Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lifestyles of the Rich and Obnoxius

So what do author James Patterson, former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson and the Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D have in common?  They stayed at the same Palm Beach resort hotel while I was there this past long weekend!  I nodded nonchalantly when they looked my way but not so welcomly so as to encourage autograph seeking.   Heh.

It is true that we all were there over President's day weekend...along with a whole host of other people  many of whom have too much money.  So why was I there...I certainly do not fall into the rolling in dough category...I cut coupons dontcha know...I was lucky enough to tag along on a business trip with Bill and we extended it into the first vacation we've had in almost two years.  It seems that even swanky places in Palm Beach are strapped for business and they have many a good deal for group rates, one of which we were able to take advantage.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't cheap, but it didn't blow out any savings accounts either.

I have never stayed at any place like this in all my travels, but I guess the best way to describe this resort is a landlocked cruiseliner.  There are several restaurants and bars on the property, shuttle service to two other exclusive restaurants affiliated with the hotel in Palm Beach, a gorgeous golf course, 4 swimming pools, 3 wading pools and at least 4 outdoor hot tub/spas.  There was entertainment and activities galore for families.  Pretty cool.  There is a lovely stretch of private beach, complete with all sorts of water activity equipment.  Sadly, the thousands of migrating sharks and the annual spate of Man-o-War jellyfish limited our enjoyment of the ocean to walking in the sand and letting the waves wash over our feet.

Within the hotel, there are a number of cute yet posh boutiques...the likes of whose threshholds I dared not cross...Tom Ford sunglasses for $500...really?  I needed some sunscreen after having an allergic reaction to a name brand lotion I bought at CVS...I also needed to upgrade from an SPF 15 to a I popped into the little Beach shop near the pools for a 6 ounce can of Caribbean Breeze spray on sunscreen...$15!  I bought it because I needed it...that can was empty after 3 applications so I stayed under the lovely canvas beach umbrellas for most of the time we lounged by the Zen Meditation pool.

The hotel is dripping in opulence.  Its greatest feature though are the staff.  At every turn there was a warm hello...may I help you?...thank's your bill...the gratuity is included...No question was too stupid to ask and the responses were clear, concise and cheerful.  On occasion we would strike up a conversation with the staff, when appropriate and we met some really great people.  There was Ed from Boston, who retired to Florida several years ago, but took a job at the resort because he is a people person. We talked about the upcoming baseball season and how if everyone on the Red Sox team stays healthy (and with egos in check), this could be another World Series year.  Andreve from Russia came to the US to study, got a job as a waiter at the hotel's French inspired restaurant...and he never left.  There was Alexis, the bartender who on the one night I was on my own, taught me a little bit about mixology and I gave her few tips too. 

Over the course of the weekend, I noticed that quite a few visitors greeted or were greeted by staff as if they were longtime seems that many folks annually visit this is their family vacation destination.  Wow.  I also noticed that there were quite a few people who ignored the "gratutity included" clause and palm a bill to a pool runner or a cabana steward...and they would expect preferential treatment.  Being the curious person I am, I asked Ed about the included 20% service charge. I assumed it was in place to ensure that the staff didn't get stiffed...which is true but it is also to discourage the aforementioned  expectation of preferred status for certain people.    Staff members are not supposed to except cash...but a few did.  The hotel goes to the "trouble" of issuing each visitor with a room card key that is linked to a charge card so people do not have to carry cash, credit cards or separate ID.  It is a pretty nifty system...and if you are not careful, you might be surprised at your bill at the end of the stay.

On Saturday, Bill and I staked out a couple of chaise lounges under an delicate Irish skin you the Meditation Pool loud conversation, no cell phones (YAY!) and no rough housing in the water.  It was a place designed to mellow out, read and snooze...exactly what we wanted.   We were greeted by Joey and Sammy who manuevered the parasol around our lounges throughout the day...they brought us water with lemon slices, offered to go to the Tiki Bar and get us the drink of the day...fresh towels were offered after we went swimming...pretty great.   So, as you enter the pool area there are BIG signs that describe the Zen Mediation Pool area...requesting that visitors here respect the others in the area, keep conversations quiet and to a running, splashing and NO CELL PHONES.  Good gracious, you'd think people had been asked to cut off an arm.  Poor Joey and Sammy would go about the pool deck asking the SAME people over and over to please take their phone conversations outside the quiet woman tried to hide under a towel and keep up her conversation with her daughter in New Jersey...I know because she was seated 3 lounges down from me and she just kept getting louder and louder.  At one point a manager came over to her and her husband who was clipping his toe nails...and asked them if he could find them some other lounges in the next pool area over....which is not a quiet she could use her phone at her leisure...her, it is too noisy over there.  GAW!  After some insistence, she opted to stay and put her phone away.  Joey brought the toe nail clipper a clean towel and informed him if he needed to tidy up his toes, it might be better to do so in the locker room, located 25 feet away from the pool area. 

Shortly after we arrived in the Zen pool, there was a bit of commotion.  The manager who was responsible for staff in the area and the neighboring pool houses...yes, people with too much money could rent "private" pool houses with really cushy lounges, umbrellas a small bedroom, changing area, private bathroom, TV,  kitchenette,  a personal attendant, and each house had a little patch of lawn and lovely gardens...was trying to strategically place together 4 lounges under unbrellas for some guests who would be arriving shortly.  Joey and Sammy hustled about, placed the umbrellas for maximun shade, brought chaise covers, fresh towels and a couple of little tables...prepping a quiet little oasis for whomever was to arrived.  They reserved the seats...and an hour went by...then two hours passed.  Bill and I decided to take a walk along the beach so we told Joey we'd be back in an hour and that we'd be returning to the pool area...he thanked us for letting him know and he'd keep and eye on our stuff.  So off we went. We dodged jellyfish on the beach...they are stunningly beautiful, blue, opalescent creatures, even as they lay stranded in the sand.  We worked our leg muscles digging our toes deep into the warm, wet sand.  We saw spinning sharks leap out of the water as they migrated down the Florida was a great walk.

Returning to the pool area, we made a pit stop at the outdoor shower to wash the sand and salt off our legs and feet.  We rinsed off before heading into the pool.  Sammy and Joey gave us a nod and Sammy rushed over to our lounges, bringing fresh towels.  We swam a bit and then we parked ourselves on a little bench at the pools edge, our legs drifting slowly back and forth in the water.  It then struck me that those four lounges were still ready and waiting for the mystery guests.  While we enjoyed the not overly cool pool, a couple of couples; not together...they just arrived to the mediation area at the same time...were looking for a place perhaps in the shade to rest and relax.  One couple approached the reserved seats and Sammy rushed to their aid...the other couple seeing an opportunity asked Sammy if he would help them too.  Sammy explained that these seats were reserved but he would do his best to find them suitable accomodations for the afternoon...Now these reserved seats had been unoccupied for at least three hours.  Sammy made an executive decision...he gave the reserved seating to these couples.  He brought fresh towels...even though the ones there had not been used yet...he brought them water and they settled in quietly and gratefully.  As Bill and I got out of the pool and made our way to our spot, an older gentleman shot like a bat outta hell from one of the private pool houses over to Sammy and proceded to dress him down quite loudly and publicly for giving away his four lounges.  Sammy being ever so polite and respectful assured the man that he would find the disgruntled guy four new was just that these seats had been unoccupied for so long and these people wanted seats...well Mr. Pool House was having none of it.  He wanted those seats to be available to him, his wife (who wasn't even on site...she was shopping in Palm Beach at the time) or any of his guests at their whim.  Sammy said he appreciated that, but it was his responsibility to all the hotel guests to see that their needs be accomodated...Mr. Pool House was still not having it, so a manager had to be called...Sammy explained that the seats had not been occupied for nearly four hours and that the new arrivals respectfully asked if they could be seated there...the manager decided to take the confrontation over to the private pool house...I was feeling a bit defensive on Sammy's part and really had to fight the urge to stick my nose into this bit of nastiness, I didn't get involved at the time...and sad to say in this instance money of the two couples were very nicely displaced to another set of lounges...they didn't mind.  The other couple wasn't asked to move as four other seats together under unbrellas were wedged together, but when two teenaged granddaughters emerged from the pool house, cell phone, ipods and attitudes in tow, that couple soon abandoned their not so zen like refuge.  The girls called some friends who apparently were staying at the resort and within minutes a plague of hormonal overly privileged pipsqueaks invaded the Zen.  7 of them (4 girls 3 boys aged 14-17 ish) took up residence in the hot tub spa off to the left behind our lounges.  They turned the bubbles up to maximum and proceded to shriek at each other and bark orders at poor Sammy...he had to run for soda...which he brought to the food or drink near the pool or spas...and they barked at him to bring them the drinks...he balked...but Mr. Pool House was watching...when the kids had enough of the hot tub, they took to the pool and the splashing and noise was getting to be too much.  The lifeguard on duty requested that the kids follow the rules.  They quieted down for a few minutes but when a game of pool chicken looked like it was in the offing, he told them to get out.  A few patrons who sought out the quiet had made their way to the Zen area manager and I guess the number of people complaining hit the tipping point, because, Mr. Pool House was spoken to...the kids were warned that if they wanted to return to the area, including the private pool house, they would have to follow the rules and repect the 60  or so other people in the being the Zen Mediation pool, a silent cheer went up and there was a palpable shift in the mood.  Quiet returned and we could hear the piped in chimes and mediative music, which when we first arrived we found odd and a wee bit annoying...what a lovely sound it turned out to be!  After a while Bill and I decided to head to our room and get ready for we left, I found Joey and thanked him for his attention.  I asked that he thank Sammy too...they had done yeomen's work at the pool.  I also told Ed  our friend the Water Recreation Area Greeter, about the day's events and he assured me that he would share our comments about the guys with the managers.  It wasn't a bill palmed off to a hard worker, but I hope the positive words would serve them well.

So when did having money mean you do not have to be mannerly?  A question this observer of human nature would ask herself be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Love the blog. Thanks so much for last night my friend.