That much-discussed Yobot robotic arm that grabs and stores your luggage at the soon-to-open Yotel Times Square got us thinking about other nifty labor saving devices – as in the saving of the hotel staff’s labor – around town. We visited three hotels with clever do-it-yourself amenities, read the instructions and pushed the appropriate buttons. How did we fare?
+ Scoring a glass of Pinot Grigio The debut of the Grand Hyatt’s Grand Central restaurant and bar late last fall was cause to cheer. Not only does the silvery-blue suite of open-plan dining rooms and adjoining bar look loads better than its worn-out predecessor, Grand Central boasts a wall of push-button wine-by-the-glass machines. You purchase a keycard from the bartender – any amount you want, just like a Starbucks card – then choose your wine. More than 16 bottles, each equipped with a straw down the middle, are kept chilled – or not, as required – in glass-fronted, stainless steel compartments. Select your grape, swipe your card, and push a button for the amount you want. The Canvas 2009 California Pinot Grigio costs $12 for a full glass, $6 for a half glass and $2 for a taste. Blue-Eyed Boy 2007 Shiraz from Australia is $30 for a glass, $18 for a half and – ouch — $6 for a sip. We splashed out a sip of the Oz, then opted for a glass of the Pinot Gri. Part of the pleasure came from reading the labels while making a selection. But it’s easy to imagine commuters waiting for their trains or conventioneers bored with the keynote speaker stopping by for a glass (or two).
DIY rating: 9 out of 10 – once we filled up a card with the bartender we filled our glass(es) effortlessly on our own.
+ Making waffles When the Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square revamped its buffet breakfast last November, do-it-yourself waffles joined the daily line up of bagels, oatmeal, cereal, fruit and specials like Eggs Florentine and breakfast burritos. Waffle-craving guests grab a bottle of batter – the bottles look like cute mini-milk bottles — pour it on a waffle iron, and close the iron’s lid. Presto – an almost instant waffle appears that’s a lot better than an Eggo. Fresh fruit and, er, Reddi-Whip are on hand as garnishes.
DIY rating: 10 out of 10 – We made our waffle all by ourselves, though a chef was on hand if we needed help.
+ Buying a Holly Go Lightly sleep mask After hearing about Hudson hotel’s lobby vending machine, aka the Semi-Automatic, for what seems like decades we decided pay it a visit. The big, chartreuse-accented machine stands opposite the elevator. We touched its screen and eyed the choices – Haute Hippie sequin mini-skirt ($295), three-day Blue Point juice cleanse ($255), Mach 3 razor ($10), hard-cover copy of Great Expectations ($20), Equinox Derringer bike ($2,300), Holly Go Lightly sleep mask ($18). We chose Dickens, swiped our credit card, touched the screen – and waited. Nothing happened. Repeatedly. So we opted for the Holly G (wish they sold the ear plugs, too). Bingo! A metal arm reached up, grabbed a black-and-white bag, swung it around and dropped it. We snapped it up, retrieving a mask just like Holly’s. The ultimate grab bag (even if you’re paying for it), it was so much fun we made another stab at the book. No luck.
DIY rating: 8 out of 10 — We asked a guy at the front desk for help when the machine wouldn’t dispense the book, but he couldn’t make it happen, either. A sold-out sign might be nice if that’s the case.