The conditioner bottles at The Hampton Inn

When I was in Austin for SxSW Interactive, I stayed at the Hampton Inn a block away from the Austin Convention Center. I chose the hotel because it was convenient, even though the room rate was out of control — $299/night (which I got reduced to $259). I recognize that when 10,000 geeks descend upon a small city, the hotels can choose to charge whatever the hell they want, but it was still a ridiculous rate for a mid-level hotel.

Some time ago the Hampton Inn was purchased by Hilton, so despite it having been a somewhat lower-level brand, I was happy to give it a try. All in all my stay was comfortable, though the amenities were rather sparse, as was the room. I’m pretty easy going and don’t require much beyond cleanliness, so the place suited me just fine, with one major exception — the shampoo and conditioner bottles.

In telling the following story to a couple friends last week, they were surprised by the fact that I even use the hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles, but yes, I do. I like to pack light, and I hate checking my bags. I’m a low maintenance girl, and I don’t particularly care what kind of shampoo and conditioner I use so long as it cleans my hair.

Brand name and formula don’t mean much to me. I really only have one basic requirement of my shampoo and conditioner — that I be able to get it out of the bottle!

Every morning in the shower at the Hampton Inn was a battle of wills: me versus the conditioner bottle. I shook and shook and danced around the tub, but I just couldn’t make that conditioner budge. The shampoo was tough, but better — it’s a thinner consistency and therefore pours out of the bottle more easily. But the conditioner is thick and pulpy and not entirely liquid. And in order to get it out of the bottle and into your hand, you need to get air into the bottle to help push it out.

So herein lies the problem: in order to get air into a plastic bottle you need to be able to squeeze it. When you squeeze a bottle in, you push the air out — and, if you’re following me, the conditioner goes with it. When your release the bottle from your squeeze, air comes in. Usually an air bubble is formed at the bottom of the bottle (because you’re holding it upside down, the bottom is facing up) and once you squeeze again, that air bubble tries to get out and pushes the conditioner with it. I think we all understand how this works.

Well take a look at the bottles that the Hampton Inn provided me in my bathroom:

They are square (well, technically right rectangular prisms or cuboids) and not squeezable!

See that’s me squeezing on the bottle with all of my might and as you can see it doesn’t move. It’s hard plastic with sharp corners and rigid.

After four days of struggling with the bottle, I finally decided to go downstairs to the little sundries shop and buy myself a proper bottle of shampoo and conditioner. When I went to check out, the kind lady behind the desk informed me that there was no need to buy some when the hotel provided it for free. Then she went into her office and came out a moment later with the Hampton Inn shampoo and conditioner bottles of a different shape! CYLINDRICAL! To be more exact, an elliptical cylinder (the best shape possible for the task). I can’t imagine what she thought when she saw my face light up.

Compare these guys side by side and you’ll see the difference:

Sure, maybe the cylindrical bottle isn’t as classy-looking as the cuboid, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to use and cuts 10 minutes off of my shower time.

See how natural it is to squeeze?

It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the bottle is actually tapering in as I squeeze it, pushing the conditioner up towards the opening. Quite a concept.

I’ve gone to great lengths to deconstruct the conditioner bottle at the Hampton Inn to illustrate a very important lesson — aesthetics, when misused, can severely diminish the quality of experience. Standards are often standards for very good reason. Consider physics, consider kinesiology and human factors, consider accessibility, and then consider why things are the way they are before you go and try to change them.

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  1. says

    What an excellent (and humorous) rumination on the age-old conflict between aesthetics and usability. I would have been beside myself with shock and awe when presented with the cylindrical bottle in the sundries shop, seriously. :-)

  2. Villy says

    I travel frequently and have not much issues with hotel bottles. However sometimes due to cold temperature the liquid gets thicker and stuck in the bottle, for which I either keep the bottle inverted for a while or keep it under hot tap water to warm up the liquid.

  3. Robert says

    Been there. My solution?
    I call room service. I invite them into the bathroom where the bottle lies open on the floor. I put my head alongside the open end and ask them to stomp on it, jetting the product onto my waiting head.
    This can get awkward since they have to wait while I lather>rinse>repeat>condition — periodically popping my dripping head out for the next round. I don’t tip…the bottle should be squeezeable.

  4. says

    @whitney If i had a $1 for all the times ive wondered what manufacturers of shampoo/conditioners were thinking when they designed their bottles, id be super rich right now.

    @Robert I love your idea, its genius. I might try that at the Hilton next time


  1. […] Pleasure and Pain » The conditioner bottles at The Hampton Inn this is to myself who once designed shampoo bottle in this wrong way. need to come up with some solution without changing the shape or otherwise… (tags: design usability ux) […]

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