But for every useful hotel innovation, there’s another one that’s so
silly, tacky or just plain irritating that it deserves the Hall of Shame.
Here are some of my favorites. Feel free to email me your own, or
if you are the maker or seller of any of these, to advise me to have someone
else start my car:
Decorative balconies with sliding-glass doors.
This is a real bait-and-switch. 20 square feet of sliding glass pane
invites the guest to step outside and breathe in the fresh air, where he
finds the balcony is only 8 inches deep and attached to the side of the
hotel with masking tape.
It terrifies me to think of the devices people are inventing at this very
moment to make your guest’s stay less inviting, more confusing, or just
generally frustrating. What’s worse, many of us who want to be on
the cutting edge will buy them.
Towel racks inside the shower. OK, I’m clean, where’s my
towel? Why, here it is, conveniently accessible at the back of the
shower stall. Too bad it’s been soaked by the shower spray and is
dripping as much as I am.
The “undercut” guestroom door. Have a negative-air-pressure
problem with your corridor, or no heating and cooling at all out there?
No problem, just cut three inches off the bottom of each guestroom door.
Sure, there’s a little more noise in the guestrooms, but really, what else
can come in under the door? Well, bugs, I guess. Items dropped
in the hallway. And lizards. And odd smells. Why not
just exchange all the doors for screens?
Plastic-bag liners for the ice bucket. There’s nothing
inherently wrong with the idea of these, but each one is custom-sized to
be slightly smaller than the diameter of the bucket itself, ensuring that
when filled, it will collapse into the soupy mess at the bottom of the
bucket, under the ice.
Self-collapsing luggage racks. The scissor-hinged, two-strap
design hasn’t changed for eons, and it was just fine when people carried
hard-sided luggage, which was also eons ago. Soft luggage just sinks
down in the middle and becomes clamped in the structure like a coyote’s
foot in a spring trap.
Motion detectors wired to the HVAC system. These save energy
by assuring that whenever I return to my room, it will be 20 degrees less
comfortable than it was when I left, and that the air unit will immediately
kick on, as if with a pang of guilt.
Twenty-three throw pillows. This is part of the new wave
of luxurious bedding – piles of pillows in room-coordinating colors that
are just for looks. They are called “throw pillows” because you have
to throw them off the bed to sleep – usually onto the floor. Then
when nature calls at 3 AM, you negotiate a minefield of designer pillows
on your way to the bathroom.
The combination alarm clock, AM-FM radio, CD player, personal digital
assistant and oscilloscope. It was tough enough to learn
how to set the alarm clock part of a different clock radio every night.
Now the nightstand sports a device with more controls than a Boeing 737,
which is why all your guests dial “0” for a wake-up call and avoid this
goofy thing altogether.
The swivel nightstand mount for the TV remote. This says
to your guest that you expected they would steal the remote, so you glued
it onto a little security stand that prevents it from being pointed directly
at the TV sensor.
The unitary shower mixing valve. You regulate both the
water temperature and the amount of flow by turning a single control.
Yes, I know this is a nearly-universal hotel feature nowadays, but I hate
them and no guest would tolerate the same thing at home. Want really
hot water? You must endure enough pressure to remove paint.
Want really cold water? Sorry, you only get a trickle.