The Refrigerator that Made No Sense

As time goes by, I get more and more interested in how to design for entire experiences beyond a computer screen. A place like Disney World, for example, invests a lot of time and energy to ensure that little is left to chance in the experience of visiting their theme park. Similarly, architecture is fascinating to me because our buildings are, in a way, a huge interface for us to interact with.

Recently, I stayed at a motel. It was run down and kind of terrifying, like an ecommerce site that didn’t quite work right and looked like it was 10 years old. It offered a lot of amenities, but those amenities weren’t quite right. My favorite were the refrigerator and microwave. Having these things in a hotel room is awesome. You get to bring food with you on the road, save it, save your leftovers, eat them later. It’s great for thrift and for not wasting food.

Both of these devices were plugged into an outlet controlled by the lightswitch. That is, when you enter the room and turn on the light, the refrigerator comes on and the microwave starts beeping because it wants you to set the time. So, you get a great choice if you want to keep that refrigerator running: You can sleep with the light on, or you can get a ladder and unscrew the light bulb in the light, or you can push around the refrigerator and plug it in somewhere else. All of these choices are great.

I’m sure the logic behind this decision was to save power. If no one is in the room, why run those appliances? But it lead to this weird problem as a user of the room.