Hotel Room Card Readers Are the Change Machines Of the 21st Century


As an arcade-loving boy, I grew up stuffing my bills into change machines over and over again, only to have the rolled right back out at me. The charming American affection for paper money and the rising price of soft drinks seems to have driven technological improvements, though. Now I can stick a bill into a vending machine with only, maybe, a 10% failure rate.

I can’t say the same for hotel room key cards and their readers. They seem to have a failure rate of, oh, 66%. That is, when I insert them in the lock or elevator thingie, I get the red light two out of three times.

Maybe I just have some kind of anti-key card aura?


  1. I always have trouble with those cards as well. Often it’s me not inserting it correctly (there are almost never clear graphical instructions for the card orientation).

  2. The worst for me was during an election campaign. We got into our Ottawa hotel very, very late at night, and I was exhausted… and still had to crank out a speech. It took about an hour of going back and forth between the front desk and my room – and eight or nine keys – before I finally managed to get in.

    Over the years I’ve been told by front desk people that it’s because my key contacted my cell phone, my credit cards, my other keycards, my computer… I’m surprised nobody’s blamed my aura yet (then again, I have yet to visit Taos).

    Give me one of them retinal scanners and fingerprint checkers any day.

  3. Had the same thing happen at Harrison Hot Springs last year – they had just installed a new key system, and we went through eight or nine keys over the course of the two days. I considered sleeping in the hallway.

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