I have the good fortune to travel frequently. I have just returned home from 10 weeks in Europe, staying in lovely hotels and cruise ships across several countries. For the most part, I was treated to wonderful service, yet I must get something off my chest – because with unhappy frequency, I encountered hotel service staff with something missing from theirs. I speak of the humble staff name tag.
I found that some notable hotels I stayed at did not require their associates to identify themselves with name badges. Call me old fashioned, but I like to be able to use the name of people I’m addressing. Let me give you three instances of where I was caught out, resulting in situations that made me feel awkward and uncomfortable.
At Cromlix Hotel in Scotland, we had the same server for breakfast three days in a row. She introduced herself on Day 1, addressed me and my wife by our names each day, and provided us with first class service. Unfortunately, I could not remember her name after our initial encounter, and I was embarrassed to have to ask again. I know this is a small property, but isn’t the point of first class service to make things easy for guests?
One evening while I was staying at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, the hotel was hosting a black tie event in its ballroom. As I was leaving the men’s room, a formally dressed man kindly held the door open for me. I had to ponder, was this gesture made by a respectful member of staff, or a polite, but smartly attired guest of the function? Perhaps this was not a big deal in the scheme of things, but again, awkward.
A final anecdote was a request I had for concert tickets of a concierge at London’s The Savoy. The un-name-badged concierge informed me that it was too early for the ticket office to be open, but that I should stop by after breakfast. Of course, when I returned, he was away from the station, and I could not precisely identify to the person handling the desk at that time who it was that had been helping me previously.
I encountered several more hotels, such as The Beaumont in London, where name tags were not a part of the uniform. And at still other properties, I found that the associates wore identifying badges, but the managerial staff did not. Surely those in charge were not trying to remain anonymous?
In discussing this badge-less trend, I’m told by others in the industry that some brands are doing this because they are aiming for a more casual, informal vibe, or that they’ve trained staff that they must make the effort to verbally introduce themselves to guests. In the name of personalisation, I guess?
Here are a few reasons why I don’t think that theory cuts it.
- Guests may appreciate the attempt to personalise their stay, but then the onus is on the guest to recall names of staff – it should really be the other way around.
- Depending on the culture of the country you are in, some staff may be hesitant to socially converse with a guest.
- If you are in a country where the primary language is different from your own, a name may be hard to grasp if you hear it, but cannot read the spelling as well.
- Better still are name tags that identify the languages the wearer speaks, so guests can choose to address them in their native tongue.
- What about emergency situations? If there is a need to evacuate, will it be easy to identify who is in charge?
- In big hotels with hundreds of staff, colleagues may not even know one another. Mandatory name tags work not only to promote team building, but they also provide a security dividend by deterring potential intruders.
So on the safety as well as the service front, I think the trend of moving away from the use of name tags in hotels is not a good one. The logo next to your name represents who you are as a business and says something about your view of hospitality and guest service.
I’d love to hear what others think on this topic. Please share your thoughts on the pros and cons of names tags in the Comments section below, or email me at [email protected].
About the author
Fritz Gubler is the President of eHotelier. He has many years of experience across the globe in a wide range of roles in the hospitality industry. Read more about his background in the About Us section of eHotelier.