Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
June 2006

 Curse of the Hotel Lobby-Dwellers
By tradition, and most places by statute, your hotel is a “place of public accommodation.”  That implies, correctly, that you spend your days accommodating the public, which comes in all shapes and sizes.  The next day they’re all gone, only to be replaced by an entirely new collection of people, and so on for the rest of your hospitable life.  Many of them, you will never see again.  Shakespeare is justly famous not only for his great tragic and comic characters, but also for a succession of happy innkeepers welcoming total strangers into his facility for however long a “fortnight” was.  I don’t actually know, since I slept through a good portion of my literature classes.

But sadly, you are not in business merely to shelter weary travelers from the real and virtual blizzards of life.  Ideally, you will make a little money in the process, if only because your lenders and suppliers and employees expect to be paid.  So it would help if most of the people in your hotel actually bought and paid for rooms, or food, or gift-shop trinkets.  Unfortunately, your hotel is sometimes populated by people who are there to prey on your guests, photograph a cheating spouse, use a clean restroom or simply find refuge from the unexpected rainstorm.  There’s probably at least one of these people in your lobby right now.  100% of your rooms could be out of service for renovation, and that guy would still be there, a parasite on your new couch, soaking up your expensive air-conditioning.

What to do?  There’s always a risk in “inviting” these people to leave.  For one thing, you may find they actually belong there.  I love the story of the GM who tried to shoo an apparent hooker from the lobby of a posh boutique hotel.  It turned out that the hotel owner’s new trophy wife simply thought miniskirts and white plastic go-go boots were the height of fashion.  This particular GM now assembles Chevrolets in Detroit.

We all know we can’t discriminate against people because of race, sex, religion, age or sexual preference, so the first person asked to leave your lobby should probably be a young, straight Caucasian male, unless he claims to be a monk of some obscure order that worships wildebeest.  You end up having to use all your powers of observation.  Why has that man been in the elevator lobby for three hours, and is that dynamite strapped to his chest?  Is that the same homeless woman you booted last week, just wearing the novel disguise of a paper bag over her head?  If someone is still asleep on the lobby couch at 3 AM, is it a safe bet that he hasn’t booked a room?

In many ways, we’ve compounded this problem ourselves.  Many hotels now offer some form of free breakfast, but the McDonalds next door still charges for Egg McMuffins.  When your free-breakfast cost hits $10 per occupied room, you should start to suspect that a few non-guests are munching your buns.  And with the advent of throwaway electronic card-keys, it’s increasingly difficult to identify actual guests.  If you were hungry and panhandling, which would you rather have – a quarter, or an Embassy Suites key card?  I was once associated with a hotel in downtown L.A. that had a streetside bar, and put a bowl of mixed nuts on every table for its patrons.  The center-city homeless used this hotel as an inexhaustible source of cholesterol-free protein, scooping bowl after bowl into their pockets and sprinting away at hyperspeed.  I swear there are many disadvantaged souls in Los Angeles who could win Olympic medals in track and field.

It used to be that a “hot spot” was a very active and social bar.  Now it means any place with a roof, seating, and wireless internet access.   In many lobbies you’ll find local college students with laptops, comfortably surfing the Web to gather information for an essay on Shakespeare.  They have never spent a nickel in your facility, and never will.  The only way to tell is to ask them what a “fortnight” is.

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

Larry Mundy
[email protected]

Also See: 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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