Monday, April 15, 2013

City Walk Messing

Set fire to the rain?

We never do anything small, whether it’s a family event or a get-together with friends.  Even a small barbeque in the backyard turns into a fifteen or more person affair.  You start with one couple, but then realize you really need to invite this other couple, as well, and then that prompts a third couple, because you don’t want feelings getting hurt.  Before you know it, you should have catered the event.  And truly, that’s fine with the girls and me.  We love the giant gatherings with those friends that are dear to us.

However, taking the party out to establishments can sometimes be quite a bit of work. 

About once every three months we plan a trip to City Walk at Universal with our friends.  For those unfamiliar with City Walk, it’s the prelude to the theme parks Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios in Orlando.  It’s comprised of shops, dining, a movie theater, and plenty of night clubs.  We go for the night clubs, of course.

The first time we did it, we all drove over, partied, and then drove back.  Not a smart venture seeing as it’s an hour away from where we live.  Some are not able to get fully into it as they’re remaining sober for the drive home.  We learned our lesson, and the second time out everyone rented a hotel room shuttled over.  Everyone could join in the fun now, with no need to worry about who was driving.

Of course, the hotel we stayed in was a dive.  We didn’t purposefully pick one that way to save money, mind you.  A few years back, the girls and I had stayed there and it was a great experience.  That experience is the reason we chose that particular hotel this time.  However, six years is enough time for a place to go from four stars down to “Oh my god, get me the hell out of here!”

They’re first strike was lying to us.  Ask the 8-year old and former friends.  I hate being lied to more than just about anything, including sauerkraut.  Teri had called a couple of days before trying to get all of our rooms close together.  We had reserved five rooms and we didn’t want them scattered all over the hotel.  We then checked on the shuttle and were informed that shuttles run back and forth.  No problem.

There was a problem.

The last shuttle was at eight and while we could ride over on one, we would have to find our way back.
Sit back and relax

“That’s not what we were told last night when we called to confirm.”  My blood pressure was rising as I told the lady we were talking to the name of the lady we were on the phone with for thirty minutes the night before.  That’s a lesson I learned a long time ago.  Always write down names and make notes of all business conversations.  The lady we had spoken to had merely agreed to whatever Teri had asked while more than likely playing Angry Birds on her phone.  She didn’t even know the correct names in which the rooms had been registered!

The lady that checked us in was as helpful as she could be which wasn’t all that helpful.  The experience at this particular Best Western only became worse from there.

As we stepped into our room, it was warmer than it was outside.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, assuming they had adjusted the thermostat to save on electricity.  I couldn’t fault them there.  It’s just good business.  Besides the first thing I do when I enter a hotel room is crank the air down to below freezing because, after all, it’s not my power bill.

Yet, this air conditioner wasn’t working.  We called down for maintenance and they promptly showed up to rig it.  If we were going to have air, we had to have the thermostat set at 63.  I was probably going to set it that low anyway, but now that I was robbed of the option, I didn’t want it and it pissed me off.  I needed a drink.

I grabbed the ice bucket and left the girls to deal with the morons working on the air conditioner.  Our floor had an ice machine, but as with the way things were going, it was broken.  Actually, it was more than broken.  It was a fossil of forty decades ago.  I know that’s the age of fossilization because that’s what the kids have been calling me since I turned four decades and no longer enjoyed their music or fashion decisions. 

I stood there staring at the giant military gray machine trying to figure out how to work it.  It said to put my key in for ice and there was a giant round hole for whatever the room keys used to be.  I stared at my room key, which was a credit card looking thing and just mumbled, “Strike three,” as I went for the elevators.

The girls & I having a great time
As we started making our reservations that experience was fresh in my mind.  My only request was somewhere other than the Worst Western.  It may have been for only one night, but I demanded a room at least closer to this century in equipment than the last.  I wanted things to work.  Everyone agreed and the Holiday Inn Suites was booked.  It didn’t have a shuttle service, but it was right across the street and within walking distance of Universal.  We could walk over and stumble back without worry.  Well, without much worry, anyway.

Florida has skipped spring and quickly entered summer, which means even at 5:30 walking can be a sweaty experience.  It was also a fifteen minute walk.  That may have seemed bad, but we still beat those who opted to drive over.  Before the first drink was had, however, it was decided we would get a taxi back to the hotel.
City Walk has a Meal & Party Pass that, for $21.00, allows you to free up the rest of your cash for over-priced drinks.  The pass includes dinner at the restaurants - select menu, of course - and free cover charge to all of the bars.  If the clubs didn’t have a cover charge, then your first drink was supposed to be free.  I have not found a bar, however, inside of City Walk that did not have a seven dollar cover charge.

After purchasing our passes, we headed over to Pat O’Brien’s for dinner.  This had been an experience in and of itself. We had been trying for two months to make reservations.  After all, our party was at twenty-six attendees and climbing.  We assumed they would appreciate a heads up, so they could prepare and be well staffed.  We also didn’t want to wait an hour while they tried to accommodate us. 

They couldn’t plan that far ahead.  They only wanted a thirty day warning.  I suppose they were afraid of either our group changing its mind or them losing the piece of paper that said, “big ass group coming in.”  We waited thirty days and called again.

No one answered.

We left a message and waited.  No one returned our call.  We tried again, and again no one answered.  We left another message, which also went unheeded.  They had extensions for reservations, the main manager, and the general manager.  Teri and I left messages on all three. 

Still no response.

Trudging to City Walk
This is just bad business to me.  I understand that they’re at City Walk at Universal and probably have an abundance of tourists willing to pay dearly to eat there so that our business isn’t vital for them to keep their doors open and their bills paid.  We were also told that Pit Bull was performing inside the park and that was probably why we couldn’t get reservations.  They could have called us back and informed us of that, but we couldn’t even get a call returned.  The reason you set up voicemail is so that people can leave you messages that you will respond to at a later time.  At least, that’s why most people have it.  Voicemail came with my phone and wasn’t something I requested.  I never check it.  I see a missed call and if it’s someone I know I simply call them back, whether they left me a message or not.

“Hey, it’s Robbie.  What’s up?”

“I left you a message.”

“I don’t check my messages.  Sorry.  So, what’s up?”

“I left you a message saying don’t call me at this number again.”

“Oh. Oops.”

But a business is different, or, at least, it should be.  Voice messages could mean money and businesses should want to make money.  Pat’s apparently makes enough money and voicemail is merely there to frustrate the potential customers.  They did have an online option for making reservations, but that had a cap on the number of seats you could reserve.  Anything over a certain number had to be phoned in - to the phone numbers they weren’t answering.  One of our friends tried to make a small reservation online to test it and you could only make one two hours before or two hours after the desired meal hour.  Were they really going to be that busy?

A week before we were supposed to go, I said forget it and told Teri to make reservations at the T.G.I. Friday’s located inside the Holiday Inn where we were staying.

“I’m sorry we don’t take reservations.  We are a first come, first served business.”

“Okay, well, we have thirty people in our group and we will be at your door at six to eat dinner.”

“That’s nice.”

“I thought you’d appreciate some notice so you could be better prepared.”

“That’s sweet of you, but it’s still first come, first served.”

And this is why I hate eating out.

As we were pulling into our hotel Saturday, an hour and a half before we were to be eating, I received a call from Pat O’Brien’s.  “Hi, this is David calling to confirm your reservation for six o’clock.”

I just screamed.

* * * * *
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For Further Reading ~ We're Hotel Experienced
                                Dressing Room Musings
                                It's In the Service  

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  1. LOL...The next time I go to Florida I want you to make me a room reservation and dinner reservations for a party of 75. This was great and something that would have so happened to me. I feel for you my friend and like you, I LOVE to crank the A/C on someone else's dime, first thing I do upon entering any hotel room. What a nightmare but hopefully you ended up having a great time, regardless and I'm sure you did. And for the record, there is nothing worse than businesses that refuse to return calls and like you said, why have voicemail? Great fun reading this one : )

    1. I'm telling you, dining establishments and I just do not get along. It was a great night and part two will be out tomorrow. Thanks for visiting and commenting, my friend :)