By templedf on Oct 02, 2007
I had an odd opportunity today. I'm currently on the road. My scheduled flight was for tomorrow evening, but things worked out such that I could probably go home a day early. Last night I called the travel agent and made sure I would be able to move my flight forward one day. No problems. I didn't book the new flight, however, because I wasn't yet 100% certain that I was in the clear. This morning I reached 100% certainty, so I checked out of my hotel one day early. The desk attendant chided me for not giving 24 hours notice before checking out, because it would make it difficult to resell the room. After I left the hotel, I called the travel agent to book the new flight. Turns out the first agent was wrong. I, in fact, was not able to change my ticket to fly home today. Instead, I had to opt for an early flight tomorrow, and so I asked the agent to book me a new hotel room for the night. Oops! There were no free hotel rooms in Boston under $500 a night! As a last ditch effort, the agent called the hotel I had just checked out of. Sure enough, my room was still available, even though it hadn't shown up in the system (because I hadn't checked out with 24 hours notice). The point of this whole story is that this evening I checked back into a hotel room that I checked out of this morning, a rather unusual occurrence.
Given this opportunity, I looked into something about which I always wondered. I have a tendency to use hand towels in hotels in such a way that it's not obvious that they were ever used. First thing I did was go into the bathroom and check the towels. Yep. Same used hand towel that was there when I left this morning. Interesting. And a little disturbing. I had always kinda assumed they stripped the place between guests.
Armed with this new knowledge, I decided to do an experiment. I wrote a letter and attached the date line from today's newspaper, and I placed the letter in the inner folds of the towel in the bathroom least likely to be used. In the letter I asked the reader to email me to tell me the date when the letter was finally discovered. I have little fear that the cleaning staff will be the first to find it. The experiment is rather dependent on the percentage of hotel guests who are towel hogs, but that's a risk I'll have to take. This is what happens when you let engineers out in public.
If you're ever in a hotel in the Boston area, and you find a letter asking you to email me today's date, please be so kind as to do so. When I do get a response, I'll be sure to share the results of my experiment in my blog. (I can't tell you which room and/or which hotel because that would skew the experiment. Maybe if I make it back to Boston in 2009 or so and haven't gotten a response yet, I'll request my same room at the same hotel and check for myself.)