The Conrad Bangkok offers an executive lounge for their Gold and Diamond guests as well as those paying for premium access and suites. In the morning it offers an extensive hot buffet and in the evening cocktails and snacks. They have a minimum policy on guest attire in the lounge and it poses a bigger problem than it looks on paper.
Guests may enter the lounge during designated times for breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails, or any time during the day for basic refreshments (cookies, fruit, coffee, soda). The lounge also offers free high-speed internet access to guests in case you aren’t an Honors member. Here are those times:
Here is what the Conrad writes about their acceptance policy:
Smart-Casual dress code is required at all time[sic]. Closed toed footwear and no sleeveless tops are requested for gentlemen. Flip-flops, slippers or fitness attire are not permitted.
Here We Go Again
I take umbrage with this policy for a couple of reasons. I don’t really have an issue with the sleeveless portion of the exclusion list, but the closed toe shoes for gentlemen only, I do.
First of all these restrictions (both sleeveless and footwear) apply only to men – that’s by definition, sexist.
Second, this policy is completely fine in New York, Hong Kong, or London. But Bangkok is predominately a leisure city. Yes, there is of course lots of business that gets handled in the city, it’s huge and I have personally done business in Bangkok. But I also brought my sandals. And on vacation, when I am leaving from a warm summer location and arriving into Bangkok, I might not have anything but sandals or flip-flops.
I anticipate – no I expect – a series of collective eye rolls and a handful of comments to the effect of:
What did you expect, it’s a top-tier hotel.
Have some respect, don’t come into my lounge like a slob!
And feel free to comment all you want. I know Matthew would never have an issue with this problem because I have yet to see the guy in a t-shirt, jeans or shorts – I don’t think he owns casual clothing.
But I am on vacation, and I don’t want to have to plan whether or not the lounge policy will require closed toed shoes for me to enter. What’s more is that the policy, which is really just trying to implement a minimum standard for the lounge which I can appreciate, didn’t really help it accomplish its goal. As I walked around the lounge for a brief moment on the morning of our arrival, I saw tired, beat up sneakers that met the standard in deed but not intention. Others were pushing the limits of the exercise attire with gym shirts and sweat stains but were allowed a pass.
I however, was not. I had flip-flops on as I hadn’t read the terms and conditions of the lounge, because… it’s a lounge… and who reads terms and conditions? My sister-in-law’s boyfriend had a sleeveless shirt on which I already stated I can understand, however, despite all of those elements, the three of us were not the least formal in the room and yet we were asked to leave.
We had some extenuating circumstances. Qatar Airways decided to leave my single checked bag in Los Angeles which left me without certain items. None of which were closed toed shoes mind you. I did have a pair of boots with me, but I can’t really wear shorts with those now can I? I mean, I could in order to meet the letter of the law, but that goes to show you that outlining specific items and not being flexible can create an absurd situation.
What was most disappointing to me was that the lounge representative didn’t seem to have any flexibility in the policy nor the understanding. Fair enough, he is just doing his job, however, I asked the following,
Would it be possible to just send a plate down with a few items? My daughter was looking forward to breakfast.
My three-year old was in my arms as we had been apart for three weeks and I didn’t want anything to disappoint her. I also didn’t want to be rude to our guests or create an awkward situation whereby the two guys of the group go have coffee downstairs while the ladies, wearing equally casual attire eat upstairs (flip-flops ignored in their case).
Sorry, we can’t send any food out from the lounge.
I completely understand the whole “no food leaves the lounge” rule. But in this case, it just seems like we are really splitting hairs and trying to enforce a rule to the letter when that letter doesn’t always make sense.
We left the lounge, my daughter balling her eyes out and wailing, and a dead cold stare from me to tough-guy lounge manager. We were fuming and truth be told, we went straight to another hotel where we contemplated our options. Maybe we would just check out. If this is how they treated their top-tier guests, their most premium clientele, then why wouldn’t we go somewhere with a little more understanding and flexibility.
I would prefer to avoid the endless value measuring contest between myself and my readers, and would also prefer to avoid the whole DYKWIA approach. There will always be someone who stays more, spends more, is worth more to the brand than I am. But for those who might be curious, this year I am responsible for six figures in hotel spend at Hilton alone.
Most importantly, it just felt like we were singled out and the rules could not possibly be bent at all to accommodate us.
We went through our wardrobe and decided that we were going to give breakfast another try the following morning. This would take some planning since we both had certain conditions to meet. My wife and daughter have been spending the summer in Thailand and as one does, they live in flip-flops. I happened to bring heels over from the States so that I could take my wife to a fancy dinner (I will review that soon) but I was left with only flip-flops or Cowboy boots (my day job is in oil and gas – they are part of the uniform).
We planned it out, our daughter would wear a dress where she could use some non-flip flop shoes, my wife in heels and dressed up, myself in a polo, jeans and the boots. There is certainly a chip on our shoulders. We have stayed at other five-star properties in the city, and not a one has ever approached us with such a strict and unforgiving dress code.
When we got to breakfast, about an hour and a half before close, there were many open tables but none of them were clean. As one of them would have to be cleared so that either our family or any other guest could sit down to eat (we know they aren’t fond of taking food out of the lounge right?) we asked if they could clean off one of the four seat tables dirty with other people’s dishes. We were told no, that the party was still sitting there, they were just up at the buffet.
We were shown to a two top and forced to sit there with our daughter on one side and barely enough space for three plates. Moments after we set our things down, a new party walks in and asks the attendant to clear the same table we were just told was occupied. She begins to clear it for them right away. It is at this moment that my bewildered and frustrated wife clarifies that we were just told it was unavailable and asks if it is now available, how that could be.
They offered us the table and we declined because the new party had four people in it, and we aren’t trying to be petty and retaliatory.
However, then we looked down at their feet and notice that the women are in flip-flops, and the men have open-toed sandals (though not flip-flops) on – not a word mentioned to them from the staff. I start to look around the room and notice that almost every other male has some form of sandal (open-toed shoe) many of which are flip-flops. I considered taking photos to document this double standard, but didn’t want to take photos of other guests without their consent as I understand that can cause big trouble. Then I noticed that closer to three-quarters of the women have outright flip-flops on but certainly some form of sandal. Another two guys at unrelated tables are clearly wearing workout clothes. It begs the following questions:
Why did we get lectured and excluded while clearly others were in violation and not a word was said to them?
Was it ageism (to the definition, ageism is the discrimination of the elderly, though I find such a definition ironic as one can also be discriminated for being too young)?
Was it a misinformed, overly zealous employee?
Do we throw the baby out with the bath water and stay somewhere else next time over the disrespect?
Oh, and here are some photos of the totally miss-able lounge experience.
Full disclosure, the manager sought me out at the taxi rank outside the hotel and restated the hotel’s position but did not actually account for why other people were permitted to wear seemingly whatever they liked, but we were held to the letter of the law. She was polite and respectful, but didn’t really help nor hurt our impression of the property. She literally just said what the guy upstairs already did, which ignores our specific situation and also the many other exceptions they allowed.
Update on Day Three
Greetings from Bangkok, Thailand and good morning! From my loose math, here is the breakdown at 9AM in the lounge:
• 9/15 Male guests with open-toed (sandals or flip flops)
• 4/15 Male guests in outright flip flops
• 2/15 in Exercise gear
• 3/15 Female guests in Flip flops (not sandal variants)
Given that 12/15 are out of compliance with the rules in some regard (and I am one of the 15 that is currently within compliance against my will) I am open to suggestions as to whether I should come as blatantly outside of the rules tomorrow as possible. Any thoughts?