Saturday, June 27, 2009


Travel follies

Whenever I travel, I run into a few things that always puzzle me, so I thought I’d put them down here. Nothing really significant, nothing Earth-moving... just a few tiny, minor things.

Where to put the towels

Every hotel, now, has joined the “save the world” network. Even if that really means “save the hotel’s money by washing your towels less often,” I still approve of it because it does conserve water, and, no, I don’t need the towels washed every day.[1] &deity knows, I don’t wash them every day at home.

But the puzzling part is the instruction card. They all say about the same thing; this is what the one in the hotel in Boston says:

Together we can save millions of gallons of water from chlorine and detergents.


Leave towels you wish to re-use hung up or on the rack.

Towels you leave on the floor will be washed.

Conservation takes care of everyone.

Help us make a world of difference.

So the question is this: What do they do with a towel I leave on the vanity, or on the bed?

It’s not hung up or on the rack.

It’s not on the floor.

Maybe it’s just the computer geek in me, who thinks that anything unspecified is undefined, but I always wonder about the fate of those towels I leave sitting next to the sink.[2]

Turn-down service

This is the thing where the housekeeping staff will come ’round in the evening and pull the sheet and blanket down so the bed is ready for you. But... how hard is that for me to do myself? Why would I particularly want them to do it?

And, especially, why do they come around at 8 or 9 in the evening, bang on the door, and ask me if I want it? If I’m out, I suppose there’s no harm in their coming in and turning the bed down, but if I’m in my room then, I certainly don’t want them bothering me with it.

Is everything all right?

Speaking of not wanting to be bothered, we get to the “Is everything all right?” call. That’s something that more hotels seem to be doing, wherein they call your phone (or send someone to your door, which is what the Boston hotel did) a half hour or so after you check in, asking if the room is OK and if you need anything.

That might seem fine, but... if there’s a problem, I know how to get in touch with the front desk, so I don’t need to be disturbed. And there are times when I’ve been travelling for some significant part of the day, or I had to get up for an early flight, or both, and when I get to the hotel the first thing I do is have a lie down, maybe hoping for a light snooze. The last thing I want is to be awakened a few minutes after I’ve dozed off.

I can put the “do not disturb” sign on the door to protect against that intrusion, but most hotel-room phones lack a DND button, and I never remember to unplug the phone cord.

[1] I also like it that they’ve stopped throwing away the partially used soap bar. That used to irritate me, but these days I can happily use the same bar all week, and they’ll leave it there for me.

[2] And I guess that means that I don’t follow instructions well.


Thomas J. Brown said...

The more I have to code for every possible outcome, the more I see possible (and often unanticipated) outcomes in every day life.

I hadn't noticed the towel one before, but it's a good point.

As in the case of the towels, I find that these situations are often created by providing too much information. For example, the card said:

"Leave towels you wish to re-use hung up or on the rack. Towels you leave on the floor will be washed."

This only accounts for 2 options when many more are possible. However, the situation would not exist had the card simply said:

"Towels you leave on the floor will be washed."

It's so true that less can often be more.

Frisky070802 said...

I've noticed that virtually every time I hang up my towel planning to reuse it, I get a nicely folded towel that as far as I can tell has never been used.

Particularly wasteful when I stay someplace for two nights that comes with 2-3 towels.

Call me Paul said...

It seems to me that this is an opportunity to step out of your geek computer programmer persona and so some actual science...


Barry Leiba said...

Thomas: Yes, exactly. If they'd only done it as an "if... else...", we'd be fine!

Frisky and Paul: I've thought of how to test it. The problem is that I can't think of any way to mark the used towels without disturbing the experiment. If I mark a towel so I can recognize it later, the staff is likely to see the mark and decide that the towel needs cleaning, despite my having put it back on the rack.

If anyone has a good idea here, I'll be pleased to try it and report back.

lidija said...

Invisible ink! :)

Call me Paul said...

Most towels have a tag. I'm thinking a needle and a little bit of thread.

The Ridger, FCD said...

The only place that actually seemed to be done was a hotel in Harrogate, UK, and one in DuPont, Washington. Most of the hotels I've stayed at haven't had the program, and the ones that have have, as Frisky070802 said, replaced them anyway. (The Harrogate hotel also wouldn't remake the bed if you asked them not to. I certainly don't put new sheets on my bed every day!)