By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (

On a recent domestic flight, I was surprised by a folded paper napkin handed to me by the flight attendant. Odd, I thought, as I had not made any requests. Handwritten was a simple instruction providing details regarding my connecting flight. Legibly signed, I could not help but be both appreciative and duly impressed.

Handwritten notes are an excellent way to build a rapport with guests – this we should all be well-familiar with by now. But they can also be counterproductive if done wrong.

Looking back, there was nothing out of the ordinary on that flight. As expected, the business class meal was just above cafeteria-basic while the wine was barely palatable. Yet, this one simple act transformed a seemingly mundane journey into something remarkable. Thus, this note which could have been more easily relayed through a quick chat was successful in elevating the bar just a touch.

Moreover, one of my first acts upon landing was to photograph and repost this note through social media. I was flabbergasted to see the tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm from my friends and followers. While my own personal network’s reach is limited, it is not hard to image the resultant multiplier effect.

Most luxury properties already use handwritten notes to welcome guests. I’ve spoken to many general managers who wholeheartedly believe in this practice as it helps engender a personal relationship between the property and guest. How true!

Conversely, I’ve also experienced an individual’s signature on a tip envelope resting beside. To me this approach instinctively conjures up a negative response akin to begging. I know that this gut reaction is incorrect and the housekeeper probably deserves a gratuity for his or her hard work. Maybe it is the presence of the tip envelope which makes this note seemingly ingenuine.

Recalling all my experiences with handwritten notes as it relates to hospitality has led me to create the following basic rule for handwritten notes.

Acceptable Handwritten notes can be given to guests by anyone who does not expect any sort of financial reward for their work. This would include all senior staff, departmental heads, accounting, engineering and human resources. I would also include concierge, reception and front desk clerks in this list. Guests receiving handwritten notes from these staff members and managers will not feel any obligation to compensate the individual in response. It is meant to be a token of appreciation with no intent of necessary follow-up actions on behalf of the customer.

Handwritten notes should rarely be sent by those who, through the normal course of business activity, recognize gratuities as an important part of their compensation. This includes housekeepers, waiters, pool attendants, maîtres d’hôtel, doormen and bell staff. The exception would be a situation where the guest needs to be alerted by a specific item that necessitates this form of notification. Again, handwritten notes are meant to be a nice touch, but not a medium through which to spark an ongoing conversation.

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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.