Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Small Travel Annoyances

I’ve slept in three different hotels in the last ten days or so, and noticed a number of things that (seemingly) could be done a lot better.


  • The first is voice mail spam. I get no warm fuzzy from picking up a pre-recorded voice mail welcoming me to the hotel. But I do get to waste my time listening to it, and figuring out how to delete it to make the god-damned blinking red light go away. I’d have simply unplugged the phone, but the Hilton phone was attached into the wall. So, no value, intrusive, and annoying. (Also wasted my time at the Sheraton.)
  • Excercise rooms which have card-access control, no attendant, and hours. If I get back to the hotel at 1 AM and want to burn off dinner, I don’t need an attendant to use an exercise bike or a stairmaster. I’m a bit more sympathetic to locking me out of weight rooms or pools.
  • More obviously valuable is Hilton’s nifty new clock. It has a bright, readable display, radio(?) pre-sets that have useful labels: news, rock, jazz, classical and “MP3/line-in.” It has the words “alarm off” on the display in big letters. It has clear instructions, on the front, for setting the alarm. There’s clearly a lot of thought that went into it. So why is it in a list of travel annoyances?

    The panel is black data on an orange background. I’d guess that 80% or more of the screen was glowing. Which means, even at its dimmest, it was too bright. I threw a pillow over it, and used the alarm on my cell phone.

    (There’s an analog here to Tufte’s data ink principle, and that is to minimize the number of pixels which glow. I want my room to be pitch-black until I want to be awake.)

  • Hotels which hand out your room number when you’re booking a taxi. The Fairfield Mariott I was in did this, and said it was to ensure the right person got the right taxi. But they also gave your name. So what gives? Many women travelers are very sensitive to the privacy and personal security risk of having their room number given out. Especially when it’s broadcast over a radio.
  • Finally, none of my hotels had comedy Comedy Central on the TV. I mean, come on, is it that much more? Make it a pay option, and give me Simpsons and Jon Stewart.

3 comments on "Small Travel Annoyances"

  • David Brodbeck says:

    I’ve noticed the lack of Comedy Central, too. The only hotels I’ve found it in are low-budget ones that are buying a regular cable feed, instead of creating their own system with satellite channels.
    Another thing that bugs me: Why is it when I stay at a cheap fleabag motel, like Motel 6, I get free local calls, but when I stay somewhere expensive they charge me $0.50 or more for each call?

  • Adam says:

    I think folks who are staying at a fleabag motel are less likely to have a cell phone, and so it’s a selling point to have free calls?

  • David Brodbeck says:

    Maybe, though it’s been going on a lot longer than cell phones have been common. Cell phone reception is also kind of lousy in some large hotels, unless you’re lucky enough to have a window facing a cell tower, because the building’s steel-reinforced structure makes a pretty good Faraday cage.
    Mostly, though, I run into this when I’m either trying to make a modem call (where a cell phone isn’t too useful) or trying to order a pizza, where an out-of-area number is going to confuse them.
    I think mainly they just know that the kind of person who will spend upwards of $80/night for a room isn’t going to make a decision based on a few bucks worth of phone charges, while someone who’s looking to spend $40/night might just go to the next motel down the street.

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