Clarification and update

I was posting my previous entry from my iPhone and wanted to get to sleep so didn't go into enough detail.

After the keycard didn't work the first time, I took it to the front desk. The lobby was closed for the night, but there's a back security window, so I went there. The clerk took the card, told me it had somehow lost its magnetism, and gave me two new cards.

I walked back around a building and across the parking lot and up the stairs to my room. Neither card worked. I tried both of them several times, in various ways. Nothing. I carefully compared the room number written on the key envelope to the room number on the door, digit by digit, several times, to be certain that I wasn't stupidly trying to open the wrong room.

Walked back down the stairs and across the lot and around the building. Told clerk these cards also hadn't worked. She asked if the light had flashed green when I used them. I said yes, very briefly, at least I thought it was green. She said I had to open the door immediately when the light flashed green. I said my key had worked fine all day. She said it had to be right after the light flashed green.

Walked back around the building and across the lot and up the stairs. Tried again. Many times. Tried opening at the very instant the light turned green (at least I think it was green; I'm partly red/green colorblind; may've been yellowish). Tried all sorts of timings, with both cards. Nothing. (While I was doing this, another guest, apparently checking out at dawn, walked past me. She was walking stiffly and fast and keeping her eyes averted; had to walk right behind me to get to the stairs, and was obviously scared of the guy trying a keycard over and over in a hotel room door (accessible from the street) just before dawn.)

Walked back down the stairs and across the lot and around the building. Told clerk the light was turning green but there was no click of unlocking in the mechanism. That was when she said there was nothing she could do. She was alone on staff and wasn't allowed to leave the desk, and she couldn't do anything to open the door anyway. The maintenance guy was coming at 10 a.m. and he could try to do something.

I must have succeeded at looking as pitiful as I felt and begging her to help out somehow, because she went away for a few minutes and then found someone else on staff (a biggish guy, maybe security?) to stand there as she let me into the lobby and found me another room so I could get some sleep.

That was when I remembered about the sweater draped over the lampshade, and started worrying that I was going to accidentally burn down the hotel. It seemed awfully unlikely, but just worrisome enough to make it hard for me to get to sleep.

Anyway. I slept for a couple hours; woke up at 8:45; called the front desk to see if there was any more info. The guy there (new shift) said the maintenance guy would arrive around 9, and front desk guy would call me then, so I figured instead of going back to sleep, I would wait.

At 9:20, I called the front desk again. Guy said he would call maintenance guy and call me back shortly. I said I'd noticed there was a keyhole for a metal key in the door locks; couldn't they open the door that way? He said that only the owner had that key.

So apparently Howard Johnson Springfield just isn't equipped for a failure of the keycard locks. To be fair, I suppose that's not something that happens very often.

About 15 minutes later, I got a call: the owner had arrived and would meet me at my room.

I pulled on some clothes and walked down the hall. A youngish guy was standing in the open door of my room. He quizzed me on what room I was in and what room I had just been in, then called the front desk to verify my name. I tried to give him back the keycard for my new room; he said to keep it, because I would be staying there.


--Well, the lock is broken on room 265, so you can't stay here. So you'll be staying in 247.

--Can't you just wait to repair the lock? I've only had 3 hours' sleep, and all my stuff is here in 265.

--I'll help you carry it. You can't stay here; the lock is broken.

I tried to think, but my brain was not up to the task. --Can I have a minute to gather my stuff together?

--I'll help you carry it.

I just about broke down. --Can't you give me five minutes to pack?

He left the room. I packed hurriedly, hoping I wasn't forgetting anything. Got my stuff together, left the room. He offered again to help me carry things, I said no thanks.

Went back to 247 and went to sleep. And now it's after 2 p.m., and I've had somewhere on the order of 6 hours' sleep total (much of it in 1-hour chunks), and I think I'm more or less ready to face the day.

I can more or less almost understand most of the problems that led to the current situation. But boy is the hotel not dealing with it well.

And the owner could at any time have offered me, say, an apology. Or a word of sympathy. But no.

Which is why I'm including the name of the hotel in this entry; I imagine it'll come up in searches for Howard Johnson Inn in Springfield, PA.

I'll probably end up staying here again (assuming that they don't refuse to let me stay here again); it's awfully convenient to Swarthmore, and I don't know of anything better in the area. But so far, in two out of two stays here, I really am not impressed.

Added a little later: Fairness compels me to add a couple of addenda.

First, the rooms here are air-conditioned, and remarkably quiet. I had expected that I wouldn't be able to sleep at all without earplugs, but in fact it was pretty easy, at least for a couple hours. And they provide moderately thin pillows, which most other hotels seem reluctant to do; for some people that would be a minus, but for me it's a huge plus.

Second, it's quite possible that the owner provided some sort of apology-in-passing early in our brief exchange, and that I just missed it in the midst of being told to vacate my room. Certainly the night clerk had apologized sincerely to me, after it became clear that I wasn't just failing to use the keycard properly; after I made the transition to being a person in need of help, she became really nice and did her best to help me. Wasn't her fault that there was no way to get into the room.

5 Responses to “Clarification and update”

  1. jaipur

    that’s incredible. I’ve had those electronic key cards go bad on me plenty of times, and usually it’s just a trek down to the lobby to get a new one. Clearly this is not a hotel that knows what it’s doing. Spring for a new one next time you need one in the area, I’d say. What an awful experience!

  2. Michael

    We’re big fans of tripadvisor, and we’ve found some wonderful places to stay over the past few years (and avoided some others) because of the reviews posted there. The accuracy level has been great on many details. So I’d suggest posting a review at:

    to help other travelers, and next reunion take a look at the more expensive but apparently worth it Hamanassett B&B that is a similar distance from Swarthmore:

  3. Jed

    Jaipur: In case this wasn’t clear, the problem here was that the card reader on my door had gone bad, so the replacement cards didn’t work any better than the original. They certainly handled the situation very badly in various ways–I’m not excusing them here–but it was a pretty unusual situation.

    Michael: Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll think about posting a review. I’m always pretty reluctant to post reviews on those review sites, but I’m not quite sure why.

    And thanks for the B&B suggestion; it’s probably not right for me, but looks like it got good reviews, so I may consider it. (Why not right for me: I’m not generally a big fan of B&Bs, and this one appears to be significantly further away from campus than the HoJo (though I can’t actually find the address on a map so I’m not certain), and when I attend reunions I tend to be up and/or out ’til 4 or 5 a.m., which I suspect wouldn’t go over so well in a B&B, and I’m still not used to B&B prices so they always seem a little expensive to me.)

  4. Jed

    Addendum a year later: This visit, I stayed at the new Best Western Widener, a 10-minute drive from the Swarthmore campus. It was much much nicer in just about every way. If you’re looking for a place to stay near Swarthmore and you can afford the BW, I recommend it.


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