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Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Open Letter to Couples Resort in Algonquin Park

To the proprietors:

I just got an email from your company today. Why? I'm on your list, because I'm a would-be customer. Because I attempted to book accommodations online. That should mean I actually stayed there, but nope. So you sending me the email is rubbing a little salt into that wound.

We planned a last minute three day holiday in early summer, in late June -- at the height of the recession, mind you.

Thinking of something a little bit different, I started doing searches for a few places right inside beautiful Algonquin Park. Most of them were booked up with groups or just expected weekend travel to kick off summer. But one, Couples Resort, had availability. It was certainly luxurious, maybe a little over the top. But let's live a little, I said! So I did the booking online, and it was done.

A desk clerk called me the next morning at 9:00 a.m. to tell me the booking didn't take, because the room I'd seemingly paid for with my credit card online, somehow got booked by someone else doing the exact same thing, perhaps a few nanoseconds before. She then tried to upsell me on whatever else was left -- up a couple of notches, as I recalled. "No problem," I said, feeling magnanimous. What I was thinking, though, was "this is a huge problem." You don't go to bed having paid for a room and want to wake up hearing that you don't have one.

I suggested that because we were in the deep depths of a recession, and because their snafu had screwed me over royally, we'd be more than happy to fill their monster standalone cottage on 24 hours' notice if they'd be willing to knock the price down by 30%. Not like they were going to sell the room now anyway.

I would have taken 10-15%. Any type of gesture. The rooms at this place are all pretty much outrageously priced, still evidently riding on fumes and memories of the boom. As someone who uses Hotwire to get 4-star hotel rooms for 55% off or better, I have limited patience for companies that talk about recession pricing and then try to sell you $400 rooms on 24 hrs. notice, without so much as a haggle.

The clerk told me there was zero (0) flexibility on the price of that huge room we didn't want, because the "computer" told her what to do.

I laughed and said no dice.

My search turned to more reasonably-priced Prince Edward County. We somehow figured out that The Inn at Huff Estates Winery is the best, most luxurious resort in all of The County. So Huff Estates it was. We enjoyed great local dinners and wine tasting, plus a lengthy walk through the dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

FYI: After October 11, bed and breakfast at the Premiere Suites at Huff Estates (complete with whirlpool and patio) will only be $159 a night! What a deal!

Couples Resort, receiving your email today makes me wonder how you can stay in business. Look around you! While you talk about the recession, most everyone else in your industry adjusted to it. Purveyors of luxury four and five star accommodations truly would be empty this year without major cut price incentives.

Oh, the economy will bounce back, but some of you guys won't.

In case you forget, here was your letter to me, your "customer":

This harsh recession is ending now and it has caused a lot of heartache for many. I hope we all are doing better soon and looking forward to a much better 2010.

Like most of you, we have lost a significant amount of revenue this year. We have certainly reduced prices greatly this year in order to adjust for your pain and to help retain our occupancy. Guest stays at the Resort were down very little on the full year. As the saying goes, "We have squeezed the Nickel until the Queen Screamed" and reduced our costs significantly to meet the lower prices offered.

Thank you for doing your part and understanding our changes so that we all may enjoy this Resort for many years to come. We are pleased that as the economy is starting to stabilize we can add back in the Free Breakfasts in Bed, a highly valued service to you.

Well, thanks for the free coffee and donuts, Couples Resort. But the damage has already been done. To anyone reading, I recommend instead you check out Huff Estates Winery in Prince Edward County. You'll need to get out of bed to go to breakfast, but you can haul a plate of breakfast across the courtyard to your patio... in case your partner wants to stay in bed or near the fireplace, bring a couple of extra melon slices. All that for $159. Apparently the "computer" doesn't tell Lanny Huff and his staff what to do.

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