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I just returned from the insanely expensive resort where I vacation for a week each summer, which makes me sound like the kind of person who can actually afford that kind of thing.

Alas, because I work in a public library, I have to save all year for that one week in paradise. 

But it‘s usually well worth it. Because the Absurdly Expensive Inn is, indeed, heaven on earth. The rooms? Beautiful. The staff? Super-competent. The cookies on the pillow at turndown? Bliss. But the best thing about the Bank-Account-Draining Inn, if you’re a swimmer like me, is the pool.  

Large. Sparkling clean. Ringed with flowers in bloom. For the rest of the year, as I swim in lesser pools, I’ll close my eyes and imagine that I’m there instead. (Then reopen them before I swim into the wall.)      

The day before I arrived this year, I phoned the desk clerk to make sure the pool was up and running, a little precaution I’ve taken ever since I checked into another hotel years ago, only to discover that the pool was closed because a toddler had just done something no toddler should ever do in a pool.   

“How’s the water?“ I asked. 

“Cold,” he replied. “Very very cold.”  

“You haven’t turned on the pool heater?”  

“There IS no pool heater.”  

“No pool heater? Are you sure?” How could this be? The water had always been maintained at a balmy 86 degrees!

“The pool isn’t heated. That’s what they’ve told me.” 

I was tempted to cancel my reservation, but I was vacationing with friends to whom a pool is merely something you recline beside while you sip iced drinks and read bodice-rippers on your Kindle.   

You could stock the pool with piranhas and they wouldn’t care. 

I couldn’t bail on a vacation we’d all looked forward to just because the pool they weren’t going to swim in was too cold to swim in. So I did what I always do when life hands me lemons. I phoned my sister to kvetch.  

“They told me that there isn’t a pool heater,” I wailed.  

 “They’re lying, ” she said, then went online and pulled up half a dozen travel sites which enthused about the Inn’s glorious heated pool. When I emailed this list to the inn’s manager, I promptly heard back from her assistant, Mr. Useless, who insisted that not only was there no pool heater, but there had never been a pool heater. 

If I wanted a HEATED pool, he suggested, I could always enjoy a swim at the local YMCA. He concluded, mysteriously, with the sentence “I hope I have met your concerns.”

Yeah, on Bizarro World, maybe, where you ask about the pool heater because you WANT the water to be the same temperature as the iced drinks served poolside.  

When I arrived at the Inn the following day, the plot thickened.  

“I was mystified to learn that the pool has no heater,“ I lamented to the desk clerk. “I could have sworn that the pool used to be heated.”

“Of course there’s a pool heater,“  she said. “But it costs a fortune to run, so this year the manager decided not to turn it on.”

I asked to speak to the manager.  

“She’s out of town. Would you like to speak with Mr. Useless?”   

I did not. But for the rest of the week, I played Nancy Drew, asking everyone on staff about the elusive pool heater. To a person, they confirmed that there was a heater, but the Inn had opted for a cool pool this summer to save a buck.

Determined not to let the Lying Tightwad Inn’s penny-pinching ways defeat me, I got in touch with my inner Polar Bear and dove in anyway. I discovered that I’m tougher than I’d thought. 

At 58, I can still endure, if not enjoy, a daily swim in bone-chilling water. 

Besides, a true swimmer hates a crowded pool, and, if nothing else, I always had that sucker to myself. As I glided back and forth, teeth chattering and slowly turning blue, I’d watch would-be swimmers approach,  dip a toe in, then shriek and retreat to their chaises to pen furious Trip Advisor reviews. 

Before I penned my own furious review, I thought it only fair to have a little chat with the Inn’s manager, who’d finally returned from whenever she’d been. (Perhaps at a seminar on “How to Lie to Your Customers and Get Away With It.”) 

She claimed to have no idea the pool had a heater. The fact that you might actually be able to heat that glorious pool, she told me with a perfectly straight face, was news to her. 

“I’ll look right into it!”  she said airily.   

“Stroll over there with me now, sister, ” I wanted to say,  “and I’ll PUSH you right into it.“  

But I’ve never been the stinging-retort type. My policy has always been: Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. Online.   

Chilly pool? Surely a chilly review is in order.  One that asks a simple question: Can you honestly call yourself a luxury resort if you’re too darn cheap to heat the pool? 

I don’t think so. 

So listen up, Tightwad Inn! When I return next summer, I hope you’ve solved the mystery of the disappearing pool heater. Or I might be tempted to do something in that icy-cold pool that no well-behaved librarian should ever do. 

 

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  • Kelly September 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    “Don’t get mad, get even. Online.” Funniest motto!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren September 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Joan, I promised the friends I vacationed with that I wouldn’t call the Inn out (by naming it) because they want to be welcomed back when they return next summer. (I’m not sure that I’ll return next summer.) As a writer, I try to comply with such a request, since my friends matter more to me than revenge.

    Reply
  • Joan Price September 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Hate your experience, love your post about it! But hey, the only way to get revenge is to name the Absurdly Expensive Lying Tightwad Inn — and the manager!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren September 2, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Isabella, I once vacationed in Jamaica with family and it rained the entire week. But that’s okay, since there was a pool and I can swim in the rain. And the food was terrific.

    Reply
  • isabella September 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    A vacation in Jamaica where the entire hotel staff went on strike when we got there. But still it was Jamaica, so we still had fun.

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  • Roz Warren August 31, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    Jody, as you know I once had quite a run-in with your mother-in-law myself. (Also clothing related — wonder what that means…) I don’t recommend the experience. Glad you survived it and I applaud your decision not to repeat it.

    Reply
  • Roz Warren August 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Great story, Mary. With a magical ending. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. (And under those circumstances, coffee would have been life & death for me too!)

    Reply
  • Mary G. August 31, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    I was six years old when I fell and broke my arm ice skating on the neighbor’s driveway. It was late January in upstate NY.
    Little did I know the impact this would have on my summer vacation.
    When my dad brought me to the doctor to check on what was found to be a fractured elbow, part of the routine was an eye exam to determine I did not also suffer a concussion.
    I did not.
    But, they did discover I had a lazy eye.
    We left that night with my arm in a sling and the name of a local ophthalmologist.

    Seven months later, my arm was only just feeling like an arm again and there was a sticky, fabric patch on my “good” eye.
    I was in my room making piles of shorts and shirts to go on vacation to an old lodge/cabin-type place rented out by some friends of my parents. The home was in the woods on a lake. It had a dock and a little boat and you could only get the car within about two hundred yards of the place so my dad would pile up all six kids like little mountain burros with everything from food to life vests, pillows to cleaning supplies. My mom would bring up the rear clutching a can of Maxwell House coffee as if her very life depended on it.
    Which she later told me it did.
    Anyway, I was packing my stuff for the trip when mom came in to remind me I had an eye doctor appointment.
    An hour later, I was sitting in the darkened exam room, BOTH eyes dilated. My mom had left the room to get something as the doctor finished the exam.
    “Six more weeks.” The disembodied voice came at me in the dark and blurry room. The ritual of putting a fresh patch on every morning would continue into the Fall.
    “We’re going on vacation this weekend. Can I swim with my patch on?” I asked, hardly believing I had been so bold with the doctor.
    “No swimming!” he said just as my mom came back in the room and out he went. I distinctly recall her having to dry tears before putting a fresh patch on for the drive home.
    I knew my mother was a rule-follower even then. And I knew I wasn’t going to get in that water with her on patrol….
    Being number 5 out of 6 kids and surrounded by boys in the birth order I also knew there would be no sympathy. No big brother would sit out on the hot dock to keep me company. No big sister would swing on the porch swing and color or read with me. In fact, I’m pretty sure they got together at night after I had been sent up to bed and planned ways to make sure that ALL activities the next day would take place IN the water!
    Even my younger brother, who was my true and loyal companion at every other time of year, was not going to miss fun and games in the lake on my account.
    About Day Three, my dad must have seen how miserable I was and he cajoled my mom into letting me wade in if I stayed by the shore and promised not to get my head wet – which just moved everyone else out into deeper water. It was almost worse than not going in at all.

    That night, though, in the middle of the night, Mom and Dad got me up and we tiptoed down the creaky stairs and through the old farmhouse kitchen to the back door. Dad had left the back light on and a momma raccoon and her babies were tumbling and playing what appeared to be a rousing game of tag in the breezeway. After watching for awhile they put their fingers to their lips and we three tiptoed back to bed.
    In a rambunctious family of eight – alone time with mom and dad was an exciting and rare occurrence. Enough to make the rest of that week fly by.

    Reply
  • jody August 31, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Let’s see….I think the worst vacation I can remember was in Puerto Rico with my husband and my mother in law. Since she footed the bill I shouldn’t complain but I will say this: I will never go on another vacation with this particular combination of beloved relatives. The all-time low was when we got into an argument about whose underpants were whose after they came back from the laundry service all folded and lovely. Oh my. Not good. And Roz. Nail those lying creeps in whatever way that works for you!

    Reply
  • Toni Myers August 31, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Another wonderful Roz piece, turning an infuriating experience into a funny story. I’ve been reviewing places I stay on Trip Advisor the past couple years. It helps a lot to be able to let others know when I receive terrible customer service. Your experience sounds like outrageous arrogance on the part of the manager and staff, as in: we are too special to be questioned because you are lucky to be here. Bravo that you enjoyed your stay anyway. Will you return next year?

    Reply
  • Leslie in Portland, Oregon August 31, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    You are just the inspiration I need, on this the eve of my departure for a stay on Wallowa Lake, a gorgeous, pure but chilly lake in NE Oregon. Like you, I am a devoted swimmer, but I need a boost for the first dive into that lake each summer!

    I also appreciated your resilience in not letting the cold pool keep you from swimming during, or otherwise ruin, your vacation. Now to go look online for your stinging reviews!

    Reply
  • Amit August 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Hmmm… Maybe the Universe was just testing you, your patience.. or the true resolve of your inner polar bear?!

    Reply
  • Mickey August 31, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Oh, I love you, Roz. You are so funny, so brave and so polite.

    Reply
  • barbara holmes August 31, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    The reason these people can get away with this kind of atrocity is because of the passive/aggressive behavior of timid guests who don’t know how to effectively resolve these issues.

    How can you say, “But the best thing about the Bank-Account-Draining Inn, if you’re a swimmer like me, is the pool.”…and then allow this to happen without demanding a partial refund?? You are a regular customer in an economy where few people have jobs much less a vacation savings! Online retribution can only do so much…and you’re going to return to this place next year.

    As a longtime worldwide traveler, I feel outraged like the poster above but I would demand compensation both online and in my letters just to wake them up a bit….and I sure as hell would never go back. I’m disappointed that you tolerated this behavior and then wrote about it. I’m not sure many hotel owners were scared by this one, Roz!

    Reply
  • Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) August 31, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Your experience definitely merits a TripAdvisor “call out”. I think most hotels monitor TA pretty closely. On second thought,I would first email a copy of your essay to management so they can thank you for not mentioning the inn by by name and have a chance to make it right-‘-I.e. a free night for next year.

    Reply
  • Apuch August 31, 2013 at 11:38 am

    While a non heated pool sounds very annoying especially since they obviously lied about it I would say that those other amenities probably helped. I do love the perks like chocolates (in this case cookies) on the bed at turn down.

    I would be hard pressed to pick a “worst” vacation since most of mine both when young and as an adult had a combination of good and bad points. Driving through the Mohave Desert at 9 years old was very uncomfortable in our non air conditioned station wagon yet the memory of driving right through a dust devil has happily stayed with me. The thrill of going to Disney World the first year it opened was tampered by the check in person giving us the book of summer tickets at 2:00 AM of the day that they changed to the fall book. This resulted in a 3 hour argument which my sister and I (both still at the age of a single number) found annoying and incomprehensible. The excitement of being in Europe (Paris)for the first time was dampened slightly by the sleeping conditions (wife and I on a too small mattress on the floor) in the dwelling we rented (great location and price). There was the time we pitched our tent next to the gas station with permission from the owner only to wake in the morning and find that our delight about the terrain was due to our being on the green of a hole of a golf course.
    Basically I have never had a wholly horrible or wonderful vacation. My vacations happily are similar to my working life with ups, downs and some bumps along the way up or down. Vacations are something we all need to do more often even if it gets a bit chilly.

    Reply
  • Stacia Friedman August 31, 2013 at 10:44 am

    As a professional travel writer, I am outraged by Rosalind’s experience but not surprised. I once woke up in a Paris hotel to loud crashing sounds from the ceiling. I suspected sumo wrestlers were rehearsing on the floor above. When I complained, the manager informed me that they were doing “construction” for the entire week of my stay and refused to refund my deposit!

    There is a special place in Hell for people in the hospitality business who put profit before honesty. If I were Rosalind, I’d write a seething letter to the editors of upscale travel magazines and send a copy to the owner of the inn!

    Reply
  • FRan Meyer August 31, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Love it!
    The awful vacation was near acadia natl park in Maine. It was 1979. We had rented a “cottage” from friends who owned a beautiful craft store. We arrived at the cottage to find it Filthy. It was full of cobwebs, mouse droppings and smelled very musty. All the dishes and pots were filthy so we had to wash everything before using it. The cottage had an old-fashioned sink with two taps. So we went out and bought lobsters and left them in the cold water. of course when we returned from a hike the lobsters were dead. DUH! What idiot leaves lobsters in fresh water! Of well. my cousins arrived and we cleaned everything and had fun anyway.

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  • Mark Lowe August 31, 2013 at 9:15 am

    Ha! Wonderful!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren August 31, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Whats YOUR worst vacation experience? Feel free to use the “Comments” section to vent.

    Reply