With a free bar and all-you-can eat food, the behaviour in hotel ‘club lounges’ is predictable, writes Jim Duffy.
While on honeymoon this week, I have been lucky enough to delve into a new experience that has made me re-think posh hotels and human behaviour. And it all started with a simple email.
Travelling to Malaysia to kick off our trip meant booking a decent hotel. As many of you know, the Booking.com app is genius as it literally acts as your own private travel agent. Certainly there are many others available, but this piece of tech has worked well for me in the past. So, I fired up my iPad and browsed the choice of hotels in Kuala Lumpur. Up popped a few deals and the room was booked. The app allows one to make contact with the hotel prior to travel to make requests, so I let them know that this old curmudgeon was coming on honeymoon and could they take note of that. So far, so good.
Upon arrival, our newly-wed status was promptly noted and we were upgraded to a suite. Essentially, this meant a normal hotel bedroom, but with a living room, dining table and couches. It was a home from home.
Once rather stuffy affairs
That part was lovely, but the best bit was, we were permitted access to the “club lounge”. Now, years ago on business I had sampled club lounges. These were rather stuffy affairs, where those of us on business would grab a free coffee, a donut and power up laptops.
Individual work stations would be filled with people, mostly men I observed at the time, busily working with spreadsheets, composing lengthy emails and quietly chatting to others across the globe via headsets. Nothing extravagant and really just a place for some peace and quiet away from the regular hotel restaurants and lobbies.
But, oh, how things have changed.
Our guest manager took us into the club lounge, where we were greeted enthusiastically and warmly. It was pointed out that the lounge was our home throughout the duration of our stay and would accommodate all our meals. Yes, breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner with cocktails in the evenings. Yowsers, what a score! However, there was a strict dress code and no children were allowed at certain times.
The new age club lounges are very interesting places. No expense has been spared on making them comfortable, luxurious and pretty posh. There were couches with armchairs dotted around the room. Each couch had big fluffy pillows, table lamps and charging points for mobile phones. The furniture was strategically placed to give enough distance from our fellow guests to ensure privacy. And, of course, there was food a plenty.
Chomping on gorgeous yummy food
Breakfast and dinner was basically all you can eat. Not like a canteen mind. No, this food was laid out like a five-star hotel experience with chefs on standby to cook omelettes in the morning or noodles and curries in the evening. A whole army of staff were moving around, filling up glasses with champagne, expensive red wines and, of course, making cocktails to order.
Throw in a bar in the evening with exotic booze that one could free pour and the scene was set for interesting times. And when human beings are given this opportunity to essentially eat, drink and be waited on hand and foot, it makes for interesting viewing, regardless of class.
Firstly there is the scrum. Basically between 6pm and 8pm, the buffet is open. And yes at 6pm almost everyone rushes to it like wildebeest running across the plains. There is a fear that others will benefit from being first up or that the food will run dry. So, up they go, filling plates, elbowing each other and bumping into each other as they open and close curry pot lids. It’s a mini stampede that lasts for about 15 minutes, then subsides are everyone has full plates and is chomping away on gorgeous yummy food.
For the remaining hour and 45 minutes, the buffet is a lot more dignified and even in the dying minutes of the buffet, each station is full of grub. But, every night I witnessed the scrum as we just don’t seem to learn, when it comes to free food. The drink was even more comical.
Within the first hour of dinner in a club lounge, every one has had a couple of drinks. My fellow “clubbers” are sensible with the bevvy. It flows, but not like there is no tomorrow.
Calm but effective
However, people soon start looking at their watches and the fear sets in again. In only 30 minutes, all access to the free booze stops. Gantries full of free spirits, wines and champers will cease trading. The party will be over.
So, the final 30 minutes is all about filling up and filling up again. I saw glasses of whisky being poured that would floor a rhinoceros. Chalices of merlot being poured and guzzled in jig time, then filled up again.
But not in a frenzied manner. No, it is calm, but choreographed to be effective in maximising booze consumption before the bar closes. Indeed, by day two I joined in myself as I learned and adapted to the culture of the posh club lounge.
I am currently on day four and it is about to come to an end as we move on, coronavirus permitting, as the whole of Asia is on tender hooks. Our time in the club lounge has been fascinating, albeit I think my liver is shot and I’ve put on half a stone.
But it has made me curious about us humans when it comes to free food and drink, even in a “posh” setting. I think almost everyone ate double what they would normally eat and drank treble what they would normally drink. Just because we could. And it makes me wonder, what must the club lounge staff think as they gaze upon the same behaviours day in and day out?