Written by: Jennifer Jones
I Lost my Privacy. Can you help me Find It?
I’m a savvy business traveler. And as frequently as I travel, I almost always encounter an issue with my privacy. Hotels do not even seem to even realize that they are putting me, their guest, at risk when they are doing it. It does not have to do with the fact that I have one of the most common surnames in the world, Jones (not to mention one of the most popular first names as well). It does not even have to do that I am a female traveler either, as men are just as much exposed to this risk as well. Being in the hospitality technology industry for almost 20 years, I am still baffled why this continues to be an issue that has not been standardized by technology.
I am talking about charging at hotel or resort outlets back to my guest room.
Let me share a recent experience I had staying at a premier resort in Las Vegas.
One evening, I ventured to the hotel bar to enjoy a libation after a hard day’s work. Yes, I was by myself. For those of you who know me well, that should not be a shock. I drank my wine, chatted with a few other hotel guests and decided to call it a night and head back to my room. When I asked the bartender for my check, he asked if I was a hotel guest. I notified him that I was, in which he openly asked me for my last name and room number. In which he actually expected me to broadcast that in front of 12 men sitting around me at the bar! Some of you who know me would have told me that could have been a fortunate opportunity for me (#kidding). Instead, I grimaced and cocked my head to one side and said “Really?” He said it was hotel policy to be able to process the room inquiry (to validate my room and last name) in the point-of-sale before presenting me with the receipt for me to fill out that information. He stated that otherwise the hotel would risk people skipping out on their check by providing fraudulent room charge information and leaving before the bartender had a chance to validate it in the point-of-sale. Needless to say, he picked the wrong girl to debate this with.
After this bartender told me he would make an exception and do me a favor by allowing me to write my room charge information on the receipt instead (I guess I looked trustworthy enough that I was not going to skip out on my $12 USD check), I gladly thanked him for not inviting the creep across the bar to my room. Baffled, he said “You’re welcome” and proceeded to not understand what just happened.
The next morning, I was in line at the very chaotic, infamous coffee shop we see on every corner in America. I ordered my coffee and breakfast sandwich. When asked for payment, I responded that I would like to charge it to my guest room. Once again, I was prompted with the familiar “What’s your last name and room number?” With a line of guests behind me, I obliged and stated “Jones, Room 248.” Sigh. I wonder if I will have surprise charges on my room bill after that.
Some reading this may think that I am paranoid. Some may share the same feelings. But in the age of paying with our mobile phones or splitting payments with our friends via an App, why am I still being inconvenienced to announce my private name and room number in front of the public? No one would ever write their credit card on a “Hello My Name Is…” badge, so why is it acceptable to make a newscast to the Vegas bar where I am sleeping or to patrons grabbing a cup of joe an easy way to dishonestly charge your coffee to my room?
Illegitimate charges to your guest room folio is one thing. Being responsible for a guest’s safety is another thing. Authenticating guest room charges via swiping of a guest room key should not be cutting edge these days. So I am intrigued to see how this technology kerfuffle can improve. Somewhere amidst the rows of exhibitors at HITEC I know someone has the golden ticket to resolve this pain point of mine. It may not be even solved with technology but instead a simple change in process! Either way, I welcome commentary from those of you who want to share.
Ironically as I write this, I sit at yet another hotel bar and order a glass of wine (no judging!). As I ordered, the bartender asked if I am a guest at the hotel and proceeded to inquire what my room number and last name was. This time I was curious why I was being asked upon the initial ordering of my food and drink. “I want to name your tab in the computer system.” So once again, for convenience sake of the hotel staff, I spoke my last name and room number out loud among the five Salesforce convention attendees sitting around me. I mean I would not want my tab to be named “girl with red dress” for easy lookup in the system. My name and room number would make much more sense (#kidding). Next time I will just give them my social security number!
Jennifer Jones is president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, a technology consulting firm. She is an active member in the HFTP Rocky Mountain chapter, and she has spent her entire career in the hospitality technology space on both vendor and property sides of the spectrum. Jones is a 1997 graduate of Penn State University’s School of Hospitality Management.