Monday, June 29, 2009

The B&B Nightmare

Have you ever recommended a place to eat, a movie to see, or a hotel to stay in, and regretted it? You know how it goes, you loved the movie and told all your friends they HAD to see it – and they thought it was just okay? Here’s an even more extreme version of that scene.

Close friends of mine asked for a hotel recommendation for Key West, so when I was there in March, I had a chance to check out several places, screening for the best. They prefer B&Bs, so my husband and I found 2 very lovely ones plus a hotel that was so outstanding, I had to include it. The Gardens Hotel is set on 9 lush, tropical acres. It’s an old mansion that is beautifully decorated, plus cottages on lovely garden paths. The pool is outstanding, and I’ve heard the jazz performed on the shady patio on Sundays is very cool.

Unfortunately, my friends unknowingly booked something that had a similar name (perhaps purposely so.) Upon arriving at The Gardens Hotel, they toured the property, were given a glass of champagne and a warm welcome, and were all set for a wonderful week – except there was no reservation. Looking more carefully at their email confirmation, they realized their mistake and took themselves off to the Bed and Breakfast with a similar name.

It was downhill from that point on. Their room was old and cramped, with not enough space for even a single chair. Just a bed, 2 tiny nightstands, and a dresser with a TV from the 1980s on it – oh, and a sink within arm’s reach of the bed, quite useful if you have the urge to wash your hands in the middle of the night. A mini-fridge sat below the sink, which was a good thing, because there was nowhere but the bed to set any toiletries.

The bathroom contained only a toilet and a shower stall, and was so small, the door had to remain open when using the stool.

My friend asked for a hair dryer and was informed there was but one – to be shared with the 11 other rooms. Same with iron and ironing board. Then again, there was no outlet in which to plug the hair dryer anyway, unless the mini-fridge was unplugged. The wooden blinds didn’t close all the way, which made undressing risky, as the window was visible to anyone heading to the backyard “swimming pool” a tub-like area big enough for about eight people to sit in. Breakfast was meager, no juice or water, and coffee was not available after the first pot was empty.

The web site was totally deceiving, too, making it seem like quite a fun, lush vacation spot, which to me qualifies as false advertising. Even worse, they have a 14 day cancellation policy, and a “no early departure” policy. They run the entire bill on the credit card upon checking in, which makes it difficult for anyone to cut and run after seeing their quarters.

If this ever happens to you, please note that you can dispute the charges with your credit card company. They work for you, not for the merchant. You do have a way out.

I feel so sorry for my friends. Who knew there were two places with such similar names? I wish I had. Have you ever had any hotel horrors? Recommendations gone wrong? Tell us so we can commiserate.
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