Thomas Sowell

Few things can make you appreciate home like staying in a hotel. This includes not only low-budget, bare bones hotels but also sweepingly large and ornate luxury hotels. What many hotels seem to have in common are needless hassles.

Since most people who stay in hotels do so while traveling, and stay only a few days in a given hotel, you might think that those who run hotels would want to make it easy for someone who arrives a little tired (or a lot tired) from traveling to use the various devices they find in their hotel room. But you would be wrong. That thought never seems to have crossed their minds.

Recently, at a well-known luxury hotel in Los Angeles, I found that something as simple as turning on a television set can require a phone call to the front desk, and then waiting for the arrival of a technician. Then it took another phone call to get a list of which of the dozens of channels were for which networks.

Why the turning on of a television set should be anything other than obvious to a newly arrived hotel guest is apparently a question that never occurred to the people who ran this hotel. Nor did it apparently ever occur to them that someone just arriving from a journey might want to be able to relax, instead of having to cope with complications that the hotel could easily have avoided.

The next morning, in the shower, I found myself confronted with a dazzling array of knobs and levers, none of which provided any clue as to what they did. The lever rotated and four of the surrounding knobs both rotated and tilted forward and backward.

Apparently it was not considered sporting to come right out and tell you how to get hot water or cold water. That was something you could find out for yourself by being either scalded or chilled.

Being fancy and opaque seemed to be the guiding principle. Getting on the Internet required another phone call to the front desk. In fact, it required two phone calls, because I was first referred to the wrong technical support group.

It is easier to get on the Internet at almost any institution other than a hotel. And, at this particular hotel, you had to go through the whole procedure every day, instead of just signing up for Internet access for your entire stay when you checked in or logged on.

Being a luxury hotel, this one provided bathrobes. But I had my own bathrobe. At least I had it until the maids took it away when cleaning the room while I was out. Another phone call to the front desk.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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