Farewell to another classic hotel branding icon
Farewell to another classic hotel branding icon
28 MAY 2020 7:38 AM

Branded pens won’t make it out of the pandemic and I’m not happy about that.

First it was the delightfully mundane hotel postcards. Next it was the Holiday Inn bath mat. And now, the latest casualty of the hotel branding game: pens.

By now I’m sure you’ve read this article or a similar take describing what the post-pandemic hotel experience may look like, focusing on changes to the guest experience that emphasize cleanliness and a touch-free experience. To facilitate that, a lot of familiar items may go by the wayside, including the ubiquitous branded pen.

Friends, stop reading now if you’re not in the mood for something a little silly, because this week I offer up my ode to the hotel pen.

Quick exercise: Go to your junk drawer, grab a handful of pens and just look at how many of those are hotel pens.

Here’s my results: I pulled up a pen from the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, which has just the best little bar ever. I have one from The Statler, which is a mystery because I have never stayed at the Statler in Dallas or Ithaca, New York, and The Statler in Cleveland closed well before my time. In this same bunch I pulled out one from the Doubletree that came from a stay at the Times Square location. I remember asking the front desk for a pen so I could write down an address. The poor guy noticed I had been crying and he offered me an extra cookie (That was not a good trip). Next up is a pencil from The Standard that says “Poke Me” on it. That’s definitely from the analog-is-retro-cool era when boutiques did pencils instead of pens. And last, but not least, there’s a fantastically reliable click ballpoint pen from Choice, which is simple, straightforward and performs as expected—just like most Choice hotels.

Maybe you throw these pens away, or don’t even take them in the first place. It could be an occupational hazard, but I always take the pen because what if my laptop conks out and I need to get the quote? I never set out to build this collection, but a collection it has become.

And I like it.

Hotel pens are useful, they’re simple and they evoke memories. They’re textbook marketing devices, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, pens in hotel rooms are byproducts of a forgotten era. They recall those days when you picked up the actual phone to call a friend in the city, then jotted down the address to the place you’d meet for a drink (If you’re in San Antonio, may I suggest the Menger Hotel?)

Now nobody jots down anything. We store an address in our phones or ask that friend to text directions.

This pandemic is accelerating our already-breakneck move toward a completely digital existence.

Pens may be the first to go, but pads are right there with them, along with that delightful padded folder you still see in plenty of full-service hotels. Please tell me I’m not the only one who looks through all of it, just in case I need an exhaustive list of phone numbers for every rental car company in America. And tell me I’m not the only one who still feels a little frisson of delight when I see some hotel stationery tucked in the front that likely hasn’t been touched since 1982?

I like the fine Corinthian leather padfolio, and I take the pens because I’m pretty analog at the end of the day and I take some comfort in physical nostalgia. There’s not much room for that in the future we’re facing. It’s for the best, and the cleanest, but I’ll still miss those things.

I know every asset manager is doing the calculation to show that eliminating pens will save the average hotel owner tens of thousands of dollars, just like when United Airlines took olives off salads. Good thing I have my extensive personal collection of pens to fall back on!

One last word about my collection: A few months ago, I tried to thin the herd and toss any pen that didn’t write anymore. As a result of that exhaustive research project, I concluded that the fancier the hotel, the cheaper the pen. That stands to reason, since typical luxury hotel guests likely just whip out their monogrammed Montblanc when they must write something down, but there you have it.

Want to share a hotel pen story? Come on, I know some of you are like me. Comment below, email me at sricca@hotelnewsnow.com or share some hotel pen pics on Twitter @HNN_Steph

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.


  • Ed Watkins May 28, 2020 11:24 AM Reply

    When I was a hotel journalist every year I would get a package in the mail from Ronn Lozner of BIC filled with scores (maybe hundreds) of pen styles and models he was selling. As a devoted pen and pencil nerd (Have you been to the pencil store in NYC?), I also liked to peruse the pens in the thousands of hotel rooms I inhabited in 40+ years in the business.

  • Colleen Isherwood May 28, 2020 12:01 PM Reply

    As editor of Canadian Lodging News, I get lots of hotel pens — and will miss them when they're gone. Today's count in the Camp Travelodge cup that holds such things is 10 pens from hotel companies, one flowered pen given by a friend, one from Smart Serve Ontario, two from our financial advisor, one from our real estate agent and one unbranded. Hotel notepads and the magazines showing destination restaurants and attractions are also on the way out, and I will miss those as well.

  • David Avrin May 28, 2020 7:16 PM Reply

    Don't play the funeral bagpipes too soon for the hotel pen. While they may vanish from the rooms at some point, they will still be a fixture in the conference rooms along with the branded pads. Although meeting attendees more often tap away on their MacBooks these days, there is still a demand for pads and pens from the old school attendees.

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