Most "Close Door" Buttons Don't Work, And Most Office Thermostats Are Fakes

You can stop pounding on the “Close Door” button on the elevator. They’re not there for you. Turns out that most of them don’t work unless you’ve a maintenance person or fireman with the special access key inserted. It’s just one of several different “placebo buttons” placed around our world that only give us the illusion of control.

Walk buttons? In Manhattan they’re totally useless, as the New York Times reported in 2004. And most office thermostats are dummies, not connected to any system at all. In 2003 the WSJ detailed how they’re just installed by HVAC guys who are sick of office workers calling them up and complaining about the temperature.

To get around this, some NASA engineers described how they tweak the temperature, like:

* Getting ahold of the special wrenches to undo thermostat covers
* For heat, strapping bags of ice water to the sensors
* For cold, holding lamps or monitors up to the thermostat
* Getting a ladder, popping through the drop ceiling, and adjusting the dampers for more cold

Crazy! Next thing you’ll be telling me this button in the coffee break room that says “Get Raise” isn’t functional.

Employees Only Think They Control Thermostat [WSJ via Futility Closet]
For Exercise in New York Futility, Push Button [NYT via Futility Closet]

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  1. danmac says:

    Walk buttons? As the New York Times reported in 2004, they’re also largely useless.

    While this may be true in New York, where every light cycle is programmed to accommodate pedestrians, that’s totally not the case in smaller municipalities. Where I live, the “walk” signal WILL NOT COME ON if you don’t push the button.

    • OnePumpChump says:

      That is true in Tucson, Arizona. Which fucking SUCKS.

      The ones in Fairbanks, Alaska don’t do anything.

      • SkokieGuy says:

        They used to work, but quit.

        • danmac says:

          They used to work, but quit.

          Well that’s what happens when a light believes it’s destined for greater things when it’s actually just a piece of shit light.

          Wait…you were making a Palin metaphor, right?

    • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

      Yep. I cross a busy street twice a day at a crosswalk, along with a bunch of tourists. The tourists never press the button, and then start complaining about how there’s no time for them to walk. Then a commuter comes up behind them and hits the button. There should really be a sign saying whether or not the button matters.

      • Kitamura says:

        Where I live they have big signs over the button that say “Push to Cross X Street/Avenue”. Some of them say “Push for audible signal only” which some people seem to think it the press to cross button too.

    • tinmanx says:

      I always press the buttons, it’s fun.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        The more you hit it, the sooner it turns, too.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      That’s how it is most places I’ve been, but I’d believe some of the buttons not working. I was in Dallas a couple of weeks ago and on two separate instances in a less than one mile stretch I could NOT get a walk signal at an intersection no matter how many times I pressed the button.

      • GearheadGeek says:

        Walk buttons don’t work in Dallas because no one “from around here” walks. ;)

        I get a kick out of watching Texans drive around parking lots hunting for a spot closer to the door. I’ve seen people already hunting for a spot when I drive in, and when I park somewhere and walk in they’ll still be cruising around when I’m walking in the door of the business.That extra 150 feet of walking is just too much for them to even consider.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          And I should have said “my fellow Texan” because I’m a lifelong Texan, we’re just more pragmatic than some, and I like to park further out anyway because fewer people bash my car with their damned pickup truck doors.

          • EarthAngel says:

            Texas amuses me. When we drove through there, there were tire marks on the grass along the side of the freeway. It’s like the home owners didn’t want to drive all the way to the entrance ramp, so they just drove their trucks across the grass. We saw it on quite a few “driveways”, so I’m assuming it wasn’t an isolated incident.

        • regis-s says:

          What gets me is the people that will sit and block traffic waiting for someone to pull out of a spot while there are all sorts of open ones twenty feet away. Add to that it’s often someone in a big ass pickup or suv and the spot is marked is “small car only”.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I can vouch that the buttons around the Old Town Alexandria area work, but tourists ignore the buttons and just walk into oncoming traffic.

    • noinamg says:

      is my summer job there was a great stop light that would change to yellow the very second you pressed the button. so naturally i would wait for the largest amount of cars to come my way before attempting to cross.

    • Emperor Norton I says:

      None of them work in any place in Chicago I’ve ever been, but they always work in all the suburbs.
      In many suburban locations, even when the light turns green, you don’t automatically get a walk light without pushing the button.

    • Promethean Sky says:

      Where I live (metro Detroit) the walk buttons do turn on the walk lights, but don’t do a thing to alter the green/yellow/red cycle, so I’m baffled as to what the point is.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        The walk button here (Fairfax, VA) does ‘alter’ the cycle, by making the light stay red much longer for the street the pedestrian is crossing. One intersection on my way to work will have a brief red light for the “main” street when there is only car traffic crossing, but if someone presses the Walk button, the red light last for what seems like forever, in order to give the pedestrians enough time to safely cross the very wide main street.

    • superml says:

      I’m pretty sure the walk signals up here in Canada make the lights shorter.

      • Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

        That…depends. I’ve only come across one traffic light where pressing “the button” actually does shorten the green light cycle–you press the button, the light’s already counting down with the flashing stop hand and 6 seconds later (yes, the pedestrian signals up here have visible countdown timers), the light’s amber. But here anyway, the buttons do work, otherwise the light may never change or give you the white “walk” signal. But personally, I’d rather have better timed traffic signals — getting stuck in a line of red lights is infuriating.

    • Rena says:

      They do all manner of interesting things here. At some spots the walk sign won’t come on if you don’t press the button beforehand. Some it comes on as soon as you press the button and even extends the green cycle to give you a chance. Others, it doesn’t do anything. There are some where the walk sign just never comes on, and some where it comes on every time. This makes walking with exchange students very interesting.

    • Difdi says:

      The intersection closest to where I live will cancel the walk button if a car passes over one of the sensors in the street on the road that has the red light at the moment, without stopping. One time when there were a lot of people making free right turns, I waited over ten minutes for a walk signal (police here are VERY zealous about writing jaywalking tickets, so crossing against the light isn’t usually worth it, given the proximity of that intersection to a police station).

  2. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    The thermostats are not “fake”. At least in the buildings I worked in, the HVAC was controlled by a Building Management Computer. The thermostats gave us temp readings and had a switch that gave the employees a 2 degree adjustment either up or down from the baseline. Our system also had an internal button in the thermostat that you could press the body of the thermostat to give you an extra 2 degree “bump” for two hours.

    • Preyfar says:

      It depends. My former boss use to be an HVAC technician before he got into IT. They used to install faux-thermostat boxes all the time for people who feel more sensitive to the temperature changes.

      My company does this, too. I know it sounds like a stereotype, but in my office, the women here are always cold. ALWAYS. They tend to bring in portable heaters into their offices (some have two or three), which toast up the place, make it really uncomfortable, and on top of that, are a fire hazard. To get around it, the building will install a dummy air conditioning unit, and when they do, people feel they have more control, and feel more comfortable. Once they feel they’re in control of the heat, they seem to be fine with wearing a sweater in the winter vs having all the damn lil’ heaters everywhere.

      • shepd says:

        Hmmm, seems to me like it would be more fun to re-wire the outlets they’re using for their heaters with 5-amp fuses. Plenty enough to get their desktop and desk light running. It’ll blow when they plug in their heater. And then you can start telling them they get unpaid holidays when they don’t follow the rules, because their desktop will be off all day and they won’t be getting work done!

        Yes, I’m that evil.

        • KyBash says:

          Many, many years ago (pre-Internet), plans circulated for how to build a blowable outlet that fit into a standard electrical box: it looked exactly like a regular outlet (you could use a standard faceplate). It worked as a normal outlet until the 1, 3, or 5 amp circuit breaker you used inside it popped — that set off the fireworks/flashpowder.

          I always wanted to build one, but it seemed too much like work.

        • NatalieErin says:

          Just have them plug the heater into the same circuit that serves the office refrigerator.

          I work in commercial property management, and every fall we get our series of tripped circuit calls because of this.

          • shepd says:

            Sadly, that’s against code (or at least it’s against code here–the only thing that may share the fridge circuit is a wall clock outlet, generally to be installed above the fridge). But, that being said, it isn’t unusual to see people abuse the fridge circuit since “it has nothing on it…”

      • cash_da_pibble says:

        I am really quite sensitive to cold, and have found that’s it’s just easier on everyone if I dress in layers. Scarves are a year-round necessity for me. In the winter I just bring a throw and keep it on my lap.

        • Julia789 says:

          There was a chick in my office who must have been reptilian. I offered to buy her a hot rock to sit on, or get a big red lightbulb for her. She was always freezing, always had the space heater on and wore scarves and sweaters.

          Turned out she had a thyroid problem that made her feel cold all the time. Now she’s feeling much better!

        • tooluser says:

          You are a good person. Thank you.

      • Mom says:

        No, it’s actually that the guys run too hot. I’ve accused a couple of guys here of being menopausal. They’re constantly turning the thermostat down, even though everyone else, male or female, is wearing jackets.

        • drizzt380 says:

          But to a certain extent you can put on warmer clothes. The burning hot person can’t exactly strip down to nothing.

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        My office is the same way! There are several ladies I work with that are constantly cold, and wear heavy fleece pullovers and have heaters at their desk. The thermostat (which really works, by the way) is set at 74 degrees. In the meantime, I wear short sleeves or 3/4 sleeve light weight shirts, year around, while they freeze no matter what the weather is.

        The woman in the cubicle next to mine wears long underwear during the winter months, plus a turtleneck underneath a sweatshirt, and complains the office is “chilly”. **sighs**

        I wish there could be hot and cold zones and we could be seated accordingly!

      • scoosdad says:

        Where I used to work there was a woman who insisted in the winter that our small office was always colder than everyone else thought it was. We did an interesting experiment. She had a Radio Shack digital thermometer next to her desk that she considered the last word in how hot or cold the room was.

        One night we took it apart and figured out how to adjust its calibration. So slowly over a period of a few days we changed the calibration until the digital readout read about 8 degrees higher than the room really was. She stopped complaining and constantly readjusting the heat in the office and everyone was happy.

      • lucky13 says:

        The last office I worked in was populated by “ice queens” too. The Facilities Manager had to put lock boxes on the thermostats and space heaters were banned. The men were all running around in shorts/shirtsleeves and 99% of the women all had sweaters and jackets on all day. Neither age nor season seemed to be a factor.

      • StaudtCJ says:

        This may be stereotypical, but the women in your office feeling cold may be related to the women in your office dieting. I’ll have to look it up, but one potential side effect of calorie restriction is feeling cold. Others include jitters, restlessness, and irritability. The shivering woman in the sweater with the multiple heaters may be starving herself (regardless of her apparent weight) on 1500 calories or less to lose weight for whatever reason. 1500 calories and under is apparently the general freezing point.

        • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

          If temp in my house is set the same, winter or summer, my wife will always tell me she’s cold when its winter. I call “BS” and point to the temperature.

    • dangerp says:

      In many offices I worked in, there were thermostats that seemed to sense the current temperature, but the controls didn’t work. We just used an upside down can of air to make the sensors think that the room was colder than it was (our heater was always a bit behind due to our proximity to the data center and it’s oversized air conditioners)

  3. snobum says:

    I disagree with walk buttons, at least in the last few years. Most of the time, the pedestrian signal doesn’t change unless you press the button. Since most lights are on sensors now, if there are no cars at the intersection, the light may never change or only change for a small amount of time. The button gives you an extended light with enough time to cross the street.

    • mistersmith says:

      That has literally never been the case in any city I have ever been in. And I have lived or spent significant time in SF, NYC, Chicago, Baltimore, and DC.

      Lights in cities are on timers, and change when they change — they don’t react to traffic, they are themselves the way traffic is controlled.

      • Chmeeee says:

        Presumably he’s talking about a suburban location. Typically in a city, the ped lights come on with the parallel street green lights, and thus come on every cycle. In smaller cities, you need to press the button, which will usually turn all of the lights red, giving people the chance to cross in any direction.

        The article is talking about Manhattan, which is the former example that I gave.

      • snobum says:

        Yes, I was really talking about suburbs. I’ve lived in nyc and agree they are all timers. DC is mostly timers too. Some intersections in dc have signs that say you HAVE to press the button to get the signal to change though.

    • Michaela says:

      My city seems to have a mix. The busier intersections don’t seem to be button dependent, but many of the side streets are.

      • RandomHookup says:

        That makes sense. If it’s a busy street, build it into the pattern. If there aren’t enough pedestrians, make it button dependent.

    • jefeloco says:

      I would like to see someone disagreeing with walk buttons in person. That just seems kind of crazy to disagree with a non-sentient object.

      • EarthAngel says:

        I once witnessed a guy get into an argument with a bus stop. Scare the bejeezies out of me! I thought for sure he was going to get violent.

  4. TBGBoodler says:

    Next thing, you’ll be telling us that Staples’ “Easy” button is fake, too.

    • lucky13 says:

      Yep – apparently they don’t realize how many of those things they could sell if they actually worked!

  5. jaazzman says:

    Someone was watching NOVA the other night…

    • nybiker says:

      Yeah, I watched it (after I recorded it first). The guy who was stuck in the elevator for almost 3 days got $200,000 IIRC. I forgot it had happened in 1999. One thing I learned is I take my cell phone with me all the time.
      Anyone know what happened to the security desk people in the McGraw Hill building as a result of not seeing him in the elevator during the weekend?

      • ajlei says:

        Ha I saw that elevator one too. I don’t know what I’d do if I were stuck in an elevator for that long but it would probably be defined as “crazy”.

        Also, did that air sometime earlier? It was on at 2 or 3 am for me.

        • jaazzman says:

          I think I would have jumped down the elevator shaft or gone completely bat shit insane.

          I don’t think the reason for security not being at the front desk of the McGraw Hill building has ever been made public.

          The PBS feed I watched Nova on aired it at 9pm on Tuesday.

    • momtimestwo says:

      I watched “Trapped in an Elevator” too!

    • layton59 says:

      I also saw the PBS NOVA show “Trapped In An Elevator” this weekend. It was kinda sad seeing the elevator technology used in the NYC World Trade Center Buildings. Those sky-lobbies were smart ideas. I had the chance in the early 1980′s to go up the elevator in the Twin Towers at a cost of $10. Being a poor college student, $10 seemed too expensive for an elevator ride with a top view. Now I wish that I had paid and done it. Well maybe not, after all I am a regular reader of Consumerist and have subsribed to Consumer Reports Magazine since 1985. Read into that I am still frugal.

  6. tkmluv says:

    I knew about the elevator buttons for some time now and I still get a small chuckle when I see someone repeatably pressing it over and over.

    I was surprised to read about the thermostat. In every building I have worked they do control the temp for that area.

    • fatediesel says:

      Even though I’ve known for a long time that most close door buttons don’t work I still finding myself pushing them because I’m impatient and hope that maybe they actually work in that elevator.

    • JRam says:

      I know the close button at the hospital/doctors offices I go to work.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      “for that area”

      Since walls move around a lot in the office buildings I’ve been in, ‘that area’ often falls in another room. Not just that, when a candy machine in our lunchroom blew the breaker, I lost power to half my lab. Funnier still, several places in the current building will let you set off a motion sensor in one room or hallway which causes lights to go on in the weirdest places. There was one light in the lunchroom I never did figure out what controlled it.

      • tkmluv says:

        You know, I have a light switch in my house that I have no clue what it controls. Maybe I should start randomly flicking it and you can go look at that light :)

        • Pinklette says:

          Check the power outlets? We have 3 outlets that we always forget are attached to switches until after we’ve spent an hour cursing at them. :~P

          • tkmluv says:

            Yea, we checked all the outlets in that room, the next room over and one on the other side of the wall on the outside. I even pulled them out of the wall to check to see if the plug was wired for a switch. We may never know.

          • Rena says:

            It’s more fun when you plug your entire computer system (with multiple machines, several monitors, etc) into a series of surge protectors connected to one outlet, and then discover that outlet is connected to the light switch. >.

    • nucwin83 says:

      Eh, most of the ones I’ve encountered either work, or I’m just so lucky as to catch it at the normal closing time. Maybe in more urban areas they disable it.

    • ThinkerTDM says:

      People know that pressing it numerous times doesn’t bring the elevator faster. However, it does make them feel better. Kind of like voting- it doesn’t do anything, but it makes people feel better.

  7. Deezul_AwT says:

    I’ve had to press the WALK button at a cross walk once because the street sensor wasn’t being tripped. It was 4 in the morning, no traffic on the street I needed to cross. As soon as I pressed WALK, yellow lights for the cross street. But again, this was 4 AM in the morning. For intersection that will always cycle even without vehicle traffic, the buttons are probably for show.

    • tinmanx says:

      I use one like that along a bike path, it’s on a street right off the highway, so the cars are always speeding. Within 5 seconds of press the button, the lights turn yellow and you see all the cars screeching to a stop. It’s my favorite button.

      There’s another street crossing button farther down the bike path that doesn’t work, and you would have to wait 5-10 minutes for the light to change.

    • tbiscuit360 says:

      Even with intersections that do indeed cycle, sometimes you have to press the button to get the white person and not leave up the red/orange hand

  8. OnePumpChump says:

    When I first saw this story on the front page a few minutes ago, I clicked on the link and got a 404.

    Very funny.

  9. Kuchen says:

    They recently “modernized” (that’s what the sign said while it was under construction…) one of the elevators at work. I have no idea what that actually means except that there is now a voice that tells you to “Allow the door to close.” However, it says this about 2 seconds after the door opens, and sometimes says it multiple times while people are entering and exiting the elevator, or even when no one is in the doorway. It’s really annoying. A few weeks ago, I was in the elevator with someone who found this so annoying that she actually starting yelling at the voice in the elevator “There is no one in the damn doorway!”

    • Gramin says:

      In my condo highrise, a freakish wind tunnel is created that somehow allows the elevator door to close 99% of the way so you’re stuck inside while, at the same time, it won’t let the elevator move floors. I’ve heard people (and have been one of those people) banging on the door to let them out. It’s actually kind of funny, unless you’re the one stuck inside.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      clearly it’s a Sirius Cybernetics elevator with a “genuine people personality”
      i would so be looking for the speaker in the elevator and trying to disable it

  10. Overstim says:

    Our office thermostat works great. 65° means 40° and 66° means 90°.

  11. UltimateOutsider says:

    Also, a lot of people think the button doesn’t work because it doesn’t say “Walk” immediately. But that would be dangerous and could lead to abuse, so it just sort of queues a request for the walk light at the next light cycle. It can take a couple minutes before you see the walk light, but it’s not because the button’s not working.

  12. Tim says:

    Most walk buttons I’ve used work. A lot of newer traffic lights just stay green for the main road until something happens: either it senses a car on the intersecting road, or a pedestrian pushes the walk signal.

    The exception is intersections that have enough pedestrian traffic to warrant a constant cycle that includes pedestrian crossings.

  13. Gruppa says:

    Some close doors buttons do work.

    I learned a trick from a friend who repairs and maintains elevators. On a lot of newer elevators you can press the close door button and your floor at the same time and it will ignore the call button pressed on any floor in-between.

    [citation]
    http://lifehacker.com/205918/send-the-elevator-directly-to-your-floor

    • Julia789 says:

      Oh that sounds like it could cause some fun confusion!

    • Michaela says:

      My dad claims the same thing. He said he heard it from an emt (useful for getting a stretcher immediately to the proper floor). However, I can’t exactly vouch for the statement since I wasn’t there when he learned it, and I have never tried the trick.

  14. ajlei says:

    I’ve been in several elevators that will close as soon as I press the button.. one in particular is at my grandpa’s retirement home. They’ll stay open for ages unless you hit that button.

    Street walk signs definitely work here. The walk light just won’t come on, and in some intersections the walk sign means that no cars are able to go through the intersection, so they’d have to have a button — not like traffic will just stop randomly.

    • MuffinSangria says:

      Funny, the only close button on an elevator I’ve ever seen work was in a retirement home. Guess they do that since the doors are programed to stay open longer for people who have trouble walking.

      • ajlei says:

        Another one that I know works is at the storage facility I use, which again, probably expects that people need the door open for a greater length of time.

  15. LogicalOne says:

    If you’re in a two story building, you don’t need a button for every floor. You just need a button which says, “Go to other floor.”

  16. Aennan says:

    My office just went out and tested the elevator close button. It worked for us at varying times (I’m in a tech company; we have stop watches we use for random things that are never work-related).

  17. UltimateOutsider says:

    Oh, and HOTEL thermostats! *shakes fist* I haven’t stayed at a hotel where I could actually get the temperature to 72-degrees-or-below in years. You can select the temperature but it will never get there. I generally end up having to just settle for “fan” and leave it on constantly.

    • shockwaver1 says:

      The last hotel I stayed at was in Atlanta in August (so hot as hell). If you turned the thermostat to a degree colder then the room was in, it would blast the AC until you froze to death. If you raised it a degree from where it was at it would TURN THE HEAT ON. So, it’s 74 degrees when you check in, you bump it to 73 and leave for the day, come back and it’s 66 in the room. Turn it to 67, and the heat comes on and won’t shut off until you turn the thermostat off.

  18. shepd says:

    All the close door buttons I’ve ever pressed always work. Seriously. A few of them you have to hold and the door goes into nudge mode, letting go returns to open until the timer expires. Others put the door into nudge mode right away.

    How can I tell?

    I’ve used those elevators more than once. Once with just pressing the floor button and waiting, which timed takes 5 to 10 seconds. Next time pressing floor button then immediately the door close button, which closes the doors right away.

    Maybe it’s an NY thing for them to be broken.

  19. Macgyver says:

    “And most office thermostats are dummies. they’re just installed by HVAC guys who are sick of office workers calling them up and complaining about the temperature.”
    Well, if you hook them up to a real HVAC system, they won’t be calling you.

    • NatalieErin says:

      Oh yes they will. Someone will call about the temperature no matter what we do.

    • Rena says:

      Placebo effect. If it really increases the temperature, someone else will think it’s too hot and go turn it back down, leading to a thermostat war. If you only think it turned the heat up, you’ll think it’s warmer and be happy, and others won’t notice the imaginary difference.

  20. smirkette says:

    Hotel thermostats lie too. I sleep best in a cold room (~55 degrees) and damned if I’ve been in a hotel room in the past four years or so that actually cooled the room to the temperature I set it at. Most hotels seem to keep the air conditioning lower limit at 65-68 degrees…far too warm for me to have a solid night’s sleep.

    • Grungo says:

      With all due respect, you are a complete freak.

      • nbs2 says:

        I am surprised he/she needs it to be 55 degrees all the time – that would play havoc on the electric bill in the summer.

        Of course, I do remember my freshman year of college. We left our window open for the entire school year, and usually tried to be sure to set the thermostat to the days weather. That meant there were a few days where our setting the thing down to 55 resulted in the heater running.

        • Powerlurker says:

          My freshman year in college, the HVAC system in my dorm didn’t have a thermostat. It was On/Low/High, and depending on the outside temperature, the university set it to either give you hot or cold. I like living in a cold room and didn’t have a suitemate so I left it on high constantly, I got the temperature down into the 50s in August. The wall of the bathroom on the other side of my wall had a constant sheet of condensation on it.

  21. Snubber says:

    Elevator buttons aren’t fake. Either you must hold the door close button for over a second, or the elevator lacks one and you must hold the floor button for over a second to close the doors.

    • CyGuy says:

      on some elevators, the holding the the close door AND open door buttons simultaneously is a Easter Egg to be used in case of a fire that immediately takes the car to the ground floor. One building I worked had this feature. Good to know if you wanted get home a little faster after work.

  22. kingofmars says:

    When my dad managed hotels and resturants he would always install a fake thermostat. Worked like a charm.

  23. Portlandia says:

    Not true with Walk signals in my old city in CA (suburban SF). There was on light side street crossing a major 6 lane street that took FOREVER…you could literally wait 5 minutes if you missed it. If you pushed the walk signal for crossing the big street, the light would turn within 30 seconds. Residents would regularly send their kid to go hit the crosswalk signal to get the light to change earlier.

    So not ALL of them are fake, but in the bigger cities I can see where this is true.

  24. Raanne says:

    Yeah – some thermostats have dummy wheels, and can not change the temperature. (although I wouldn’t go so far as to say “most” – I wouldn’t even say 25%). This doesn’t mean that its not a real thermostat, with a temperature sensor in it reporting back to teh building automation system. Just because you can not control it, doesn’t make it real.

    Adjusting the dampers isn’t going to work on all systems, and the systems where it will work, you’ve essentially screwed your neighbor into getting too much or too little air. If putting lamps and ice by a thermostat changes the temperature, then obviously the thermostat is real and not a “dummy” one. If you want it outside of the 68 – 72 window, than you are the problem, not the HVAC. Wear some layers.

    If its a newer building, the setpoint is probably set through the computer, and not on an individual layer.

  25. HoJu says:

    The Close Door button works find on my Wonkavator.

  26. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i keep hoping to figure out the elevator at my office with the fire key instructions for the close door button… when there’s no close door button.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/catastrophegirl/3803048672/

  27. SuperQ says:

    Some office HVAC systems don’t even use thermostats in the rooms. They work based on the air return inlet temp. You can’t get to them.

    Another situation that causes problems (seen it). The thermostat for your room is in the office next to yours. Had this at the university. Unfortunately the guy in that room had 8 computers (did automated install testing for various platforms). The HVAC sent other offices cold air in the middle of Minnesota winter.

  28. veronykah says:

    I was actually surprised to find out the walk buttons DO work in Los Angeles, coming from NYC I thought it was a joke at first, like they are in NYC.
    Nope they do work here and many intersections won’t give a walk sign until you press the button. I do love when friends come to visit and they give me the “are you seriously pushing the BUTTON?” look and I get to tell them it really works!

  29. NeverLetMeDown says:

    I was in Japan earlier this year, and noticed that the close door buttons there not only work, they work immediately. Loved it.

    A friend has a theory that heart attacks are caused by a virus spread via close door buttons. He may have something there.

  30. TooManyHobbies says:

    MOST close door buttons don’t do anything, but some do. I was in a hotel this year where the elevator doors started closing INSTANTLY if you pressed the close door buttons. It was great.

    Also, in our town, you do NOT EVER get a WALK signal if you don’t press the pedestrian crossing button. Also, it’s a little optical button that makes a cool “BEEP boop” noise when you press it, which makes me smile.

  31. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Management placed locked covers over our thermostats and set the temperature too high. We were miserable, until someone used a lasso of solder to change it back to normal. (*whistles nervously*) I have a knack for getting around obstacles.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      the hotel i used to work at had a cover on the front desk thermostat. we kept a specially bent paperclip in one of the cash drawers for as soon as the day managers left the building.

  32. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    The ‘walk’ buttons I encountered in Utah were mostly fake. Even us kids could tell because it was just a spring that didn’t make contact and there were no wires or conduits for wires. If you looked closely, you could tell. There were always kids telling others you have to do some kind of Morse code and then watching them try it.

  33. frank1569 says:

    According to the laundry machine tech for the apt complex I live in, all the setting on the commercial washers are fake, except for ‘cold’ or ‘hot.’ The other 7 choices do nothing. “Who the hell even knows what permanent press is anyway?’ is his favorite line.

  34. MsFab says:

    My old job had those stupid sensors for the HVAC system & they never freaking worked. My lab would be freezing & the lab across the hall would be like an oven. They could never make changes remotely like they claimed they could do when they installed the system, instead they’d have to send a guy over to get on the roof & change something.

    I’ve only known 1 elevator to have a functioning door close button. It was a super old elevator tho & if you didn’t hold the button down until the door fully closed, it would only close halfway & then open when you released the button.

  35. Smiling says:

    Where I used to work was remodeled a couple of years ago with a fancy new computer controlled (by HO) A/C system. Problem was that the county code required a thermostat in every office before the upgrades could be ‘signed off’. So that’s what we got … a thermostat screwed to the wall in each office – building inspector signed things off and everyone was happy.

  36. StutiCebriones says:

    The only reason I ever hit the elevator’s close-door button is that someone’s running for the elevator and I don’t want to ride with them, but I want them to think I made the effort to try to hold the elevator for them. I know it isn’t closing the doors any faster; I’m just using it as a prop to make it look like I hit the door-open button but too late to override the timing.

    But that’s a valuable enough function that I say the button has a reason for existing and works correctly.

  37. savashley says:

    When I was in high school, the central office for the school district decided a certain date when the heat would turn on for the winter and when the air would turn on for the warmer weather. Each classroom had temperature sensors, so if it was too cold we would put ice on the sensor, and if it was too hot we would shine the light from the overhead projector onto the sensor. Worked like a charm.

  38. PsiCop says:

    I’m not sure about all walk signals, but in Los Angeles, I know there are some which require that the button be pushed, else no walk signal will be displayed. (The traffic lights will change, but there will be no interval for pedestrians to walk.)

    Also, I can attest that, in a hospital I once worked in, the elevator “Close Door” buttons definitely did work. The doors tended to stay open a long time, but as soon as you touched that button, they shut.

    As for thermostats, at another place I worked at, I long suspected it was a “dummy” and not real, and that was confirmed when, one time during a summer heat wave, we had a particularly bad problem with severe humidity (this was a mail-equipment room with an inserter which was getting fouled up by curled paper items). The HVAC guy replaced a “dummy” thermostat with a real one. After that a lot of our heating/cooling/humidity problems went away. My manager later admitted that the room should have had a thermostat because the equipment was temperature- and humidity-sensitive, but for whatever reason it didn’t.

  39. Rachacha says:

    Woo Hoo, I can become a NASA Scientist.

    A couple years ago I did a Video shoot at a hotel, and I could not find anyone to turn down the thermostat, to help compensate for the very hot lights I had set up, so I “rigged” a light just a few inches from the thermostat and turned it on, closed the door and left the room. I came back about an hour later, and the room was nice and cold, so that when I turned on my video lights I would warm up the room to a comfortable temperature and the HVAC system would be able to keep up with the heat load, and the people I was interviewing were comfortable.

  40. Kate says:

    We have alarms in our building that go off if you mess with the drop down ceiling. I wouldn’t advise doing that.

  41. g051051 says:

    I’ve noticed that elevators where I work ignore the door close button if it stops on a floor because someone pushed a call button on that floor outside the elevator. For example, if I get in the elevator on the 3rd floor and push the L button, and someone else pushes the button for the second floor, when it stops, I can push the door close button right away and have it close immediately. However, someone actually on the second floor pushed the call button and stopped the elevator there, then the door close button doesn’t work, and you have to wait for the door timer to expire, presumably to stop the door from being closed while people are still trying to get to the door.

  42. t325 says:

    The close door button works in my office parking garage’s elevator, but not in the office elevator itself. I wish it was the other way around.

  43. Phil James says:

    ahhh the door close button! yes they do work but some are not turned on to work unless u have a key! there is one other trick to the door close button, if you hold the floor that you want to go to and the door close button at the same time the elevator will bypass all hall calls! i do have keys for elevators and know way to much about them! so if u want to know anything about elevators just ask!

  44. JayPhat says:

    My thermostats in my store are fake. Except for the one in my stockroom which is connected to the overhead heater to warm up when the door is open. You can bet your ass I got that thing set to 74. Anything lower and the room will never heat up properly.

  45. tooluser says:

    Elevator buttons: Where I work they close the door exactly 1 second sooner than if you don’t push them. I never use the “Open” button to hold the doors for someone walking up late. There’s another elevator in a very short while!

    Walk buttons: They work as advertised near where I work. Walk signal does not come on if you don’t push it. Pushing multiple times does not speed things up, but does increase the likelihood of functionality if there’s a bad contact in there (you never know).

    HVAC guys: Do your job. If someone complains that it’s too cold, it’s too cold. If someone complains that it’s too warm, it’s too warm. Do your job and make it right. Yes, that means you will have to come back again and again. Do your job. Your job is to keep people comfortable with air flow, humidity, and temperature.

    • NatalieErin says:

      Unfortunately each person in an office has a different idea of what’s too hot and too cold. If my guys set it comfortably for you and they get a call the next day from your co-worker complaining, what should they do?

    • Powerlurker says:

      No, you set it to 68-72 and tell the people who don’t like it to pound sand or wear long sleeves.

  46. dkev says:

    I’ve been a building engineer for 9 years. Sometimes we move stats. So we leave the old one in place abandoned. This is strictly for cosmetic reasons. Oh and that special wrench? It’s an allen wrench. I hate it when tenants jack with the stats. They are very expensive and go out of calibration easily. There pneumatic. So when we have stubborn fingers, we install a big ugly steel cage around the stat. Most of my buildings are pneumatically controlled so we cant control each hvac zone. Only each floor. But we hold each zone at 72. You don’t like it? Too bad. We open the cover and put it back on and say all fixed. Stupid bastards are like…”feels better already” sheep.

  47. FilthyHarry says:

    Funny thing is most people figure this out quickly and the close button in elevators is routinely ignored. However if you go some place where the buttons are active (Hong Kong for instance) its amusing to see a crowd of people rush onto the elevator and each person as soon as they come on turns to begin stabbing wildly at the close door button.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      LOL, that is so ‘Hong Kong’. It would be entertaining to put out a chain email in traditional Chinese with some story about SARS being transmitted on ‘door close’ elevator buttons. I think their heads would implode.

      China is funny in that they turn off the lights, escalators, etc. during the day to save money on power. I did not see a single elevator in any building less than seven stories tall.

  48. FrankReality says:

    Around here the walk buttons do indeed work and so do the close door elevator buttons at work. Thermostats are hit and miss – some do work, most don’t. The bigger the room, the less likely they are to not work. But the ones at work do require allen wrenches to adjust.

    Oddly enough, though at work we do have some doorbells that are superfluous due to some remoldeling. One doorbell switch was left rather than removed, another is still there and is functional, but nobody sits in the room with the bell, so nobody answers it.

  49. elkhart007 says:

    Office thermostats are more of a suggestion. Usually a manager or director of a building sets minimum and maximum temps for heat and cool. Your local thermostat may be set at 50 in the summer but if the minimum temp for AC is set for 69 that’s all you’ll get. Allowing every employee free range over the thermostats in a large office can jack up an electric bill quick.

  50. quail says:

    Good lord, is it a slow day at Consumerist? These stories have circled the net for some time. In the end, the true consensus is that dummy switches do exist but are not that prevalent. As to elevators it’s usually because management doesn’t want to pay to have them fixed. As to crossing lights, the system is keyed to cycle through and a walk light is given at the appropriate cycle so just wait your turn. With thermostats, the building likely went with a remote system and the thermostats were never removed from the wall.

    Quit saying that your experience (eg. all of the buttons/switches I’ve encountered in the world don’t work) means that it’s true for the rest of us. Yawn… Not a story.

  51. consumerman says:

    On the Norwegian Pearl (cruise ship), the elevator close door buttons work every time. In fact, they light up. They might also be the fastest opening/closing elevator doors.

  52. krom says:

    YMMV. The close-door buttons on the elevators in my office DO work, as I’ve noticed from multiple uses.

    I’ve heard the same story about crosswalk “walk light” buttons, too. But it’s more accurate that they don’t make a difference during the daytime, when the roads are busy. Most intersections are on a constant routine (N/SB straight, NB straight and left, E/WB straight, etc.) during that time, and that includes when the walk lights turn on. But at night, when the traffic dies down and the traffic signals are sensor-based or running on longer intervals, the crosswalk buttons do matter.

  53. TPA says:

    Elevator door close buttons: Mostly true in the US, but varies with which equipment is actually installed and which company is providing the service. On many newer elevators, the door close button’s solely for the Fire Service mode. The exception to this is when the elevator doors have been programmed with a longer hold time, such as has been mentioned here, like hospitals, old folks homes, service elevators, etc. My office building’s mid-1980s Dover has a non-functional door close button, while the parking garage elevator (all relay-driven) and my condo’s Otis elevator (all relay-driven) have perfectly functional door-close buttons.

    HVAC: At my own office, we had replaced the individual controls with a networked system. The bellyaching began almost instantly. The biggest problem is that the old controls didn’t show accurate temperatures, while the new ones did, which were obviously different numbers. The temperature of the space hadn’t changed, but the occupants put all of their faith and comfort in the number shown on the screen. Even after temporarily hanging the old thermostats on the wall next to the new ones and them showing the room was at the magic 73F they always felt comfortable at, they still said they were uncomfortable. So, the new sensors were tossed into the air returns, old controls were hung on the walls as decorations, and the bellyaching stopped. Purely psychological. And maddening for the building owners/property managers.

  54. ThePlaz says:

    I know one elevator where the “Close Doors” button does nothing, but if you touch a floor button it will close the doors.

  55. MepReport says:

    Another ineffectual elevator habit — Elevator Racism…

    http://www.frequency.com/video/racism-in/14175?embed=true

  56. Carlee says:

    At some of the crosswalks near work, you have to push the walk button – otherwise the walk signal won’t come on. It’s pretty annoying when there are like 20 people standing there (on either side of the street) and nobody pushes it because they think someone else already has.

    As for the elevator close door button, I’m pretty sure I’ve been in elevators where the door won’t close if you don’t push the button (or you’ll have to wait a really long time for it to close automatically).

  57. Gr8&tru says:

    I knew a whole office couldn’t be wrong when it came to temperature adjustment. With several thermostats in the suite every room was the same temp. Now I will pass on the truth to our office manager. I’m sure she will not miss all the complaints.

  58. Nighthawke says:

    Tampering with a tuned chilled water HVAC system like the employees at NASA did can be detrimental for the rest of the complex if they are not careful, or worse. Stories abound of tampered air handlers turning into solid blocks of ice overnight, leaving the building without AC the next day. This usually winds up getting the damper controls welded solid and a reprimand from their bosses.

    Not to mention ugly looks from the maintenance crews and putting them lower on their priority list. Rarely, but it happens, being ignored for weeks on end on low priority tickets.

    If there is an issue with the thermostat and/or its placement, then they need to submit a ticket dammit.

  59. coren says:

    The close door button works, just so long as you take the service/freight elevators. Those need to have the function without keys. I know this isn’t viable for many people, but I always use the freight elevator in my building.

    As for thermostats, yeah, ours don’t work – it’s centrally controlled elsewhere. Try telling that to the people who come in though. They’ll fiddle with the security panels thinking they can “make it a little cooler in here” (luckily the security panels also don’t do anything, they’re part of an old system)

    And while that’s true in NYC about walk buttons (and I imagine in other major cities with pedestrian traffic) – in smaller cities, not only do they make the walk sign come on, they also extend the red light in the perpendicular direction and can shorten the green if there isn’t ongoing traffic parallel to the walk direction

  60. ArmitageShanks says:

    Some elevator Close Door buttons do have a hidden feature, called something like “VIP lift.” If you press Close Door and your floor at the same time, the lift will go straight to that floor, bypassing any lower floors whose buttons have been pressed.

    Always a good way to annoy co-workers on the lower floors….

  61. marlxx says:

    I work in the building automation industry.

    This is what really happens on the HVAC side of things:

    1) People complain that their office is ‘too cold’ or ‘too hot’ even when you can check the automation computer and notice that *the temperature has not varied by more than 1 degree F +/-*.
    2) We set up the thermostats to take temperature commands.
    3) The setpoint signal and the temperature signal is picked up by the automation system.
    4) We allow the users to make an adjustment to the temperatures, but this usually does not override the setpoint decided upon by the building owner/manager/engineer. It allows you to ‘bump’ the temperature up or down by maybe 1-2 degrees +/-.
    5) People stop complaining.

    Even though the change in temperature is real, no building owner in their right mind would allow anyone more than this minimal amount of control. If this were the case, you’d have freezers next to ovens. This equals huge energy waste, especially in cases where you have an HVAC system that has local reheat (air gets cooled at the air handler level and warmed back up to a higher temperature at the area – this is mainly for humidity control).

    The illusion of control (even though in reality the control is minimal) does make people happy.

  62. ClintJCL says:

    untrue. i’ve never found a close door button that didn’t work in my life. most people give up when in fact you have to hold the button down continuously until the door closes. most people push it, let go, it opens up, then they leave and go to another elevator. i always follow, hold the button down, and it closes. every. time.