Chris Moss Online

Travel Observations II

I forgot to tell you about the Ritz-Carlton. We got a “special” rate of $220 for one night but I had to pay “regular” rate of $317 the other night.

I was completely underwhelmed. It’s a nice hotel, don’t get me wrong, but it really wasn’t that much nicer than a good Marriott, Hyatt or Westin. In fact, I mentioned to James that the Westin we stayed in in San Antonio, where we first fell in love with their “Heavenly Bed” was much, much nicer.

Bed was pretty comfy, but even the La Quinta I frequent in Houston has larger than a 17″ Quasar TV. The clock radio was on the high end, though, complete with CD player. They had the nice terrycloth robes with the Ritz-Carlton logo monogrammed on the breast, the towels were fluffy, and the marble bath was nice. There were 3 phones in the room, including one corded one next to the john and a cordless next to the bed. A bit over the top, I suspect one cordless would have sufficed. The view was crap. The food was reasonable but not great. Fell pretty short of the “legend,” if you will.

I will say that service was first-rate, however. Each and every person I came into contact with, from the time I first called for a reservation, to front desk, to housekeeping, to room service, was insanely polite and helpful, if not subservient. If you ask me, this is the way it should always be and you shouldn’t have to pay extra for it. Some businesses are discovering that this kind of service is a competitive edge these days, but most employees are just too apathetic. I once had a clerk at Tom Thumb shrug and stuff a $15 roast into a bag without charging me because after raking it over the scanner twice he couldn’t get it to scan. Occasionally apathy works to your advantage but not usually.

I do have one gripe, and then an observation. The gripe is that the hotel advertised high-speed internet access, which was listed among amenties and to me implies that it is complimentary, as in included in the price. I dragged my laptop along so I could check e-mail and communicate with the outside world, but when I went to log in, I was greated by a screen that told me welcome to Ritz-Carlton in-room high-speed access, which is a mere $9.95/day. I declined, even though it was the company’s money – they were already spending enough on me that day. I don’t see how they can have the gall to ask for ten bucks after you’ve paid the steep price for admission. But, I guess free internet doesn’t make or break one’s decision to stay at the Ritz.

I ended up ordering room service, which means I paid $35 for a Cobb salad and one glass of riesling. I went down for dinner, but it was Valentine’s Day, and the main restaurant was serving only their special V-day menu, 4 course dinners for two at a set price. The bar was serving food, but it was packed (mainly by those attending the conference) and there was nowhere to sit, so I returned to the room.

As I perused the room service menu, there were a lot of neat things on there, but they were pricey. For $22 they will pack a snack for you and have it available at the front desk for checkout (“Flight Bites”). They offer a lot of wine and cigars, cognacs, desserts, etc for room service. It occurred to me that, this is essentially a country club. This is a place rich people stay so they can be around other rich people. As I said, the rooms aren’t really that much nicer and certainly don’t justify the price – but the prices do serve the alterior purpose of keeping out the riff raff. A place for people who don’t care about how much money they are spending, they just want someone who only says “my pleasure, sir” when you demand something and don’t want to have to share airspace with people below a certain income level. People who value things only by how much they cost. This is probably the same reason Neiman Marcus is still in business, because I don’t see paying $200 for a plain white shirt. But some people will ooh and ahh over a new white shirt, and when you tell them it cost $200, they would squeal with delight.

My observation was confirmed when my Cobb salad arrived. It tasted reasonably okay, but I recognize salad out of a bag and Kraft salad dressing, because that’s what we eat at home, too. Even paying $24 for it and eating it off a white tablecloth, wheeled to my room on a cart with a flowervase and my own salt and pepper shakers didn’t make it taste better. I think I heard the rich, snobby couple next door squealing about how good their salads were.

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