Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Oh those hotel card keys!

Last week I travelled to different cities and checked in and out of different five star properties. Those who frequently stay in hotels are well aware of the key cards or the card key system with its magnetic stripe that takes care of various security aspects, including giving users access to the hotel rooms.
In almost all the top hotels, the card key is needed to get into the lifts, other areas and rooms. If your room is on a different floor from that of your friend you would need another card key to gain passage since there are restrictions to free access as an inbuilt security measure.
The major problem that we all face and suffer with the card key is that it frequently malfunctions and holds you up from entering your room. It fails in its basic purpose of opening the door. This can be very irritating and annoying for the customers.
And mind you, this problem of card key malfunction is not specific to India or any hotel chain. It is global. In recent times, a leading New York hotel on the New Year Eve had over 200 guests stranded in its hallways and lobbies for the whole night after a key card system malfunction locked them out of their rooms.
In fact, the card key problem is so commonplace that I am ill at ease walking up the last stretch to my hotel room, hoping and praying that it will not betray me. So many times I and my friends and acquaintances have had to seek the help of the hotel staff and call the room service, guest relations executives (GREs) or the operators to fix the problem of getting admittance to our rooms. Often many times during the day. It is a lockout of another kind.
Bellboys or bellhops scurrying with keys or other overrides to open rooms for locked out customers and guests is a very common sight in almost all starred properties. It also comes in with an almost permanent and universal excuse from the staff “Sir may be you had kept your keys close to your mobile phone.”
The probable logic being that proximity to the magnetic field of the mobile phone deactivates the magnetic stripe in the card key causing it to malfunction. There is no point arguing. At the end of the day, only a fresh key would open the door.
I fail to understand that when the entire hotel industry is aware about this problem of improper functioning of card keys why don’t they put a better workable system in place. In few of the hotels in the Scandinavian countries, I have seen that they give a key and then program it with a particular log, which, I think, is a much better system.
In fact, last week, I was quite impressed with ITC Maurya, the flagship property of ITC group of hotels, when a gentleman from the ITC One Block reception assured me, “Sir you need not worry. This card key will work even if you keep it with your mobile phone.” I heaved a deep sigh of relief because these words were like music to my ears. Something I have been waiting for eons to hear.
My knowledge of technology is a shade above zero. But I do understand one thing that it really grates on you especially when you enter the main gate of a hotel and pass through the security drill with checks, frisks, metal detectors at the lobby entrance and so on to reach your room only to find the card key doesn't work. I am sure that thousands of hotel occupants, who have had a hard time with the card keys, would agree with me.
I am stumped. I wonder if the great technological progress around us has somehow missed out on the card keys.
ess bee

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