(The Island of Lost Behavior: Ordained and Necessary Behavior of the Serving Class: the Manual for Conduct for Employees of the Waldorf-Astoria, 1938.)
What was the “common sense” part of the instructions for the behavior of employed people to the people they were going to service? Looking through this manual of corporate correctness it is really pretty extraordinary—sitting here 70 years into the future from this publication—how people were expected and demanded to act in the company of others.
The Waldorf of course was one of the seminal hotels in NYC at the time and demanded extreme-service behavior of its employees who came into contact with its patrons. The control of the Waldorf was complete, reaching into the slight depths of performance in all aspects of all jobs. This pocket handbook was addressed to the uniform staff: Bellmen, Desk Clerks, Elevator Operator, Bellhops, Doormen, Footmen, Lobby Porters, Service Personnel, Package Clerks and so on came under close control. In general (and in addition to the House Rules, which was an entrely different publication with other standards of behavior) all uniform staff was supposed to be (sufficiently) kind, semi-invisible until needed, and always quietly helpful--and in the last, to be helpful to a certain point, not helping too much, with a last warning to "give little personal attentions" and "Never pursue a patron to the point of being officious".
Bellmen are to always stand erect and militarily "at ease", "forbidden to lounge about or lean on counters". Professional manners must be maintained at all times, with restrictions on interactions between staff: "discussions that may be overheard by patrons are not to be tolerated". Humming, whistling and using slang are also forbidden, as is checking your hair or clothes in mirrors. Elevator operators are given even more instructions, and frequently in capital and bold type: "NEVER START A CONVERSATION" is one, though "do not call a patron by name" is left mercifully unbolded. "Never look at the patrons" is another must, as is the position of the operator, which is always to have one hand behind his back while the elevator is moving. When waiting for a patron, the elevator operator is to always stay inside the car, waiting for signals from the elevator starter--and of course it goes without saying that the operator could NEVER leave his car unless in an emergency. (And yes, there was an a position for "elevator starter", who would direct patron traffic to the banks of elevators and who would also police the actions of the elevator operators. It is also of slight interest to learn that general elevator service was stopped at 10:00 in the evening (for noise?), with special accommodations made for those wishing to return to their rooms "late at night". I really don't know what that was all about.) There are strict instructions on how to announce floors, salutations to the patrons according to time of day, and on and on. It is really quite exhausting--this is just a slight dollop of what is outlined in this 60-page pamphlet.
I was talking about this with someone in the service industry--on yachts, to be specific--who, after listening to my quiet screed on the behavior demands of industries gone by, smirked, and asked "you don't have much contact with the higher-end hospitality game, do you? Because this sounds exactly the same as what is expected of me." I was honestly surprised--not being a 5-star guy I didn't know this offhand, but it of course makes sense that my notions of antiquated expectations weren't antique at all.