/ Cory Doctorow / 7 pm Thu, Apr 21 2016
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  • The quest for the well-labeled inn

    The quest for the well-labeled inn

    I have a first-world problem: I stay in a lot of hotels.

    I travel a lot for my work -- sometimes on EFF business, sometimes on book tours, sometimes to do talks. Before I got married, I was spending 27 days a month on the road (I stopped bothering to plug in my fridge). Now it's more like one third/one half of the time.

    There's plenty about life on the road that sucks, but the thing that baffles me, really baffles me, is the absolutely insane placement of light switches, taps, TV power switches and the like in hotels. Because while there's good reasons for the frustrating dimness of hotel rooms (overhead lights require ladders to change bulbs in and lock in the location of the bed, limiting reconfiguration options, so all the light has to come from a myriad of lamps), I can't think of one single fucking reason why a hotelier, outfitting 300 new rooms in a shining new tower, would opt for a weird, designer shower faucet that requires two diagrams and a phone call to reception to figure it out.

    I literally can't count the number of weird-ass shower configurators I've seen. It doesn't matter if the hotel is high-end or bottom-tier, inevitably someone's decided to conduct radical UI experiments with the faucet. Now, don't get me wrong. I like weird UI as much as the next person who likes weird UI. But when I've bought something weird for my own home, it was with the expectation that, after a few awkward weeks, I'd grow accustomed to it (and even then, I often regretted it when I had to explain it to a frustrated houseguest). I'm never going to stay in your hotel long enough to figure out your stupid avant garde plumbing statement.

    Not just showers. Light switches. If your hotel room is lit by between one and eight little lamps, they should have really obvious switches, obvious even to a human who has never seen them before -- a human who is exhausted after a transoceanic flight, say; or who has come back from a 16 hour work day at a conference to discover that someone has "set the mood" by switching on three lights that shine directly on the pillows, but which have no obvious off-switch. These days, I just unscrew the bulbs, or, failing that, unplug them (even if I have to move the bed to do it).

    It goes on. Rather than rant, I'm going to make a list.

    The VIII Commandments of the Well-Labeled Inn

    I. Thy lamps shall have large, obvious switches that are not obscured by the shade nor hidden on their bases, nor their power-cords.

    II. Thy wall-switches shalt be labeled with the parts of the room they correspond to.

    III. Never shall thine electrical outlets be controlled by light switches, lest they cause a device to go uncharged overnight.

    IV. Thine faucets shall be as plain as fuck.

    V. Yea, and thou shalt label them, with large, sans-serif writing, HOT and COLD, in red and blue, for an icy shower at 4AM doth enrage a traveler and lo, first degree burns art a liability for thee and thine underwriters.

    VI. Thy shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer shalt be labeled in the largest type that will fit on the bottles, for travelers may not be able to find thine goddamned lightswitches, and yea, may not wear their glasses to take a shower and thus be incapable of reading the tiny curlycue type used to label the bottles.

    VII. Thine housekeepers shall never leave the TV on, even if thy in-room entertainment system has a muzak channel it can be turned to.

    VIII. Thy TVs shall have large, obvious, front panel off buttons.

    (Image: Martin Birkin)

    / / 142 COMMENTS

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    Notable Replies

    1. Thou shalt not put misleading labels on your power plugs.
      (I'm looking at you, hotel of big US chain in Buenos Aires)

    2. Never shall thine ginormous mirror be placed where one, while seated on toilet, has an unavoidable view. Because, goddamn.

    3. Back in the eighties when I traveled to our company's Encinitas, CA headquarters for a week at a time to do new-product design binges, I usually stayed in the same cheap motel down the street. $30 a night for the third floor walk-up.

      This motel had the exact same hand-painted mural over the bed in every room - a seascape with a tall sailboat. I made sure to draw a skull and crossbones on the mainsail of the boat every time I stayed in a room. I only remember seeing my handiwork again once - they put me in a lot of different rooms.

    4. IX. Thy TVs shalt be free of always-on retina-searing blue LEDs which doth light the room at all hours;

      X. Thy window curtains shalt actually cover the window, especially in the center;

      XI. Thy window curtains shall not be transparent, because no one doth need to see that;

      XII. Thy impossible-to-set randomly-set alarm clocks shall be banished forever; and

      XIII. In place of thine alarm clocks thou shalt leave room for smartphones, and perhaps thou might make available a charging outlet, in thy mercy;

      XIV. Thy shitty captive WiFi page shalt have a large easy-to-read AGREE button so that we might skip thine inane and unenforceable EULA;

      XV. Thy interconnecting suite doors shalt be so heavily insulated so that we might not hear thine other guests' 105mm shells exploding over a Methods of Mayhem concert;

      XVI. At no time shall thine desks' convenience outlets shock thine guests.

      (I could go on. XVI actually occurred. I have pictorial proof.)

    5. I have a few:

      XVII: Thou shall stop buying clock radios (from that certain factory in China that appears to make them for all hotel chains) which are designed to pull in a 'power rock' station from Michigan, repeating it every 3KHz all over the dial, while completely unable to tune in the local CBC station whose antenna is only three clicks away.

      XVIIIa: Thou shall stop installing more WiFi hotspots than there are rooms in the hotel. The Four-Colour Theorem has been proven; there is no need for eighteen equally strong signals distributed amongst the channels, thereby ensuring that thine guests' device cannot lock onto any of them.

      XVIIIb: If thou feelst that a completely unusable, expensive-to-install Wifi signal is the hallmark of fine hotels, then thou must have a working cabled data drop in the room which is not so old that it's connected to a network hub which has never even heard of 10baseT.

      XIX: Thou shall stop serving that 'Mexican omelette' at the free breakfast nook. It is an abomination.

      XX: Thou shall have the bedside light switches reachable from the bed.

      XXI: Thou shall lobby television manufacturers so they install the IR sensor for the remote in the top of the TV's frame, so that thine guests won't have to raise the hands at an awkward angle to try, try, try to change the friggin' channel when lying on the bed.

      XXII: If thou feelst the need to mount the television low, bolted to furniture, and in front of a mirror, then thou shall move that mirror so it can actually be used.

      XXIII: If thou art the CEO who really thinks that a three-inch shelf in the bathroom is sufficient for thine guests' toiletry items, then thou must be present at check-out time to suffer the slings and arrows hurled by thine guests' because of the outrageous fortune of their kits falling into the toilet.

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