Saturday, June 16, 2012

Like a square peg in a round hole...

Does anyone know why hotel rooms tend not to have electric sockets near the bed?

It's true of about 90% of hotels. It's certainly prevalent enough to suggest that it's a deliberate feature. Or rather, a deliberate lack of feature. Plugging your phone in overnight and having it within reach doesn't seem like a big ask.

The other day we stayed at The Lowry in Salford. It's a swanky kind of hotel. Too swanky for its own good if you ask me. It seems to labour under the impression that convenience is vulgar. Rather than, y'know... convenient. There's no kettle in your room. But they will bring one to your room if you ask. In what way is that better? I mean, it is perfect for all those I think I might want a cup of tea in about 30 minutes moments. But dreadful for all those, Oo, I could do with a cup of tea moments. I know which happens more often in my life.

In The Lowry, there are sockets by the bed. But they're not normal sockets. They have rounded holes. The lamps in the room have corresponding plugs. But nothing you or I own does. That must take a special effort.



Someone somewhere has realised that there were going to be sockets near a bed in a hotel room... and then made a special effort to ensure that their guests can't use them. This is only mildly frustrating. But it is more than mildly fascinating. I would genuinely love to find out why this happens. In what way does it meaningfully benefit the hotel?

Are you a hotel designer. Do you work in the hotel industry? Do you know? Go on... share it with the group...

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

is it they don't have kettles in the room but will bring you a cup of tea to your room in the latter situation they can charge you for the cup of tea and for bringing it to your room rather than letting you make it yourself for free...?

Dave Gorman said...

Yes. But in this hotel there is a card saying something like, "if you would prefer to make tea and coffee in your room, call the in room dining department who can provide a kettle"

So it's not about selling you tea. It's about making you ask for a kettle.

Anonymous said...

Fire safety thing. They don't want appliances plugged in and left on the bed which could then cause a fire.

Anonymous said...

so they can have less kettles and such therefore lower overheads. annoying tho. I hate it when you can't make a cup of tea in a hotel room - happens far too often in mainland Europe. we should have an EU directive mandating this in hotels!!

also been thinking about that phone charging with the closest plug being over the other side of the room. an easy fix for this would be to have a 2-3m extension cable for your mobile charger. I have and works amazingly.

Anonymous said...

fire safety. what a load of cobblers! a plug is a plug wherever it is the room. i can understand thats why we dont have plugs in bathrooms but next to beds is no greater a fire risk than the other side of the hotel room.

Sean O'Reilly said...

As I understand it:

Round pegged plugs and sockets are 15 A by design. They can't output anything more than that, thus saving power and saving money to the hotel, as it basically ensures only a light is plugged in there.

These sockets are linked to a switch which is normally just a light switch allowing you to switch lamps on and off in the same place and in the same way as you would the ceiling light.

Square or rectangular standard sockets [commonly called 13 A sockets] in the UK are up to 32 A by design and can be used for various devices that require varying amounts of power.

You can use a gang plug with a round pin plug on a round pin socket but only one of the sockets on the gang would be usable really and it will be receiving at most 15 A which for anything power intensive would not be practical.

Sean O'Reilly said...

Oh, and if you actually ask them for a kettle likely what they will give you will be a low power Caravan Kettle. Like this one here - which only needs a 5 A power supply which is more than met with the round pin sockets.

Andy White said...

Until I read Sean O'Reilly's response, I thought the seemingly-bespoke plug and socket designs were just another irritating anti-theft mechanism, like those infuriating
hotel coat hangers.

Peanut said...

Generally those round-pin sockets/plugs are 15A sockets, yes. But things like your mobile wouldn't ever draw anywhere near that, unless you have one of those old Nokias that was also a hair dryer.

Why don't you buy a 15A plug and a 13A socket (generally available wherever they sell electricity) and wire the two together, giving you something like this that you can take on tour:

http://www.vikinglighting.co.uk/catalogue/images//cable/15-13.jpg

Peanut said...

Oh, and just to really piss them off, just before you check out, set fire to your bed.

phantomsteve said...

When I got married a fortnight ago, we noticed the lack of electrical sockets near the bed - I use a machine at night which helps me to not stop breathing (pretty damn' useful!) so needed a socket! The rooms we used had bed lights, and on the other side of the room were the TV, lights, sockets - just not by the bed. Thankfully our room in Paris did have a socket near the bed, just not the one I used the night before I got married or the one we used on our wedding night, both of which were English hotels

Mike Cable said...

Looking at the picture I think that is a 5a plug and socket, similar to, but smaller than, the 15a talked about elsewhere. It will be wired through a light switch which are generally rated at 10a, on a circuit that domestically would be rated at 6a. In other words, only small loads should be plugged in. Phone chargers would be good, kettles would not. You would have to have the lights switched on all night to charge your phone, however!

Dave Gorman said...

The round sockets might draw less power but it doesn't follow that there is a cost saving to the hotel.

The items that people plug in in hotels are going to be pretty limited under normal circumstances. Laptops and mobile phones mostly. There are sockets to plug them in to.

The only thing changed by the placement of the 5A sockets is the level of (in)convenience.

If people are bringing other, high power items with them... surely they're not thinking, Well I've brought my electric lawnmower all the way to the hotel but now I can't mow the duvet I don't think I'll bother."

It can't be down to any legal, health-and-safety requirement because some hotels - a very small number - do have regular sockets near the beds.

So it's a choice. A deliberate design chosen by the majority. To what advantage?

Rob said...

I wonder whether it originally had a point, but that nowadays hotel designers / owners simply go along with it. "This the type of socket and plug that hotels use near the bed, and we're fitting out a hotel, so this is the system we'll use too".

So it could just be an odd tradition that people "in the know" follow without questioning it.

Anonymous said...

This annoys me too - but It does mean that you have to get out of bed to switch your phone alarm off. I'm never late when staying in a hotel. Not sure that makes up for it entirely though.

Anonymous said...

the round sockets are round as they are linked to the light switches

I'm an architect for a hotal chain. we now insist on 1 socket above the bedside table and 2 above the desk, but this is relatively recent and there are huge numbers of rooms out there with terrible provision. We also insist the sockets are not connected to the automatic switch that cuts the power when you aren't in the room, which some people miss.

I't a big deal that lots of people moan about (rightly) but it's tricky to get old hotels up to speed. Owners really dont like spending cash (most hotel brands dont own the buildings that are part of their brand, it's franchised mostly)

I used to work with the person who designeed the lowry, It isn't all that good a hotel, very odd in many ways, not nearly as good as it thinks it is.

Anonymous said...

Your hotel must have been very old Dave. Round pin sockets were universal until the early 1950's when the square pin standard came in. in those days no one had any need to plug anything by the bed.

Try staying somewhere a bit more modern.

Anonymous said...

The socket thing:

When you have a lamp that you want to be controlled by the light switches it has to be part of the lighting circuit not the power circuit. so it cannot have a local switch and also cannot have other items plugged into it (if you tried to power your phone it would turn off when the lights were out)

Therefor they use a different plug socket which cannot be used by normal plugs.. commonly called a 3a socket as the lighting ring is 3a usually.

It really isn't about worrying that the guest is using power, though if you put a hair drier in the lighting ring it would probably trip it. It is simply that it's a light-power socket. Nowadays they just hard wire the lamp into a spur so there is no plug or socket, but this is a hassle if you want to change the lamp quickly.

The lowry was built in 1999, slightly before we all had mobile phones.. but only just.

Anonymous said...

Like phantomsteve above, my Mrs uses a cpap machine at night to assist with her breathing. On a rare stay out, in a Premier Inn, some months ago we discovered the same thing you did! The staff were great however, and managed to rustle up an extension cable for us. I think they borrowed it from the restaurant next door..! It also allowed us to plug the phone in at the same time :-)

Mike Woodhouse said...

I cynically assumed that bringing a kettle to the room allowed for an extra tipping opportunity, but that may be ungracious of me.

And that title had me YouTubing for Bebop Deluxe, for which revived memory I (think) I thank you...

Anonymous said...

Sean, that's the biggest load of tosh I've ever read. Round pinned bs-546 plugs are either 2, 5, 15 or 30amp by design. These ones are 5amp (if you click on the photo you will see 5/250). So they are not 15amps or part of any lighting circuit as the anonymous commenter pointed out (they are only 3amp), and re: "15 amps are for small appliences"... You put a 13amp plug on a washing machine for god sake, kettles and heaters also take 13amps. These are BS-546 designed, and they are there for safety. British "ring-mains" are dangerous as hell, wired from socket to socket in a loop til it reaches the distribution point. BS546 eliminates the need to constantly change fuses.