Electronic Lock Failures Cause Chaos

Feb. 2, 2012

As the clock struck midnight this New Year’s Eve, the electronic locking systems decided to malfunction at both the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York and a Marriott hotel in Denver. It is not know yet whether the lock malfunction was a computer glitch caused by the turnover from 2011 to 2012, or whether the breakdowns precisely at midnight were just a coincidence.    

Hotel guests arriving after a night on the town reportedly found themselves locked out of their hotel rooms at both locations. The key cards at both hotels apparently failed to unlock the room doors causing 200 guests to be stranded outside their rooms at the Gramercy Park hotel and causing approximately 600 guest rooms to be locked at the Marriott in Denver. Newspaper reports said that it took seven hours for the Gramercy Park hotel staff to reset all the door locks and three hours for the staff at the Marriott to solve their lock problems. Meanwhile, disgruntled guests either slept in the hallways or even pushed out false ceilings and climbed over hallway walls to gain access to their rooms.  Newspapers reported "drywall all over the place in the hallways."

I have been a longtime supporter of electronic security locking systems as the wave of the future for our industry.  Coupled with the growth of credit card usage, people expect to use electronics in some form wherever they go and for whatever they do.  The ultimate 'system' is the internet. The entire planet is now accessible at the push of a computer button.  After using electronics at ATMs, gas stations and the internet, electronic locking systems are an expected extension of our modern style of life.     

Electronic lock systems can be set to an almost infinite variety of locking and unlocking time schedules; they can accept intricate master key systems, and individual cards can be added or removed from the system without affecting the lock operation sequences for other card holders in the system.  All this happens without lock disassembly of any kind.

The value of having a system is also its worst problem.  When one part in the hotel security locking system failed, it affected every other part and caused chaos.  This same phenomenon is happening every day as people spread viruses across the internet.  How many times have you heard the expression "the system is down?"

The value of keyless cars with pushbutton starting was brought into question recently in a TV documentary. In some instances cars with keyless starting have apparently accelerated without warning and caused accidents because the driver had no way of mechanically turning the engine off. 

There is still something to say for the venerable key-operated mechanical lock.  When the door is locked, it’s locked. When the ignition is turned off, it’s off. There is no guesswork involved. People get a feeling of power from knowing that they are in control of the situation. Keys will always have a fascination for people because they know what a key represents.  A ring of keys in your pocket exudes a sense of ownership and a feeling of security that passwords can never provide.