FeaturesStephen Ayers

Technology, progress and its place in hospitality

Hey, technology, bring it on! Bring all of it on if it helps streamline operations and cuts the time that I need to spend on the mundane hotel things like check-in and check-out. That’s cool. But please, please, please do not cut off all human contact with me, your guest, and leave me at the mercy of the robots.

I know you want to save on employees, eliminate as many positions as possible to lower your payroll. Your shareholders expect as much, and you need to keep them happy. But please don’t forget me, your customer. I want a nice, warm, fuzzy, human feeling when I stay at your hotel.

Do I want to be greeted by a Doormanbot at the entrance? No, not really. How about that perfect Blondbot receptionist checking me in? Again, nope. Even if she or it can answer questions.

What about the Bellboybot who rolls my bags to my room? Well, maybe. At least I do not have to tip it, but miss the corridor chats on the way! The glorious Conciergbot can do it all. Answer your questions, check for reservations, offer you a choice of table at the restaurant, and book and print event tickets. But nope, I don’t want him/her/it either!

I want a nice, warm chat with a human being. I want personal recommendations, not some statistic harvested online in actual time by the whirring, clicking thing in front of me with the permanent, sick smile. I want to take a sledgehammer to the damn thing but hold back. Perhaps there is a human brain in there somewhere! Have they gotten that far yet? Robocop style?

How it could pan out

I held off on the conversation with the bellboy-cartbot as we go to my room which it opened remotely, rolled in and placed my bag on the rack. “Thank you sir,” it said in a tinny voice as it rolled out of the room after waiting for me to step aside.

The door hardly closed and when the Roombabot made a beeline for me. I grabbed the remote and pressed all the buttons, and looked frantically for the right one to silence the thing. It stopped and made its way back to base in deep sulk mode. I guessed that Roombabots save room cleaning allocated time and are used to keep the rooms vacuumed permanently. But I wondered why the Roombabot came out at me like she did…was it badly programmed, or maybe a timing glitch? Or on purpose?

Having pressed so many buttons I looked around me and took stock of the sorry situation. The curtains were closed, the coffee machine was brewing coffee (not a bad thing really), the lights had gone into ‘romantic’ mode. The TV was turned on and a voice somewhere asked where my audio unit was as I had not plugged it into auxiliary.

I swore out loud, and the round, spherical Googlebot informed me that the weather was nice and sunny outside. Who in hell asked her…sorry, it?

In the corner of my room a static concierge looking machine came to life. It noted automatically that I was awake and moving about the room, it suggested numerous activities for my wellbeing and informed me of all my dining possibilities, complementing that with a color printout.

I ventured a peek at my bed. Horror. It no longer resembled a bed; both sides were in the ‘sitting up and reading’ position. What damn button had I pressed to get that done? Feeling like a genius, I overrided my button remote stick and pressed direct command buttons on the actual bed. It felt like a Pyrrhic victory.

Then there was a knock on the door. The Bellboybot was there again. “What do you want?” I raised my voice, and the thing looked distressed. “I notice that you have arranged your bed for the night sir. Are your pillows the right softness for a great night’s sleep at our wonderful establishment?” I slammed the door on it and then I heard it, the noise. I wheeled around towards the bathroom, panicked.

The bathtub was filling up with warm water. Actually, it wasn’t a bad idea to take a bath I thought, and calmed down a little. But who asked me if I wanted one in the first place? I must have spoken out loud because the next thing you know Google girl announced: “You did sir, you requested a bath be drawn on the remote.”

“Oh my God,” I said, “where will this end?” “When you complete your check out process sir.” answered Googlebot. She must have been programmed to read minds too, because as I approached the wondrous orb to slam my fist down in a search and total destroy angle, she added brightly, “And I cost $89 (£63) to replace sir.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. I mean, wow. That definitely put the wow back in my stay. 1984 definitely here. Big brother hotel management was watching my every move. Had they already tallied the damage and added it to my bill? I sat down on the end of the bed, despondent and defeated.

What if I dared to complain? What if I gave a less than glamorous botrating after I left? Was I already a dead man walking? Was there an iTerminator robot prowling the corridors waiting for the kill command on me? Could someone hack into one of these and turn it into a Murdererbot? Deep in thought I hardly noticed the knock on the door. I approached it warily and looked through the peephole screen.

OMG! A humanoid in a suit was standing there, or was it a human. Can’t tell these days. I opened the door a crack and he/it introduced himself. “Mr. Jones, general manager at your service.”

I gave him an almighty pinch and he screamed and jumped back in fright holding his injured side. “Why on earth did you do that?” he asked. “Wanted to make sure you’re human is all. Why are you here?” I answered meekly. “No other humanoids on duty sir, so it fell to me. Imagine, the GM is serving you! They don’t yet produce GMbots. Just came to point out the file with instructions for all the robotics in your room. You obviously have not found them. I mean, take a look at this mess!”

He went over to the side stand number pad and pressed a few numbers. The panel opened and an iPad came sliding out. All the robotic services were listed on the screen. “How was I supposed to know that was there?” I asked sarcastically. “Well,” he answered snootily, “if you had read the instructions posted on the back of the door, we wouldn’t be in this mess, now would we?”

I must honestly admit that at that point I lost it. Completely. I became an enraged animal. I vented my anger as only I know how. Can’t rightly remember, but I might have even thrown a punch or two in his direction. Out of nowhere two iSecuritybots appeared. One produced a sleek, modern looking straight jacket, Kevlar perhaps, which they proceeded to put on me. I was escorted to my car, the Bellboybot looked happy as it threw my bag in after me. That was the end of my stay.

I weakly gave my car the command to drive me home. Needless to say I gave the hotel a huge, super glowing recommendation on all social media that I could find. I then proceeded to have a steel door installed in my home.

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