The changing the linens and whatnot are solved problems. (Some businessman-oriented places have a sealed plastic bag of bedclothes hung in the room... you have to do the work of putting them on, but the upside is you know they're clean.)
Getting the price down to where I want to rent one to just take a decent nap during my layover (maybe $25? $40 at most?) is the key thing. As compared to 'my date and I need a space to get intimate for 2 hours' (~$85... okay fine $100... What! ARE YOU SERIOUS $175? THAT'S... OKAY FINE!)
I for one am rooting for them to succeed before my next international connecting flight, though.
The best solution I can see at the moment is to accept only credit cards and then charge heavy fines/institute a ban for trashing the place.
As far as Visa and MasterCard are concerned, if you're generating chargebacks on a regular basis, something is wrong with your business model and you must either correct the business model or stop accepting credit cards as payment for it. It's not a question of whether you were legally owed the money or not; it's about protecting the card brands from whatever negative experience you're creating such that customers feel forced to go to their banks and complain about the charges.
Edit: it seems like the endpoint of all this is the banks. If the credit card companies could send the pictures to them, maybe things could be resolved? But I doubt the banks would want to get involved in that. Either way, if I were running a bank, I would take Visa or MasterCard's word over that of any individual customer.
If a large percentage of your paying customers are so angry with you that they'll complain to any 3rd party they can find, something is wrong with your business and no other brand should want to be associated with the experience you're creating.
A low chargeback limit makes policies like "bury a $300 cleanup fee in the fine print" non-viable. That kind of thing shouldn't be viable even if it's technically legal. If you find a way to charge a cleanup fee and not surprise and anger customers when doing so, you won't get chargebacks. If you find a way to operate the pods without attracting people that will trash them, you won't get chargebacks.
Speaking to your edit: the banks and credit card companies are not separate entities. There are only the banks. The banks own the card brands, and the card brands are not involved in the chargeback process. You dispute a charge by calling your card-issuing bank. The phone number on the back of your card is your bank's number, not Visa's. Visa does not interact directly with customers. Your bank sends the dispute to the bank underwriting the merchant account, which sends it to the merchant. The merchant presents its evidence to its bank, which forwards it back to the card-issuing bank of the customer for a decision.
My company charges high monthly subscriptions, and on several occasions we've had people outright lie to credit card companies to get a chargeback. In 3 years of business we've never had a single legitimate chargeback (e.g., fraud, or someone who wasn't satisfied and asked us for a refund that we refused). The few times we have made mistakes in billing, or some other customer satisfaction issue, the customer called us and we initiated a refund.
In my experience the chargebacks increase the more expensive the transaction, i.e., people are more willing to go through the procedure to make $1000 than, $10.
If just one unscrupulous customer attempts to chargeback months worth of fees, it can easily place us over the limit for the month. We had one customer initiate chargebacks going back 6 months. Plus the customers who are likely to use chargeback scams are also likely to spend more than the average customer in the first place. While we've had no where near even 0.1% of customers attempt (7 in 3 years) this--they're have been several months where 1 chargeback brought us near the 1% threshold.
The worst part about chargebacks is how ridiculously stacked it is for the consumer, and they know it. We've even gotten notices to dispute the chargeback that arrived in the mail after the due date.
I've also had friends who sold large ticket items that had thousand of dollars stolen in chargeback scams.
This problem is only going to get worse as more people become aware of how easy chargebacks are for the customer.
>If you find a way to charge a cleanup fee and not surprise and anger customers when doing so, you won't get chargebacks.
Doesn't matter how upfront you are about it. You can make the customer sign a single sheet of paper with "$300 cleanup fee in case of damage" written in 30pt font. If you try to charge a cleanup or damage fee--chances are the customer will initiate a chargeback.
The only customers who are going to get charged a $300 cleanup fee are the customers who don't respect other people's property in the first place--those kinds of people have no problem with illegitimate chargebacks.
With volume so low, it's probably not a real threshold for you. Your processor is looking out for their ratio, since they're answerable to Visa/MC for it. If they've been around a while, they're probably very lenient with such small customers. Your little chargeback won't make a dent in their own rate, so better to keep you around until you might grow to a larger, more profitable business for them. If you still get >1% at a higher volume, THEN you're an actual problem for them.
> we've gotten notices to dispute the chargeback that arrived in the mail after the due date
I have too. It sucks but isn't unusual. You really need to get chargeback notices over the web or fax. MSPs that don't offer a web portal will always be able to fax you the notices, so sign up for one of the online fax services and give them your number. You'll be notified when they get the notice instead of days later when it makes it through the postal system.
> chances are the customer will initiate a chargeback
That was my point. The chargeback limits exist, in part, to discourage business models that create widespread dissatisfaction over the payments. In this instance, they would need to find a better way to deter or handle people messing up the beds than charging a fee to a card on file.
And I don't know how common chargebacks for unethical purposes are, but neither me nor anyone I know has ever mentioned using a chargeback in a situation where they weren't genuinely scammed.
I'm not sure there's a way to distinguish a "regular" credit card from a prepaid store-bought "credit" card, which are easily obtained by the undesirables.
Maybe you could try putting a thousand-dollar hold on the card for verification. Car rental could also be a good business to study for inspiration.
A hold would work much better though -- for example, I don't keep a huge amount of money in my checking account which is what is connected to my debit card, and a $1k hold would fail usually. Mind you I'm in the U.S. where there's not a huge difference between debit/credit cards.
Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.
So, he decides to piss in a corner and continue sleeping until he gets out.
Who is going to clean that?
I've used the Yotel inside the international transit area at Schiphol for jet lag purposes, during a 5-hour stopover on an intercontinental flight; it beats a recliner in a business lounge into a cocked hat for thouse 4-hour dead spots after a sleepless red-eye. I wish this idea would catch on at more hub airports!
Here is a picture from the Schiphol Yotel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bergie/5818894255/in/photostrea...
And really, the tired business executive is the ideal customer ... but you're probably more likely to get a bunch of less-than-ideal customers whose actions inside the pod are going to require a more extensive cleanup.
I have a feeling that even if the company has come up with some innovative ways to address these problems, I'm pretty sure the public perception of the pods will be negative, because you're naturally going to assume that the pods have been occupied by people doing unsavory things. It's going to be perceived as the generally gross Porta-Potty of the accommodations industry.
One of the nice things about hotels and hostels and other places that are staffed 24/7 is that if someone lights up a cigarette in a nonsmoking room, or starts trashing the hotel room, there's someone on hand to address the problem. Here, I can only assume, the pods would only be sporadically monitored.
I think a better solution to problem of tired executives with minimal needs for amenities is in the pod hotels that you can find in the biggest metro areas. They're somewhat similar to these pods in design, but because they're located in hotel structures, they are staffed and the linens are changed, rooms cleaned, etc. by humans:
Why is everyone assuming this is a fully automatic coin operated system?
I read "miniature, ready to go hotel rooms that you can buy, put anywhere you want (inside a building) and figure out how to manage yourself."
Seems to me like it'd be a good way of doing exactly what you have mentioned: a podhotel.
The entire POINT of it is that it's automated enough that you don't have to deal with that crap.
The airport/station staff can do the daily cleaning and replenishing. Also, they can give you a grace period of 5 mins to reject the pod if there's a problem with it (smoking, unsanitary, etc).
This isn't a high tech startup. These units would be placed in very public places, so initial impressions would have an enormous impact on their subsequent success (or failure). Imagine the worst things someone could do within one of these units and then ask yourself how you would discretely clean that within a public space.
The previous poster is right: Given their semi-public/semi-private nature and the fact that they include beds, there's no way in the world these units wouldn't be used by mischievous travelers. The media would have a field day with this - and not just the news: TV sitcoms and certain nighttime dramas would be racing to be the first to be the first to include a pod episode.
It's hard to see the units not turn into a running joke that no concourse operator would want to be associated with.
The cattle will never see them.
This seems like an easy one to iterate on. You put one box in one airport. You catch every customer as they're coming out (which should be easy as departure will be indicated on booking, and you'll want to go by to clean it anyhow). You ask them what they think.
If initial impressions are somehow terrible, then you solve the problems and set your next one up with different branding in a different airport. Then keep iterating.
2. Take a photo afterwards.
3. Use a reputation system.
I suppose positive points would mean you get a cheaper stay in another pod, and so on.
No computer analysis, no nothing. If there is a complaint or a need to check the photos, someone can. Automation can come later.
Add a reputation system to catch repeat offenders (with proof) and you're done. Cheap and simple.
A few years back I spent many weeks trying to figure out how to purchase and get shipped one of the Japanese capsule hotel units to my apartment. I found a manufacturer (whose website was entirely in Japanese) and eventually was able to figure out that it wasn't really feasible (getting one of the units shipped to the U.S. was a nightmare, and the units are generally meant to be purchased in bulk), which made me sad.
I fully concede that I'm a weirdo, but I've dreamed about sleeping in a little cocoon module for most of my life (I spent a lot of my childhood wishing I was on a submarine, I'm a-ok with enclosed spaces).
I could build one myself but I always live with people who might treat me like I was insane.
But essentially a completely sound-proof little capsule where you can go in, close the door, set the temperature whatever you wish (18 degrees!), and then sleep without light or sound waking you.
But I like the idea.
- ipod with white noise
- mindfold mask (mindfold.com)
- inflatable neck pillow
- backpack with strap wrapped around my arm
- empty gate of any soon-to-be-bankrupt airline
- you have no privacy
- it's difficult to get comfortable
- you're always paranoid about somebody taking your stuff
- there's usually a cleaning crew who make a lot of noise and sometimes you have to move your stuff for them
I'd much rather use a sleepbox.
Amex Platinum (which, admittedly, is $450/yr) also gets you into a lot of lounges.
Founders Card gets you lounge access through mid-tier airline status on a few airlines (especially useful for Cathay Pacific, my favorite airline in the world).
I'd totally prefer a coach ticket + $50 lounge pass + + nice ipad and iphone and $500 headphones + nicer hotel room, food, car, etc. at destination, to paid first class tickets.
I was flying through Philly and almost got stuck there overnight. It looked like my options were to get a ~$150/night hotel that was near the airport (no vouchers available since it was 'weather related' despite no bad weather) or just sleep in the airport.
I had tried asking if there was a way I could get access to the lounge. The answers I got seemed to indicate there either wasn't one, or it wasn't open overnight, or perhaps I just couldn't pay to get access. Unsure. But I wasn't getting in a lounge either way.
Thankfully, I got a flight back to Cleveland instead of CAK because the flight to Cleveland was running 2 hours behind (perfect for me) and I had a coworker pick me up there instead.
However, the AmEx Platinum card will let you get into most lounges (if you're flying that airline that day). This easily makes it worth the annual fee for frequent flyers.
Many travelers undoubtedly fit the parent's description and budget. I don't think it's helpful in this discussion about sleepbox to focus on that. I can certainly see the appeal for people who might be feeling a little more vulnerable (women for example), more willing and able to pay for some extra comfort, or both.
It worked with a credit card and cost (IIRC) about 15 euros per hour (10 euros/hr in the evening). There was a touch-screen for setting lighting, audio environment, and a wake-up alarm. It also had a bottle opener and a bottle of water. When you're finished, I gather that janitorial staff are notified and the NapCab is cleaned up and restocked for the next person.
Their website doesn't seem to be active anymore, so maybe the company didn't succeed - but here's a not-very-good picture of what mine looked like:
This sounds like a rationalization. For me, the reasons not to sleep in public are that public spaces are designed to discourage it, and cops will wake me up.
Public sleeping should be a right, but if something like Sleepbox becomes common, it will become even harder to sleep without having money.
Are you a technology worker? I've noticed many people with critiques of civilization are into technology.
Depends they might have it outside security, in the public area. Would make more sense to have it there.
Word will spread that they scan your fingerprints and irises, and link them to unpaid charges. A homeless schizophrenic who enjoys painting with feces merely has to cough uo the $500 clean up fee before his next stay. I.e., lifetime ban.
There are plenty of times I've been in an airport and would love to just be alone. This would be perfect.
So if you look at AirBnB, one of its 'features' is that all of the renters and sellers are pre-vetted (and yes this doesn't always work but it keeps problem people in the system low). Look at the 'clear' system for pre-screening air travelers.
This sort of automated sleep spot is vulnerable to being trashed, so one solution is to create a signup process where the clients get some sort of identifying token, a key if you will, that allow them to use units.
The Sleepbox folks have a cool futuristic render but they don't seem to have an actual unit. That is a red flag for me but it only means that I won't invest in one until I see one actually 'in production.'
Resupply and restocking is a challenge too, but only if you want fast turn around and low employment costs. You can hire folks to turn over a unit when someone leaves and just be on site the whole time. Depending on occupancy rate and charges will determine if that is feasible.
So there are lots of variables but I don't see that there are any huge barriers to implementing this sort of scheme but I do wonder if there is a working business model in there somewhere.
But there isn't anything since then. And to me its even stranger that their homepage they don't mention the installation. So my take on that was this was a 'demo' and not a real installation. Can you tell me if there are any being commercially operated ?
Possible ways that this could work:
- Make it subscription based with the regular credit card deposit liability. Any type of damage to the equipment would be accountable to the person who stayed there.
- There would need to be persons responsible for maintaining these units 24 hrs a day. That person could be responsible for units in one space, or an area depending on use frequency. The unit would not be available until serviced after every use.
- Make the unit more transparent. Use tinted glass instead of opaque walls. Tinted enough to block out bright light, but not opaque so that inhabitant(s) are not free to do whatever they want. this is just a more comfortable way to nap/relax and not an actual hotel.
Being more realistic, it might be cash-flow positive from the start and turn a profit after the first year, if you put it somewhere popular and get the cleaning/maintenance routine nailed down with decent cost control in place.
My only complaint is not really with the concept itself, it's just that I'm generally using these things, I'm nervous I'll sleep too long and miss my flight.
I'm assuming you'll require a credit card to use, which should cut down on a lot of the unsavory activities people are discussing.
All that being said these things look really overwrought, made from a strange collection of materials, and seem unlikely to be as clean as they should be. The rounded corners are driving me crazy.
I could see myself renting one of these things for a month in a city I visit on holiday.
I think the obvious thing would be to integrate it with a backpack (with the backpack itself expandable in size, probably), and have only the bed/matress there (so it's not very tall, even when expanded).)
Since this is aimed at business travelers, it shouldn't be too hard to limit it to single occupancy.
Just add some kind of occupancy sensor--weight distribution on the bed maybe--that alerts an employee when it detects more than one person.
Further, a hotel owner can't just barge in on a tenant. They have to believe someone is doing something illegal, disturbing other tenants or causing damage.
I think I could write an algorithm to filter out the vast majority of false positives. With enough pressure sensors under the mattress, and maybe passive IR it really shouldn't be too difficult (face recognition with automated deletes and no long term recording or viewing capabilities would probably be easiest, but people would find it creepy). Suitcases don't move the way people do, pressure distribution is different (also who's traveling with 100+ pound suitcases) etc...
Moving your legs shouldn't be too hard to filter out either. Btw if anyone wants to pay me, I'm up for the project ;)
Now that I think about it Volvo made a heartbeat sensor, I think using an acceleration to detect minute vibrations. That could work as well.
>Would you want your company to be known for refusing to allow a nursing mother and father to sit next to each other on the bed? What about a parent and a child?
This is only for single occupancy business travel pods, no room for 2 people, no children allowed.
>Further, a hotel owner can't just barge in on a tenant. They have to believe someone is doing something illegal, disturbing other tenants or causing damage.
That depends on local laws, in many places breaking house rules (having more than one occupant) is enough to allow them to enter.
In any case it doesn't matter, if they have reason to believe you are breaking the rules they can keep knocking on the door until you open up.
I always thought hostels were cheaper than that, per night. Is that pretty accurate though?
I worked on this startup for about 7 months with 3 other grad students (at the time) and thus have spent way too much time learning about this problem, the challenges involved in addressing it, and prior/existing attempts to do so. We directly interviewed over 100 potential customers for it, managed to track down and talk to other founders in this space, wrote a full business plan, etc. Here are some of my insights:
- Far and away the #1 most commonly asked question we got was: "But won't people have sex in it?" The #2 most common (arguably a corollary) was “How will you keep them clean?” But that’s not the interesting part... the fascinating thing is that you ONLY get these questions when people are envisioning something similar to the Sleepbox (frequently mocked as “Sexbox” or “Sleazebox” in online comment sections and the like). Neither Metronaps (i.e. high-tech recliner) nor Yotel (i.e. super-compact hotel room) seem to inspire this “ick” factor. Why? My hypothesis: Imagine a spectrum from “chair-like” (zero enclosure, zero privacy) to “room-like” (total enclosure, total privacy). On the “chair” end, it doesn’t really occur to us that some stranger might have sexed on it, even if it’s totally possible. On the “room” end, we know full well that strangers probably HAVE sexed there, but it doesn’t bother us because we consider a private room to be an acceptable, non-sketchy place to do such things. It’s only at some point in the middle that the perceived “wholesomeness” of the design plummets dramatically... we are squicked by the thought that some stranger may have sexed somewhere they are not SUPPOSED to. This effect was so predictable that I started calling it the “Unwholesome Valley” (like the “Uncanny Valley,” but with a different x-axis) For NapTime, I had some ideas for how to get safely to the left, “chair” end of the Unwholesome Valley while still providing a sense of security (highly important to most people we interviewed) and making access restriction a possibility (essential if you want to make any money.)
- People often think of airline travelers as the most lucrative market for a sleep pod business, because they’re always tired, they’re a captive market, and travelers are often willing to spend more money. However, there are a few major hurdles that make airports a difficult place to make money (most of these I learned from talking with a founder who had tried to do an airport version of their napping business, without success). Perhaps the most non-obvious is this: airports are empty most of the time. Most airports have four “spikes” per day when it is crowded; the rest of the time, it is almost totally deserted. Most of us perceive airports as being busy all the time; this is because we, as travelers, are only there during those spikes. Businesses who sell to airline travelers know otherwise. The “spiky” nature of airport occupancy is a particular problem for a napping pod business because 1) Most of the time, there are no customers around and 2) When you are suddenly surrounded by customers during a spike, you have limited ability to take advantage of it, because each pod only holds one person (unlike an airport coffee stand which is limited only by how quickly they can perform each transaction). However, I do believe success is possible if you account for the challenges while designing the business model and the pod itself.
- Despite the technical challenges, I believe that it is better to have a “vending” model where each pod is independent and self-service, rather than a “sleep salon” model where the pods are grouped together in a lounge with an attendant. The primary reason (again, according to founder interview) is that tired people are extremely reluctant to walk ANY distance to get their nap, so you need to locate the pod exactly where the demand is (demand is spread out within the building, and so too must your pods). I would also hypothesize that tired people would prefer not to interact with a human attendant and deal with the self-consciousness of sleeping in his/her presence.
Long post, I know, but this was practically my whole life for the better part of a year, so I have lots to babble about. My cofounders ended up ditching the project upon graduation despite seeming very gung-ho about founding up until that point. I put the project on ice, but I would love to pick it up again someday under the right circumstances and with the right people. Who knows... if you’re interested, contact me. I live near Mountain View.
That's a solvable problem. I still love the idea.