Of All The Things To Complain About …

Yet another entry in the ‘Dumbest Slate Column Ever’ contest:

“On entering a hotel room, I still immediately review the room-service menu, bask in the prospect of fresh, silky sheets, and inspect the bathroom to ensure I have fluffy, clean towels for every possible need. Then I spy one of those little placards, nestled among the tiny soaps or hanging from the towel rack, asking me to reuse my linens: “Save Our Planet … Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once … Please decide for yourself.” And, like that, my hotel buzz fizzles.”

So what, you might be wondering, bothers Jill Hunter Pellettieri — for that, gentle reader, is the name of the person who wrote this — about those little cards? It’s hard to say. For a paragraph or so, it seems to be the fact that hotels save money by not washing the sheets and towels of people who don’t want them washed. But then she says that’s not the problem:

“Of course, going green doesn’t always have to be purely altruistic — it’s great when there’s an additional upside. But these cost-saving initiatives put an onus of self-sacrifice on guests under the guise of environmentalism. In the service industry, it’s the business that should take responsibility for being environmentally sound, not the customers. There are a number of ways hotels can do this: installing water-saving toilets and showers, replacing light bulbs with CFLs, using solar energy, eliminating Styrofoam coffee cups, substituting room key cards made of plastic with those made of recycled paper.

If hotels really can’t do without these opt-in laundry schemes, at least they could be transparent about their motives and reward the guests for their sacrifice. “Reusing your towel not only saves our precious natural resources; it also helps us save money. By participating in our linen-reuse program, we’ll knock $10 off your room stay per night.” Now, that’s a program I can believe in.”

I wonder: does Jill Hunter Pellettieri get upset by the fact that when hotels present her with those nice rows of little bottles of conditioner and moisturizing cream, they do not put little messages in front of them saying that they do this for the sake of their bottom line? Does it bother her that the hotel’s cleaning staff does not explain to all their guests that they are not, in fact, motivated by obsessive cleanliness? When the hotel staff is courteous to her, does she feel annoyed by their failure to disclose the fact that they are not motivated solely by concern for her, but by a desire to keep her as a customer? Or is it only when the environment enters the picture that she gets peevish?

Personally, I think it’s great that hotels do this. We have to start using less energy, and since I am not a devotee of self-sacrifice, I am thrilled when someone hits on a cost-free way to use less — like not washing the sheets and towels of people who don’t want their sheets and towels washed. Moreover, without those little signs, I wouldn’t have the option of not having my sheets and towels washed. One function of those signs is to let those of us who really don’t care whether our towels are replaced every day know how to communicate this fact to the hotel staff and have it acted on.

To me, it’s just enhancing consumer choice in a way that happens to benefit both the hotel and the environment, at no cost to me. It seems like a pretty peculiar thing to complain about.