NEW YORK – Late one night in the dark, speakeasy style bar in the basement of the Andaz 5th Avenue hotel recently, I found myself clutching my dying iPhone 5 and praying that my small-batch-liquor cocktail would arrive before my Instagram went dead.

But I couldn’t take the suspense any longer, so I asked our waitress if she had an iPhone 5 charger. “Yes,” she told me, then surprised me by telling me to grab my credit card and follow her. Was she actually going to charge me for that kind of juice?


MORE ONLINE: Charging station new “watercooler”

She led me to a small, mysterious metal box with about five mini-doors (each large enough to hold a cell phone) hung on a wall near the bar. It had a steampunk-ish look to it. I had no clue what it was or what to do, so she led me through the process. Turns out it was a super-hip phone charging station that lets you plug in and lock up your phone, leaving you free to mingle.

Users simply must:

* Swipe their credit card, which opens a charging station door and serves as a key

* Put their phone in the tiny box and plug it into the appropriate charging cable

* Shut the door

* Walk away and get back to having fun

* The light inside the tiny box changes color when your phone’s adequately charged

FACEBOOK: Join Barb & friends’ geeky travel discussions

So I followed her instructions and returned to our table. My phone was fully charged by the time our meals arrived and I was able to Instagram my food as much as I wanted.

I loved it so much that I insisted that everyone at my table get up to see it. But my story doesn’t end there.

Turns out that one of the people at my table was a general manager, so today, the Omni Dallas has the same sort of miracle working box. (And I have a feeling more Omni hotels might have them soon, too!)

I asked the Megan Montenaro, the hotel’s communications director, to tell me more. I had never seen this device before – anywhere.

She told me that the hotel has the one station in the bar and another in the ground-floor lounge. Not surprisingly, they’re constantly in use.

“We love it as much as you, and so do our guests,” she told me via email. “It was an important factor when we were designing our public spaces. We were mindful of our busy guests, always on the go, who might not want to run up to their room to grab a charger if they just popped back to the hotel to grab a bite or reset before heading back out. Also, it’s nice for all our neighborhood pals that frequent the bar downstairs. They arrive here after work and realize their phone is dying and need a place to plug in that’s safe and free!”

Montenaro told me that the devices are made by the Manhattan-based company Bright Box, in case you were wondering.

Consumers: Do you love this free, lockable cellphone charging station much as I do?

Hoteliers: Why are you not providing customers with some sort of service like this?