Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bloody Wall Hotel - Our 3rd Honeymoon

This past weekend, Nicole and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary, or what I like to call our 3rd Honeymoon. I'm not sure why, but I like the idea of keeping things exciting and new-feeling by calling it that way.

The plan for the weekend was to split the weekend into two parts: one day of "roughing it" and one day of luxury. First we'd try out the new tent and hammock at a rustic campground in St. Helen, MI (one of the few places I found that would have available spaces on Memorial Day weekend) from Saturday to Sunday. Then, we'd pack up on Sunday and go to the Comfort Suites Lakeside Hotel at Houghton Lake.

First off, the camping went great. It was a lot of fun using the new gear; the MSR Holler 3p 4-season tent felt like luxury with two people and a dog. That's right - Naiya tagged along on the trip, and was a delight to have. Seriously, if there's a lower-maintenance pup out there, I have yet to see it. The hammock also worked out incredibly well. There are some pictures from the trip after the break (see below).

We spent Saturday night camping out, and other than an inordinate amount of biker-gang style dune buggy groups making a bunch of noise out in the Michigan wilderness, it went really smoothly. We packed up on Sunday and did some sight-seeing. I hadn't told Nicole what we would be doing during each leg of the trip - kept her guessing each time until right before we arrived. I also might have told her that we had 2.5+ hours of driving left when we were about 5 minutes from the hotel... Surprise!

Well, it would have been a great surprise if it weren't for a couple of minor details. First, the GPS brought us to the wrong hotel. When we got there, I had this sinking feeling in my gut, because it was definitely not what I had been expecting. I couldn't believe that this dinky hotel would have a room as awesome as the one that I had reserved, but I tried to put a good face on it. Nicole did her best to seem upbeat and excited, and for that I thank her, because in the last few minutes of the trip, I had told her what it was about, and had started to really talk the room up to her. It was going to have a big fireplace in the middle of the room, a heart-shaped jacuzzi and a huge four-poster bed, etc....

When we went inside and I said we had a reservation, they couldn't find us in the computer. I thought in my head, "Oh no, disaster has struck! How can this be happening." I had no idea what disaster was. They figured out that we were actually at the wrong hotel and gave us directions to get to the right one. We were both VERY relieved that we weren't staying at that hotel.

My hope restored that everything was going to work out just fine, we arrived at the correct hotel. They had our name on file, we checked in and received our room key, and went up to get settled. I continued to talk up the room, "Just wait until you see it - it's going to be awesome." You see, I had already seen pictures of it online, and I knew the room was huge and awesome, with a balcony view of the lake, a winding staircase from the sitting room to the master bedroom, large bathroom, the works. We would be getting chocolate-covered strawberries with a bottle of champagne and a $40 dinner credit in the hotel's restaurant.

When we got to the room, to my dismay it was a regular, slightly larger hotel room. It had a king-size bed and a hot tub, but the size and decor were nothing compared to what I had booked. I wasn't upset or angry, I just thought that an honest mistake had been made. I had been very descriptive when I booked the room, making sure to state very clearly that I wanted the room with the fireplace, heart-shaped jacuzzi, etc. The person I had spoke with on the telephone was the booking manager, and his first language was not English, so I thought there might have been some confusion. When I got to the desk and spoke with him regarding the matter, he told me that what I was describing was the honeymoon suite. I hadn't known that was what I had described, but I asked him if he recalled our conversation earlier in the week when I had described and booked the room over the phone. He assured me that he did, but that unfortunately the honeymoon suite was booked for the night. He would be happy to give me the room if it was available, but sadly, it was not.

Let me backtrack a bit. When I had booked the room over the phone, the conversation (with a man I will call "Dave") went something like this:

Me: "Hi, I'd like to book a room for this coming Sunday night. I'm looking at a picture of it online, and it has a big bed with a fireplace in the middle of the room, tile floors, a balcony overlooking the lake, and a heart-shaped jacuzzi."

Dave: "Oh yes, that no problem. Just one night?"

Me: "Yup, just the one night. Oh, and we'll have a dog with us - shorter, about 60 lbs. Is that ok?"

Dave: "Yes yes, no problem. That be a $20 charge have dog in your room, ok?"

Me: "All right, no problem. So the room is available then?"

Dave: "Actually, we have special right now. You get romance package, cost you same amount."

Me: "Really! What's in the romance package?"

Dave: "You get $40 for dinner in downstairs restaurant, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne delivered to your room, all for same price already."

Me: "That's awesome. And it's the same room? The one with the fireplace and everything?"

Dave: "Yes yes, same room, you want me to book?"

So, I booked the room. My credit card was charged the right amount, and I thought everything went off without a hitch. You can imagine my consternation when, upon hearing Dave tell me from behind the counter that the room had been booked for the weekend, I was a bit flabbergasted.

Me: "Why did you give someone else the room when I booked it earlier this week?"

Dave: "I'm sorry, it was already booked weeks ago."

Me: "Ok, then why did you allow me to book it earlier this week?"

Dave: "You did not book it earlier this week - you book the romance package with other room. I try to help you out because honeymoon suite already booked. If you want romance package with honeymoon suite, that cost more. I gladly give to you for same price, but it is already booked."

Me: "You never told me that the room was booked when I spoke with you on the phone. I specifically asked if the room with the romance package would be the same room with all the other features."

Dave: "I am sorry, there is nothing I can do." This was said with a rude attitude. You know how you can be really syrupy and polite at the beginning of a sentence, then end it really short and rude? It was like that.

I paused.

Me: "Just to clarify, you didn't book the room that I asked for over the phone. You booked a different one without telling me. This is our anniversary, and you booked a different room than the one I requested."

Dave: "I am sorry, there is nothing I can do." That's right; he just repeated exactly what he said before, in exactly the same tone, which had the same combination of politeness and rude attitude.

And then he just looked at me until I walked away. Normally, this kind of frustrating thing would make me really angry. God must have been watching over me, helping to calm me, because at no point did I get in any way mad or frustrated. I just felt calm and ready to make the best of things the whole time. I really appreciated this, because I think it made it a lot easier for Nicole. I went back up to the room and explained it to Nicole. We both felt pretty indignant, but apparently there was nothing to be done.

We were instructed to let the restaurant staff know that we had gotten the romance package when we went down to eat at 6:00pm. We also needed to let them know what time we would like our strawberries and stuff so that they could "be SURE" to have it ready on time. We requested that it be delivered to the room at 9:00pm. During the meal, our waitress assured us that she had the strawberries cooling in the back and they would be ready for us at 9:00pm.

When we finished our meal (which was very tasty), things were going pretty well. We realized that we had only spent $34.60 of our allotted $40, so I requested to use the remaining $5.40 as a tip for our waitress. I was informed that this was not allowed; if we wanted to tip the waitress, it would have to come out of our own pocket. So, we were forced to either stiff the waitress, which wasn't fair, as she had done a great job all night, or pay money even though we hadn't used the total value of the dinner voucher. As I didn't have any cash on me, I ended up asking them to add a 20% tip to our hotel bill if it would end up in her pocket. Otherwise, there was nothing I could do, as they wouldn't run my credit card just for the tip.

So, ever-so-slightly disgruntled, we returned to our room, picked Naiya up, and took her for a walk. It was very nice! Houghton Lake is a really big lake, though you can still see the opposite shore, so it didn't feel that large in comparison to Lake Michigan. When we got back to the room, I decided to test the jacuzzi to see how long it would take to fill up, and figured out it would take about an hour. This would be perfect, I thought. This way, it will be ready right on time when the strawberries get here.


9:00pm came and went. At 9:15pm, I called down to the front desk to ask if the strawberries/champagne would be arriving soon. The woman working the desk was astounded that they hadn't arrived on time, as she had made sure to remind the staff to bring them up. She apologized and told me that it would be right up. For the record, this woman (we'll call her Sheryl) did a great job all night.

9:30pm arrived and still no dice. I called again to ask what the deal was, and this time Sheryl got mad. She assured me she would go right down and it would be up in no time.

9:45pm came, and I went down to the front desk. I passed the woman bringing it up on a tray, and she apologized profusely. That would have been it, except for one thing: the jacuzzi that I had filled at 8:00pm was now cold and would have to be refilled. I started it refilling, then went to the front desk to ask Sheryl what had happened, and to let her know about the really long fill-time of the jacuzzi. She said she had no clue why it would take so long to fill ("One hour is ridiculous") and apologized for the strawberries, that she had no clue why it took them so long to get them upstairs. I told her not to worry about it, and that we were still going to have a nice night.

When I got upstairs, Nicole looked like she felt terrible as she held out the glasses and napkin to me. There were large brown smudges on the napkin, and the glasses had bright red lipstick on them. I just sighed and said, "Oh boy..." before turning and heading back downstairs. Keep in mind - our room was on the third floor (which is probably why the jacuzzi took so long to fill, what with reduced water pressure going up that distance of piping), so each trip took some time. I brought the glasses and napkin to Sheryl, and she continued to apologize profusely, "I can't believe this, that is disgusting, I'm so sorry, we'll get clean ones up to you right away."

When I went up to the room this time, I was again met by Nicole, only this time there was a more sickly cast to her face. She said, "Now, I don't know if it's nail polish or paint or blood, but..." She gestured to three very distinct, very red spots on the wall. They were completely dry. I said, "Well, paint or nail polish wouldn't come off with water, but blood would, so let's try something." I got some kleenex and wetted it with cool water, then daubed at one of the slightly-smaller-than-dime-sized spots on the wall, completely expecting nothing to come off. Instantly, it bled a bloody red onto the kleenex. It was most definitely blood.

I went back downstairs and explained the blood to Sheryl, and she again apologized profusely, taking the bloody kleenex and putting it in a sample enveloped marked with our room number. She asked if we would like a different room. Thinking about the prospect of returning to the room (which had a filling jacuzzi and all of our stuff unpacked) to tell Nicole that we needed to pack up our stuff, I said no, but that it wasn't very romantic now that we knew there was some strange person's blood on our wall, so we would appreciate it if someone would at least clean the wall. She came up to clean the wall, and brought our clean glasses and napkin with her. By the time everything was clean and we had the room to ourselves again, it was about 11:00pm and, though the jacuzzi was almost full, the strawberries' (which were actually delivered fondue-style in the chocolate with wooden sticks stuck in them) chocolate had cooled and hardened, so that we couldn't get the strawberries out. The chocolate was just a rock-solid blob cementing the strawberries in the bowl. We microwaved it to get the chocolate to soften up, but that just made the strawberries fall apart. Not too appetizing.

Anyway, the following morning I spoke with the manager, who just happened to be Dave's boss - let's call her "Judy." Apparently, Sheryl had reported the weird thing with the restaurant (apparently it was under separate management) and the strawberries being late, but forgot to mention the blood and the fact that they booked us a different room while telling us the room I asked for was available. We filled Judy in on the details, and she was very nice and apologetic and said she would call down to Dave and tell him to give us a discount. I also mentioned Dave's attitude from the day before. As it turns out, Dave was the owner's cousin (surprise surprise), and they had been getting a lot of complaints lately. Judy (who was Dave's boss) asked me to please fill out a comment card describing my interaction with him, since "We are hoping to do some... restructuring... and that would really help."

When we got down to Dave at the front to check out, he pulled up our info and pretended as though he was going to check us out like normal. Then, he put on a big smile and said, "Tell you what. I know you had some troubles yesterday, so I'm going to see what I can do." He typed for a few seconds. "Yes, ok, here you go. I give you a $50 discount on your room rate, just for you. That's the best that I can do."

I paused, knowing Judy had just given him a call from her cell, instructing him to do this.

Me: "So, you're doing this for me, just because you want to?"

Dave: "That's right, and I hope you come stay with us again."

Me: "I know that Judy just called you on the phone and told you to give us a discount. I spoke with her in the hallway about everything that happened, so please don't tell me you're just doing this to be nice."

Silence. (Luckily, Nicole went off looking for comment cards around the foyer so she wasn't embarrassed). Dave said nothing, only looked stone-faced as he handed me the printed receipt to sign. I signed, then said, "One more thing. Judy said there were comment cards down here to fill out. Do you know where one is?"

Dave: "Oh, no, those are now down here. The comment cards are up in the rooms." I'm sure he said this knowing that we were not going back up to the room. I'm also sure that there were no comment cards in the room; I had looked the previous night.

RIGHT THEN (and I could have just kissed her for this), Nicole walked up with a comment card she had found on a table off to the side. I could almost see Dave's jaw clench when he saw it. I smiled and began to fill it out with scathing accuracy right there in front of him. We left without saying another word. In the end, both Nicole and I agreed that with everything that happened, it was definitely not worth what we paid, even with the discount. Even though it was all probably a fluke, we definitely won't be going back there.

To top it all off, last night we realized that I left a pair of khakis and a button-up in the closet of the hotel. When we called them to see if they could mail it to us, they said that they had a shirt and pants that a maid turned in, but since the maid had not written the room number down in which they were found, the couldn't verify that they were truly our pants, and we'd have to call back the following day to speak with a manager.

I just realized that I forgot to do that today. Awesome.

So, that's the story of our Bloody Wall Hotel 2nd Anniversary / 3rd Honeymoon. As I remarked to Nicole on our way out of the hotel parking lot, "At least this way there's nowhere to go but up for next year!"

Here are the pics from the rustic day!


Jamie said...

Nice fire picture!
Naiya photographs well :)
My Lightroom trial is up.... how sad. We're going to have to figure out how to get it.

Anonymous said...

Great Pictures! Next time try the Riviera Resort in Prudenville, Michigan :)

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