Archive for the ‘Care Taking’ Category

I was in Detroit and Chicago last week, which means I spent a lot of time in airports and a little bit of time in hotels. My hotel in Chicago, which was on the campus of McDonald’s (!) was pretty nice. But the bathroom kind of freaked me out.
Take a look:
Do you notice that there are 5 grab bars in the picture. There were 2 more on the other side of the shower that I couldn’t get a good picture of.  7 grab bars in one regular sized shower. I know that it’s supposed to imply safety, having so many things to grab onto so that you don’t fall. But all I could think of is, what’s wrong with this shower? Is really dangerous? Why all the precaution?

I’m pretty sure that “danger” isn’t the message that Hyatt wants to be sending to its guests in the shower. Many of us already have jarring associations with showers, thanks to Hitchcock and Psycho. In fact, given the amounts of granite, soft white towels and scented bath products, I’m pretty sure that Hyatt wants me to be thinking about luxury, pampering, and relaxation when I’m in the bathroom. But those grab bars tell a different story.

Businesses have to be very careful about the messages that experiences with their brands convey. The human brain is wired to pay attention to incongruity. So we’ll notice the things that stand out more than the things that fit into a complete picture. This means that people might actually be paying more attention to the message that you’re accidentally sending than to the one that you mean to send. A couple of extra grab bars ruin the hard work that Hyatt has put into telling me a positive story about their bathrooms and their hotels.

This experience makes me think of other messages that we send indirectly, especially surrounding safety. When the monkeys were little, I spent one anxious hour and too much money on the One Step Ahead website, buying safety products. I bought a power strip cover, cabinet locks, outlet covers, door knob covers, toilet seat locks, latches, and a wire guard. It was completely overkill, and I only bought about 5% of the products that you can buy to ‘protect’ your infants and toddlers.

I think it’s important to protect your kids and to make your house a safe place to play. But I didn’t end up using half the stuff I bought. And I’m really glad. When I fill my house with locks and bumpers and plastic protection devices,  what message am I really sending to my children? Am I telling them that the world is a safe and fun place to explore, or, like Hyatt, am I reinforcing the fact that the world is dangerous and scary?

There are ways to create safe play environments without posting large signs that say “danger lies here.” Removing dangerous objects from a room where kids will be playing, securing furniture to the walls, and putting dangerous items out of reach are effective ways to create a safe environment for play. In fact, they’re better than buying a bunch of so called safety devices because they’re less expensive, they don’t call attention to danger, and they send a neutral or positive message about the world.

I didn’t like the feeling that the shower was a dangerous place that I got from all the grab bars in the shower. Why would I want to tell my kids that our living room is a dangerous place?



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