The World's Suckiest Hotel (Part 3 and conclusion)
I looked into my camera bag, a black Tumi roller board with carefully divided padded sections. Each section makes a hole, each hole has a piece of camera equipment that fits snuggly inside.
There are two big holes facing each other. That’s where my cameras go. Both were empty.
“What the fuck did I do with the cameras?” The thought passed through my brain like a whisper. “Why aren’t they there?”
My Tumi bag was resting on the floor of the Ritz Carlton’s posh ballroom, tucked to the side, by the wall, next to my little station. I use a “tether table” to work on location, it creates a portable desk for my laptop — which constantly churns, uploading photos, live, as I take them.
The last of the photos from the General Mills shoot were just uploading: meet and greet photos with Captain Sully, the United Airline pilot that safely “landed” in the Hudson River (and forever prevents me from making fun of flight attendants when they discuss “in the event of a water landing” as they demonstrate how to blow into the red plastic tube at their shoulder).
I look. There’s the computer. There’s the Verizon card. There’s my camera bag. Where are the cameras?
Gone. I had been breaking down the meet and greet set outside in the hallway while the photos were uploading. I’d put my cameras in the holes in the bag.
“Holy fuck!” I said to myself, “someone stole my cameras.”
Then a little louder. Then I started going ape shit. I pulled over the head of the video crew, who’s team was breaking down the ballroom.
I called my client; she was even more upset than I was. She called hotel security.
A pinch faced, bull of a man comes into the ballroom. Brief introductions: he was head of hotel security.
“What happened here?”
I told him about my cameras. I told him what happened. He looked at me.
“They are insured aren’t they?”
You know how “postal” killers describe white rage flashing in front of their eyes? Well, that’s kinda what happened to me.
“What the hell difference does that make?” I said, (really very calmly looking back on it. In fact, I don’t think I raised my voice at all… ) “Why are you standing here? Why aren’t you questioning people? Why aren’t you looking? Why aren’t you reviewing the security tapes?”
“There aren’t cameras in the ballroom. You really need to calm down.”
“I need to calm down? I need to calm down? My cameras are stolen in your hotel, right out of my camera bag and I’m the one who needs to calm down? You need to do something. Anything. Anything but stand here and tell me I need to calm down.”
My client nudges me. Pinched face security guy was taping me, covertly, on his cell phone by his hip.
“I want to see the manager of the hotel.”
“He’s very busy. You’ll just have to deal with me.”
Did I mention this was the Ritz Carlton LA Live? A five star monolith of a hotel nestled in the heart of Staples Center, and a flagship for the Marriott chain.
“TOO BUSY? TOO BUSY? THIS ISN’T SOME CAMCORDER STOLEN FROM A TOURIST. THIS IS MY LIVELIHOOD.”
“I can’t deal with you,” said Pinch Face. And he turned on his heel, and walked away. No investigation. No questioning. No reviewing tapes. And, by the way, no giving me his card to follow up. Nothing. I was left standing, mouth hanging open, with my client, in the ballroom of the hotel. With exactly no recourse. And a plane to catch.
I grab the remainder of my bag. My client helped me to a cab, both of us walking by rote, one foot in front of the other. On the way out, I stopped at the front desk, and gave the desk agent (the same dumb agent who checked me in) my card. “Please have the hotel manager call me.”
“Yes Sir. Was everything ok with your stay?” he asked my back as I turned to the cab.
“LAX, please. Get me home.”
Please understand, dear reader, it wasn’t the fact that my cameras were stolen from this hotel that makes this the world’s suckiest hotel. No. Cameras get stolen everyday, and that’s just part of being a traveling photographer. What made this the worst hotel experience I ever had was the shrug given by Pinch Face when I told him the cameras were stolen. And the utter indifference of the entire staff.
At the beginning of this series, I wrote that the downfall of most high -end hotels is a pretentious staff. That was the case here. Every time you needed anything, they did the exact opposite of what you wanted, and then said how you should be happy. Need to eat in the restaurant? Not happening. Need a higher floor for your room? Nope. Need additional coffee? More money. Need internet that doesn’t fade out? Good luck with that. Need to send a package? Hand extends out. Need room cleaned after 8 am? So sorry. Need an investigation to find $10,000 worth of stolen cameras and lenses? You have a bad attitude, Mister! And, I am very, very busy. Don’t bother me.
When I returned home, I FedExed letters to both the property’s manager and the CEO of Marriott. Two weeks later I received a call.
“How can this have happened at our hotel? We will make it right,” said the property manager.
A week later I received a coupon for one free night.
It sits in my desk. Untouched.