Why are these hotel confirmations "irksome to the extreme"?


In the records of travel industry ridiculousness, the humble hotel confirmation merits hardly a mention. After all, it’s a piece of paper with your name on it, right?

Not if you’re Douglas Shachnow, and not if you’re staying at Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott.

“I have to make a two-night stop in the New York area in a couple of weeks, and as it turns out, the Newark Airport Marriott is convenient for my stay in the area,” explains Shachnow, a travel agent and regular reader of this site.

Then he received the confirmation.

“I always keep a hard copy printout of a hotel confirmation whenever I travel anyplace,” he explains. “I’m sure thousands of other travelers do the same thing.”

All Shachnow was looking for, in other words, was a piece of paper with his name on it to show the hotel when he checks in. You know, just in case it loses his reservation.

He got that — and so much more. He explains,

Newark Liberty International Airport Marriott’s email confirmations run three legal sheets long, and it’s fixed so that if you try to get just two pages, and print it on letter-size paper, you get something that looks like Greek.

I don’t know why that should happen, but it does. But forget about that.

If there was something about a two-night stay in a service hotel that required extensive terms and conditions, they could be in small print. I’ve never seen extensive T&C on these confirmations, so that rules out that excuse.

In fact, in this case it’s white space and advertising. Lots and lots of white space.

To confirm a two-night booking.

Not only is this inconsiderate to the guest by using up his paper supply unnecessarily, but it is downright irresponsible environmentally.

If you saw this document in my hand right now, even as I write this to you, there’s no way you could say that this is justified.

I’ll take his word for it.

Lengthy hotel and airline confirmations are nothing new. But what Shachnow alleges — that if he refuses to print out the last page with all the ads, it will render a glitch — is noteworthy. It is almost impossible to prove that it’s being done systematically, of course. (I can already hear Marriott’s explanation: it was an “error” on his side, not ours.)

But Shachnow’s dilemma — either print out the entire thing or go without a confirmation — underscores a bigger problem. For a company that makes so much noise about being environmentally responsible, don’t you think three-page confirmations are a little much? Or does the desire to save the planet end when it interferes with making a buck, as the ads, coupons and upsells on these confirmations must certainly do.

“You’d think a major company like Marriott would be at least a little bit concerned for the environment,” he says. “I mean, how much space on a piece of paper does a hotel confirmation have to be? You need the guest’s name, the dates, the rate, and a short description of the accommodations. That would take up maybe 1/4 the size of a letter-size sheet of paper.”

Maybe. Next time, you might just take your electronic confirmation, and go completely paper-less.

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