Last night Susanne and I had the must frustrating hotel experience in all the years we’ve been traveling. Over the course of yesterday afternoon and evening, I went to the hotel front desk to find the manager so I could pay our bill, since we’d be leaving at 5am the next morning. No matter when I went to his desk – on five separate occasions – there was no one working there. The hotel was effectively abandoned by any staff. On two occasions there was a young woman watching TV in the reception area; she didn’t work there but she promised she’d tell the manager about our situation. I told her we’d be going out to dinner at 7pm and would be back around 10pm. No luck finding the manager.
I finally gave up and went to bed some time after 11pm. Just as I was ready to fall asleep, someone starting banging on our door. The manager, a sour-faced man in his mid-twenties, was standing there looking annoyed with us.
“You must pay now,” he said. “I will not be up tomorrow morning.”
“Where have you been all evening?” I asked. “I’ve been looking for you since 4pm.”
“What do you expect, “ he said indignantly. “This is a small business.” Apparently it was just fine for there to be no one working at the hotel for hours at a time.
“This is ridiculous,” I replied. “I came by your desk more than five times, and now you come and wake us up so we won’t have to wake _you_ up in the morning? So what are you going to do to resolve this situation?”
The manager simply stared at me for what felt like five or six seconds. Without saying a word, he turned and walked away.
I was fuming. What the hell was this guy’s problem? I’ve just never seen someone run a hotel like this. At first I was inclined to go back to bed and let them charge my credit card, but there were going to charge us an extra 10% for the privilege to charge it. Exasperated, I grabbed my travelers cheques and went upstairs, where I found him watching what appeared to be a porn flick with his girlfriend.
“How much?” I said matter-of-factly.
He pulled out a receipt pad and began to compute our bill. He checked the latest exchange rate, typed some figures in his calculator, and said, “Two hundred and fifty dollars.”
The bill should have been more like $220, maybe a few dollars more. I took his calculator and typed in the same exchange rate, and got a figure of $230. “So what’s with the$20 difference?”
“Bank charge,” he replied stiffly.
“Bank charge?” I said back, ready to blow a blood vessel. The whole point of using a travelers cheque was to not get charged the extra 10 percent, which is what the hotel owner promised!”
“Bank charge,” he repeated without blinking an eye.
“Bank charge it is, then,” I replied. “I look forward to writing Lonely Planet and noting your terrible service on the Internet.” No reaction.
He handed me $50 in change for my $300 in cheques. A whopping $250 for two nights in this dump.
Back in our room, I was still fuming; there was no way I’d fall asleep this mad. Susanne started to joke about the whole thing, getting me to laugh.
“Dollar for dollar, this country has to be the biggest rip-off in the world,” I said. “For this amount of money, we could have stayed two weeks at that great hotel in Kathmandu.”
“For this same amount of money we stayed at the Winter Palace in Luxor,” Susanne replied, laughing harder and harder.
“And for $250, we get a room without a toilet, without a telephone, in a basement that you can only reach by going through the kitchen!”
At this point I nearly rolled out of bed, crying from laughing so long. I felt a lot better. This place was the worst waste of money we’ve ever spent at a hotel, but at least I’d get to write about the experience.
“It’s midnight,” Susanne said, looking at the clock. “Midnight sun.”
Indeed it was; when I looked outside the street was lit like early dusk; technically the sun had set but had barely dropped below the horizon; it looked like 6pm in the spring.
“I suppose if that guy hadn’t banged on our door we wouldn’t have gotten to see this. Makes it worth it in a weird sort of way…”