The Hotel Tropicana is not a place I would usually stay, nor Atlantic City a place I regularly frequent, but I have been there enough times to know that when booking accommodations for a close friend’s bachelor party, there are few establishments with more commanding views of AC, and no place you want to avoid more than the part of the hotel that was not the Havana Tower.
Armed with this knowledge, I booked my reservation by calling and speaking to an individual who, though obstinate, was eventually helpful, in her own way, after sufficient cajoling and reference the Tropicana’s website, which she was thoroughly unfamiliar with. After, literally, reading the website to her, detailing the package I was trying to order, she admitted she didn’t know how to enter it into the system. It took a manager escalation to get those terms met, in coordination with my other requests, which should have been my warning.
To say that the accommodations we were furnished with were plush (top-corner party suite, with an adjoining room, and another next to that) is to understate both the view and decor. To say the service which accompanied these accommodations was anything close to what we were paying for is a fallacy of the highest order. I could have gone out and hired a meth-riddled beach bum and gotten more prompt, rapt, and helpful service than I did from any employee serving the Hotel Tropicana.
The package I had reserved was for two queen-sized beds per room, and two rooms, which were going to be shared by four people, apiece, with the extra two staying in cots in either of the bedrooms, or in the party suite. Considering the suite cost twice what a room did, this seemed like a reasonable idea on paper, but the reality was quite another thing.
Instead of two adjoining rooms with queen sized beds, with one of those rooms adjoining the party suite, we were left with two “suites” with king-sized beds, none of which adjoined with each other. I attempted to work out the unacceptable change in accommodations at the front desk at check in, which, after the intercession of the manager, was resolved by us putting multiple cots in the party room, and the party room cost being reduced by 50%. Not thrilled, but satisfied, we moved on to the remainder of our weekend festivities.
The party room advertized “a fully stocked wet bar”. What this means is that the room has a bar, with a sink behind it, which is wet, when you run the water. Calls to concierge to try and stock the bar were met with lingustic incomprehension, followed by a four-transfer pivot which left us back at the concierge routing desk. When asking to speak with a manager, we were sent to someone who was completely not helpful. I escalated that to _his_ manager, and explained what we had been through thus far, despite a fairly hefty outlay of cash.
We were told the wet bar was not stocked with mixers, nor could we order mixers from room service. Furthermore, our request of additional glassware was met with another round of bafflement, which ultimately resulted in us being told that the glassware would cost 5$ per piece, and would not be to our room for two hours. When one of my friends on the other line asked if this was because they had to blow the glass themselves, before bringing it up, the query was met with a deadpan “ha ha sir, very funny”.
I went downstairs to deal with the fact that our cots had not yet arrived while people settled in. Ultimately, I was assured by the manager on duty that, in lieu of cots, we would be getting the mystery room between the two rooms had been given, which, lo and behold, was furnished with two queen beds. I would interject that this reasonable resolution was only reached _after_ a rather direct and blatant threat to discuss the matter with the fine customer service folks at American Express, who would doubtless see my side of the story in being charged for something I was not getting. I was told that the room had to be cleaned, but that I could pick up keys in a few hours.
It seemed like we were finally on the right track. Putting administrivia and frustration aside, we decided to partake in one of the fringe benefits of our weekend package – a total of 300$ in credit towards a meal at the Seaside Cafe.
I have been to a lot of restaurants.
I’m no Frank Bruni, nor am I by any means someone who prides themselves in haven eaten at every “must go” place in any town I happen to be in for a six-hour layover, but I have been to enough establishments (geographically) of both high and low quality to say that it is not easy to either shock or surprise me eating out for a meal.
That is, until the Seaside Cafe at the hotel Tropicana.
The decor at the Seaside is something between the clearance isle of the hardware store recently put out of business by the arrival of a new Home Depot across town, and a garish collage scrapped together from the pages of “Better Homes” from twenty years ago. Enhancing this decor is the helpful and attentive staff, who could be escapees from the meds line at the nearby nursing home, looking for a cover until they can figure out how to blend back in with society, or the mid-stage of secret government lab tests which will one day soon bring about the zombie apocalypse you read so much about.
Bypassing the dour inarticulateness of our hostess, who gestured towards the large tile-bedecked table behind her like an HBO crypt-keeper with a bun of silver hair, we were (eventually) greeted by our waiter, Juan. If this was a Lovecraft story, I would pepper the mental image of Juan with phrases like “batrachian face” or “formed of an ill-moulded lump of clay”. H.P. is dead, so I will leave it at saying that Juan was the first person at the Tropicana to smile at us all day, which got me a fair mark in my book, at least, until we came to the point of us being at the restaurant.
Juan insisted on a round of drinks, despite the fact nobody was really looking for one – the concept of “waters all around” seemed to dully bounce off his forehead, and caused much blinking and fishfacing until eventually one of our party of eight ordered a soda, and that seemed to get the gears grinding again. We were furnished with a stack of menus while he went off to get our drinks, and a few appetizers were agreed upon in his absence.
The first warning sign that we were in trouble, really, which should have gone off like the screaming robot from that sci-fi classic of yesteryear, was when the question of “what is the soup of the day?” was met with a reaction not dissimilar from the one you might expect of the earlier-mentioned meth-head beach bum being asked to balance the national budget with a pad of paper, a pencil, and an abacus.
Juan ran off to find out about the soup, after we ordered apps. We promised to order our entrees upon his return. Triumphant, Juan returned with the information that the soups of the day were “chicken matzo ball, and cream of chicken tortellini”.
Believe it or not, one of us got the chicken and matzo ball soup – and it was edible. There ends the happy part of the tale.
After about ten minutes of pleasant banter, Juan returned with our appetizers – a few orders of chicken wings, and a few orders of shrimp cocktail. The wings, as expected, were sub-par; frozen and deep-fried, with pre-packaged packets of generic Bleu Cheese, and soggy celery and carrots. The two shrimp cocktails that were ordered – they really took the cake. They were clearly quickly thawed from some grand bag of deep-frozen shrimps, and tossed on a bed of nearly browning lettuce with some pre-packaged cocktail sauce in plastic cups, complete with foil lid for us to remove. I have seriously seen better shrimp cocktail on an economy class airline food-service. It is the going assumption of all those who dined on the shrimp that they were the cause of the future gastrointestinal distress we were all to face.
It was about this time we agreed on entrees. Everyone ordered, and out of six diners, there was a heavy burger presence. I ordered something which sounded genuinely interesting – a Ruben burger. Pastrami and swiss with a patty on a bun with mustard… I know what you are thinking – why would you do that, if you just had this experience with the shrimp? Mostly, because we were elated to be out and about on a lovely Saturday afternoon, and, perhaps, I wasn’t using my best judgment. It may have had something to do with the bottle of scotch, bottle of rotgut whiskey, and bottle of unidentified brown limo liquor shared on the ride from NYC to AC.
When the orders came out, Juan was very through about naming each thing as he plopped it down before us, and whisked away the room-service aluminum lid separating us from our repast with a flourish. There was not enough room on the table to fit everything being delivered, and if it were not for the quick plate busing by those at the table, there would have surely been a spill. To be honest, I didn’t really pay too much attention to his arcane mutterings over the food until he got to my side of the table, which was all burgers. It went something like this:
“One bacon burger with swiss..”
“One bacon burger with swiss..”
“One bacon burger with swiss.. ooooh”
To his credit, Juan realized he had screwed up. He took my plate away, and promised to have my meal right out. It was at this point that I decided to have a drink, and let everyone else chow down. Juan reappeared with my whiskey-coke about three minutes later, apologizing again for the food mix up. As I was trying to reassure him about it not being an issue, he spilled my drink on my back, trying to put it down.
No offer of a towel, or napkin – in fact, he put down the half-spilled drink and scuttled away, for what I assumed was a bar towel, but he did not reappear for some time, and when he did, it was not with a towel, but a replacement drink for me. I made due with with what beverage soakers I scrounged at the table, and tried not to yell as an ice cube worked its way from my shirt to my shorts…
My lone whiskey coke was not long for the world, and when Juan e re-appeared to promise my burger in a couple minutes (for the second time) one of my table-mates went once more, into the breach, and asked Juan about available beers…
“Oh, I dunno. Bud, I think? And some imported stuff maybe? Heineken?”
Juan was almost as baffled as he was when we asked about the soup. Perhaps he was not as baffled, because we had already asked on ineffable question of him previously. Juan was asked to check on the beers, and three whiskey cokes were ordered in the meantime. At this point, most of the table was more than halfway done eating, and I was gnawing on the end of frozen-fried wings in a damp shirt and dour mood.
Juan returned, his wide-featured face split in a grin of success, with my burger, and a tray of drinks. After the ritual ::plop:: ::pop:: he jovially reached to serve us our drinks.
“Three ruuuummmm and…”
Clearly our waiter wounded by the daggers being stared at his beverage pronouncement, for he changed the order mid-phrase with no real attempt at masking is initial mistake.
“… whiskey cokes.”
Rather than assume he double-boozed our drinks, we accepted what, clearly, were rum and cokes. Juan tried to save the day by offering me a complimentary dessert, due to all the hassles.
Did I mention I had explained to him at the beginning of the meal that the whole thing was on voucher?
I demurred his offer, assuming (perhaps wrongly) that any or all attempts to seal the service breach with dessert would result in a new disaster. In good humor, I offered that perhaps, instead of an undesired dessert, he could comp me a drink. Like a wall in a racquetball court, Juan ignored what I sent his way, and bustled off to get a dessert menu. When he returned (I was now about halfway thorough my burger, and thoroughly contemplating a dine-and-dash), I explained, again, that I didn’t want dessert. Someone suggested that perhaps he at least comp me the drink he had spilled on my back… Juan smiled his unreadable smiled, and told us he would return shortly.
In this, Juan’s longest absence, much to our amazement, the chef wandered out from behind the yawning portal to the abyss which must have led to the Seaside Cafe’s kitchen. He shuffled aimlessly towards the hostess armed with a plate fully loaded with fresh french fries. After making a few moth-around-the-lightpost circuts to all the nearby tables, he approached our table, and offered me the fires, as compenstaion for our issues.
This might have been ample restitution, if my burger had not come with a similar plate of fries, or if we had asked for fries, or had made any mention at all of fries to Juan, in any of our exchanges.
Juan comped me a side of fries, to go with my fries, to make up for whatever you want to call the situations previous.
We thanked the chef, and ran for our lives after settling the bill as soon as humanly possible. It was not until an hour or so later that the shrimp-eating circle of the Venn diagram of our group was besieged by what polite company might refer to as “the most severe case of the shits this side of Montezuma’s revenge”.
After dealing with the joys of gastrointestinal wonder, in preparation for a night on the town, I went down to the concierge desk I had been directed to go to, in order to pickup the room keys for the room we were supposed to be comped in order to deal with our people-to-bed ratio.
It was as if I had never spoken to anyone in the establishment about the issue before.
I went through the same American Express-manager scorpion-mating dance conversation from hours before, albeit with far less poise or patience on my part this time around. I had taken the names of everyone I spoke with earlier, and, despite the fact that I pissed off a fair line of folks waiting to check in as I tried to get the issue resolved, I did, eventually, get what I was promised. I was told, however, that I would have to wait until after they cleaned the room… I was assured I get the keys from the concierge when we came back from dinner, and was told the manager would be on shift until midnight, so the issue would most assuredly be taken care of.
Amazingly, they did have the keys when we came back, and lo, they had even cleaned the room, as promised. With the addition of the third room, we had just enough glassware for everyone to partake in the mixers and imbibables we had purchased ourselves.
After a raucous night of gambling and assorted other bachelor party activities, the following morning, we called for some room service (one of the other perks in the package) to attempt to aid in the nursing of hangovers and whatnot. Despite the fact that it was 9am, we were told that there was no way we would get our food before it was time to check out, and, therefore could not place an order. When I asked if we would be credited the difference of the room service voucher, the concierge laughed, and hung up.
Enough was enough – checkout ho! After wending the snaky line for checkout (becuase, apparently, despite having no less than a dozen stations for staffers, the Tropicana never employs more than three people to handle check in and check out at their main desk, two of which are reserved for VIP), I found that the attendant had no record of rooms by reservation name. Basically, I was told that if I didn’t know my room numbers, I couldn’t check out. This would be a snap normally, except I had already discarded my key cards in the receptacles they so kindly place every three feet within the hotel proper, and the room numbers were written on the little envelope those cards were in.
In hindsight, I might have had an easier time trying to sort all this out with an automated teller and my credit card, but, surprise – every single express checkout computer in the hotel (both the main lobby, and the Havana Tower lobby) was out of order.
When we finally worked out the details of the room numbers with some smart-phone wrangling (I had texted everyone room details the night before as a safety against overindulgence) it turned out that not only did the management intend to charge full price for the party room, they charged for the extra room we had allegedly been comped, at a rate twice what the other rooms cost!
Needless to say, this meant that I went through the _entire_ saga all over again, for the third time, with a brand new bunch of people. After nearly a half-hour, we finally got the bill back to what I had agreed to, after dropping the Amex threat for the third and final time.
That should be it right? I mean, at this point, I should be able to stop writing.
I wanted to pay a portion of the bill with cash, and the rest with credit. After a five minute call by the checkout clerk to her manager to find out if I was _allowed_ to do this, she then needed a quick tutorial in the POS system from said manager on _how_ to do it. By this point, I was past a half hour at the checkout desk, and about ready to stop fighting my shrimp-squidgy bowels and nausea, and redecorate the front desk in a choleric explosion of bodily excretions.
Fighting my better judgment, I waited until the end of her tutorial, then forked over the cash and the credit card.
I worked retail for five years. I know how to count money. I had counted out five hundred in cash, in tens, twenties, fifties, and one hundred, and arranged the bills by denomination. I triple checked the count before I even left the room.
My checkout clerk clearly had never counted money.
She re-arranged the bills, so that they all faced the same way, totally messing up the sort-by-value, _then_ started to count it out. She got to about three hundred and change, then lost count.
She started over, AFTER she once again re-piled the money to be sure all the noses on the faces were pointing the right direction.
This time she made it all the way through the stack, but missed a twenty somewhere, and informed me I was twenty short. I explained, using as few expletives as possible, that she should count it again, because I probably could have counted it drunk, and done a better job.
Third time, as they say, is the charm, and as my receipt printed,. it took every ounce of self-control I had not to vomit in one of the potted plants decorating the lobby on the way out the door – with the solid intent of making my opinion a matter of public record while improving the lobby decor simultaneously.
Instead, I wrote this review. I probably would have done it from the lobby, waiting for my ride, but despite there being dozens of Tropicana-named wifi networks throughout the hotel, neither I nor any of the other guests I was staying with were able to connect to any of them with any piece of wifi-aware hardware.
Buyer beware – this story, unlike the toenail tale, below, relates to staying in the _nice_ tower, in a situation where we were paying high-roller rates. I leave it to you to contemplate the unwritten horrors which may lurk in store for you if you dare book a space in the older part of this hotel, or expect any service above what you might expect of a mid-graveyard shift at a local IHOP on New Year’s Day.
You have been warned.