Monday, June 19, 2006

Bad Service

I saw my first major league baseball game this past weekend in Atlanta. Red Sox vs. Braves. My husband is the more passionate knowledgeable fan between us and he arranged the trip as a belated first anniversary gift. Not knowing how to get around in Atlanta, we booked a room within walking distance of the stadium. A hotel that touted itself as "Select", hosting a conference center and an "executive chef". We had high hopes. The hotel was indeed within walking distance, but that was about the only thing it could boast as having above and beyond any other hotel at which I've stayed.

After having been on the road for four hours, we went down to the lobby restaurant to have dinner before the evening game. It was early and there were only two other occupied tables. Nice decor, great overstuffed curved booth, nice menu. Our waitress was friendly and brought us water and asked us what we'd like to drink. We both enjoy a good beer, so we inquired about the beer selection. "Do you have any dark beers?" I asked. "We have Budweiser and Miller on tap", she replied. We asked what else there might be to choose from and she said she'd check with the bar. She comes back, happy to inform me that the restaurant has Bass, which is a "pretty dark beer". It's not. At all. But since we figured that that was the extent of the selection, we ordered two. She takes our food order. I ordered the stuffed flounder and my husband ordered a burger and fries. Cooked medium. She doesn't think the restaurant has any more flounder, but needs to go check. She comes back ten minutes later and tells me that yes, they do have the flounder. Ok. Order in. Ten minutes later, a different server arrives to tell me that no, they do not have any more flounder and hands me a menu to re-examine. As I'm trying to figure out what I'd like, our waitress returns to ask my husband again how he wanted his burger cooked. Our beers still haven't arrived. We decide to leave, rather than endure the entire incompetant overpriced experience. My husband, nice guy that he is, asks a restaurant employee for change for a 20.00, so that we can leave a tip for the waitress, despite the fact that all we consumed was some lemon water and some stale yeast rolls. TEN more minutes later, someone manages to track down change. We leave her a five and take off in search of dinner. Outside the hotel was a makeshift burger stand where most likely the same burger that we had just ordered for 12.00 inside was being cooked and served at record speed at half the price and none of the pretense.

The same night after walking back to the hotel after the game, we stopped in the hotel bar for a couple of beers. Not a large bar, but the room was packed. Three bartenders manned the bar and not one of them seemed to know the first thing about what they were doing. Each order was written first on paper and then the server would confusedly wander up and down the bar, trying to put it together. Once the drinks were poured, the server then consulted with both other employees and the computer for an eternity before the sale could be completed.
We first asked a server who seemed to be working the floor if we could order four Coronas to take up to our room (we still didn't know they had anything darker to drink). He referred us to "that girl on the end, who would take care of us". We sat at the end of the bar for half an hour waiting for that "girl at the end of the bar" to notice us before the same floor server came up and asked us what we wanted to order. We placed the same request and waited a while for him to bring our beers. Once the beers were in front of us, he then told us to "hang on" while he "got a price on that". Ten more minutes of waiting for our bill while he consulted the computer and his co-workers. Rather than endure whatever ridiculous wait there might be for change, we simply gave him our twenty and took off.

Day two. We get up at 8:00, shower and decide to order some room service breakfast. The menu proudly states a "Promise of Quality Service" or some such bullshit on the back. I place the call and our order at around 9:30; bagel and cream cheese, coffee, steak and eggs. The server tells us to expect a 25-30 minute delivery time. At 10:45, our food still hasn't arrived, nor has an explanation. We have a game to get to and we need to eat. My husband by now is furious and calls the restaurant, telling them to cancel the order and calling them inept. We eat hotdogs at the stadium.

Later that afternoon, back at the hotel bar after the game. After ordering yet another disgusting Budweiser, I look over and see that a customer is drinking *GASP* Guiness. I order a Guiness. It's actually cheaper than the Budweisers we've been choking down. The woman they have on duty this day is by herself and it's quickly obvious that she's far more skilled than the three morons from the night before. She's serving a room of 30-40 people and no one is having to wait more than 5 minutes for their beer. When she runs out of Guiness, she points me to a *GASP AGAIN* beer selection that includes my favorite beer, Beck's Dark. I'm finally happy. They had it all along, but no one before could figure it out. How hard was that?

How does a hotel that's trying to act all fancy pants with a stupid long-ass title, NOT prepare themselves properly when it's a HUGE baseball weekend with thousands of guests in from out of town? Why in God's name would you fill the work schedule with people who don't know jack squat about food or drink or how to find the answers to your basic questions? How do you run out of the ingredients for one of your five "specialities"? Why, on a night when your bar could efficiently serve hundreds of people and make a huge profit, would you staff it with imbeciles who only speak Budweiserese and can't work a room or the computer?

I'll probably never know the answer, but I do now know the name of a competing hotel nearby with lower rates, a free breakfast, and a free shuttle to the game.
To the hotel's credit?, they did offer us a free breakfast (which we declined) to make up for our bad experience, but my view on that is what good is it to give me more of your bad product/service to make up for your bad product/service?

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