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Hotel Tracks Towels With RFID Chips 173

nonprofiteer writes "An unnamed hotel is now putting RFID tags in their towels: 'The Honolulu hotel (the hotels have asked to remain anonymous, just to keep you guessing) says it was taking a bath to the tune of 4,000 pool towels per month, a number that it has reduced to just 750 (a savings of $16,000 per month). And that's just at the pool.' It's unclear what they do if the towel flies to the Midwest."
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Hotel Tracks Towels With RFID Chips

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  • by Pneathery ( 1949818 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:35PM (#35980422)
    My Uncle, and his family own a dry cleaning business in north Carolina and they have been doing this for years. It has caused the dry cleaners to make more money, as well as their clients. Plus as everything comes into the plant, it gets sorted so easily. You can run a cart through a scanner, and the computer reads everything in the cart, telling it where to go, and it is tracked from start to finish. The best part is, the cleaners and their customers make the agreements on the items that are supposed to be cleaned, not the actual pieces being cleaned, so they can tell the hospital who didn't turn in their shirts that week, yet collect for cleaning them. It is the future of dry cleaners.
  • by mbates ( 471775 ) * on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:40PM (#35980458)

    The Hilton Hawaiian Village. Signs all over the place that the towels are tracked and you will be charged if it is not returned.

    • Does the Hilton HV also have an in-room microwave for guests?
      • by Zerth ( 26112 )

        That's why they should bill you based on the missing tags, not by detecting them leaving the room.

      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Interesting you bring that up since I doubt I am the first person to take a small wash towel, soak it in water, and microwave it in the hotel to place on my face before a shave. Of course you need to use the right power setting or wait till it cools to just the right temperature.

        Shaving really does work better after soaking your face in hot water and the hot towel is nicer to do this, and more relaxing then trying to use all of the hot water in the shower on your face. Not to mention more effective.

        Yet at

    • by cdrguru ( 88047 )

      Was just there and I saw the signs. But, pulling pool towels never caused anyone to scan them, so the signage is just there to scare people. Nor were they really "checked in".

      I think someone else is doing it for real.

      I suppose it might be possible that they are scanning for them at the exits so if you walk out with 30 towels in your suitcase they can stop you.

  • Well damn (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:42PM (#35980480)
    I often pop my towel in the microwave for a few seconds to make it nice and toasty. I wonder if I've ever nuked me any chips?
    • If one part of the towel mysteriously catches fire then yes. :-)

      Seriously though small electronic devices like RFID chips have zero chance of survival in a microwave even for a few seconds. Metal bits almost instantly start to arc and spark in the presence of microwaves and there's no RFID chips which I know about that are hardened against this kind of abuse.

      • by KitFox ( 712780 )

        Things that are small enough will not arc or destruct. You'll notice that if you microwave a CD, it will arc and separate the foil down to a given size, and no smaller no matter how long you bombard it. A (house) fly in a microwave is too small as well. (Horseflies are SOL).

        The chip itself is of course too small, but the radio antennas that actually allow it to operate as an RF tag are not. So now the question comes up: Is it possible to create an RF tag that works at a high enough frequency that the an

        • A (house) fly in a microwave is too small as well. (Horseflies are SOL).

          How the hell do you know that?

        • There is actually another phenomena at play here too. That is one of standing waves. Microwave ovens are a nice boxy shape leading to a clear pattern of standing waves inside the Microwave. Yes common houseflies are small and thus most of the energy emitted by microwaves won't actually be absorbed by the fly. However a fly that is standing still in a strong part of the oven will not only die but end up a lovely charcoal mess. A fly would need to stand in a null of the standing wave or would need to move aro

    • I see a new demand for Faraday luggage!
    • Never do that! The fine water mist makes your towel invisible to spaceships.
  • old news, or a hoax. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pbjones ( 315127 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:43PM (#35980496)

    this story is about 2 months old. The RFID triggers a sensor and then you may be asked to take the towel out of your luggage, or be billed for a towel. This type of news could also be a hoax and people read the sign and don't take the chance. Theft is theft, it shouldn't happen.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ClioCJS ( 264898 )
      Theft is theft - but if every person always takes $8 in towels, they will simply charge people $8 more for the room. At which point, I've kind of paid for the towel. And if it's a $600/night room? That towel is a tip for me for paying that. (Okay, *I* didn't pay that, but I spent a week in a $600/night room and took toilet paper, soap, glasses, towels, washcloths. They're not losing money. They didn't even have a dvd player in the room. You can watch movies at the wrong aspect ratio for $16/ea. When it's me
      • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @07:13PM (#35980774)

        This, right here, is proof that when people want something for free, they will have no problem rationalizing it-- be it free music, or free software, or free towels.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by ClioCJS ( 264898 )
          You wouldn't download .. a towel .. would you?!?!
        • by Senes ( 928228 )
          It's called fighting fire with fire. If some little punk just walks up to me out of the blue and gives me a smack on the back of the head, getting even is all the rationale I need. If it were someone else I wouldn't jump on a high horse and give him this whiny lecture about how hitting people is wrong even if they hit you first.
          • by geekoid ( 135745 )

            No, it's called being stupid. even you example is stupid.

            the best way for society, and the safety of people is to teach and train better behavior. Hitting doesn't do that.

            You attitude is why recidivism rate is through the roof compare to win people in prison where talk to, taught better behaviors and skills.

            You don't fight fire with fire except in the most extreme circumstances.

            Of curse, you should steal towels and this method is a fine way to do it. Personally, I would include a free towel set in the price

            • by Senes ( 928228 )
              Cool, when someone assaults you or your family you can take the moral high ground and teach him about how assault is bad mmkay. I'll stick to my implements of self defense and do whatever is necessary to stop the attacker in his tracks.
            • by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @08:33PM (#35981340)

              You attitude is why recidivism rate is through the roof compare to win people in prison where talk to, taught better behaviors and skills.

              Would you mind rephrasing that?

      • That's true, the costs of the least honest and most unpleasant people are spread across everyone. Tragedy of the commons.

        I'd hate to have to share an office with you; since I make $75k a year, you'd no doubt assume that you were justified in stealing the pens from my desk and my lunch from the fridge, since I can afford to replace them.

        Society only works when the proportion of assholes is kept low. Otherwise, you're why we can't have nice things. Oh, and please don't waste your time on the lecture you

        • by ClioCJS ( 264898 )
          Yup. I'd steal your lunch from the fridge. (rolls eyes) And what type of job pays you $75K a year, but doesn't give you pens? Funny example is funny.
        • by Nikker ( 749551 )
          Your ham sandwiches need more mustard btw.
      • They're not losing money.

        Are you sure? Was it one of the hotels owned by Host Hotels []? (Hyatt, Hilton, Four Seasons, Marriot, etc. etc.) If so, then yes, they ARE losing money.

        You kind of sound like a jerk, but based on your sig, I guess that is the vibe you are going for.
        • by ClioCJS ( 264898 )
          Seeing as TFA doesn't specify which hotels they are, other than being 3 individual hotels, you've failed to validate your point, though I concede it is possible to be valid.

          It is generally assumed when buying services or goods from someone that you are paying more than they are worth.

          [Unless it's a loss-leader strategy like Microsoft losing money on an X-Box in hopes they'll gain money from the games -- but in that case, it's still true for the aggregate cost of the "Xbox experience" (xbox + games).]

          • So hotel A calculates the cost of a room as X. They price it set at X + 10% (or whatever you want). After 2 months of operation they find out that (some) people steal towels and thus the cost of the room goes up to Y (Y > X). The price is now Y + 10%. Guess what? You steal a towel, everyone pays more! Thanks Clint.

            In the civilized world you pay for a product/service, with the terms of the service clear in advance. Neither party can change the terms, because they feel like it*. The hotel cannot suddenly c

            • by ClioCJS ( 264898 )
              Actually, whether or not *I* steal a towel, someone else will, so you will pay more with or without me. Case in point - I have only patronized 4 or 5 hotels in my life, and they probably aren't the ones you have. Your towels are more expensive because of other people, not me. If you want to blame my attitude, fine. But saying "Thanks Clint" is just completely fallacious. And no, modern society would not cease to exist, and you are completely overdramatizing. Hell, your comment made me burst into uproarious
      • by hldn ( 1085833 )

        everyone's against you, but i'm with you clint. i always take towels from hotels, i even take the book they put in the nightstand!

  • I wouldn't be surprised if they just bill the card associated with the room.
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )


      That credit card is like a damage deposit.

      Hotels know their shit. Even if they let a lot of mopes get away with things.

  • This is a classic, 100%-nails example of a "wish I thought of that" idea.

  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @06:52PM (#35980598)

    That's what I can't wrap my mind around (no pun intended). Even the most plush hotel towels are laundered and reused by guests, and the vast majority of hotel towels aren't really that high quality to begin with. Is the economy so bad that people are resorting (again, no pun intended) to taking used hotel towels instead of buying their own for a few bucks?

    Despite the use of what must be copious amounts of chlorine and near-autoclave cleaning, just imagine what some people leave on those towels. You still want them?

    • Is the economy so bad that people are resorting (again, no pun intended) to taking used hotel towels instead of buying their own for a few bucks?

      People dont rationalize it like that. They think "boy, this towel would be useful, and Im sure the hotel has tons of spares, and anyways theyve built the cost of losing a few towels into the price of the room, so really Ive already paid for it".

  • They've got to work that into an episode of Raising Hope.

  • All they'd have to do is incorporate the rfid detector with popup tire slashers, iron crossing barriers, klaxons and klieg lights. Locals could sit in lawn chairs across the street at checkout time and watch the show.

  • That's the only way you could enforce this, when they try to walk out the door they set off an alarm and some poor dumb slob has to embarrass the hell out of a guest. OTHO, it'll get around pretty fast and it won't go over well. $16k isn't much money for a hotel you know. Just let it go.
    • As SomePgmr said, they might just automatically bill you for it as walk out the door of the hotel. It would be interesting how many people will either contest the charge (knowingly they stole it in the first place), or just eat the cost because shipping it back would be just as costly for the refund. The idea being that the hotel can reduce the loss of revenue due to theft without causing a scene about it.

      • No. You call it the "if you like our towels, take one"-policy and bill it to the credit card.

        -Or you tell your guest: "We have this a special offer this week only, for only $1 you can upgrade to a brand new towel."

  • notice it was specifically *pool* towels. i have to wonder if they were just counting towels removed from the pool area as losses. what i've often done is take a pool towel back to my room and leave it there for the maid to whisk away with the bath towels.

    possibly they weren't actually losing that many pool towels from the premises overall, they were just being diverted to the wrong pile. if they need RFID to tell a pool towel from a bath towel, i would suggest color coding or size/weight differences inst

  • But how much did it cost to implement this plan in the first place?

  • by ozbird ( 127571 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @08:54PM (#35981470)
    "There's a frood who really knows where his towel is."
  • Am I the only one shocked that they are paying over $4.90 per towel? I would think hotels could get a better rate than that...
  • ... track towels you carry with you on a jump with the infinite improbability drive?

  • Tech (most tech) is not inherently evil or good. This is the kind of stuff RFID tags should be used for, a private company in a closed system. Everyone knows you use towels at a hotel, it's just simple normal inventory control, You aren't taking the towels out of the hotel, whats the problem again?
  • Whatch'you talking about?

    Isn't taking a towel like taking an embossed pen, using the stationery, taking the rest of a bottle of soap? Sure the hotel would like you to leave it, (and to charge if they can), but it's a consumable. Some people even take them home as souvenirs!

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein