2015-07-26

The Secret of Hotel Room Key-Cards

How many of you have gone to a hotel, and then suddenly, your card-key no longer works?
I am about to share a secret about these card-keys.

You know the keys - the size and shape of a credit-card, along with that magnetic strip.

After years of having these keys go bad on me, I wondered why I seemed to have bad luck with them. Yet, I didn't have bad luck every time - just occasionally - and I wasn't sure why.

Is there anything worse than finally getting back to your hotel room, late in evening - figure you have enough time to get to the room to go to the bathroom. Your hands are full of the stuff you don't want to leave in the car. You manage to re-balance your stuff to get out your card key.

Slide - red light. Slide again a little faster - red light. Or maybe your card-key doesn't show any lights at all.

You have to trudge back downstairs to the front desk. Wait in line for a clerk to help. Or maybe you had to ring the bell to get the lone clerk to come out to help you.

You tell them your card doesn't work. What is the first thing they always say?

"You must have demagnetized your card" Sometimes they really play it up, "did you have it with other cards?" or some other likely story.

This last weekend, we had this happen. On our second night there, we got back to the hotel. The parking lot was very full out front, so I let out my wife to go ahead to the room. I finally found a spot way in back. I went to the back door. I slid my card - no light. I tried 3 of 4 times before I gave up. I figured maybe the door was just not allowing anyone inside.

A long walk around to the front door, then up the elevator. I find my wife waiting in the hall. She couldn't get into the room. I try my key-card. Slide - no light. I try a few more times before I realize it is fruitless.

Going down to the lobby, we have to wait for some musicians with large boxes of equipment to finish being helped before the clerk helps us. I tell him both of our room keys do not work. I figure it is some glitch in the hotel system that sends the codes to the doors.

The clerk starts in with the "You must have demagnetized your cards"

Something about it this time really didn't ring true to me. I had credit cards in my wallet that didn't demagnetize, yet, the key did? And my wife's key too, when it was with her separately all day?

I respond to the clerk, "The cards have been apart all day."

That is when he quietly responds, without making eye-contact, "they must not have coded the cards for the right number of nights."

Ok, that rings true with my inner-geek. I hadn't realized in all these years that the cards had a number of days to work coded onto them. I always assumed that it was just on a database server.

However, the part that really bothers me about this all:

Clerks obviously know that most cases of guests card-keys going bad, especially those who are staying more than one night, are because a prior clerk did not correctly code the keys. This is either accidental, or perhaps even on purpose - to have some odd power over people.

Even though they know that the mistake was probably their peer or maybe even they were the ones did it wrong the day before, they cover it up with a lie. And it is a lie with an accusation:

"You must have demagnetized your card"

Not an apology that the card went bad. Not an accurate answer. A lie that implies that you didn't take care of the card properly.

How many times did I feel like I must have placed the card-key in the wrong spot. How many times did I wonder what did I do and worry that it impacted my credit cards as well? How many times did I sheepishly approach the check-in desk to ask them to fix it, feeling like it was my mistake?

How many times did I buy their lie that it was my fault, when they didn't properly code my card-key? How many times have they slipped my the wrong number of days on my card-key, knowing I would be back, and they could accuse me again?

I am now an informed consumer. From know on, when I check into a hotel for more than one night, I will make sure to address the clerk by name, and ask, "how many days did you code on the card-key?"

I suggest that anyone who does business with hotels, remember, you are the paying customer. If they try to pass off the lie of demagnetized key-cards, make sure you call them on it. It is time they feel bad for trying to make us, they paying customer, feel bad for the issue that they caused.

Don't buy the lie of demagnetized card-keys.