The Out of Towners in Florida

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Anyone who has seen the classic movie “The Out of Towners” knows that it’s about a couple from the mid-west who visit New York because the husband is there for a job interview.  During the visit a series of bad things happen to them.  This past week we traveled to Florida to visit Larry’s family.  I’m not saying that our visit was like that experienced by the poor couple portrayed in the 1970 movie by Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, but we did have some issues at our hotel.  For the first time we  packed up our bags and walked out.

Now I’m not going to share the name of the normally highly reputable brand where we stayed.  Suffice it to say, that this brand has never let us down before.

Where is the line between bad service and  unacceptable service?  What is the straw not having WiFi in a hotel that promised ffee WiFi in our room.  By then, though, we had already made the decision to leave and had found a room at another hotel.

We were visiting Larry’s family in Florida.  We always stay at the same hotel brand.  No matter where we stay, we can always count on the same quality and amenities.  But this time the hotel was full and we had to stay somewhere else within the same brand.

Our room seemed okay.   We got a good deal on the room, so we didn’t expect the Ritz, but at first glance the hotel seemed  a bit shabby and in need of a facelift.  I had been traveling for a while so I used the bathroom right away.  One problem:  it didn’t flush.  There wasn’t any water in the bowl.  We took care of that, but the toilet was clearly not working.  We called the front desk, and no one answered the phone, so I went down.  The phone was off the hook they said, and promised to send up an engineer right away; he appeared ten minutes later.  But he wasn’t there to help; he was there to say he would be back.   See you later!

We waited another fifteen minutes and then packed up and went down to ask for another room.  The second room had a working toilet but no working air conditioning.  Then the engineer who had come to our first room appeared and chided us for moving.  “Why didn’t you wait?” he asked.  “I fixed the toilet, you can go back to your room.”  We dutifully went back to our original room.  But wait!  We didn’t have any WiFi.  I went down to the front desk, AGAIN and asked them about the WiFi.  I brought down my iPod and tried to get on with their help.  As I was standing there a man asked to change his room because it was so hot.  What!  No A/C?  Sound familiar?  Then I heard that five other residents had called down to complain about the lack of WiFi.  Are you seeing a trend here?  I asked the desk clerk if this was normal and she said “we’ve had a bad week.”

After failing to get onto the Internet, I went back to my room.  I told Larry we were moving.  He gave me his best spousal eye roll, but I held firm.  I called up our regular hotel.  They didn’t have a room that night, but they did the next two.  I made a reservation.  “You can stay here if you like” I said, “but I’m moving tomorrow.”

The next morning I took a shower.  When I was done I realized I had not taken out a towel and called Larry to ask him to get me one.  He handed me the one he had used before me.  “There’s only one towel, we have to share.”    I have been known to share a dessert, an omelet, a ride, and a bike lock, but sharing a wet towel?

What went wrong?

The hotel business is first and foremost about service.  In an age of Yelp and Trip Advisor a bad review can be instant death.    The hotel staff did everything they could to make us happy.  They gave us vouchers for free breakfast in the restaurant.  We could go to the executive floor for snacks.  They gave us two glasses of wine at 11 PM after the problem in the second room.  The bar had just closed, but they were so embarrassed about they opened up for us.  By then, we were very happy to have an adult beverage.  When we checked out the next morning — two days early from our pre-paid room, the manager tried to convince us to stay.  He offered us a suite.  Would it have WiFi, we asked?  He couldn’t promise us that.

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At our new hotel we had a suite.  We didn’t know why.  Maybe it was some positive karma working in our favor.   The bathroom had plenty of towels, A/C, a working toilet, and WiFi.  We don’t know why we had an upgraded room with a living area.  They treated us well and provided us with a comfortable room.  As for the first hotel:  as I told the manager after turning down his offer of a suite, we won’t be coming back again .  .  .  ever.

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