Cartoon from Rottenwifi is an apparently useful
app I discovered after writing this post.

Dear hoteliers,
I know from my own experience of trying to run an office and home that maintaining a WiFi – or indeed any internet – service that works reliably, consistently and at a good speed isn’t easy. And I understand the challenges of offering WiFi to unpredictable and potentially large numbers of people.

I grew up in a hotel and well remember breakfast being the hardest meal of the day to deliver satisfactorily, with lots of grumpy, stressed and possibly hungover people expecting precisely the cooked breakfast they have requested (eggs boiled for 4.5 minutes) to be delivered to their rooms at precisely the same time. But good hoteliers understand the breakfast problem and come pretty close to overcoming it.

The parallel with WiFi is quite close. While some of the people who want to go online are tourists casually wanting to check their Facebook, or to browse the lists of local restaurants to decide where to dine tonight, others – principally but far from exclusively business travellers – will have urgent emails to receive and send, Skype calls to make, boarding cards to download… And there’s a high chance that they’ll be as stressed and grumpy as the man calling reception from room 207 to complain about his overcooked poached eggs.

Of course, a growing number of business travellers and wealthier and/or more organised tourists now rely on global internet roaming services for their smartphones and tablets, but dear hoteliers, these aren’t – yet – the mass of your customers. Some of you charge guests an hourly or daily rate to go online; some offer the service for nothing. In my experience, the old notion of getting what you pay for does not necessarily apply here. I seem to have paid for rotten – often non-existent – WiFi almost as often as I’ve been given it for nothing. But, and here’s my point: some hoteliers do seem to have got their WiFi to work as well as their breakfasts.

Unreliable  WiFi is, to a hotel, not unlike faulty natural corks to a wine producer : something over which one has limited control, but which potentially leaves customers with a memorably unsatisfying experience.

So, dear hoteliers, here’s my proposal: test your WiFi on a regular basis and ask your guests how happy they are with the service you provide, and if the response is not what you’d wish, blast your provider and go on blasting them until they get it more or less right.

And, dear winemakers, if you are still using natural corks, for goodness sake, test every single batch you are delivered. You won’t spot the ones that will allow your wine to oxidize more quickly than you’d like, but you will find some with noticeable TCA. Revealingly, the producers who maintain that they never have any problems with cork taint tend to be the ones who don’t have a rigorous testing regime; what they should be saying is “our customers aren’t complaining ” which is a very different matter. After all, do you always complain about the annoyingly inefficient WiFi in the hotels where you stay?

Since posting this, and discovering Rotten WiFi, I’ve coma across this review of the app from earlier this year:
I rather like the idea of naming and shaming places with bad WiFi. But maybe we should launch a RottenWine app too.

  1. And can I add another heartfelt appeal to hoteliers in Europe: please, please, please, please have an iron and ironing board in the room, like they do elsewhere in the world. If you can't manage this, please don't says nonsensical things when asked for an iron, such as the Italian concierge who said “we don't let guests have irons for security reasons”.

  2. Robert, I'm going to download that app straight away… I have learned that in Europe, buying a SIM card with 3G Internet access is a god-send! I then don't have to rely on dodgy wi-fi. I don't know if this is any different in other parts of the world, but it is increasingly becoming the norm in France for hoteliers to use wi-fi with browser security, slow speed, frequent drop-outs, and absent levels of service. Given that a number of recent studies show the importance of wi-fi (preferably free) to tourists and travellers, it is staggering that this situation continues to be overlooked by hoteliers. It beggars belief that our neighbours across the pond highlighted such an important issue at least as early as 2008, as shown in this report:

    So, if it's so important to your guests, how can they continue to overlook it?

  3. Can I add a personal pet peeve? PLEASE put an electrical outlet NEAR THE BED! How many times have I had to charge my phone on the table on the other side of the room, sometimes even having to unplug a lamp! Traveling through time-zones may result in a call in the middle of the night, and having to navigate a dark, strange hotel room to get to my phone (before disturbing other guests with the ringing). People use thei phones as alarm clocks so being near the bed is a must.
    Oh and don't get me started on the electricity going off when you leave your room… God forbid you need to charge your phone or tablet while you're at breakfast…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.