Disclaimers that backfire

I am staying at a lakeside hotel, in Hannover. Its rooms carry a card with a few running routes around the lake. Overleaf, it also comes with this disclaimer.

Courtyard.jpg

Without doubt, this card is a good gesture. But on reading the disclaimer, what do I perceive?

It tells me the extent to which the hotel trusts me. It also tells me the hotel’s need to save its ass. But herein lies a problem of percentages.

Of the thousands of guests that the hotel hosts, it would take a really rare one to sue them for an accident along a recommended running route. Furthermore, the odds of such a crazy person actually encountering an accident and winning the legal battle that follows are remarkably remote.

But contrast this with the high percentage of guests who are likely to read this card. The card sends a signal to every guest that the hotel feels they are likely enough to be the crazy person described above. Thereby, the disclaimer dilutes their experience at the hotel ever so slightly. Also, being in the hospitality business does not help the hotel here.

Every touchpoint with a guest influences their experience – the design of the lobby, the cleanliness of the lift, the friendliness of the receptionist and disclaimers on cards. Sure, every hotel needs to protect itself against psychotic customers and an imperfect legal system. But what is the best means to do so? Is it to leave a card that “assumes no responsibility” for a freak injury?

I would think otherwise.

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