Chocolate Pillow | Dealing with ‘The Riff-Raff’
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Dealing with ‘The Riff-Raff’

28 Jul Dealing with ‘The Riff-Raff’

Every hotel has them – the guests who disrupts every other guests stay, uses foul language everywhere, drinks excessively or is just generally an unpleasant human being. But what happens when ‘the riff-raff’ come to stay?

In my career, I have interacted with many ‘unpleasant’ people – every hotel has a name for them, be they referred to as ‘riff-raff’, ‘chavs’ or even ‘arseholes’ and ‘scum’. These are the people for whom basic manners seem to be a concept far beyond their realm of comprehension. They are, for most purposes, a nightmare guest. No request is ever made by them, as they only ever make demands; They are the ones who leave their restaurant table with more food on the table than the plates, their bedroom could hold any one of a million nasty surprises, their lack of social etiquette often leads to outbursts at staff or other guests with very little provocation. Yet they have an air to them that portrays the world owes them a favour. Sound harsh? Yes… But to many hotel staff, they can often recall at least one guest who has exhibited at least one, if not all, of the above behaviours.

In my personal life, I have to be honest and say I avoid these people. I find their behaviour too erratic and I find them unsettling. I also do not deal very well with erratic behaviour due to a fear of violence being inflicted on me or others, and when I come across these people, most of my instincts tell me to run as fast as I can away from there. Recently, I had cause to deal with such guests and thought this was a great time to reveal some of my top tips for handling them.

Firstly, don’t let it get personal. They are a paying guest, just like everyone else. Accept the fact that they are staying at the hotel and move on; you are not employed to judge, condone or discriminate based on peoples characteristics. Whilst they may exhibit behaviours that are different to others, you have to reconcile yourself to the fact that those behaviours are what that person is comfortable with.

Secondly, ‘suck it up and get on with it’ (in a lovingly traditional style of 1980’s management)! By this I mean that you just have to get on with your job. This person may leave a messy table or messy room, or may complain at reception or stay drinking at the bar until 4am, with very little thanks or gratitude shown to the staff. Often they may actually say or imply that ‘cleaning up after me is what the staff are here to do’. Are they incorrect for saying this? Not really. Whilst it may not be strictly true (lines are drawn at some things), as a hotel employee you are there to clear up after guests. So what if some are messier than others! Do you resent that elderly couple for leaving a messy table, or that couple with a baby, or that guy in a wheelchair? Probably not (even if it’s not a strictly fair comparison) so why resent the person for whom leaving a mess is normal?

Thirdly, stay professional. Keep a professional boundary with the guest. Treat them the same as every other guest. You may have personal opinions about them, but they are just that – personal! I should not have to say that no staff should ever discuss guests or their activities unless absolutely necessary, and never should you manifest your personal opinion towards a guest in the service you deliver. They may have no ‘airs and graces’ but you do!

Finally, just let it slide! The guest is always king, and you sometimes do just have to let things go. Is it worth having an argument with this guest over something you can just move on from? In most cases, the argument is pointless and can become more damaging to the hotel and there are very few cases where I would exert authority or privilege over a guest (namely where abusive behaviour, aggression or severe damage have taken place).

Overall, the key here is that they are still a guest and still deserve to be treated as such. You may despise them but your personal opinion has no place in guest service.

The business of hospitality is hard, and you meet people from all walks of life; as I have said to many newcomers to the industry ‘Doing a million things in a day is the easy part, you can be trained for that; but dealing with people, that’s the really hard part!’

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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