In 1950s America, people spoke of “keeping up with the Joneses.” The phrase captured the desire of suburbanites to match whatever they noticed their neighbors were doing in the area of home or family improvements. If the Joneses bought a new car or one of those newfangled TV sets, the pressure was on for the Smiths to make the same upgrade.
In hotel management classes these days, you might talk instead about “keeping up with the devices.” It refers to the efforts of hotels to equip guest rooms with all of the plug-ins that a traveler might need to hook up the array of electronic gear they might be lugging along.
This effort by the New York City hotel I stayed in this week is a good example of what hotels have tried to do — and why it seems forever doomed to failure. It offers one measly electrical outlet, but a smorgasbord of other options that seem awfully dated — and hence not usable (by me, at least). It’s got a labeled plug-in for an iPod, for example, the three yellow, red, and white holes that I associate with TVs from the ’90s, an old-fashioned phone jack, and a weird, bulky white plug that looks like it might be needed to power a Russian listening device. And that curious gadget just highlights the additional challenge facing hotels in cities where foreign travelers are commonplace — it’s bad enough to try to keep up with American technology, but it becomes overwhelming if you add in the different kinds of connectivity people from other countries might need for their gizmos.
Of course, most of these options were useless to me; I used only the electrical outlet for my laptop and then had to search for another outlet elsewhere to charge up my iPhone. And that, I suppose, might be a good takeaway for hotels. Give up the self-defeating quest to identify and anticipate what your guest might need so that you look like you’re on the cutting edge of personal technology, I say! It’s never going to really work, and within a nanosecond you’ll just be dating yourself. Since all of devices currently known to man need electricity, do yourself a favor: supply plenty of outlets and leave the other hook-ups to the traveler.