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Why can’t hotels invest in simple TV systems that are easy to operate?

Why do hotels insist on investing in TV systems that their guests find impossible to master, wonders Seema Goswami.

brunch Updated: Dec 05, 2015 21:30 IST
The Rolling Stones
Wild horses no more: Now that The Rolling Stones are in or approaching their 70s, those days of drugs, sex, and rock and roll are long gone. (Photo by Scott Legato/Getty Images)

So, among the list of demands The Rolling Stones lay down when they go on tour these days is that the hotel staff must leave detailed written instructions on how to work the TV system. I couldn’t help but laugh when I read this.

How the mighty have fallen! (Or do I mean just grown old?) There was a time when the only use The Rolling Stones had for a TV set was to wreck it completely as they trashed hotel room after hotel room on their many tours around the world.

But now that all of them are either in or approaching their 70s, those days of drugs, sex, and rock and roll are long gone. Now it’s just rock and roll, and a few hours of downtime in front of the television, watching the news or their favourite series, or maybe even a bit of sport, to calm down after the adrenaline rush of playing to large stadiums full of roaring fans.

You can just picture it, can’t you? Mick Jagger comes back to his hotel room, all hot and sweaty, having done his best Tina Turner impression yet. He slips into the shower (avert your eyes discreetly now!), comes out in his bathrobe, and picks up the remote hoping to catch the news on the BBC.

The TV comes on. But instead of showing one of the channels, it says Menu, with a bewildering array of options listed underneath. He finally scrolls down to TV and presses what he thinks is ‘Ok’ on his remote. Nothing happens for a few excruciating minutes. Then the TV begins to show him all the movies that he can order and charge to his room. He presses ‘Exit’. Nothing happens.

By now I am guessing that Mick is ready to revert to his bad old days and trash the TV along with the room. But he draws on the restraint his 70-plus years on the planet have taught him, picks up the phone and asks for some help. A few minutes later, a young whippersnapper arrives in the room, supercilious contempt writ large all over his face, and shows the mighty Stone just how it’s done.

It is at this point in my fantasy that I stop chortling and start steaming. Because the scene I have just described is exactly what happens to me in four out of five hotels on my travels.

Details please: It seems to me that the golden rule of hoteliering is that the more fancy the TV system, the more difficult it will be to navigate. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It seems to me that the golden rule of hoteliering is that the more fancy the TV system, the more difficult it will be to navigate. I last encountered one such system a week ago at a very swanky hotel, which was perfect in all respects but the TV technology.

The television system was controlled through an iPad that seemed to have a mind of its own. It took me a good 10 minutes before I could crawl through all the clutter of options to access the TV channels to watch a bit of news.

Later that night, as I settled down to watch a DVD before going to bed, I came up against an unexpected obstacle. I could not find the DVD player.

And yet, I knew that it did exist, given that its remote control was lying right in front of me. I looked high and low, opening drawer after drawer of the TV console. But no luck.

After 10 minutes of this fruitless search, I finally gave up and called for help. A smiling young lady arrived a few minutes later. I explained that I could not find the DVD player. Ah, she said, walking across to the writing table in the opposite corner of the room, and opening the bottom drawer, “Here it is!”

And how would I operate it from the couch in front of the television, I asked. I could hardly jog across the room every time I wanted to press pause.

Oh, you don’t need to do that, she said. In fact, you don’t even need to use the remote control at all. You can just operate it with the iPad from anywhere in the room.

With the same iPad that had driven me insane an hour ago? No thanks. I made my excuses and went to bed with a book.

So, why do you think hotels do this? What is the point of investing millions in a TV system that just drives your guests bonkers every time they try and use it? Any system that requires someone to give you a 20-minute tutorial on how to operate it, is simply not the best choice for a hotel chain. (Their guests really do have better things to do than try and master a system that they will only use for a couple of days.)

At the end of a long day, when you are looking forward to unwind by watching an episode of The Good Wife or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the last thing you want is to have to summon help to get the TV working (especially since, more often than not, help will arrive long after your show is over). And that is just as true of us ordinary mortals as it is of the Rolling Stones.

So, Sir Mick, sorry about taking the mickey out of you. “Detailed written instructions on how to use the television system” sounds just about right to me.

From HT Brunch, December 6

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First Published: Dec 05, 2015 18:34 IST