The unique nature of the hospitality industry has led to a number of useful inventions; phones that dispense automatic wake-up calls, innkeeper's liability limitations, magnifying peep holes in doors and the little flippy things that let the guest open the door two inches in complete security. Little strips of paper that say "sanitized for your protection." 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. 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.
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.
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