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Shite List

Various Hotels and Motels across America

Offense -
Nefarious business practices involving using the Internet to misrepresent shabby flophouses as legitimate vacation options, nickel and diming additional charges, and a general fleecing of the often gullible and unsuspecting traveling public. 

Goliard staffers have been doing a lot of traveling lately and, as per usual, have returned with countless tales of sketchy accommodations. We decided we'd jot down a few of the experiences so that other road weary adventurers might be spared some of the same humiliations.

It should be noted that as the presence of the Internet and it's far reaching tentacles supposedly make things ever more convenient for the prospective traveler (to the point where once valuable travel agents are now all but obsolete) and planning a trip has become something everyone thinks they can do themselves. If one does use a travel agent these days they will likely find that all this "agent" really wants to do is book you with "a package" or put you in "a resort" that they usually have a deal with. This agency gets you into Hilton resorts and that one gets you into Sheraton resorts, and they each have a few favorite cruise lines. They do NOT research, or even think, beyond what shows up on their computer screen, or maybe what they find in the AAA book. Plus they get the reduced travel prices, so many tend to want to book you either on what they did last or what they are collecting points or goodwill to go on next. As a result, scores of potential vacationers and business adventures alike have shunned their services and now spend countless hours at the keyboard before they actually go anywhere, puzzling out online logistics and scouting for any and all deals. From too good to be true hideaways, to the free stuff and perks they don't deserve and haven't earned, to junkets that fit with their budget and busy schedules, folks everywhere click in their plans and head off expecting to have a wonderful bang up time just like the people appear to be having on their computer screen. But as many have come to realize once the virtual becomes the reality, it ain't exactly so.

Planes, trains, and automobiles to be sure, not to mention busses, trolleys, ferries, seaplanes, taxis, segways, and horses and cart can all be booked online these days as laptop warriors hunker at their desks and envision themselves sashaying down the world's famous streets. The trouble is that, online, things can easily be made to appear what they are not and everything sounds calm and relaxing on the old I-net where the smells and reality of the streets don't play through the antiseptic screen and the sounds of the sand blasting shop next to your hotel don't show up through the speakers. Here is a prime example.

One of our staffers had to drive from San Francisco to LA and wanted to stop in between near Santa Barbara to hit the beach for a morning run and relax a little to break up the drive. They had never been to the area before and got online to scout for accommodations. It being a summer weekend night, Santa Barbara itself was booked up so they figured they'd stay nearby and just drive to the beach in the morning. They found the following description of a place on one of the travel sites.

"The Best Value Inn of Santa Maria, CA is conveniently located west of Hwy 101 and east of 135 on Main Street. This 2-story, exterior design Inn offers 57 clean and quiet rooms featuring cable TV w/ HBO, free local calls, iron w/ ironing board, mini-fridge, AM/FM clock radio and more. We proudly extend to our guests complimentary continental breakfast, guest laundry facility and an outdoor pool. Our property can accommodate large groups. We are close to the Fair Park, Hancock College, Beach,...

First keep in mind that The Best Value Inn, is not the Best Western. And even though it sounds like a legitimate chain and claims to have over 400 associated places of lodging, has anyone you know ever stayed in one? The $80/night fee seemed to indicate a comfortable room if one compares it with what that kind of money usually gets but our staffers could not have been more deceived! We'll set the scene.

After a lovely morning spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a leisurely drive down PCH, it was getting late as our staffers began looking for the Best Value Inn which they had prepaid for online since they anticipated a late arrival and didn't want to be left searching for a place in the wee hours. As they followed the directions to the "convenient location" they realized they were possibly in a sketchy part of town when they pulled up and found four police cars with flashing lights and two perpetrators in cuffs on the ground with jack boots in their backs. The balconies were lined with undershirt clad spectators several of which all piled into a car and screamed off down the block with two of the cop cars giving chase. In the lobby they encountered an elderly woman with a dangling cigarette and a smell that suggested she had been passing gas for the last few hours after a particularly foul meal. They tenentively filled out the forms, got their key and sidestepped their way through the crowd of local toughs to their room. Inside they found flophouse style rooms with a further foul odor, garage sale beds, holes in the walls, and graffiti on the mirror along with mildew in a decrepit shower stall. When they pulled back the bed spread and found what appeared to be bullet holes surrounded by a faded brown stain, they decided that was enough and returned to the lobby to attempt to negotiate a refund. "Well what exactly is the problem? asked the woman, getting a pen. "We can't be responsible for the condition of the room left by the prior occupant. I've had to turn down other interested parties for that room all night." A scan around the lobby revealed a crusty piece of nut bread and a black banana. The continental breakfast? Out the window there was a small cement puddle with green water. The outdoor pool? Just then a hooker walked in with a sheepish John and our staffers walked out and got back on the highway where they eventually found another motel. Too tired after the ordeal to head to the beach in the morning, they left the area $160 dollars poorer with nothing to show for it except some flea bites on their ankles from the few minutes they were in the Best Value Inn.

And by contrast, just to show that the fleecing of the well healed is just as common as of those looking for value, another staffer stayed in the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco the same weekend and, not wanting to pay five dollars per beer from the minibar, went out and bought a six pack to drink while enjoying the view. Wanting to keep the beer cold, the staffer removed the beers from the minibar and replaced them with his own with full intent on restoring things to their original state the next morning. When he awoke the next day however, a bill had been slipped under the door for 36 dollars. Closer inspection of the fridge revealed that small writing on the door explains that patrons will be charged for any items removed from the minibar whether or not they were consumed as the whole thing is electronically wired to charge the room when anything is touched. So, for example, if you were to lift a soda or candy bar to read the ingredients to decide whether or not you were hungry for it, you would have already bought it before you garnered the information. Instructions on the door explain all this of course, in microscopic writing that you have to be on your knees to read. To make sure they still appear classy, they add that a refrigerator is available upon request like anybody would think of having one rolled into the room just to keep a couple beers cold.

So be careful travelers. We have many more stories that we'll add as time permits but suffice it to say that while booking online or trying to enjoy your stay in the nation's hotels. Keep a wary eye out for bullshite.

Shite list is a new feature of the Goliard where staff members and readers alike may post names of people who have either committed some egregious act against them personally which is deserving of public mention, or are public figures which have fallen out of favor to the point where a feature story cataloging their offenses is in the works but is not yet complete and a brief preview is needed. It can be seen both as a public forum for publishing names (and pictures if available) of offenders and a preview of more in depth vitriolic writings to come. Offenses can range from being the guy who drives too fast in a school zone to being George Bush. We'll see how it goes.

Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved.