The Downside To Making Friends With Hotel Staff

Filed Under: Hotels

All things considered, living in hotels is pretty swell. I’ve really gotten to know the staff at the hotels I frequent most, which is awesome. They’ve almost become my extended family in many ways, and it really does help to make a hotel feel more like a home.

However, there’s one unintended consequence of getting to know hotel staff which I hadn’t really thought about until I started to repeatedly face it firsthand. The way I see it, one of the nice things about living in hotels is that you have some level of anonymity. In other words, if I wander to the lobby in my pajamas I might be judged, but I don’t really care, since I don’t know those people.

However, that starts to become a bit of an issue when you do start to know the people working in a hotel.

For example, back when I lived in the Seattle area I was known at my local Starbucks as the guy who wears pajamas. Because I’d show up at the same time every morning. Dressed for work. In my pajamas (that is the official dress code here at One Mile at a Time, after all!).


Only after moving away did I fully realize that probably wasn’t something to be proud of. 😉

So this does become a bit of an issue when you’re a caffeine-powered earlybird. It’s not that I care what people think about me, per se, but when you know people you do at a minimum feel the obligation to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and put on real clothes, and ideally even shower, before “presenting” yourself in the lobby.

And perhaps equally awkward is when you know the breakfast staff and bring a different friend to breakfast every morning. Not because anything interesting happened the night before, but rather because you figure you might as well invite them over for free breakfast. Suffice to say they surely think my life is much more interesting than it actually is.


I’m curious if I’m the only one. How “presentable” do you feel you have to be in public when staying at a hotel, and does it depend on whether you know people there or not?

  1. Who do I have to screw around here to get an invitation to breakfast? Oh, wait, you probably shouldn’t answer that… 😉

  2. I do not care, at all, what anyone thinks of my attire in most situations, especially since in the case of staying at a hotel, I’m the one paying to be there. I don’t give a second thought to how I look if I pop down early for breakfast.

    When I lived in London, I used to work on US pacific hours, so I would walk to the gym in shorts around lunch time, and get stares that I decided were from people jealous that they had to dress in a suit while I was out enjoying my workout.

    The only time I really care about my appearance is at the rare events that matter (weddings, new client meetings, etc.). Last week I was overly dressed up for meetings in Paris on a day with strikes and unbearably hot metro lines. It was a good reminder that I should have just dressed very casually and not worried about it, as the result was a very uncomfortable day trip from London to Paris.

    There are many things in life to think about, but worrying about what the hotel staff think of your attire shouldn’t be one of them.

  3. personally i think there’s a fine line between casual and just sloppy. i’ll go to the ice machine in PJs or whatnot but if i’m going to the lobby or restaurant i’ll wear street clothes. not a huge fan of all the people in sweatpants lounging around in nice hotels (and airports!).

  4. Well. There are some ridiculous lounge require you to dress formally (suit & tie) to enter. However, it is not some fancy restaurant, it is just a conceriage lounge!

  5. Did you meet these friends on the same website as that flight attendant that wanted people to defecate on him?

  6. I stay at the Intercontinental in San Francisco a lot, and many of them know me by now. I have no qualms about going down to breakfast in “casual” attire, though I’m not sure I would do it in pajamas. What’s more awkward to me is walking in at 5:30AM a sweaty mess, or coming down to “fetch” someone at an equally odd hour. And some of the getups I’ve worn through that entryway…poor things.

  7. A friend of mine recently stayed at the O’Hare Hilton. Nice property. He rode an elevator with a young woman who he described as “Asian” and wearing a “wifebeater and panties”. When they arrived at the 1st floor she headed toward the front desk. My friend followed out of curiosity and snapped a photo of her, she was wearing a THONG. She asked one of the receptionists if she could get a pair of shoes. Very bizarre. Maybe she meant slippers. No need for a robe though!

  8. Dress how you want. If people have nothing more important to do than judge your dress sense, they obviously are the ones with the problem.

    Sadly I don’t frequent anywhere near enough to be known anymore 🙁

  9. I’m sort of the opposite. If I’m among friends, I can be a little more relaxed as they won’t judge me on what I wear. The general public will. Not that I care too much, but I certainly don’t care less about my clothes when I don’t know they people.

  10. Ben,

    For coffee or breakfast put on shorts, t-shirt and loafers and splash some water on your face. Your good to go until later in the day.

  11. I think it’s quite right of hotel staff to judge you based on attire. After all, you’re not the only one paying to stay there. And while many readers might recognize you, you’re still very much persona incognita to a vast majority of earth, to include other guests. If your carefree attitude onwards attire devolves to a certain point, it’s well within the rights of the staff to take note and/or offense insomuch as it may lower what they consider to be the minimum level of class, or at least decorum, at their property.

  12. It’s simple. A man should never go out in public unless he’s dressed to make the world a more beautiful place just by being in it. Your local bespoke tailor can explain it all to you.

    Airline pajamas are acceptable when you’re sleeping on an airplane. And even then you’re pushing the limit pretty hard. Better to bring your own quality silk jammies, properly pressed of course.

    @tara “elevator with a young woman who he described as “Asian” and wearing a “wifebeater and panties”.”

    That sometimes happens when one brings his ‘niece’ to the hotel.

    “she was wearing a THONG. She asked one of the receptionists if she could get a pair of shoes. Very bizarre.”

    That’s not so bizarre. I tried wearing thongs on the beach and they hurt my toes; a pair of shoes is better.

  13. Here’s a thought: if the hotel staff brings the matter to your attention then address it. I would be more concerned about the video cameras of the place zooming below your appendix and posting a blooper reel online.

  14. I agree with most on the reply..I don’t spend as much time as you do Ben in a hotel..but more than average..around 6 month out of the year.

    The only time I do worry about my appearance is during Conferences when I knew there would be either client or co-workers staying at the same hotel…other business trip – as Dylan indicated..Hey..I am paying like everyone else…you are not going to give me a free bottle of wine if I dress nicer so whatever makes me feel’s cool with me..not like I am making any demands (actually no demands at all)…I would say Hi..good to see you again and glad to be back and be on my own comfort terms.

    So many people judge other people for whatever reasons they got but if they ain’t gonna buy you a drink or upgrade your room or “shuttle you to the place you need to be and make you the first stop out of a full load of passengers”…really dont care what they think!..

    But then..this is all based on business travel like in regular marriott or hilton…if I am at a real 5-star property like Conrad, Waldorf, Intercon, Mandarin oriental…I would at least wear a baseball hat plus shorts, or jean when getting my morning coffee so I don’t look TOO out of the place..ironic but sometimes…baseball hats are my best friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. I’m with Pavel on this one. It just doesn’t seem that tough to put on some damned clothes before walking out the door. (And this post surprises me: Lucky look so nattily attired in his headshot!)

  16. I’m with the the crowd that doesn’t like to see people showing up to the lounge in a robe… that’s still pubic. At least throw on some jeans and a t-shirt. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be happening at the Ritz Carlton…

  17. If it makes you feel better, I went to a buffet once in just a t-shirt and boxer shorts. Nothing else. Didn’t get crap from anybody except my one lone cousin. Relax!

  18. The downside of being a regular at a hotel:
    You get nearly no service, as they know that you know the them and the hotel so well, that they felt it is ok for you to understand that they should attend to other guests first, in case the other guests complain; while you knowing them so well, is less likely to write in feedbacks to management even if you get poorer service during busy times.

    I have gotten such experiences that I felt it is a bad thing to give a particular hotel in any city too much business. Mix it up a bit to let them know that you have alternatives within the city and let there be competition to keep everyone on their toes.

    If you are a guest the hotel thinks they will not lose you no matter what happens, service of course will become less attentive as they woo other guests for return experience.

    However, if you are a known VIP (rather than just a “regular”), then it is a different story I guess.

  19. Adam I agree with; Owen I would like to go drinking with. And no, Ben, sorry but pajamas are never acceptable for any club lounge or hotel restaurant above a Holiday Inn Express. You should know this, or just turn in your card right now.

    (Glad to hear you’re feeling better)

  20. Glad you’re feeling well enough to ponder the important issues like this one!

    I think unless you’re working out, you shouldn’t leave the room without a collared shirt.

  21. I know the club lounge manager of a well known luxury hotel pretty well after many visits.

    She recounted a story to me of a very well known Hollywood A lister visiting her club in his bathrobe. She demanded that he leave and return in more respectable attire. Why? Because she believed it showed no consideration for other guests.

    I think she has a point. Making an effort to look decent isn’t just about making a statement about yourself, it’s about showing that you respect those around you and are willing to make an effort on their behalf.

  22. @Kevin: Unfortunate Freudian slip, there.

    @Anthony: Hey, man, respecting others is for squares. Or something.

  23. Would I show up for hotel breakfast in hotel bathrobe? No. How about pajamas? Still no – I don’t see the difference. Same for swimsuits in any part of resort that is not dedicated to swimming or sunbathing.
    If I’m in such a hurry/neglect to justify putting anything at all for any situation without regard, then something is wrong with pace of my life. Then why bother putting anything at all? Why not show up in briefs? Or why bother with clothes at all? Same as respecting personal space, clothes are part of the social norm, and keeping in line with that is the same as not cursing every other sentence – it just makes for more pleasant exchange. Being aware and respecting local social norm is simple expression of humility. I will never wear mini-skirt in Muslim country or walk bare-feet on airplane. And I do believe that my own local customs should deserve same respect.
    If nothing else, I would consider pjs “dirty” after being in any contact whatsoever with anything public. I don’t want those germs in my bed.

  24. I think it is common courtesy to dress according to the hotelvenue that you visit: breakfastroom: simple casuals, luncheon/tearoom: casual/smart, buffetrestaurant: casual/smart, signaturerestaurant: smart/formal, sportsbar: casual, trendy/loungebar: smart, executive lounge: smart/trousered – it all is a sign of respecting the atmosphere of the venue, the efforts of the staff, sometimes adhering to a dresscode that is imposed. If you just grab and go coffee/sandwhiches, pyjama’s doesnt hurt aslong as it covers the body. My major petpeeve is people displaying to much flesh (stomach/tits/balls etc…. and then hanging/rubbing/leaning/touching next to all the foodstations/displays…. If kitchen/waitstaff are wearing gloves/using utensils for hygine let others please take that in consideration for others….

  25. feel free to behave and dress exactly as you wish. if you want to be an underdressed schlub in a luxury hotel, by all means do so! that is only a reflection on you. but do not be angry if you are seated near the toilet or not given the preferential treatment you deserve for being such a rebel.

  26. In Paris, Tokyo I would be as presentable as possible. In Bangkok and most of the U.S. anything goes

  27. I have just been staying at Crowne Plaza Minsk and, having stayed there a few times previously, it’s not unusual to see Russian businessmen wandering around in slippers and dressing gowns – nothing more, no pyjamas underneath.

    I say ‘it’s not unusual’ but I don’t say ‘it’s perfectly reasonable’ – it’s not. I don’t like it because it is about making the minimum effort.

    I do think, however, men are more comfortable with it than women. As a woman, just my personal feeling, I’d feel very self-conscious and concerned that I wanted to appear ‘suggestive’ if I wandered around in public in what, essentially, is nightwear.

  28. I feel uncomfortable in a crowd, anywhere, ever. Unless I am their most prioritized guest, (e.g. First Class, Presidental Suite), which happens a few times but far from a lot.

  29. @pavel – Could not agree more re difference between casual and sloppy. Having breakfast in a hotel restaurant in your pajamas or bathrobe is just uncouth.

  30. You have the right to go to breakfast in your PJ’s. But I have the right to laugh at you.

  31. Not long ago Ben supported Qantas introducing a dress code in their Lounge – little did we know he was meanwhile tramping round hotels in his PJ’s!

  32. Lucky I know exactly how you feel. Years ago I spent nearly 9 months at the Westin Taipei (when it had just opened and I was the first guest to stay in the room!) and that hotel staff grew to be my family. If I couldn’t sleep I would go down to the front desk and just chat with staff. I would hang out with them in their breakroom. I even got invited to the staff Christmas party. It was always a professional relationship – they always call me Mr. Jackson and not Brian. Even though we were hanging out in the breakroom, I was always a guest and never a buddy or friend. When I eventually checked out, the front desk agents were crying and the GM threw me a farewell party. However, it was awkward when I would return to the hotel on a Friday and Saturday night at 2:00 AM with a “friend”. Or if I didn’t return to the hotel until early Sunday morning, the ‘walk of shame’ was embarrassing. At times it was almost like living with my parents. But in the end, there were way more positives than negatives.

  33. I am completely shameless. I will make sure I am wearing enough to not get arrested. But, beyond that…I don’t care what anyone thinks. Bare feet on planes? Sure. Now, I won’t put them up on the bulkhead wall or slide them onto the armrest of the seats in front of me. That’s just rude. But, wearing pajamas…I’m cool with that. Flip flops? Yup, in just about any situation. Shorts? You bet.

    In fact, I take a reverse snob position when I encounter a bar that doesn’t allow shorts or sandals. I proudly refuse to go to any bar that has a dress code or a cover charge. Their belief that I am not good enough for their establishment just proves the opposite…I am too good for their establishment 🙂

  34. its an interesting question i already asked myself couple of times.
    I see it two-sided:
    1. i always like it when i return to a hotel and i see familiar faces and also get recognized as an individual rather then just receiving a standard warm greeting or phrase. after a a certain number of stays good hotels just get your preferences right and make your stay special with those little things (on top of the normal status benefits). it really gives me this constant while being on the road all the time. I normally value it more while being on a business trip than on a private trip.
    2. as you said:”the anonymity gets lost” – and anonymity can be really nice at times. just being a “normal” guest. why? because for some reason i care less about the things i do in a hotel when i am not a frequent guest. not because i act completely different but just the feeling that comes along with it.

    i have my preferred hotel in all cities i go to on a frequent basis but i normally switch between a few ones to keep the balance. based on the purpose of the trip and length of stay i normally decide if i want anonymity or a more familiar feel.

  35. My answer will be NO!
    I think the only factor affects how I dress and appear in a hotel is the hotel brand.
    For instance I would be comfortable to wear a T-shirt and shorts in a Hampton Inn or a Hilton Garden Inn. But in a Conrad or a Waldorf Astoria hotel, I will definitely be well-dressed.

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