Hotel Stories: On Cameras and Bureaucracy
As I was riding the bus today, I noticed again the various cameras that these buses have, most likely for security reasons. I’ve been on one bus with an obscene number of cameras, more than should really be necessary. It reminded me of the cameras back in our hotel.
Of the 25 or so floors of the hotel, we only had security cameras on the first 6. This is because these floors were the ones accessible from a variety of entrances, but the upper 19 floors were only accessible by going through somewhere in those first 6. Those lower floors also held all the public facilities.
We did start having odd problems of vandalism on the guest floors though. Someone would make very deliberate cuttings and slashes on the wallpaper, which can be quite expensive and so is a big-ish deal. Of course, the security management leaped on it as an opportunity to feel like they were chasing a criminal.
Eventually investment was made in setting up security cameras on the hallways of guest floors. This took a while, because they started out sending managers on patrols every hour or two during the day to try and ascertain what shift the presumed employee was doing this.
But what they bought and set up were two cameras on each floor, one facing each side of the hallway. This went against what might be considered the better camera model which can change direction or pan across a 360 degree view.
Of course, the main reason was money. It cost more to install 19 fancy cameras than 38 cheaper cameras.
The software was pretty cool though. It had motion sensing programming, so that the screens would automatically switch to any activity.
Security cameras in America mostly serve one purpose, and it’s not actually security. It’s liability. The idea isn’t to catch someone in the act, but to record them doing it so you know who to blame. This comes in handy with guests who fake things to try and get free stuff out of you, or to provide evidence that it wasn’t your fault.
But the cameras are a mostly dead investment. Once you’ve bought them, you’re not catching stealing guests or staff all the time or anything.
So management sometimes liked the idea of placing visual traps for staff. They’d leave a toolbox or something in a hall, and then go back and watch how many people walked by without doing something about it. This is a terrible management idea, but depressingly popular.
The cameras were originally installed to help prevent vandalism, but overall ended up being used by management to spy on staff and catch them out on minor infractions, because managers like to have reasons to remind people who’s boss.