Being Gracious to those in the Hospitality Industry

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Photo: Carli Jean

I believe the truest sign of refinement is how you treat those serving or working for you. This might be the barista at your local coffee shop, the cleaning ladies that whirl around your house every two weeks, or yes, even your Uber driver.

I worked in the hospitality industry for a long time and, while I came in contact with many gracious and kind patrons, I met many others who were quite rude and demeaning. I remember training at the front desk of the Fairmont San Francisco and being so shocked when someone talked to me like I was no better than the dirt on their shoe. I couldn’t believe that any mother would raise a child to treat others like that. (Although, I have to say, it was probably good for my Vanderbilt-educated ego to be put in my place a few times!)

Because we all want to do the right thing, here are some examples of ways you can be gracious and lovely to people in the hospitality industry. Perhaps some of these things you haven’t even thought of before:

Wait Staff at Restaurants

I remember as a child when eating out was a big deal and we were expected to use our best manners at all times. Today dining at restaurants is so common that there is little specialness about it and people often forget their manners and thoughtfulness.

Let me give you an example. A waiter friend told me the story of when two ladies were seated in his section during the busy weekend dinner shift. They ordered one order of nachos to share and two waters. They then lingered for several hours during the dinner rush – a time period when he could have turned the table 2-3 times -and then left him a modest 15% tip of about $2.00.

Now, I don’t think these ladies were trying to be rude. They were just enjoying good conversation and a night out, lingering as if they were at their own kitchen table. But they didn’t stop to think that this young man, who doesn’t even make minimum wage, is dependent on tips to make a living. If they sit at one of his assigned three tables without ordering much for the whole night, then that’s pretty much a wasted night for him.

I admit, and I am embarrassed to say, that I have done this same thing, totally oblivious to the hard-working waiter serving my friends and me as we chatted away. Now I know: If I am going to linger at a table without ordering anything else, I need to consider leaving a very nice tip or take my conversation elsewhere!

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Photo credit: Leeroy

Another thing about waiters and waitresses: most take their profession seriously and want to be appreciated for it. My grandfather is a great example of how to treat wait staff. I noticed at a very young age that the first thing he does after being seated is ask the waiter his or her name (if it wasn’t already offered). He then always proceeds to have a mini conversation with the waiter about the day, the weather, the special, whatever. My grandfather makes eye contact with the person who is waiting on him, gives nice feedback, and always says please and thank you.

All these things are so easy to do, but unfortunately often get overlooked!

Housekeepers at Hotels

For some strange reason, people feel like it’s okay to leave their hotel rooms in total shambles when they check because they know the housekeeping crew is going to come clean up after them.

Yes, it is true, after you check out someone will come clean the bathroom and change the sheets. But it is not the housekeepers’ job to pick up every piece of trash that someone threw on the floor because he or she was too lazy to walk over the to trash can. Nor is it their job to scrape the gum that someone’s child smashed into the carpet and left for days. Or pick up dirty diapers left on the dresser. (Yes, it happens!)

Be considerate of how you leave your hotel room. You are not a king or queen with lowly housekeeping minions to clean up your messes! Show a little self-respect (and respect for others) by leaving the room in an acceptable manner for the housekeeping staff to clean.

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Photo: Leeroy

Did you know that it is also proper to leave a tip for the housekeeping staff when you check out of a hotel, particularly if you have been there for an extended trip or a conference? I don’t think a lot of people know this, but you should consider it if you don’t already do this kind gesture. Just like you tip the bell boy for carrying your bags to the car, leave a tip, and maybe even a nice note of thanks, for the housekeeper who has been tidying up your room during your stay.

Flight Attendants

Similar to the restaurant industry, the respect for the hard-working members of the aviation industry has plummeted. We all remember the days when flying was a special occasion and the flight attendants (or stewardesses, as we called them!) were treated accordingly. Today flying seems to be all about miserable wait and cattle-cart lines. People are understandably grouchy about it all, but this doesn’t mean they should take out their frustrations on those guiding and serving us in the air!

I am continually amazed at the professionalism and self-control of flight attendants who deal with tacky or jerky people on a daily basis. I know my readers aren’t either of those, but I do want to mention this because we can be such an example to those sitting in the (very close!) seats to next to us. Thank your flight attendant, make eye contact, tell them they are doing a fine job despite the plane having to sit on the runway for two hours. Maybe you’ll even get an extra pack of pretzels for being so nice!

Are you in the hospitality industry? Tell us how we can show our gratitude below in the comments.

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Happy Serving!

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7 thoughts on “Being Gracious to those in the Hospitality Industry

  1. During my college years I worked at Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. While we were paid an hourly wage, unlike wait staff etc, our duty was to provide exceptional customer service to our clients and make sure their every need was met while they were shopping in the store, whether it was for one item or an entirely new seasonal wardrobe. We took pride in how our store appeared(we even put a single finger space in between each hanger upon straightening the store) and how well our customers needs were met. However, it was always much to my surprise that the same respect was not always returned. We constantly had clients leave the garments wadded up on the floor of the fitting rooms after they were done trying them on, or better yet leaving their children’s dirty diapers wadded up amidst the heaping pile of clothing, or better yet letting their children urinate in the fitting room floor. Clients would let their children run wild through the store knocking over our carefully dressed and difficult to put together manequins, or letting them crawl around on the floor under the clothing. It wasn’t always the children, sometimes the adults were just as badly behaved as the youngsters. We always appreciated when people acknowledged us and treated us kindly. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of how exhausting the customer service industry can be, but also how rewarding it can be. Next time you’re in a clothing store and someone is going above and beyond to help you, do them a favor, put down your cell phone and let them know how much you appreciate their help…take the time to thank them, or even better let their supervisor know how good of a job they’re doing. We would spend hours with some of our clients and occasionally one of them would bring us a soda, coffee, or cookie from the food court. You have no idea how much that means to somebody who’s been standing on their feet for 8 hours straight or often more.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I hope everyone reads this! I have worked retail, too, and totally agree with everything you said. It’s about a mutual respect between shopper and retailer. Thank you for the good advice- I’m going to remember the drink from the food court tip!

  2. Thank you so much for commenting on this often overlooked area. I’m always amazed at how restaurant patrons with children leave their tables looking like a tornado hit when they leave. Now that I have young children at restaurants, I always make sure to pick up around our table before we leave. I’ve even gone so far as putting a tiny broom in my diaper bag to try and corral the mess as much as possible. People often think that leaving a big tip will make up for the mess, but what are we teaching our children and others – that money covers all? I wouldn’t leave my own house like that so why do it at a restaurant!

    1. Totally agree. I have to admit, one time I started to leave the table in a very messy state (bc I was tired and someone was screaming, I’m sure!) but my husband called me out on it. He’s such a good example of what you just said. (He waited tables!). Now we do the same- if my daughter spills a cup of Cheerios on the floor, I pick them up. I think I need to invest in a little broom like you- much easier!! Thanks for commenting- I really do appreciate the feedback!

  3. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. Your comments regarding leaving a tip for the housekeeping staff at a hotel brought to mind a question that has always nagged at me. If one stays at a hotel for several nights and leaves a tip upon departure, how likely is it that the staff member receiving it was the same one who cleaned your room each day? I’ve always been a little bothered by this, and I’ve even gone do far as to try and leave a tip each day; however, I confess that it either becomes inconvenient – not enough cash on hand at the right time – or I simply forget some days. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    1. I think that it just falls to the person who cleans your room last. I know it’s not really fair but that’s the way it is (similar to the valet) and you hope that it all evens out. Sometimes hotel staff split their tips but if there is someone that has gone above and beyond you can ask the front desk who cleaned your room that day and leave a tip with specified for that person at checkout.

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