Please indulge my little rant today but I really feel that I need to share with you my disappointing experience at a fancy hotel in Saint Augustine Florida.

We left my favorite hotel and moved on to Saint Augustine Florida. The drive wasn’t too bad, it was just less than four hours. We stopped along the way at a wonderful country cooking buffet place. They served all sorts of feel good food you would expect from a southern US down home style buffet. There were grits, black eyed peas, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, biscuits, corn bread and more. Mmm it’s making me want for the yumminess just telling you about it!! We filled our bellies and moved on down the road.

We reached our new hotel at about 4:30 in the afternoon. We drove up and saw that it looked like a castle, literally. It is definitely the second most beautiful hotel we’ve stayed in. So far so good. We pulled up and were greeted by the valet parking attendant. He told us to take our car round the other side and they would take care of everything for us. Everyone was super nice so far. The cost to park at the hotel is $22 a day which I found a little steep but figured it was all part in parcel of the whole fancy hotel experience. Part of the reason why I picked this hotel is because we weren’t sure if we should stay in historic Saint Augustine or stay at Saint Augustine Beach, this hotel offered a stay downtown and the use of a country club at the beach… perfect!

We checked into the hotel and were offered an upgrade for an additional charge. We decided to take it as we figured why not have the full experience and get the bigger room. The room was beautiful and I’m glad we upgraded! I was disappointed that even though we do have use of the country club at the beach that it’s an extra $25 charge per day to use it.  Hmm, things are really starting to add up! Extra after extra after extra. Oh well, I guess this is all part of the swanky hotel experience, you have to pay for extras.

We got up to our room, settled in and I went online to check my email. When I opened up my computer I discovered that WIFI was an additional $10 charge per day. What?!? In today’s day and age when you can go to the local _______ (insert ANYTHING here, coffee shop, laundry mat, McDonalds etc) and get it for free! I don’t know why but this of all the hotel charges bothered me the most. It is a simple extra they can easy give their guests. It wasn’t the money that bothered me per se, it was the insult that you can go anywhere and get this service for free. We have to pay $22 for parking, $25 for use of the facilities at the beach and now $10 a day for internet?!?

I decided to say something. I am not one to complain but I did feel that if enough people say something then maybe they would realize this is something they should offer for their guest complementary. I was told by the front desk staff that I’m not the first to complain and that they would pass this along to the manager. Basically a shoulder shrug and an oh well. The guy didn’t even take my name or room number. Clearly I didn’t matter as a guest and my concern was going to be ‘noted’… sure they were. So I decided to email the hotel manager directly. Before doing so though I decided to turn my frustration to my ever trusted Twitter friends. Sometimes I’m frustrated and my tweeps can put things into a different perspective. But this time my feelings of frustration were validated. Here are some of the comments of support I received on Twitter:

“I’ve found it’s the expensive hotels who haven’t gotten the memo on free wifi. mid-prices & suite-onlys have been better. In fact, free wifi is now a deciding factor for my choice of hotel. (hear that, hotels!?! you’re losing business!)”

“that is now one of my non-negotiables when choosing a hotel : must have comp wireless Internet. I feel your pain!!”

“depending in why I’m traveling and how much extra the free wifi room is it’s definitely a deciding factor”

“a little or a lot of bitching works! Lol perhaps a nice letter to the manager of the hotel is in order! #ripoff”

“I would rather pay an all-inclusive resort fee (which infers staying at a + + resort!) than ‘extra’ charges”

“Having worked hotel biz in past things like nickel and diming and poor service make me crazy!”

These were just a few of the support comments I received so I decided to go armed with the feeling that I am right to be annoyed and I sent off a letter to the hotel manager.

I was very nice in my letter. I started by complementing him on the beautiful hotel and the friendly valet staff I encountered. My one disappointment is the lack of WIFI included. I explained that as the president of my company that I would want to know what things bothered my customers so I could make improvements. I also mentioned that we just came from the Don Cesar where internet was included (just so he would know that I have stayed in other nice hotels). I thought that my email was nice and I was expecting a different response than the one I received.

The manager wrote me back and thanked me for my kind words. He said that they used to charge a resort fee that included WIFI but too many people complained about that because they weren’t all using the wifi service. He basically said, “oh well, this is the way it is and too bad for you for feeling the way you do” Then he said something to the effect that the Don Cesar charges a resort fee and in essence is charging for their wifi.

What?!? This is your response?! Basically and oh well?! Yes, the Don Cesar charges a resort fee that includes parking, maid tip, wifi and more. Their resort fee is $22 a day. YOUR parking fee is $22 a day… you can’t throw in some wifi and call it free?!

I figured this wifi thing was a lost cause and decided that I would not let it or the manager’s response ruin my time here. I logged on to the hotel website and paid the $10 fee. It then brings you to a page that says “complementary wifi in public places” why oh why would none of the staff mention this to me?! That would have been fine with me. At least that way you are offering your guests complementary wifi. Then it is up to me if I want to use it in the free area of the hotel or pay for the use of it in the comfort of my own room. Why would the manager not have said anything to me?! Why instead would he choose to say, “oh well, too bad”. I just don’t understand why his choice was poor customer service. Additionally, he could have offered me complementary internet, this was within his power. Why would you have a potentially unhappy customer over $10?!

I can tell you 100% that I will never come and stay in this hotel again. It is beautiful and clean BUT the poor customer service is enough to turn me away forever. I look forward to trying out one of the other beautiful hotels Saint Augustine has to offer next year!