I know I told you that I would be on vacation, but I can’t help writing about something that has titillated me for quite a while. I was reminded of it this evening when I finally got my hotel room (quite an adventure in itself, as the dyslexic desk clerk transposed two digits of the room number, sending me to the erroneous one with a key to match, much to the chagrined surprise of the room’s real occupants—but I digress). Letting myself into my room I instantly spotted the placard on the pillow. There it was—the thinly veiled attempt by the hotel’s management to save labor, water, and detergent costs while convincing us that through our valiant compliance with the “program” we’re saving the planet from an imminent environmental disaster. Yes, my faithful readers, it was the dreaded Project Planet guilt card!
I’ve been seeing these in moderately priced hotels for quite a while now. They appeal to our collective guilt as big polluters and energy wasters in order to exhort us to accept what no one in their right mind would ever accept: a hotel not changing sheets and replacing towels daily in a room for which you are paying $200 per night. By opting out of linen changes and towel replacements, our environmental conscience will be well served, even as the bedbugs are biting our asses and the roaches are living off the dead skin cells clinging to our towels that haven’t been washed for a week.
Here’s what the card on the bed says, next to a picture of a cuddly-looking, sleeping arctic wolf (awwwww, it might be a cub!), overprinted on a background of an idyllically verdant summertime mountain lake scene:
“The Project Planet Program is an effort of this hotel to protect the environment through conservation of water and decreased use of detergent.
“If you are staying with us more than one night, as part of the Project Planet program, we will launder your linens every three days.
“If you would prefer not to participate in the program, simply leave this card on your pillow and linens will be changed today.
“As always linens are automatically changed after every guest check-out.” Â© 1996
I love the last sentence. In spite of the missing comma, people must wonder if the hotel really does live up to its promise.
On the back of the card the inscription is translated into Japanese, Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.
The bathroom card has a misty picture of horses and some mountains. Save a horse—use a dirty towel.
This is one of those great moneymaking ideas that is dirt cheap to create. It’s all marketing. You just print up a bunch of guilt trip cards, then tell a bunch of hoteliers that if they buy them and put them in their rooms, their labor, detergent, and water costs will go down because so many people are vulnerable to the environmental guilt appeal. It works just like some religions. It promises eternal life for the planet in exchange for some daily sacrifices. To paraphrase L. Ron Hubbard, if you want to make money, just start a religion!
I am going to heaven because I said “NO!” to the sheet-changers!
Furthermore, the card says that Project Planet appreciates our help. This plays on another human foible: the desire to be appreciated. And who wouldn’t want to help that cuddly little wolf cub?
To top it all off, the following inscription appears on the card in fine print, next to a recycling symbol:
Printed on recycled paper. Laminated to reduce waste.
In other words, we use cheap-ass paper that we have to coat (at the cost of several dead dinosaurs) or it would just fall apart. Judging by the copyright date, I’d say the lamination has done its waste reduction job nicely.
What a great idea! I wish I had dreamed it up! (But I won’t be dreaming pleasant dreams tonight as I shall be pondering the issue of whether the sheets were actually changed when the previous guest checked out.)
Hell, I’m only staying here one night—I’ve got to figure out some way this “program” will negatively impact me!
It is fun to speculate on where this is all going.
“Would you like to upgrade to one of our rooms with optional electricity, sir?”
And in the dining room:
“Please help us save energy by eating this lobster live.”
Learn more about what you can do to save the environment from wasteful hotel managers by checking out Project Planet’s website.