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Hang Your Towel, Save The Environment... Sort Of?

Hotel Towels and a Sign to Save Water

I stay in a lot of hotels, mostly for work (for those thinking I’m just holidaying). As a result, I’ve had a fair bit of experience on this rather interesting quirk that I find partly amusing, partly infuriating.

Most hotel rooms these days come with an ensuite, and the obligatory fluffy white towels and the like. Hanging on the towel rail, or resting on the edge of the bathtub, is typically a card with words to the effect of “at (insert hotel name) we value the environment and did you know that washing a towel uses 43 litres of precious drinking water... so if you want to save the planet, hang your towel up and re-use it.”

I’m all for doing my bit for the environment so usually hang my towel up to be re-used. I’m a bit of a hotel laundry hanging ninja so can always find a space to hang something up, though I'm not sure Housekeeping necessarily appreciates this finely tuned skill... certainly my occasional roommates don't enjoy turning into karate exponents as they walk into a shirt hanging up in the hallway after a 3am toilet visit.

Recently, something occurred to me that I’ve now tested in a few different hotels just to increase the sample size and prove the theory... in virtually every hotel, if you hang up your towel, housekeeping leaves it hanging, but replaces it in the bathroom anyway. So despite your best efforts, they’re still going to end up washing that towel plus the extra ones they’ve restocked the room with.

I have, on occasion, felt compelled to ask to speak to management to point this out but never have. Yet it got me thinking about the ideal behind this concept, and the disparity in the execution. It then got me thinking about how this happens in my own company.

Several times we’ve had the best of ideas, be it for rolling out a new program or increasing our customer satisfaction scores etc and then a few months pass and when we go to evaluate the results we find that something didn’t quite pan out because somewhere along the line, someone didn’t pass on the message to someone else who then didn’t do something and the outcome is not as we intended it to be.

More often than not, this isn’t a failure of intent, more in communication. “I thought they knew”, or “but I thought it was obvious so I didn’t think I needed to tell them”. The same happens in relationships... things are left unspoken and these lead to misunderstandings and then someone gets angry.

The alternative outcome is that 'management' insists "but I told X about the plan so it's not my fault... THEY KNEW!" But as I've come to realise more and more, just because you've told someone something doesn't mean they actually understand, and even if they do, it doesn't guarantee that they will do something about it. A wise man has been driving home the principle of inspect rather than expect as a management mantra and this applies to communication too - ensuring your message is both understood, and something is done about it.

That isn’t to say that communication is the magic elixir/silver bullet to cure all that’s wrong with the world, but in my experience, it’s always better to over communicate rather than not.

Maybe that’s one way to save the environment too...?

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