Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
July 2006


The Hotel Guest With Half a Brain


 
It hurts, but let’s face it.  Our hotels are, at best, incidental to a guest’s travel plans.  They did not drive to Keokuk or fly to Salt Lake City, just to enjoy the convivial and hospitable joy of staying in room 236, delightful though it may be.  They came to attend a niece’s wedding, or pitch an equipment sale to the local rendering plant, or participate in the annual convention of Windshield Wiper Designers of America.  Staying in your hotel is a necessary evil, an incidental part of the whole travel experience, something they have to do in order to achieve their real objective.

That’s why guests enter your lobby with half a brain.  The other half is otherwise occupied, thinking about what they’ll say when they meet the new in-laws, or how many sales they have to make to justify this trip, or the speech they will give on the Effects of Increasing Atmospheric Ozone Concentrations on the Service Life of Various Windshield-wiper Compounds.  They are tired from their travels.  They wander to the front desk like zombies, vaguely aware that they have to state their names and produce some sort of payment medium, but not sufficiently conscious to do much else.

That’s why we have to make it easy for them.  If we say or do anything that requires the absent half of their brain to respond, they will be confused and irritated.  A fungus spore, equipped with a valid credit card, should be able to complete your check-in process.

So when guests enter your front door, one of their three functioning brain cells should be able to sense the location and direction of the front desk.  It should look like a front desk, with smiling, uniformed employees standing at attention and making the sort of eye contact that even a salamander would interpret as “yes, come this way, I have what you need.”  

At the desk, the guest mumbles a last name, like “Parker.”  You should immediately search the reservations list for that name, so you can respond with either “Yes, are you John Parker?”  The guest knows his name instinctively, and can process that question without waking up.  If you ask instead “Do you have a reservation?” the guest has to activate memory cells that are currently out of service.  

Similarly, the guest should not need more than 1.5 brain cells to know his assigned room.  I know that for security purposes, we write the room number on a cute little folder that contains the key card.  But consider writing it in BIG numbers on the OUTSIDE of the little folder, so the guest doesn’t have to hunt for the secret code, but can instead carry it to his room like the prized admission ticket it truly is.  And if the guest must use the elevator, point to the elevator lobby using the universal extended arm and finger.  If you just say “the elevators are behind you, to your right,” the guest has to expend brainpower on computing forward, backward, right, left, and the points of the compass.

The average guestoom keycard must be inserted a specific way.  Make sure yours have big arrows on them to indicate the proper orientation, so the guest doesn’t have to expend thought on the simple act of opening the door.  There should be a handy switch, right inside the door, which turns on enough light to clarify obstacles and/or reveal whether you’ve checked the guest into an already-occupied room.  For a guest with a confirmed reservation, the entire front-door-to-room-door should take no more concentrated thought than taking a bite out of a sandwich.

After the guest has arrived in the room, actual neurological activity may recommence – but it may not.  As you know, many guests leave their brains in “standby” mode for the entire duration of their stay.  The “power” button on your TV remote should be the size of a manhole cover.  Your hot water should be regulated so it’s incapable of causing third-degree burns, in case the guest doesn’t notice it’s melting the porcelain off the tub.  Even though there’s a little mini-directory on the phone of the extensions to dial for every conceivable need, the “O” button should still do something useful.  Bar-soap wrappers should not require thought or effort to remove.  

If you want to test whether a brain-dead guest will find your hotel user-friendly, borrow some “test guests” from a local kindergarten, or from behind the counter at your local Department of Motor Vehicles.  The easier we make it for the guest, the greater the likelihood they’ll return, perhaps with the other half of their brain functioning next time.
 



Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."
 
Contact:

Larry Mundy
LJM2804@yahoo.com

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Also See: The Latest Thing - Fractional Ownership Of Things or FOOT Financing for Hotels / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Floor Surfaces - Hard or Soft? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
Hotel Bathroom Origami - That Tiny Detail of Carefully Triangulated Toilet Paper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
A Chain, a System, a Franchise, a Collection, a Group, a Brand... / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Forensic Hotel Housekeeper / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / July 2006
The Exercise Room in Your Hotel - Sweating the Details / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Remembering the old-time Hotel Engineering Department / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
What Do You Do With an Old Hotel? / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / June 2006
Hotel Smokers: A Dying Breed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May  2006
The New Food & Beverage – Food “Just Like Home”  / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Guest Privacy – It’s Not Just a Door Tag Anymore / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
The Future of Hotel Reservations / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006



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