According to a new study published in Terry Cloth Scientific, employees in the hospitality industry waste nearly two million hours a year folding towels into the shapes of animals and other figures. Employees at hotels, aboard cruise ships and at spas spend entire shifts at their places of business folding, rolling and tucking towels to resemble local and exotic wildlife. The study suggests that employee time would be better spent servicing customer needs. However, industry leaders believe that the practice will continue.Thad Fredericks, general manager of Moist Adventures, a small cruise operator based in Wichita, Kansas, said that he’s had his employees folding towels into animals for nearly three decades. “Towels hanging from a rod might help them dry, but they bring no life to the room. Our guests expect their rooms to match their surroundings and cruises are surrounded by water.” It is his belief that a wet towel shaped like a dolphin is a better offer to his passengers than a dry towel that looks like a towel.
Most of his contemporaries agree. Fiona Rappaport, a hospitality consultant, advises her clients in all aspects of guest services. “Towel animals create a whimsical ambiance and a child-like innocence,” she suggests. “Towels are inherently boring. The entire vacation experience hinges on the towel,” Ms. Rappaport said.
The study estimates that time spent folding towels costs the industry $7.8 billion dollars annually. That is significantly higher than losses incurred when employees spend personal time using the Internet.
Reed Basin, author of the Terry Cloth Scientific study, seemed resigned to the results. “The hospitality industry is in love with towel origami. Towel swans, towel turtles, towel hearts, towel bears. All people want are towels.”
The study also surveyed guests to gauge their interest in origami towels. Forty-eight million vacationers were asked their opinions on the anthropomorphic towels. “We found six people who liked them,” Mr. Basin said. “There were eight last year,” he continued, “but two died since then.”