The Broken Idea of Paying for Wireless (and other hotel things)
Posted by scottgolder on April 24, 2009
The hotel I’m staying in for this conference is nice, but making me pay for internet access is like making me pay to use the blinds or the sink. Charging for internet access would make Thenardier proud.
You can tell the hotel — and, of course, many others like it — are struggling against an outmoded but profitable idea, that internet access is a luxury, rather than a requirement. There is wifi — but only in the lobby. There is wired net access in the rooms — but at $11.95 a day and with a 2-ft ethernet cable, so my laptop can’t leave my desk if I do decide to purchase it.
This is completely broken.
The best explanation I’ve read is that net access is complimentary in cheap hotels as a perk, but it’s fee-based in expensive hotels, because people in expensive hotels are business travelers who will expense it, and so the buyers have minimal price sensitivity. And building the cost into the room fee is a nonstarter because advertised price of a service must be low, even if add-on fees make the “real” fee higher.
I think the solution is not in “free” internet access. It can’t be, since we’ve already established that many of the people making the purchase aren’t absorbing the cost, so competing on price won’t work. What will work, is competing on “easy”.
When I open my laptop, I want to be on the local network right away. No click-throughs, no scratch-off-and-enter-a-code, both of which invariably break every time I turn my laptop on. I want to be able to see local network resources, including any printers in the business center. The print jobs would have to queue in something like CloudPrint. I’d like the hotel website that the proxy invariably redirects me to, to be something useful. The ubiquitous useful folder of hotel services should be that webpage — you already know I’m in your hotel, so show me that instead of the Reservations page.
If I’m here for a conference, I probably know other people in the hotel. Have they checked in yet? Are they free for dinner? Can we share cabs to the airport? The hotel creates temporary, geographically-bounded real communities for groups of conference travellers. Design something special, and I’ll stay in your hotel, and you won’t have to charge me twelve bucks to check my email.