The Dark Side of Hospitality.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon - thetransitcafe.com
Thursday, 8th November 2007
An unfortunate incident in a hotel bar in Singapore has left our writer wondering why some things just can't change in the hotel business, especially when it comes to having two sets of rules, one for foreigners and one for locals -

On the dark side, I am afraid I have to share a rather unfortunate incident that happened to me at a hotel bar in Singapore.

I want to relate the tale because I am often bewildered by how senseless and stupid some service employees can be.

I was rehearsing for an event in a hotel and after rehearsal, my friends and I decided to have a drink. As I was still on crutches, we decided to stick close to the hotel and chose one of its bars.

We entered from the hotel entrance – five of us (four Chinese, one Caucasian – I share this because I believe it has some bearing on the turn of events that followed). My Chinese male friend was in shorts and slippers.

We walked (I hobbled) through the bar in full view of the staff and found a quiet corner. I wanted to keep my crutches out of sight in a bar that was pumping happy music and serving happy customers.

A waitress came and took our drink orders. We ordered a bottle of red from the wine list, priced at S$100 plus. Ten minutes later, she returned and said that bottle of red was out and would we like another bottle? She showed us the bottle and said, "This is $200. Would you want to pay for this?"

I have heard of upselling but I didn't think this was too subtle.

Ten minutes later, a man who looked and behaved like a manager came up to me, and asked if we were okay. I said yes, we were just wondering which wine to order since the one we wanted was not available.

He then looked at my right foot which was propped up on a stool (my crutches were lying next to me) and said, "I don't mind if you put your foot on the chair but would you mind removing your shoe?"

I asked him what's the logic behind that? Why would having my shoe off be any better?

He then looked at my Chinese male friend's feet and said, "We don't allow slippers in here, actually."

I pointed to a Caucasian man at the bar and said, "He is also in shorts and slippers."

"He's a house guest," he replied.

"Ah, you have one set of rules for house guests and another for locals?" I asked.

I then explained I was hosting an event at his hotel and therefore I could technically be considered a house guest and given that I had trouble walking long distances, would he mind if we just have a quiet drink in the corner and we wouldn't bother anyone? Besides, my Chinese male friend was sitting in such a dark corner he could hardly be seen or offend anyone.

He then muttered under his breath that we had somehow sneaked in and that's why we were hiding in the corner because we knew we had broken the dress code.

Whereupon, let me tell you, all hell just broke loose, heated words were exchanged – the "manager" raised his voice as did my friends – and we walked out, I limping behind like a wounded gladiator.

And all the while, I was thinking, "How stupid and senseless? He lost revenues tonight, he's probably lost our future custom and all because of his unfortunate attitude – would this have happened if my friend or we had been Caucasian?"

It's an unspoken thing in the hotel industry in Asia – local staff, wherever they are and for whatever reason, tend to treat foreigners better than their own kind. That's why I suppose they have one set for rules for "house guests" and another for locals.

That was true 20 years ago and is still true today, perhaps less so – but it's still there.Sad but true.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at
www.thetransitcafe.com . Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.
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