The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Apparently $1200 Doesn’t Buy Much Anymore

Boom Boom and I just got back from five days in sunny Puerto Rico, which I’m going to be able to milk for at least half a dozen food posts in the coming weeks.   Those have been added to my list of to-do posts currently inhabited by a couple more New York restaurants and several recipes.   But I really had to get this one out now.

I guess I should start off with a disclaimer of sorts – we didn’t pay for this trip.   Boom Boom is in sales and is very, very good at it.  We were given this trip as a sales award for her.  I wish I could take credit for giving her an inspirational speech a la Alec Baldwin –


… but alas, it’s all her. Honestly, she can sell ice to an Eskimo.

Because of her talents, we got to spend several days at the Ritz Carlton Reserve at Dorado Beach, just west of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

RC 1


I know I should be grateful for even going.   At the low price of “free” I should be satisfied to stay at a Motel 5, accommodations that aren’t quite as good as a Motel 6.   Really, any complaints about the trip can’t even be considered  “first world problems.”

But I’m going to gripe anyway.

As the title of this post indicates, the going rate for a room is $1200.  A night.  Just for the room, no food included.   No continental breakfast, either.

But oh what a room –

The entrance to our suite

The entrance to our suite


RC room 1


RC room 2


RC bathroom

two showers! One indoor, one outdoor

RC terrace 2


And the pool’s not bad, either.

RC Pool


But here’s what $1200 doesn’t get you

– a concierge that answers the phone

– a waiter that brings the club soda that you ordered from him

– a discount from the $20 drinks at the pool

– a waitress that comes back to you in case you wanted a second $20 drink.

– a cleaning staff that will slide candy wrappers off the bathroom counter and into the garbage can

The not coming back to me to get a second drink was the head-scratcher here.   This happened a few times.  You’d figure at those prices, they’d be coming back every five minutes to run up the bill.

The spa at the resort was pretty much the same thing.  It was the single most gorgeous facility I’ve ever seen.  The was a pineapple garden, outdoor showers, plunge pools, and lounges that were all amazing.   But what wasn’t amazing was the 1-hour massage I got that left me in worse condition than when I walked in.    All for the low, low price of $225.  For the record, I did give immediate feedback to the spa management which got me…. what’s the Spanish word for diddly-squat?

I know, I know – I didn’t pay a dime for any of it.   But someone did and others do.   The thought had crossed my mind that we didn’t get good service because they knew we didn’t pay for it; that we’re not high rollers with deep pockets.  However, one couple we met – who were actually paying for the trip – experienced the same thing.   Same with the guy at the spa who was staying with friends at their multi-million dollar condo there.   This is a Ritz-Carlton we’re talking about – and one of their flagship “Reserve” properties.   Isn’t that supposed to mean something?

I know it sounds like I’m being an ingrate.  And I know that there are a lot of people who can’t generate the least bit of sympathy for those rich douchebags who are foolish enough to pay that much for a hotel. However, some of these things are expected at hotels that go for $120 a night. ($12 a night hotels give you nothing – just a guess, not from experience)

Isn’t it reasonable to think that the more you spend, the more you get in return?  At those rates, I’d think there would be some debate about whether someone’s going to do the wiping for me.

Am I crazy?


About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

16 comments on “Apparently $1200 Doesn’t Buy Much Anymore

  1. ksbeth
    May 27, 2015

    seems like a reasonable mathematical assumption. but, oh is that pretty.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      May 27, 2015

      It was very pretty… but not 1200 pretty. (not that I’d know what that would really look like)

  2. the winegetter
    May 27, 2015

    I barely find the hotels at $120 can get their job right, one of the reason we usually just stay away from hotels and do B&Bs or rented apartments. But yeah, that’s pretty disgraceful at the $1200 price point…in Asia, you’d probably have been treated like real royalty. It might be a US/Europe problem.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      May 27, 2015

      I think it’s the Ritz living off their reputation. The Asian-owned luxury hotels really pamper – Mandarin, Peninsula, Banyan Tree. But Americans know the Ritz name and everyone knows it’s easy to sucker Americans into paying too much for lesser service.

  3. Max D.
    May 27, 2015

    1. You have no right to complain. 2. They should’ve done everything right, including offering you a drink every ten minutes. A vaguely Zen dilemma. I’m no economist, but I would think that since Puerto Rico has an unemployment rate of 1200%, employee would be on their toes and do their best job, knowing a thousand other people would gladly take their place in a heartbeat. (Actual unemployment rate closer to 15%, but still pretty bad.)

    Did the staff there know your stay was comped? Probably. Staff in places like the Ritz know everything. But that’s no excuse. You may not have paid for the room, but Boom Boom’s company did in some way or another. they wanted to show her how valuable she is, and the best way to show her that is to send her to a place that picks up the trash in the room and serves her drinks every ten to fifteen minutes. Maybe she should say something to her employer. There are other nice resorts besides the Ritz. For $1200/night I expect hand jobs, or at least coupons to the nearest (and cleanest) house of sin.

    Next time, stay with my family. Their house is tiny, there’s no a/c, no pool, no hand jobs (none that I’d care to imagine), but you will never see an empty glass in front of you, and you will never be hungry. And no candy wrappers just waiting to be cleaned up.

    For the record, I would’ve complained. . .

    And yet. . . and yet. . .

  4. dwdirwin
    May 27, 2015

    I look at it as you are complaining on behalf of those who paid all of that money and got shafted. That is ridiculous. We stayed at El Convento in OSJ in July almost 2 years ago and got a magnificent off-season rate and great service. Hope you enjoyed PR otherwise!

    • Max D.
      May 27, 2015

      El Convento is a beautiful place. Glad to know you had a good experience there. It brings back a lot of fond memories (even though I’ve never actually stayed there).

      • dwdirwin
        May 27, 2015

        We absolutely LOVED Puerto Rico! Loved Old San Juan and we stayed 5 nights on Vieques in a vacation rental and it was just stunning and amazing- and I’m not prone to hyperbole :). Would love to back again to see more of your beautiful island.

        • thefoodandwinehedonist
          May 28, 2015

          We were pretty limited, but have heard that Vieques is great. Were there beaches at OSJ? The land where Ritz is was formerly owned by Rockefellers and they threw boulders in the water to create calm clear beaches. There was a big stink about it so im assuming that no other areas have them. Without them the beaches were murky with strong waves.

      • Max D.
        May 28, 2015

        No beaches in Old San Juan, FWH, unless you want to swim in the same waters where all the cruise ships dock (no, you don’t). And dwdirwin, I have fond memories of Vieques, where I used to go camping with a friend quite often. His parents had a little house on top of a hill, and in the mornings, we used to walk all the way to the beach taking turns carrying his surf board. We’d surf all afternoon and then walk back, or hitch a ride with some random Viequense (in those days, everyone gave everyone a lift. It was rude not to pick up hitchhikers).

        But here is where it gets ugly: tourism, usually considered the boom of PR’s economy, has brought much more evil to the island than most of us are willing to admit. For example, by law, everyone has access to every mile of shore line in PR (except the obvious, such as military bases, lighthouses, piers, etc.), but wealthy outsider hotel magnates either ignored the law or bribed the wrong people, so many Puerto Rican beaches are now essentially closed to Puerto Ricans. That’s just one example. Hotel chains pretty much demand all sorts of tax breaks but expect the government to build shiny new roads from the airport to their hotels (meanwhile, the roads that people sue to get back and forth from work? not so new or shiny). I used to work in the tourist industry while in high school there, and let me tell you, wealthy tourists were among the most patronizing, belittling, shameless, and snobbish people I have ever met. As an adult, looking back at it, I’m sure most of them were nice people back home, good neighbors, parents, co-workers, etc. But as soon as they became tourists, they felt they were the kinds and queens of the world, reliving some colonial fantasy of having every need catered by a native.

        FWH and dwdirwin, I’m NOT including you in this mini-rant! Nor is this unique to Puerto Rico. People who live in other tourist destinations are sometimes caught between 1) gratitude for living in a place that others find interesting; and 2) resentment for having to depend economically on people who often treat them like crap. I’ll stop by recommending one book and one essay: Jamaica Kincaid’s “A Small Place” (book) and David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” (essay, but also the title of one of his books).

        So, FWH, dwdirwin, and everyone else reading this, let me close by saying, without irony or resentment, that I hope you visit Puerto Rico soon. I’m planning on going there this summer, and I’ve been away for so long that I’ll feel and act pretty much like a tourist. But I’m so excited about going that I’m pretty much telling all my friends, “Hey, fly down there this July! We’ll hang out, go to the beach, the rain forest. . .”

  5. elizabeth
    May 28, 2015

    I think it’s more than fair to call out the Ritz for less-than stellar service, especially in the case of where someone could be running up a larger bill–why waitstaff do that is something I will never understand. Doesn’t Jose Andres have a restaurant in this resort? While I may not be in the market for a 1200/night room, I’m now dying to know what that experience was like…

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      May 28, 2015

      Yes and we ate there once for dinner and every morning for breakfast. Those posts are coming, just gotta clear out others. And get my ass in gear

  6. Pingback: Porking in Puerto Rico | The Food and Wine Hedonist

  7. Pingback: Puerto Rico Eats: Mi Casa by Jose Andres | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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