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A Quick Refresher on Proper Club Lounge Etiquette

A Quick Refresher on Proper Club Lounge Etiquette
Ariana Arghandewal

We’ve all seen them: Those people who show up at the hotel club lounge for breakfast in their pajamas, faces unwashed, hair uncombed, maybe even barefoot to complete the look. Or maybe you’ve seen the guy who likes to get super comfortable by putting his feet on the coffee table.

Or the lady who makes a mad dash for the fried chicken when she spots a refill, then shoves the contents into her purse before taking off. Not everyone is a seasoned traveler or understands how to act considerately of others in public (that goes for professional passenger shamers and novices alike). I’ll stand by the point I made to the person running the Passenger Shaming account: Calling out bad behavior is fine, just don’t humiliate people or violate their privacy in order to do it. That being said, here’s a refresher on club lounge etiquette:

Dress Appropriately

I don’t mean put on your evening gown and Tom Ford suit. Dressing appropriately just means looking presentable. Wear neat, clean clothes. Try to avoid sweats, flip flops (unless you’re in Hawaii), and wrinkled clothing. Pajamas are a hard pass.

Take Reasonable Portions

Some club lounges have massive spreads that rival any Vegas buffet, while others offer cheese and crackers with the occasional hot item. Once this item is set down, a mad dash usually ensues, with people piling it on their plates like famine is coming. Don’t do that. Take what you can reasonably eat. Or even better, take as much as you would if you were actually paying for the food. That’s a great way not to end up with mountains of leftovers that get tossed out while people outside the hotel (or those at the adjacent table) are starving.

Use Your Indoor Voice

A few years ago I was having breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong club lounge when a movie producer-director-finacier-extraordinaire was having a very loud phone conversation a few tables away. He spoke loudly about his finances, project budgets, and anything else to erase all doubt that he was anything but a hotshot. It was rude and inconsiderate to everyone in the lounge.

At the end of his conversation, another man who had been quietly reading a newspaper a few tables away, walked over and gave him the most well-mannered dressing down I’ve ever witnessed. Young James Cameron sat quietly in his chair, did not even look up, and the next day I observed him having another loud conversation – this time in a room outside the lounge.

At the Conrad Dubai a few years ago, a guest at the lounge was loudly screaming about his foot. He was in pain and wanted to “cut it off” – his friends kept urging him to go back to the room, but he was perfectly content shouting his lungs out while everyone else jumped every time he yelled out in pain. The lesson? Be mindful while around other people. That goes without saying, but in this day and age when everyone has a love affair with their cellphones (and their fabulous selves), too many people commit this faux pas.

Don’t Guest in an Unreasonable Number of People

Every hotel lounge has its own policy regarding guest access. Generally, lounge access is for you and one other person. Some hotel will charge a fee (often quite high) for additional guests accessing the lounge. In my experience, the Hilton chain is very generous with their lounge access policy. I’ve been able to get lounge access for multiple rooms – upwards of eight guests.

I think if you’re a single traveler staying in one room, it’s fine to bring one person into the lounge as your guest. But if you’re meeting up with multiple people and the lounge explicitly prohibits access unless you pay a fee, maybe take your friends to a coffee shop or something. Follow the rules and don’t put staff in the awkward position of having to kick you and an entire baseball team of friends out because they’re not all guests with lounge access.

It really comes down to being considerate and respectful of others. Sometimes when people pay for things (or get them for free), they feel entitled to take advantage to an unreasonable degree. We all need a reminder sometimes of how not to act in the club lounge. Is there anything you all would add to the list?

[Photo: Wikimedia/Phillip Capper]

View Comments (23)


  1. bhrubin

    December 27, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Haha. Californian here. If I can wear sandals in the lobby or outside, I can wear them in a lounge. Other places are welcome to be sterner in their dress code, and I’m happy to avoid those.

  2. Grog

    December 27, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    “Not everyone is a seasoned traveler or understands how to act considerate of others in public.” I’m not too sure these two things are mutually exclusive. Often, the inexperienced traveler doesn’t even realize they have lounge access while the most seasoned traveler might might stride in wearing pajamas.

    I’m not sure how I feel about this article. Those who truly need the message won’t bother to read it. Others who don’t need it…well, they’ll probably feel talked down to.

    Note to Author: Please clarify your label of “Young JC”. Are you saying this was actually JC in his younger days or a wanna-be JC? Because if it wasn’t actually him, I’d suggest you remove the reference immediately, lest you be contacted by his office regarding defamation of character.

  3. Tim_AZ

    December 27, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    Did you just humiliate or violate the privacy of someone with this article? It sure seems like you did. Maybe you should stop taking your social cues from failed presidential candidates and stop accusing others of doing what you’re doing.

  4. Irpworks

    December 27, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    “Calling out bad behavior is fine, just don’t humiliate people or violate their privacy in order to do it.” Why? People choose to act as animals and thus invite humiliation. Wimpism is partly responsible for behavior without manners because others do not constantly confront them. Act a jackass, be called out as one.

  5. dmurphynj

    December 28, 2018 at 4:54 am

    I have no problem ducking my head into the lounge t grab a coffee in my flip flops before getting ready in the morning. I might even have bed head hair. If that offends you, well, I suggest you worry more about your own day and less about mine.

  6. laperk1028

    December 28, 2018 at 4:56 am

    Great comments by both fhrubin and Grog. While I confidentially agree with much of the article, I don’t need to be talked “down to” by this author. As much as I contribute to Marriott’s success each year for the past 26 years, I still will wear flip-flops if I want to. Not pajamas tho – you have to draw the line at decency. And the people who are so proud of their sweaty miserable work-out and come in dripping perspiration all over the floor – UGH!

  7. zoey59

    December 28, 2018 at 5:08 am

    Ok staying at a Reaidence Inn in Colorado a few years ago and this “lady” walks down in her robe and bare feet. Stares no longer have any impact – I went right to the front desk and the manager told her it was a health hazard to have bare feet in the lounge. The actual health hazard was visual to the rest of us . Yes it wasn’t the centurion but still – don’t upset yourself ask the management to say something. The issue could be solved if these places had a posted dress code. Regrettably portion co tells and the rest also need some postings – it does work .

  8. zoey59

    December 28, 2018 at 5:12 am

    Didn’t follow my own advice though – was at centurion lounge in Houston which has these pod like comfy chairs with pillows – there she was one of our rude lounge lizards all curled up with her bare feet on the pillows— shortt of saying something ( I didn’t) what’s one to do here -I don’t think thecfront desk would have intervened .

  9. MitchR

    December 28, 2018 at 5:26 am

    Not sure why we have to dress up to walk down the hall to the lounge. I don’t wear PJ’s but if I drop by on the way back from the gym for a bagel and coffee I would hope that I am not sending anyone to therapy. After a long day at work I might want to take off my tie (I still wear one) and maybe even open my top shirt button.

  10. wbl-mn-flyer

    December 28, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Pajamas at breakfast sounds fine to me. Lighten up, Francis.

  11. geminidreams

    December 28, 2018 at 6:18 am

    If there are rules for the lounge they should be posted or given to the guest to sign and acknowledge. Otherwise mind your own business.

  12. MLCJ

    December 28, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Last trip to the Sheraton Tysons Corner I walked in to the lounge and found a lady with her dog sitting in the seat next to her eating the lounge food off of a lounge plate. I went straight to the front desk and was surprised as they apologized to me but said they weren’t allowed to say anything to the lady, even if it was a health issue, because if she complained, management would fire the employee. I don’t write complaints often but I found myself writing to Marriott that night.

  13. zitsky

    December 28, 2018 at 8:14 am

    Most people on FT think it’s perfectly fine to dress however they like. They aren’t going to listen to you.

  14. exit2dos

    December 28, 2018 at 8:56 am

    They think they are bigshots who can walk around in disgusting outfits and get away with it. Eyefornicating them is one way to shame them without a confrontation. Probably the biggest slobs are the ones who are on an expense account and are not paying for anything and pocketing their per diems. They have no self respect and I wish there was a dress code. I have to laugh at the fools in their flip flops and hope there’s a sharp object in the carpet that will cut their feet. To you slobs: I loathe and detest you and hope you die in pain. Someone may catch a slob and kick their ass. That would be justice.

  15. peter42

    December 28, 2018 at 8:56 am

    As a lounge is neither the opera nor a star restaurant, there
    are not very much clothing rules there, except for being clean.

    I would never walk into a lounge barefoot, but I do not see why it should be an health issue, if somebody does so. Many resort in the Maledives are completly barefoot e.g..

  16. jrpallante

    December 28, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Having been in the hotel business and viewed hotel rooms with the aide of black light, I will not even walk barefoot in my hotel room, much less the lobby!🤣

  17. allegro761

    December 28, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    All of the responses are interesting to say the least.
    At the heart of the matter is that sadly we live in a very self-centered and rude society.
    It is always about “ME”.

  18. kai.lileboo

    December 29, 2018 at 5:51 am

    f I compare hotel lounges to airline lounges, then I could have written a book.
    Your article is interesting, but nothing new. The ones who have been travelling the world for many many years have seen a lot.
    I believe this happens because:
    1. people with no education from home, little or no respect for others and being “me, myself and I”
    2. people who tend to take advantage of being in a nice and expensive hotel, because the company pays for it, if the had paid for themselves, that would normally not happen
    3. flipflops are OK, but just sometimes, not in every lounge in the world. Beautiful and clean feet can be a positive thing, I always wondered why men cannot wear sandals but women can actually be naked (the less, the better) …
    4. when you jump from bed to the lounge in order to catch some breakfast (rushing because the time limit is near) than of course you cannot dress fully.
    After many years being properly dressed when coming into the lounge, and seeing the other guests, me too applied the “dress code” for myself. But I was always in long pants and well groomed, but admit I used flip flops some times.
    5. People grab a lot to eat, even if they do not finish. The reason: they think the food will be missing soon, so they just take triple. My experience in this field showed me that who comes last, has nothing left. If you arrive at h-10, you get nothing, if you wait patiently to get a seat, you are left alone, standing in the corner. It happened to me many times.
    6. People who are the “new rich”, but grew up in a poverty, now think “if I have money, everything belongs to me”. The really reach people would have just a coffee and a toast, come in perfectly dressed and would read quietly at their table.

    I think the author is very observant, but unfortunately those habits cannot be corrected. If people don’t know how to live in a multi-cultural community and respect each other, because you are not alone in this world, nobody can help you. What we can do is politely approach and tell them that they are too loud, to annoying…..if they are not told, they would not know!

    As the author mentioned Hyatt hotel in HK, the better the hotel, the better the guests.
    I think that some hotels have even the dress code policy and would not allow you to go in, if not properly dressed. For me, going to the opera in Tee and shorts is like going skiing in bathing suit or going to the beach in cricket attire… Now everyone goes like crazy because this world is crazy.

  19. Seat 2A

    December 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Since common sense is clearly lacking amongst some, it’d be great if the lounges would actually enforce their appearance standards. It’s amazing how many immediately assume the issue here is “dressing up”. Clean, neat and presentable is all most reasonable people are asking. Sorry, but to my mind showing up in pajamas or well torn dirty jeans doesn’t meet that standard.

  20. pointchaser

    January 2, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    @bhrubin So am I! Though I’m guessing based on your love of flip flops, you hair from Socal. 🙂

    @grog Fair point. It feels great knowing my target audience probably won’t listen to me. 🙂 RE “Young JC” I was referring to the fact that he seemed to be a movie director or producer. I don’t think James Cameron would intentionally draw that much attention to himself.

    @Tim_Az Nope, I didn’t mention anyone by name or post photos. “Young James Cameron” does not refer to a time-traveling thespian. Still wanna lock me up. 😉

    @Irpworks Because some people don’t know better. It’s more constructive to address people’s terrible behavior directly. Like the man in the GH HK lounge did – the next day, the culprit had his loud conversation outside.

    @dmurphynj do you!

    @laperk1028 Definitely not talking down to you, unless you’re one of the people I described in this article. 😉 I hear ya – flip flops aren’t bad on their own. Throw in an unkempt appearance and foot fungus and it’s no longer cute.

    @zoey59 I Lol! Neither do I sometimes. What is that they say about those who can’t do? I knew I forgot something. Robes! They’re meant to be worn in your room and spa. Speaking of health hazards, a few years ago a woman at the HR SF picked up the spoon in the ranch bowl, licked it, then put it right back in. Gross! I’m not one to narc on people but this was a health hazard and the manager took care of it quickly.

    @MitchR Not dress up – just dress clean. I think it’s fine to drop by on your way back from the gym. My issue is with people who show up in the clothes they wore the night before or just look plain sloppy.

    @geminidreams Usually there are rules but people ignore them anyway. Regardless, there are the rules of civility – do we really need to be told not to walk into a club lounge with bedhead and morning breath?

    @MLCJ No!!!!!

    @zitsky Hmm. Really? I guess I should pack it in since my life’s mission has now been defeated.

    @exit2dos someone needs a vacation!

    @peter42 agreed. RE walking around barefoot – if everyone walks around barefoot on a beach resort that’s a little different than when some people track in feces from the dirty city sidewalks and others opt to leave their shoes at home.

    @allegro761 true dat.

    @kai.lileboo your article is definitely more interesting than mine. 🙂

    @Seat 2A it’s tricky because the attendants don’t want to offend guests, even if they are breaking the rules. Can you imagine having to tell a guest they shouldn’t lick the ranch spoon in the lounge? Saw that happen once. I imagine if it’s not a hazard they’re hesitant about embarrassing them.

  21. eastflyer123

    January 5, 2019 at 5:54 am

    This is certainly an article that should provoke thought into common courtesy.

    I have seen numerous people who walk into hotel lounges and breakfast rooms who clearly have just had their first wee of the day, picked up the room keycard and swanned into the lift.

    Bed hair, slippers and crust around the eyes is enough to put anyone off.

    If you wouldn’t do it in a restaurant, why do it in a hotel?

    How about a subtle dress code … no dressing gowns and pyjamas?

    I would add slippers and sleeveless t shirts (I really don’t want to see armpit hair trying to get out) but would struggle with encouraging guests at more trioical locations.

  22. fullnelson3

    January 6, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Simply do not understand the purpose of this article. I will chalk it up to a “Stay off my lawn” moment by the author.

  23. eastflyer123

    January 7, 2019 at 1:20 am

    Which point of the article do you “simply” do not understand?
    It’s highlighing discourteous behaviours. Or are you one of the culprits and feel wearing your night shorts and yawning into the scrambled eggs is ok?

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