Ye Olde Hotels

USA Today has an article that goes down memory lane asking hoteliers for services and amenities that have fallen by the wayside with new technology. The article notes ten often mentioned items, some useful and some less so, that are missed including live wake-up calls, brass room keys, sanitizer bands around toilet seat covers and shoehorns. Sanitizer bands are an easy one as 85 year old Roy Watson, a former hotelier notes “Hotels stopped bothering because “We all know they’re phony,”. He says housekeepers would “take an old wet towel, pick it up, wipe the seats and put the band over it saying it’s sanitized. It’s a lot of baloney”. While somewhat true, it was seldom as blatant as Watson describes.

Besides what was mentioned in the article other forgettable ante-diluvian “services and amenities” included filling out the reg card with a pen – most hotels have pre-printed cards available completed with a mere John Hancock, a mail box behind the desk for messages (along with the occasionally forgetful desk clerk who attempted to “deliver” the message after the guest left) and the formerly ubiquitous Gideon’s bible. With respect to the last item, a post 9/11 sensitivity to the diverse religious beliefs has resulted in either no bible or a stock of relgious texts ranging from the Bhagavad Gita to the Book of Mormon (in most Marriott hotels – the founding family as most know are Mormons).

Beyond what the guest saw in those old hotels were decidedly pre-tech methods of delivering service which have been rendered a snap or done away with altogether. In the past, “telexes” delivered reservations which were then “typed” on to arrival lists and reg cards prepared. If that seemed laborious and like something out of the dark ages, poring over reservation lists by the back office, with VIPs in some upper end hostelry getting gold lettering for their stationery by the process of “embossing” one letter at a time was nearly primeval.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.