Is it true that the “Close Door” buttons on elevators don’t work?

Recently an acquaintance smugly told me that the “Close Door” buttons on elevators don’t work — they are just there as a psychological sop to make passengers think they actually have some control.

I didn’t contest this assertion — I had heard it before and wasn’t certain one way or the other. I was deeply suspicious, however — it smacked of the bogus rumors and conspiracy theories you hear all the time, or at least sounded like one of those things that everybody knows that just aren’t true.

So I was happy to learn today that Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope has already (in 1986) dealt with this critical question in his thorough and inimitable manner — he even interviewed representatives of the Otis elevator company and various elevator repairmen. See “Do ‘close door’ buttons on elevators ever actually work?

The upshot is that the “Close Door” button is not an evil conspiracy to manipulate people into pushing a fake button hoping for a reward like Pavlov’s dogs. That’s not to say that they always work — they could be broken or disconnected at the request of the building’s owner. Here’s another reason Cecil gives as to why these buttons don’t always seem to work:

The button really does work, it’s just set on time delay. Suppose the elevator is set so that the doors close automatically after five seconds. The close-door button can be set to close the doors after two or three seconds. The button may be operating properly when you push it, but because there’s still a delay, you don’t realize it.

AB — 9 September 2011


2 thoughts on “Is it true that the “Close Door” buttons on elevators don’t work?

  1. Hi There Athinkingperson,
    Maybe a little off topic, however, A great many elevators have an “open door” button and a “near door” button. The open up door button appears to At all times work (as well as sticking any type of limb into the closing doorways) but the shut door button Never is effective. It Under no circumstances Performs. In simple fact, it looks to just take longer.

    I was in a crowded elevator in a subway as soon as and somebody stored pressing the “shut” button over and over. At last some lady in the elevator informed him that the elevator ran on a timer and that pressing it would get lengthier. The gentleman replied that he was an elevator repairman and that he should preferably have identified that.

    Is it genuine about the timers? Or are “shut door” buttons just a worthless creation and visual way to balance out the keypad?

    If there have been actually an crisis and I ended up running from an individual into an elevator, the shut door button would do not ever conserve me.
    Kindest Regards

  2. An Old Man

    Being an old man, I remember when they did work. Pressing the button for a floor used to also trigger the door-close function. This worked even if the floor was already selected. So the claim that elevators have a timer that must expire before the button works makes the most sense. If the building owner simply disconnected the door-close button, you’d still be able to close the door by selecting a floor. The timer is probably configurable, and in most elevators seems to be set to the same amount of time the door would stay open if you didn’t push the button.

    And it has consequences. For example, here’s a video of a woman desperately running away from an attacker. She gets in the elevator at her apartment building, and desperately mashes the “close door” button, but it refuses to close, because that would be rude. The timer finally expires, but only after the attacker gets close enough to put his hand in and make the door open again. He punches her, knees her in the ribs, and kicks her in the head several times before leaving:

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