Hotels where front desk keeps key?

I was watching “Thunderball” the other night, and in one scene the dashing 007 enters his hotel, walks up to the desk, says “Room 304”, and the woman behind the desk gives him a key for room 304. This strikes me as a remarkably stupid way to run a hotel. I know I’ve seen it in other movies and TV shows, “Fawlty Towers” being a prime example. Was this ever the case in hotels, where they kept your key at the desk and you had to ask for it every time you wanted to get into your room? If so, what was the advantage (it seems a lot easier to just keep your own key), and how did they prevent thieves from putting on nice suits, requesting your room key, and stealing all your stuff?

Of course I know not to trust anything I see on TV, but why would they bother getting it wrong in such a stupid way if it had nothing to do with the plot? I’m guessing it had to be the custom somewhere at some time.

It used to be a pretty common way of doing things. You’d drop off your key at the front desk when you left, and ask for it when you return. You didn’t have to worry about losing your key or having to carry it around. It worked in smaller hotels since the person behind the desk would know you by sight, and it was a sign of class at others, since it indicated they wouldn’t allow the wrong sort of person inside.

I encounter this a lot in my travels. Usually, the key is on a big key chain to discourage carrying it in your pocket. I think it is to prevent loss.

I associate the practice with older European style hotels. It is very common in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and older hotels in the Middle East.

Chain hotels usually use key cards these days.

When did hotels stop doing this. The first hotel I remember staying in was 1959, and I’m pretty sure my Dad didn’t pick up the key everytime we left.

When did hotels stop doing this? The first hotel I remember staying in was 1959, and I’m pretty sure my Dad didn’t drop off the key everytime we left.

Anecdotal Reply:

I’ve also found that it’s still very commong in older hotels in Europe, and they typically put the key on a giant, heavy key ring so that it’s tough to forget to leave it. Loss of keys is a lot more of a pain than loss of a key card, so I suspect that’s part of the reason for operating this way.

Weird. In my experience, this practice is still the norm, except at chains and Holiday Inn-type places that have key cards. Certainly almost any smaller hotel in the UK or Europe, and quite a few in Africa and Asia, will expect you to leave the key at the desk. They often have the key attached to a big ol’ chunk of wood or metal carved with the room number, precisely so you don’t walk out with it in your pocket.

WAG: It permits the hotel staff to see at a glance who’s in and who’s out, so they can do the cleaning without disturbing you.

I was in Spain last year, and most every hotel we stayed at did this. It was kind of unnerving. We were a bunch of twenty-somethings who checked in en masse and were only there for the night. So there was obviously no way they knew that you were the right person for that room.

To those of you who have seen it at larger hotels - how do they know you have a right to the key when you ask for it? Assuming you leave in the morning and come back in the evening, a shift change has occurred and the person behind the desk has never seen you before. Do they ask for ID? Or do they really believe that no one would ever ask for a key that wasn’t theirs and ransack the room?

I’ve never been asked for ID that I can recall. I guess they’re just trusting. Either that or I just have an honest face :smiley:

I was on vacation in Chile this May for two weeks and all but one hotel asked to hold on to the room keys when we left our rooms. One hotel used key cards that worked only after great coaxing.

Some hotels I’ve been in also have an attachment on the key that you have to stick in to a slot to make the lights work.

I had never encountered this before travelling to Europe, where most all of the (cheap, low-rent) hotels we stayed in had this practice.

I’m not so sure Fawly Towers should be considered a prime example of a hotel. :dubious:

As an American who has been consistantly assured that wasting energy is my God-given right, I was amazed the first time I encountered this.

Hubby and I were staying in a Holiday Inn outside of London, and for several frustrating minutes, I couldn’t get anything in the room to work. I was at the point of picking up the phone and calling the front desk. “Hi, this is one of the Stupid Americans in room 314. Could you please tell me how British lamps work?” when Hubby discovered the slot on the wall.

“What a delightful idea!” I exclaimed, and thought that all American hotels should be equipped with similar devices, but then I realized that Americans would never tolerate such a thing. They want their rooms warm and lights bright when they return. They want to leave the TV on so potential thieves will “think someone’s in here.”

From my experience (anecdotally):

When in Rome, Geneva, Zurich or Zermatt:

You drop the key off at the desk on the way out, and say “Good day” in whatever language is spoken there.

Staff says: “Thank you.” (Grazi, Danke, etc).

When you return to your hotel, you approch the desk and say "good evening - 406 please (or ‘insert your room number here’). They give you your key and any messages.

Some Swiss dopers will kindly check in and verify that the newspaper racks in that country actually work on an HONOR system. It’s an open rack of papers, and a can on top. You put your money in the can and take a paper. It works because nobody steals newspapers or dips into the can. Not much spray painted graffiti or litter, either. I love Switzerland.

Do they have 24 hour service at the front desk? I know some places in the US are going to an “after hours” late check in to avoid having someone at the front desk. I am sure they have someone on call for emergencies, but for routine inquiries, you’re out of luck between 11-6.

Well I nearly got arrested in Holland for trying to get into my room. The bus was ready to go,I just had to get my luggage from my room…When I got to the front door,I was stopped and told I had to show my passport to them to be able to leave the hotel.Well since the guy with the passports was on the coach,I’d have to send someone out to find him,get my passport,let me have the luggage.No time for that.So I grabbed the bags and ran for it.Hopped on the coach and off we drove.As we drove away,I turned and waved at the unhappy hotel owners jumping up and down in the background :slight_smile:

I’ve stayed in hotels that made Fawlty Towers look like a smart, well-organised oasis of tranquility - aside from the odd staff, they also had all kinds of odd quirks and rules, such as(not all in the same establisment, of course):
-Keys chained to drilled cricket balls
-Breakfast served at 8:30 (not between 8:30 and some later hour, at* 8:30 - turn up late and you’re out of luck)
-A 10:30PM curfew
-An ‘in/out’ board - when you walk out of the door, you flip over a little marker on a board, corresponding with your room number.

The first time I encountered this was in India. The next time was Washington DC. Who knows what this means :dubious:

Oh please don’t remind me about the B&B that accused me of nicking their shower curtain.Apart from why??? I pointed out that a)I hadn’t got it in my possessions and b)if they cared to look,it was sitting in the corner of the bathroom.
When they said I was the only person who’d had access to it,I pointed out the two characters who’d been lurking about the pool room.Turns out it was their kids,so it could just as easily have been them…