Saturday, June 02, 2007

You can't fix stupid

Well, as Forrest Gump said, "Life is just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get." I am really surprised that there was actually any notice or concern about my recent post regarding my response requesting an Alumni Dinner ticket only (like I have been able to do before). Circumstances prevent me from getting there for the whole thing but I was willing to fly in late Friday, attend the Alumni Dinner, and then take the red eye back out. No such accommodations could be made according to our HQ drones whose fraternity history is younger than my newest set of underwear. I should have done like others in the past, just bring an old conclave badge and walk right in ... but no, I wanted to do the right thing and at least pay for what I was getting (unlike some other alumni I know). And, I am NOT one of those alums who is getting their expenses subsidized because they are this or that with regard to working with a chapter, etc., etc.

Actually this post is about two things: (1) one of the responses to my previous post regarding what a ripoff the hotel in Atlanta is and (2) conflict of interest and poor choice of locations for 2009.

With regard to Atlanta here's what a recent convention attendee had to say about the venue our experts have selected:
"Having just returned from a multi-day meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta from a 2,000 person convention --- be prepared for some sticker shock.

My hotel room was $150++ per night for the convention rate plus $14.50 per day for valet parking. My room service breakfast of 2 strips of bacon, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 pieces of wheat toast, 8 oz. orange juice, and hash browns (no grits in Atlanta?) ran me just under $30 including tip. My lobby area buffet lunch ran $20. A long-time friend hosted a reception for about 400 people. They charged him $5 for each canape consumed, $600 for a vegetable tray with two dips, and $1,000 for four hunks of cheese that were each the size of my fist. The cash bar included a glass of Coke (8 oz. including the ice) for $5.

The rooms themselves? Standard mid-upscale fare, but no mini-bar/snack availability. Nice beds. Hot bathroom water becomes questionable after 6:30 AM. Remember this hotel was built in the 1970's. Nice thick fluffy towels though oddly and lowly stored almost on the floor --- same as where the toilet paper holder resides ---- about four inches above the floor. Free coffee and coffee-maker in each room, along with a hair dryer, iron, ironing board, and a digitally programmed room temperature control.Wake up call? Very prompt. Just like clockwork. They'll even let you snooze and call you again in another ten minutes. A nice touch.

Elevators? Only six. They crowd easily. Forget taking one down to the ballroom level in the sub-basement or the Plan B ballrooms even further submerged. Take the escalators. Signage? One map right off of each escalator. It will help you find the breakout rooms which are either poorly marked or not marked at all (Hanover A - G) have no signs or are hidden when the door is open.

Banquets? The food was good, hot, and served promptly. I admit the plates looked skimpy on portions initially, but I was satisfied with each meal in quantity and quality when it was all done.

Concierge Service? Trust me, they were NOT wearing the Crossed Key emblem of a true Concierge. Their service was uneven, and understaffed. People in front of me were handed pre-printed maps and computerized directions. I was handed a torn piece of paper with a street address and a illegible phone number for my intended dining destination. Bell Staff? Invisible. At no point did anyone venture forth to ask me if I needed help with my three bags. No offer from the front desk either.

I also had a package that was sent to me for a presentation I was making that I know was sent special and arrived on-time at the hotel because of a tracking code. At no point was I called or the package delivered -- so I had to present without some of my support materials. Fortunately, I had 95% of what I needed already on-hand and "made do."

BTW, don't ask for a Pepsi. They look at you strangely and charge $2.50 for a 12 oz. bottle. If you do want one, ask for "Fred" and "Pretty Betty" in the lobby restaurant. I kid you not. It's a Coca-Cola city."
Now for our venue for 2009, the Golf Resort in Orlando. But first a few comments regarding being on a golf resort. First, who is going to lug clubs for maybe 1 round of golf, particularly when it is $150 minimum. If you rent clubs, it will be another expense. Oh, yes, I forget, we are only concerned about accommodations for the Board of Governors and beyond. Who cares about the lowly undergrads and the alums that care enough about the fraternity that they have to take out a short term loan to cover conclave expenses. Not everyone that actually cares about the fraternity (and actually makes it happen) are direct descendants of Daddy Warbucks. Oh, yeah, Graz, don't give us the line about cheap airline tickets - not everyone wants to fly a red eye or some other inconvenient flight. Well, let's look at what the every day traveler says about Rosen Shingle Creek ( which by the way, one of our alum contributors has a considerable interest in):
Hmm, This reviewer gave it a 1 out of 10: "It seemed to me that all these people at the Rosen Shingle Creek seem to care about are big corporate convention groups since there's a golf course there and they spend big tax deductible money in their restaurants entertaining each other. I felt I was sharing the lobby and pool area with Jackie Gleason and Ed Norton types at one of their cheesy raccoon lodge meetings TV scenes.

If you enjoy being treated like crap this is the place for you because the staff likes to play dumb when it comes to basic requests. On one day I was out all morning and when I returned about noon the room still wasn't done. Not enough cleaning staff I guess.

If you have pretty woman in your family or group like I did beware. I noticed some of those convention guys, wearing their stupid name tags, staring at the woman I was with as they walked by. I did not find this place family friendly at all. The legionaries can keep this place since I'll never go back. I would go somewhere else in Orlando; I couldn't wait to leave Rosen Shingle Creek."

This reviewer gave it a 3 out of 10: "If all you care about is how the hotel looks then Shingle Creek is perfect. We were very comfortable, and the sheets were probably a high thread count. The restaurant food was really good. Still, I'm surprised that for the amount we paid for the room (which was still a discounted price for a convention) there were so many things not included. No breakfast, no free parking, no free internet. I've been to hotels where you pay under $100 a night and get all these things included plus a free newspaper! What on earth was I paying for?

Another 1 out of 10:"you plan on staying at Shingle Creek, rent a car it will be well worth it as you are trapped, as this place is isolated. Meals are overpriced and the service is slow. They have high cab fares to get off-site. Put all expenses on your room or pay cash and don't run a tab. I closed all of my lounge tabs with cash and they were added to my bill. My room receipt did not match my credit card statement, as they charged me an extra night's stay on my credit card. Good luck finding anybody at the front desk with authority. I attended a convention at the resort, don't book the ballrooms for speakers as they are huge echo chambers and nobody will hear the speakers. Even if the rooms here were free, you couldn't afford to stay here."

Ooops an 8 out of 10, but they had a car: "I loved the Rosen, it was a beautiful hotel. The rooms were furnished very tastefully, and the grounds were perfectly manicured. We had a room overlooking the golf course, and it was perfect. I do admit though that we didn't have much interaction with the staff, other than the valets and the front desk staff. They were friendly and efficient. We didn't eat at the hotel either. We did get a good rate because they had a lot of empty rooms and would definitely stay there again at a discounted price."
And so it goes. Do the Google yourself, don't take my word for it. Of course this smacks of the Phoenix Conclave which was actually at very nice place other than there was no restaurants of worth on the property, you were trapped at then end of the world unless you had a rental car. Of course it was a dry heat, but 120 degrees is still hot - you wouldn't stick your head in an oven would you?

Why do we look for venues that pander to the wealthy or the inner circle. I thought our Fraternity's Goal was to be all inclusive. I guess we are PC at the front end but when it comes to an event that is a major celebration of our existence we strive to be the elitists we say we aren't.