Skift Take

The physical phones will stay in the hotel rooms, but only as customer service intercom. Now if some hotel's bold enough to strip away rest of the functions and make these machines usable again....

At least the public payphone is dying a public death, right in front of everyone, in the streets. The one in that hotel room is still there, sitting on that bed-side table along with the quaint paper pad and alarm clock, atrophying from disuse, used only as a glorified intercom to order room service and talk to front desk, and little else.

Unlike the hullaboo about the coming death of the hotel room service, which may all be going the self-serve way if you believe the hype over the last week or so, no one’s shedding a tear about the hotel phone. And as the din everywhere asks for free wifi at hotels, no one’s asking anything out of that phone.

No one cares.

Part of why it came to this is obvious: the world moved away from wired phones and became mobile. The early decline started when calling cards became popular in 90s and early part of 2000s, and continued with the rise of mobile phones.

Another part is hotels brought it upon themselves, making the phone systems complex (dial 9 for outside line, anyone?), bleeding expensive ($3 for a local call, $ pray-it-isn’t-too-bad for a long distance, $ you’re-crazy-to-try-this for international calls) and unnecessary tinkering with consumer behavior (have you tried checking a voicemail on that phone ever?).

Even more crazy, hotels even now charge by the minute, or start charging after a certain number of rings even if ultimately the call didn’t go through.

As usage dropped, hotels stopped caring about the hotel phones too, as a source of revenue. It now costs more for hotels to maintain these phones than the revenue they get out of them.

And not just the phone, they’re now focusing on raising room rates, instead of trying to upsell the users on ancillary fees of all kinds, including food and beverage services and even the overpriced mini-bars.

Another contributory factor: with the rise of digital comes price transparency, where every hotel fee can be tracked, compared and complained about in big ways, in forums, in social media, in consumer travel advice columns, and above all, on Tripadvisor.

The days of overpriced are over. Why would anyone cry over that?

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Tags: amenities, smartphones

Photo credit: Everything's obsolete on this hotel table, or soon will be. By Rafat Ali

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