The Spirit to Gouge
TruthNews Commentary, March 23, 2006
I made a trip to Milwaukee recently during which I had the pleasure of staying at a Marriott hotel. I say pleasure in the sense in which you could say you experienced pleasure while a dentist is drilling on your teeth.
The hotel was nice enough, although the room and beds were smaller than what I've seen in many hotels. My first surprise was when I found that the breakfast, contrary to what I'd been told on the phone, was not complementary, but cost $12.50. Not a big deal, I thought, since getting up in time for breakfast seems like an unnecessary interruption of good sleep. So I skipped breakfast.
Then I decided to plug my laptop into the internet to find out what the weather was going to be like. The hotel had advertised that they had high speed internet access in every room. Unfortunately, I found that the wire was broken in my room. I called the front desk, and half an hour later, a maintenance guy came up with a new wire. Other hotels provide free high speed internet access, but when I plugged in the new wire, I promptly found that the hotel charged $7 a day for internet access. Well, it was cheaper than breakfast, but I quickly calculated that Marriot was charging $210 a month for internet access, which is 10 times what an internet service provider would charge. Better to use dial-up, I decided, than to let thieves get away with their thievery.
Later in the day, I needed to view a four minute videotape. I called the front desk and they told me I could use their VCR for $75. Needless to say, I was stunned. Why I could eat breakfast for six days for that amount! I complained loudly, and they eventually agreed to drop the price to $50. Let's see, for four minutes, that would be $750 an hour. No thanks. By now I felt like I was staying in a Motel 6, where you have to drop quarters in to use the TV.
It snowed while I was in Milwaukee, and the snow on the sidewalks around the Marriott quickly turned to ice. You would think that the hotel would have quickly salted the sidewalks to prevent accidents, but you would be wrong. Apparently, liability insurance is cheaper than salt. So I was slip-sliding around for the rest of my stay every time I went outside.
On the second day of my stay, I found that the maids hadn't put enough towels in the room. So I called the front desk and asked for more towels. Six hours later, the towels still hadn't been delivered. I called the front desk again. The phone rang about 15 times and no one answered. I hung up and five minutes later called again. Again, no one answered. This time, I was determined to wait them out, so while the phone rang, I opened the drawer to the nightstand to get something to read. Beside the Gideon's Bible and book of Mormon, I found a copy of Bill Marriott's book "The Spirit to Serve." Based on my experience to date, I decided that "The Spirit to Gouge" would be a more appropriate title, since the hotel seemed bent on gouging as much money as possible from me while providing the minimum of service.
On my last night in the hotel, I went to bed a little early since I had to get up at 5:30 the next morning. I found that the people in the rooms next to mine were having a noisy party. Apparently, we were surrounded by a kids' soccer team and their drunken parents. These soccer hooligans weren't confining their noise to their rooms but were also running up and down the halls screaming at each other. I called the front desk, and they politely informed me that they did not enforce quiet time until after 10:00 p.m. Since it was only 9:59, they would do nothing. After a couple of hours, the soccer hooligans had passed out in a drunken stupor, and I finally got to sleep. The next morning, as I was leaving, I saw that the soccer hooligans had piled their empty booze bottles outside their room. I saw one empty six-pack of beer, which I thought appropriate since Milwaukee is famous for beer, and also a 12-pack of Guinness Stout (definitely not a Milwaukee product), as well as three empty wine bottles. Looks like a good time was had by all.
I left via Chicago and got caught in a typical Chicago traffic jam. A couple of young ladies were in front of me in a Jeep. Apparently, they were looking for something in the back seat. When the traffic started going again, the two ladies didn't notice and remained stopped while a hundred yard gap opened up in front of them. I finally gave them a polite tap on the horn to let them know they could go. The driver looked at me and gave me the finger. She finally got the car going, weaving so much that I thought she might be one of the drunken soccer hooligans who occupied the Marriot room next to me. In case I'd missed the finger the first time, she then turned and gave me the finger again. It's good to know that courtesy and goodwill are alive and well in the Midwest.
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