A few weeks ago, while in a conference at a high end Miami Beach hotel, a copy of USA Today was delivered at my doorstep every morning. Since I don’t read the newspaper any more (I get my news from the web or through RSS feeds), I just left it in a corner of my room before going about my daily activities.
On the third day, I noticed the following statement written in a very small font on my room card keys envelope:
“Please call the front desk to refuse delivery of USA Today. If refused, a credit of $0.75 will be applied to your bill”.
If the powers that be who manage this large hotel chain thought guests would appreciate this gesture, they’re probably thinking like accountants, not like customers. I don’t know if I fit the profile of a typical guest, but this is what went through my mind immediately after reading the statement:
“This fancy hotel has taken it upon itself to buy a newspaper I don’t want, and charge me $0.75 without even asking me. On top of that, since I don’t want it, I have to spend time and effort making an opt-out phone call that will probably make me look like a cheapskate. Finally, I will need to spend more time at check-out to see if the $0.75 were in fact credited for every day I didn’t receive the paper.”
Some time ago I explained why I think opt-out policies are a bad idea, and this simple example is no exception.
If I were running the place, I would not offer newspaper delivery by default, and I would re-write the statement as follows:
“If you want a copy of USA Today at your doorstep every morning just call the front desk and we will deliver it at no charge”.
Now, if I really wanted to kick it up a notch, I would change the statement to:
“In our efforts to help the environment, we do not provide automatic newspaper delivery. However, if you want a copy of USA Today at your doorstep every morning just call the front desk and we will deliver it at no charge.”
Fine, but “what about the newspaper cost?” you may ask. Well, the cost of the newspaper vs. the cost of a room in this hotel comes out to less than 0.25%. Furthermore, if only 30% of guests opt to receive the free newspaper (and 30% still strikes me as a high number) the newspaper cost per room would go down to around 0.08%.
In other words, it would cost practically nothing for the hotel to institute a much better policy that would leave everybody happy (with the exception perhaps of USA Today and a few obtuse accountants).
Do you think the hotel’s current policy is a good or bad idea? Do you expect hotel newspapers to be free? Do you still read newspapers?