Technology, when it works, is a blessing. It makes our lives easier and more efficient and provides all sorts of benefits. When it doesn’t work it can be a major frustration.
Traveling is so much more pleasant when you can check into a flight a day (or even a week) beforehand and save yourself some time at the airport. Booking flights (and other travel) and hotels online is so easy. Purchasing tickets for museums and other attractions saves time in line, and can sometimes save money.
However, I must admit I have a certain mistrust of technology when it comes to traveling. I print my boarding pass for train or plane before leaving home. I don’t trust them to still be on my phone or tablet when I get to the gate. I know using paper in such circumstances is wasteful, but I don’t like surprises and want to be certain to avoid any hassles.
Sometimes though technology can’t be avoided, and it’s not just because I am frugal (I do online check-in with the smaller European airlines to save myself the 10 Euro fee for checking in at the airport). Or maybe it is because I am frugal and look for budget accommodations.
I presume it is financial considerations that dictate that the hotel we stayed at in Bayeux, France, does not staff its front desk later than 9 p.m. (I expect that when arriving at Bed and Breakfasts, which are usually run by couples who have to be awake early in the morning to make your breakfast. My experience with those is that as long as you let your hosts know you will be late they can leave a key under the doormat for you.) In my experience, even cheap North American hotels have someone on the front desk around the clock.
In Bayeux I had some trepidation about the check-in process for arriving after 9 p.m. I had had email correspondence with the hotel. I knew the procedure. The room was prepaid, and all I had to do was stick my credit card in the machine in the kiosk in the parking lot and out would pop our electronic keys. Pretty simple in theory, though I distrust technology, especially technology I haven’t used before.
When we got to the hotel there was a brief wait – someone else was checking in just before us. That allowed me to see the machine in action. It wasn’t a comforting experience.
Like us, the man had a confirmed reservation. The room prepaid. The machine, which very much resembled an automatic teller, claimed to have no knowledge of him or his reservation. Frustrated, he used his credit card to book another room for the night, telling me he would sort it out with hotel staff in the morning.
Before booking the room I had read all the comments about this hotel and the check-in process on various travel websites. I had read about this happening, more than once. However, I had assumed that the people involved were just technologically challenged, and that it wouldn’t happen to me. Now, after seeing one failure, I wasn’t so sure. After all, I watched him and he did everything according to the instructions.
It was with great trepidation I inserted my credit card and punched in my confirmation number. Given what I had just witnessed I was rather surprised to receive our keys a couple of seconds later. I had been trying to figure out just what to say to Vivian to explain how I had made this error at the end of a long travel day.
As I said, technology can be a blessing – if it works right. That night, for us at least, it did.