Challenge to Hospitality: The ID Check in the Lobby

By JOE SHARKEY The New York Times January 24, 2006

DON'T try any funny business at the Alex Hotel in Manhattan, Karen Kelly, because they've got your number, sister.

It is 1507. That is the number the desk clerk jotted on the photocopy the hotel made of Ms. Kelly's passport. Ms. Kelly had to produce the passport one night last week when she came into the lobby of the hotel, which is at 205 East 45th Street, to meet an out-of-town business associate.

"My husband and I travel a lot, but that was the most bizarre experience I've ever had in a hotel lobby," said Ms. Kelly, a writer who lives in Brooklyn.

"I'm one of those New Yorkers who doesn't have a driver's license, so I carry my passport with me in case I do need to show a picture ID."

But because she was not checking into the hotel and not going anywhere but the lobby, she did not count on having to produce a government-issued photo ID just to have a clerk phone a guest room from the front desk.

"I was kind of dumbfounded," she said. She handed her passport to the clerk, who made the photocopy and jotted on it the file number, 1507, and the time and date. The clerk told her the copy would be "kept on file for a year," said Ms. Kelly, adding: "At that point, I was kind of irritated at myself. I mean, a hotel lobby is, like, a public place, right? They claim the right to demand ID just to come in?"

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Monty Solomon
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