People occasionally say things to me that echo around the digital void between my ears. This morning I checked out of a hotel and as per usual I intercepted the ritual of stapling the credit card slip (my records) to the VAT receipt (for company records). The receptionist told me, “you’re lucky we need to keep the paper to keep a track of things”. The echo by the way was “paper to keep a track of things”.
This hotel experience started when I decided I needed to stay in Northampton for the night. My hotel room was booked online with a confirmation of my booking sent to me via email. Though, if I wanted to, I could print out a copy of the confirmation. I must admit for some time I did this, fearing the booking would be “lost in the system”. Never have I turned up at a hotel where these bookings have not been set up and had to use the paper as proof, so eventually I was weaned off this comfort blanket.
On arrival, I was asked to enter my vehicle registration into a tablet to avoid parking charges. I was then given a piece of paper which reprinted all my registration details which required me to insert my car registration (again) and signature to say these details were correct.
My room had been guaranteed using a credit card so there was no credit card ritual on check-in. In hand with my digital token (card key) and a piece of card with my room number written on to it. The thinking presumably is, I might forget the room number, which is possible in my case, and there is a human element in the ritual of preparing and being given it, another paper comfort blanket.
After a good night’s sleep, I descended to reception. Upon check-out, there is a delay in printing the bill as the receptionist has to input the name of the card organisation I paid with on the billing system. The delay between the receptionist’s data entry and the start of the printer is longer than the eight seconds maximum tolerance a user has online before switching to another supplier. I can’t help wondering whether it took less time for the booking to get from my PC to the hotel than it does to print my bill out! Never fear there is no awkward silence, the hotel receptionist has the social skills to seamlessly fill the gap, even if I don’t. She explains the card payment system and billing system are separate and that the printer is occasionally known to crash.
During the check-out process, the receptionist uses the phrase “cashing up”, which seems ironic when we are talking about credit card slips, to explain the need, in this case, to keep the paper with the bills. I have an image of somebody adding up all these slips and proving the total by credit card organisation agrees to the total on all the bills for that shift. The need for paper here is clearly something to do with the silos of information between the billing and payment systems.
As I return to the office I scan the hotel bill into our Invu Document Management solution to begin its journey to another payment system, via our expense reimbursement process.
Taking into account the events which unfolded over these past 24 hours, I’m left wondering, do we really need “paper to keep a track of things” or is this just a comfort blanket?