members with upgrades to the floor or complementary access, so in fact, it’s those individuals who purchase a room that should have priority. As for those who choose to work, stay in your room or go to the business center…these are called “lounges” for a reason.

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