When you charge somebody for a service, your charge embodies your costs. That’s just the way business works. You bear the costs of overhead, and you charge enough to make a profits above that overhead. So, if you’re a hotel, your room rates embody the costs of heating, air conditioning, water, electricity, maid service and other necessities. Those are all overhead.
It’s time to look at Internet service the same way. Providing it should be as astandard at hotels as providing water and electric service.
Actually, more and more hotels are starting to realize this. Oddly, they’re mostly low-end hotels. But bravo for them. At least in those cases they seem to have worked out the kinks. I’ve had many fewer problems getting online over free Internet at cheap hotels than I’ve had getting online over paid Internet at expensive hotels. In fact, the costs of running a pay toilet business around Internet service are themselves pretty high, I’d reckon. You’ve got all these labor-intensive value-subtracts to maintain, starting with servers that throw login pages at users, and bump users offline if no activity is detected. These things are Murphy bait.
Of course I’m in the middle of one such mess right now, in San Francisco, where I’m paying $9.95 per day, per device, to not get online. (Luckily I have a Sprint EvDO card. But I’d rather get on a solid Net connection with more upstream speed than the EvDO card can muster.)
There is nothing wrong with a hotel hiring some outside company to make sure guests have working Internet service. But there is something wrong with a hotel offloading the entire service, and then charging guests for it. Can you imagine a hotel charging extra for water or electricity — and then sending you to some outside company to get it running if it isn’t working?
I’ve said it before and keep repeating it until it sinks in: Charging for Internet in hotels is like charging for toilets. Hotels need to get out of the pay toilet business.
What are some companies that help hotels provide free Internet to guests? Let’s have their names and pass them along. I’ll start with my hotel right here. (Where I’m currently waiting for a call from this hotel’s outside company.)
[Later…] So, at least empirically, we’ve found the solution that is also the problem: the hotel’s wi-fi system was only tested with Internet Explorer. We couldn’t get it to work with a Mac laptop or with a Linux one, each running Firefox and the former also running Safari. But when the Mac laptop fired up an ancient copy of Internet Explorer, it worked. How lame is that?
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