At this moment I’m traveling with my girlfriend at the West coast of the US. A great trip so far and we’re enjoying the scenery a lot (and have already met some great people). We try to stay as much as possible in AirBnB locations because it gives us a nice snapshot of how the locals are living (and it doesn’t look like a boring hotel room – 95% of the hotel rooms still look the same).
I know that there is a lot of discussion about the whole AirBnB concept and of course most complaints come from the hotel business because AirBnB is disrupting their industry. Did you know that AirBnB is going to surpass the number of hotel rooms from InterContinental Hotelgroup and Hilton Worldwide as the world’s largest hotel chain. Of course, they are afraid that there’s a new player who disrupts the system. But I don’t want to focus on AirBnB right now but give an example how the ‘system’ can cost you (a lot of) money – and in this case there is a direct link to the traditional hotel business.
For our stay here in Seattle, we could spend 3 nights on a small boat in a marina bay in the center of Seattle. A great experience but staying on this boat has a few disadvantages: no fridge; a very cosy bed (read: I don’t really fit in there with my 1m90cm (~6,2 feet)); we have to go to a different toilet outside the boat (walking 100m) and the owners forgot to leave some towels (it’s a bit inconvenient to discover this on your first morning).
Okay, and the story starts with those towels (or better: without those towels). Because a shower is of course very nice in the morning, my creative mind starts working. I had already discovered a nice big hotel opposite the road. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to walk over and ask them if we could ‘borrow’ (or even better ‘rent’) 2 towels for a few days. We’re very happy to pay a deposit of 50 $ and they could even charge us $ 5 / day to get 2 towels. And we need breakfast anyway so it’s convenient to just walk across the street and have breakfast in their hotel. It sounded like a good plan but there’s of course a big chance that there might be a difference between a plan and reality.
I went to the reception of the hotel and a friendly lady paid attention to my ‘unusual; proposal but then the ‘system’ blocked the whole idea. She wanted to help me but this request didn’t fit in the system. It was impossible to borrow/rent/give two towels to people who weren’t registered as hotel guests because the system didn’t allow this unusual procedure. I used my charms and tried to explain her that it was a very good deal for the hotel:
+ revenue for the towels and having a good deposit to know quite sure that we would return the towels (15 dollar)
+ two people who would come and get breakfast in the next three days – estimation revenue: 72 dollar ( 12 dollar x 2 persons x 3 mornings)
+ happy ‘potential’ customers who share this story with others (priceless)
But she didn’t want to argue about it because ‘it doesn’t fit in the system‘.
At that moment, I could probably be more creative and find another solution (convince her that she could find a work-around to mislead the system; ask somebody else; sneak into the hotel and pretend that I was a hotel guest and get some towels from the cleaning service; bribe a cleaning lady; build a relationship with a different guest and get some towels from them, …) but I chose to leave the hotel and write this blog about the experience.
And ask the question how many times doesn’t a solution fit in ‘your system’. It’s absolutely okay (and in most cases even necessary) to have a good system because it leads to efficiency. But a disadvantage is that you might lose opportunities that don’t fit in the system (and it takes away part the responsibility of the users of the system). I think that a lot of businesses are losing a lot of money, time and energy because their systems have become too rigid.
PS: we bought two nice towels for 5,99 dollars in a supermarket and will donate the towels to the Airbnb boat for the next guests 😉