The Death Of Surprise

My wife and I recently visited with old friends in the San Francisco Bay area. After a week on the outskirts of the city we headed downtown to meet one of my sisters. So we needed a hotel for the night.

We went online and checked out hotel listings. Every website we used had customer reviews posted below each business listing. Beneath one hotel I saw this:

Bill123: “The lobby had the constant smell of curry, which emanated from the room behind the check-in counter.”

DorothyTrvlr :“The room next to ours had a loud prostitute in it. I told the manager about it but he refused to do anything!”

Guess what, Dorothy? You’re not in Kansas any more. Of course the manager ignored you – his business depends on local johns, not visitors who try to go cheap, and when they end up getting exactly what they paid for, go online and bitch about it.

This situation perfectly illustrates the problem with review sites like When you use them you get just what you expect, but nothing more. There are no freebies. Gone are the surprises that make life fun and give you a story to tell at the next party you attend. If had been around in 1994 this might never have happened to me:

I entered a hotel room in Middle-Of-Nowhere, Wyoming. The room had yellow curtains that matched the wallpaper and a bedspread with a swirly pattern suggesting royalty. There was an unopened condom sitting on the bed at the base of the pillow. I went back to the Manager and said “Most places put a mint on the pillow. Is the condom a Wyoming thing?” The Manager’s eyes shot up and he started yelling for his housekeeper. We then shared a laugh and he knocked ten bucks off the room, bringing the rate down to $24.95.

So my wife and I stayed at Le Meridian. The staff was very professional and helpful. There was a guy in a suit who held open the front door when you walked through, an embarrassing encounter that made me feel like plantation owner greeting a serf. The smooth jazz was relentless and pervasive throughout the hotel. I don’t recommend Le Meridian, which should be renamed Le Merde. They’ve killed off any chance of a guest encountering a surprise. I’m giving it one star.

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