On our recent family vacation to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida we booked a week at the “Il Lugano Hotel” located on “Fort Lauderdale beach”. To be fair, this was listed as a 4/5 star boutique hotel located on the Intracoastal Waterway about “two blocks” from the beach. I checked this place out on Yelp and several of the travel sites and believed that I’d found a great place for under $300.00 per night. Almost universally, reviewers raved about the size and comfort of the rooms, and to be fair they were not lying. The rooms were more like small one bedroom apartments with full kitchens and in-room washer and dryer. I have no idea why anyone on vacation would want a washer and dryer or a full kitchen, but what the hell….who knows I might have been overtaken by a desire to do a load of wash. But we arrived late in the day and I have to admit, the bed was comfortable and the room was just great, even with this ocean view…(that great view cost an additional $200.00 by the way)
So here’s my issue…when we awoke after the first night I couldn’t help but notice that the Il Lugano is fronted by a grouping of “strip mall” buildings that were all but abandoned. There were large areas strewn with debris. At night there were several highly intoxicated people lying in the weed covered areas between the parking lanes of the run down strip mall.
On the positive side of the ledger there was a tattoo parlor, a bar with blacked-out windows called “Dudes”, and another bar called “The Dive Bar”. Now if I had ridden my motorcycle to Florida and had a hankering for a pickled egg, some new ink, and a lap dance from one of the “Dudes”, then the Il Lugano was a happening spot. But alas, I was visiting for some sun with my wife and youngest son.
We were unhappy with the area, but it was a nice hotel, so we decided to check out the hotel pool, Jacuzzi, and then the beach that was only “two blocks away”. Ah, the “pool”. The thing that they call a pool at the Il Lugano is approximately 12 feet wide and 3 feet deep. It was actually reminiscent of the wonderful “reflecting pools” at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, but it was certainly not a “swimming pool”. My bad I suppose. You see, I really never bothered to ask whether “the pool” was a “reflecting pool” as opposed to a “swimming pool”. I won’t soon make that mistake again. The Jacuzzi was cold and looked like it needed some serious attention, but at least we had the beach, right? Wrong, the Il Lugano says that the beach is two blocks away….um…no, it is fully six blocks away and requires one to cross two four lane roadways. A stroll to the beach also required navigating past all the aforementioned vagrants sitting on the benches of the aforementioned strip mall. When we arrived at the beach we learned that the area is exclusively a residential area. No chairs or umbrellas to rent, no place to grab a drink, nor are there any towels to be had. Other than that the beach was just great. Oh, for the record, the Fort Lauderdale Beach mentioned in the Il Lugano’s advertising is 4.3 miles away on one of the most heavily travelled roads in the known world.
Having seen enough, we decided to move and get on with our vacation at a hotel that was actually near a beach. The nice woman at the front desk was polite as she explained that since we booked the trip through Travelocity and AAA that they would have to call so that the prepaid fee for the hotel could be refunded. She also explained that it would probably require the loss of one additional day’s rate. I asked why that would be since we were leaving because the property was not as advertised. She smiled and said that they would take it up with AAA/Travelocity. When we called AAA they indicated that a refund was not a problem IF the hotel agreed, but that in this case the hotel was refusing to give any refund at all. Wow, that didn’t take long. I’ll go and speak to the manager and get right back to you. Back to the front desk and the ever smiling woman for the following enlightening conversation.
“Who discussed my refund with AAA?” I asked….
“The General Manager would have done that” she responded….
“Fair enough, I’d like to speak with the General Manager if you don’t mind” says I.
“Oh he’ll be in on Monday” says the front desk attendant with the ridiculous tick that makes her smile all the time….
“Did he or she just leave?”
“Oh no sir, he hasn’t been in all weekend and we didn’t receive any call on your complaint” she lied….
“OK then, who is in charge and is actually in the hotel…or who may actually know how to use a telephone?” I asked while simultaneously taking note that the back of my ears were beginning to heat up.
“Oh, that would be Misa, she’s not available right now.”
I remember thinking that this would be a great time for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and scream that I’d been “punked”, but the vacant and still smiling face of the Front Desk attendant led me to believe that this was not going to go well. Later, we caught “Misa” at the reception area and she, also smiling, informed me that she would be more than happy to check us out of the hotel, but that there would be no refund. I then calmly pointed out that they had misrepresented the hotel’s location and that I was not interested in staying in a place where I did not feel safe at night. She tried to explain that the Hotel never said that they were located on Ft. Lauderdale Beach. Ah ha…I finally had her, and I whipped out the description of the hotel on the hotel’s very own website which proudly proclaimed that discerning travelers could and should….
Experience the height of exclusivity at this spectacular Fort Lauderdale beach hotel
to which Misa responded… “We are on Ft. Lauderdale Beach”. I almost jumped over the counter …“What? That beach is more than four miles south of here”. I also pointed out that “Fort Lauderdale Beach” was not the name of any town or city and that it was fraudulent to make such a claim. I couldn’t believe my ears. Speaking with these people was like trying to convince the Italian train conductor some years ago that I’d purchased a “First Class” ticket in a state room as I sat next to a very foul smelling elderly man in the train world’s version of steerage. Nothing…blank stares and condescending smiles.
“So where’s the Manager”.
“Oh, he’s out of town until Thursday”. Shocked by yet another lie, I pointed out that the clerk said he would be in on Monday to which Misa said, “No, she didn’t say that, you must have ‘misinterpreTATED’ that”. Now, at this stage of my life I am not a violent person, but I came really close to throwing the trendy vase in the middle of the lobby through the front window. In the end I decided to just leave and to consider my options after vacation.
I asked that the General Manager please call me. That was seven days ago and I am still awaiting a call to address my concerns. I have been informed that AAA does not “independently” make any refunds and that those decisions are made exclusively by the hotels. At that point I lost my temper and said some things to some woman at the AAA customer service center that I am not particularly proud of.
But….our story has a mixed ending. I did lose nearly $2000.00 for a room I refused to stay in, but we found a wonderful place and really enjoyed the rest of our vacation. But I learned some things:
First, do not book a trip with AAA; they do not stand behind the trips that they book.
Do not ever stay at the “Il Lugano” hotel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida because it is run by people who are liars and cheats and this “boutique” is in a dangerous and scary locale and is a long way from any beach.
Do a better job of checking out your choice of hotel than I did.
Oh yeah, I’ve decided to sue the Il Lugano and to require them to defend the suit in Massachusetts based upon their ill-conceived idea to advertise here through their agent….AAA. I’m going to use the proceeds of my judgment to start “The Mike Wilcox Center for Chronically Smiling Idiots”, .so that something good can come of this entire sordid affair. I knew I should have gone to Mexico…..