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Are You an Employee? or: Why The Cosmopolitan Needs Nametags

By JohnH on Sunday, 19th December 2010 12:47am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 19


One of the more intriguing bits of news that was churned out of the rumor machine in the run-up to this week's opening of The Cosmopolitan revolved around the fact that the hotel's "co-stars" would not be seen wearing nametags. Reaction, at least among the members of Team VT, was mixed. Would they wear some sort of identifying mark to differentiate them from regular guests? Would a uniform be enough to alert a guest to the presence of an employee?

Wednesday brought our answers. There are no nametags. There is no identifying emblem worn by a co-star. Instead, there are only uniforms and a service aesthetic that require a co-star to introduce himself to a customer by name and shake said customer's hand. It's personal, professional, but almost casually elegant.

And in the case of front desk clerks, dealers, and waiters/waitresses, this approach to let's call it employee introduction works intriguingly well. Because I was personally making a physical connection with a person and was engaging in a fairly sincere conversation, I was able to remember Chance the Front Desk Clerk, Kim the Blackjack Dealer, and a whole host of other employees from those fields. It almost made me feel as if I knew these people and that the hotel had pulled through in establishing that personal, "I've got a Vegas guy" concept that John Unwin has so often discussed reviving.

It was an intriguing concept, and remained so until I noticed that every manager or official looking person at the hotel was only wearing a suit. Yes, they were all very nice suits, but what was going to distinguish this person from any other well-dressed guest on opening night? What if I walked up to someone I thought worked for the hotel, only to find that he or she was just a guest?

I will say here and now that I was never on the giving end of one of those encounters, but there were no less than three times that I found myself on the receiving end of this employee confusion. All three were memorable, but the first was quite possibly the best. After I had gotten all spruced up in a set of extremely over-priced, designer-label clothing for the evening and made my way down to elevator to the hotel's semi-private Brandon Flowers concert at Chandelier, a bell man in the elevator turned to me and said--and I shit you not--"Do you work here?" Really? I mean, based on the fact that the extremely well-dressed Alex Acuna works at The Cosmopolitan, I was a little flattered, but come on. Really?

I encountered similar situations no less than two more times after that, and wasn't the only other guest to be mistaken for a co-star. I seem to recall Mike E. being asked a very similar set of questions and VegasTripping reader John D. informed me that he was asked the "employee" question no less than about six times while he was making his sixth attempt to get a set of keycards that would actually get him into his room.

This is a problem. Guests and even employees need some sort of identifying mark that, you know, identifies employees. People don't like the timidity implied by an employee who can't tell who is a guest and who is not; they like to accurately know who is an employee and who is a guest.

Does that mean that the Cosmopolitan has to embrace the traditional nametag, though? Absolutely not. Try this: give every employee a noticeable-but-tasteful emblem that resembles, I don't know, the hotel's logo. That way, you can have your rather innovative employee interaction aesthetic, but can still ensure that guests and other employees can readily identify an employee when they need one. Or don't do that. Keep having guests that can't find employees and employees that can't recognize other employees. Whatever, it's up to you.

Tagged: cosmopolitan   john unwin   


Comments & Discussion:

I hear its being tossed around exactly as you called it JohnH. Psychic!

Seriously. Mostly because of my perfect choice of tie, sharp suit and striking good looks, I was asked by about 7 different people if I worked there - three of them employees. If only I had the foresight to send these housekeeping sallies to go tend to the disasters in my compadres rooms.

I vote for a logo pin. Easy peasy and they get to keep this co-star service culture myth alive long enough for folks to forget about it.

Or maybe they could all wear leather bracelets with a large, metal "C" charm. Worked once, right?

The whole "co-star" thing is very Disney-esque. In fact, the statement in Dr Dave's Vegas Sevens piece the other week that "the building is the star of the show" is actually ripped directly from Disney guidebooks as to why the hired help are "cast members" and not employees, the themed aesthetics are "show" and not decorations, etc.

If you're going to rip from Disney, go whole hog. Create a classy looking nametag with the first name only, with no nicknames or initials or hometowns, and require everyone who isn't supposed to be undercover to wear it while on the clock. Management, too. You probably can't force the suit and tie set, but you can make it bad company politics to be wandering the property without it.

Again, the whole "show" motif is plain-as-day evidence that Cosmo sent somebody to Disney University at some point to learn their service culture, so roll with it.

The lapel pin is a good idea and probably the quick and dirty way to do it. Unlike with nametags, you wouldn't have to have each one custom.

I bet that within 3-6 months, they'll all be sporting nametags.

I was once mistaken for a casino employee at Paris. I guess people assume that anyone wearing a black suit is a casino employee......

i guess this is another symptom of thousands of employees. (ive gotten this from customers etc but never employees.)

easy fix - tell employees not to ask this question, and explain potential consequences. (losing spend/gambling...)

When I was in the hospitality buisness years ago I always thought that the name tag was the finishing touch for the Hotels image.I always pinned it on with military percision and wanted everyone to know they were talking to "Mark" weather it was on my busboy vest or Manager on Duty lapel.
I have changed since then and now a little more recluse and self centered.
I don't go to Vegas to mingle with the cast and crew of the Loveboat.Brief pleasantries and aknowledgement of a job well done and a nametag for ID is fine.

I vote for nametags. Casinos can be busy and people stressed-out, drunk, etc... As much as the idea of personal greetings sounds nice, it is one of those things that just never works right and needs to be dropped for practical reasons.

I liked having personal interactions with a lot of people. However, whenever somebody ignored me (front desk managers) or denied trying to enter my room w/o announcing themselves (maintenance & housekeeping)...then I was really pissed that I didn't have their name.

As such, I have a nice list of helpful employees to applaud but nobody to say "this person is making Cosmo look bad."

If they're smart, the employees will in vent some sort of quick or dirty secret handshake to tell each other. E.g. like a quick touch of the earlobe or something like we have for LA Agents of Improv Everywhere. We're supposed to be undercover but we can confirm a hello by quickly and discreetly doing this secret handshake. It's not really a handshake at all. Publically that tips our hand. Maybe management might make a quick catchphrase or something to go for that same effect. Like ask by being super formal. Like saying hello sir (or madam) and then have the also employee do something that a guest wouldn't do. Like mock the phrase back to him and add a wink or laugh or something. Because some guests might go, "don't call me sir, I'm not my dad," etc. I think it can work and I hate wearing nametags anyway. I do like the signifying universally placed logo mark though. Very classy. Doing it different is doing it right. Especially when it comes to service in Vegas. Some have got it right, but most are doing it otherwise.

^ "The dog howls at midnight"

Nah, I'd go for nametags.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm a slave to the status quo, or because it's a good idea for people to be able to identify employees. I don't want to run down all the security reasons why nametags are a good idea here, but there are a lot of them.

I'm willing to give this a few months to see how it goes--I might be wrong. I've got a quote from an employee in next Thursday's Vegas Seven that explains how one guy feels about it.

As far as being misidentified as a casino employee, it happens to me all the time. At the Cosmo opening, I ended up giving lots of directions to people. So those 2+ guided tours were a good investment by the company, after all.

what about allowing the employees to express themselves with "pieces of bling"?

I agree- they need a not too big golden C pin for employees, and a nice big red A for the..... well you know...... in the lounges and clubs.

what about allowing the employees to express themselves with "pieces of bling"?



Wow, that is so lame. This might be one case where trying to be different and clever bites them in the ass. Guests being confused for employees are going to get pissed off after a while. And what happens in case of an emergency, where it's crucial to identify a staff member immediately for help? And who says they can't still be pleasant and introduce themselves while wearing a traditional nametag? Oy.

I witnessed a guy in a tux being approached more than once (in the space of a few minutes) with questions and he had to answer that he didn't work there.

They need name tags or a laminate or something. It can be unique, but it must be identifying.

I am very big on knowing my "servers" by name. At a bar or restaurant, I always make sure to know their name, mostly so that when I need another beer, I don't have to yell "hey you!" ...plus it's just polite. At a casino is no different, I always look at the dealer's nameplate and attempt to call them by name. But...after many a drink, it's easy to forget when you're on the 4th dealer.

1. All customer facing employees HAVE TO have at least an identifying mark. The Cosmo "C" is pretty cool, go with that,
2. In my opinion, dealers, waitresses and front desk staff, at a minimum, need to have their name too. I like that they all introduce themselves, that's a classy touch and that should NEVER stop, but just get the name on something so we don't forget or feel embarassed asking for the 7th time.

How has this not been brought up yet? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj-1kp777NM

As someone who gets asked where stuff is every time i am in Vegas the Cosmo people need name tags or I will avoid the place so they dont get blamed if i snap on someone asking me where something is.

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