Would a hotel or similar business ever have used a time clock...

…to keep track of the comings and goings of guests?
This is in regard to something I saw on PBS recently. They were showing what apparently was a sort of antique time clock, which had a couple of rows of toggle switches. Each corresponded to a three digit number, presumably a room number, and the person staying in the room was supposed to flip that toggle up or down as they left the hotel or returned to it. As they did so, the date and time would be recorded on paper for a permanent record.

Although hotel desk clerks do have an understandable need to know who’s presently on the premises, and who’s not, it seems incredibly intrusive to record people’s comings and goings this way. It sounds more like a workplace of some kind, and the three digit numbers are actually employee ID numbers.

Or do hotels have legal responsibilities to monitor guests that we are mostly unaware of?

I have never heard of such a thing, and I heavily suspect the time clock was not properly described.

It is more likely that the toggle switches were there so that employees could imprint their slips with an identifying number (ie, Joe Bump, # 321 arrived 7:56 am, left 4:45 pm)and that it had nothing to do with the coming and goings of guests- if it was associated with a hotel at all.


I remember seeing that Roadshow episode, and I remember that clock, and I remember wondering the same thing as you, but damn if I can remember what it was called specifically! I can’t find it on the Roadshow website, even by searching appraisals for “clock”.

Some hotels I’ve been in clearly have a motion detector in the room (light on a gizmo on the ceiling doesn’t blink as long as I am still, but blinks as soon as I move or wave at it). So they could come close to that sort of monitoring at least during the day if they could monitor the detector from downstairs (it would be hard to tell at night whether the customer was out or was in and just a very still sleeper).

I remember seeing in old movies scenes set in hotels where the guest would leave the key at the front desk when he left. The key was stored in the mailbox for the room, and this allowed the front desk to know when a guest was in or out.

Still happens in smaller European hotels.

I can remember some hotels I stayed in back in the 50’s and 60’s did that. I haven’t seen it here in U.S. in decades, though.

Somewhere I have an old (Cold War era) guidebook. If I remember correctly apparently Soviet hotels didn’t trust guests with room keys at all. The was a woman assigned to each floor who’s job it was to keep track of the guests and let them into their rooms. I assume these were the “higher end” Intourist hotels ment for Western tourists.

Could the OP’s clock have been a wake-up call clock? Set the levers for the room number, print the slip, then place the slip on a hook on the clock corresponding to the wake up time. I’ve seen electric analog clocks like that in old motels.

Otherwise, I could see it for recording checkin and checkout times. With the timestamp from a machine, the guest couldn’t complain that the clerk was fudging the time on the books and overcharging him, similar to the justification for the early cash register.

I have - at the Fort Hanck Motel. It was like staying in a time warp.

I’m sure certain hotels, with the convenience of hourly rates, do indeed keep that close of a eye on the time guests are there. You tend to do that when charging by the minute.

I’m sorry sir, but it’s 12:02, you owe for another hour. Perhaps a nap before departing?