Saturday, January 28, 2017

Why does it take so long to check in at hotels? (It seems like they should just need to swipe a credit card and maybe check your id, but the person behind the desk ends up hitting keys on the computer for 5-10 minutes sometimes. What are they doing?)

This is what the check-in screen on a typical hotel computer looks like. And on most of those, nearly all the fields are required . . .

And that's on a good system. At least it . . .

  • scans your drivers' license and takes as much information off that as it can
  • searches for you in its history (you'd be surprised at the number of systems out there that don't, or don't do it well, or don't do it reliably) and takes as much of your information off your previous stay as it can, and reapplies it, and
  • is configured that most of the information that it asks for is on a single screen. If, for example, you're two screens into the process, and you only then inform the clerk that you have AAA, the clerk doesn't have to go back two screens and make the change, then re-enter some of the information that he's already put in.
A simpler one that's barely adequate for small economy motels has fewer fields, and fewer required fields, but still requests quite a bit of information.

You could help the process along on future stays if you . . .
  • keep your requirements simple. If you must have a fifth floor non-smoking king with a view of the pool, it might take a while to juggle things around to find you one.
  • stick with the same hotel on each stay. It won't always work, but in many cases, you'll be in the system's guest history.
  • join the hotel brand's loyalty program. Much of the information will already be kept on file: all the clerk has to do is enter the loyalty program number. The reason loyalty programs exist is to collect, store, properly route, and analyze guest information.
  • make your reservation in advance. They'll already have much of the information in place when you show up.
Another thing Stacy Jean noted that's going to be a problem no matter what: the front desk system has to interface with a credit card processing facility, the bank that issued the credit card, the hotel franchise organization's central reservation system, and sometimes an online travel agency - each of which has its own computer system, and each of which is but one link in a sloppily put together daisy chain (often, it's the hotel that has an old, out of date, system, but others aren't immune). 

So, the computer system at the front desk is going to be as slow and clunky as the oldest, slowest, clunkiest system in the daisy chain . . .

Originally appeared on Quora


  1. No. I don't agree with this. Most of the time during this delay they aren't typing your name and address; they seem to be mostly hitting FUNCTION KEYS and the ESCape key repeatedly to navigate the system. Very rarely has a hotel clerk had to type in my name and address when I've had a reservation.

  2. But for me, it has rarely taken more than 10 minutes to check-in, although there have been a few times when it has taken 15 to 20 minutes. The problem I run into is the guest in front of me asking a million questions. I don't know what their problem is but they need to learn to be a considerate and decent person.