DUST collectors. That is what employees at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers call their new automated check-in kiosks, as one guest who has repeatedly tried to use them found.

"I was checking in, and try as hard as I might, the kiosk wouldn't cooperate," Henry Harteveldt recalled. He flagged down a staff member and said, "This doesn't seem to work."

"Oh," she shrugged. "You mean our dust collector? It never works."

The Sheraton employee had no idea she was confiding to the vice president of travel research at Forrester Research. Otherwise she might not have been so forthright. But that situation is hardly unusual. As these automated check-in machines multiply, the scene is likely to be repeating itself in hotels across the country.

The problem is that the automated check-in kiosks are unreliable. Mr. Harteveldt estimates that more than one in 10 hotel kiosk transactions fail, either because they are incapable of making contact with the hotel's reservation system, or, if they are able to make a link, because they generate a key to the wrong room.

Experienced business travelers often avoid the machines because their performance is so unpredictable.

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