Dwayne and I celebrated our anniversary last week — 8 years of marriage and 11 years of unwedded bliss before that, so, effectively, 19 years together.
To celebrate, this past Saturday, we left our daughters with my sister for the afternoon and then with my mom overnight, and we headed to New York City to play.
We were very excited about our hotel room at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. We were able to book the night for free because of an awesome promotion Holiday Inn offered this past summer — for every two nights in a hotel in the Holiday Inn chain, you get one night free. We earned three free nights by staying in Holiday Inn Expresses all across the country. We loved them — clean, good service, often a pool and, last but not least, free Internet.
As we traveled across the country, the Internet was crucial to keep up with e-mails and Facebook and to check different routes and drive times on the map. And it was free!
Even though we were only gone for about 24 hours this past weekend, we still wanted free Internet so we could hang out in the hotel room a little in order to discuss a long-overdue website for Dwayne’s artwork, cartoons and writing.
Romantic, I know. But we never get to have uninterrupted, well, anything when we’re at home. There’s always something happening, and we have never gotten around to getting Dwayne’s website up and running.
After a long day of walking around, drinking lattes, holding hands, chatting, hanging around Times Square (what a weird place, with the M & Ms store and the Hershey store — huge stores dedicated to candy and brand paraphernalia) Rockefeller Center and Greenwich Village, we finally headed back to the hotel, where the check-in line was outrageously long. I complained and asked them to bring out another front desk rep, but nothing happened. A bunch of empty computers at the front desk and only two employees to handle the long line.
Whatever. We finally got our room. Dwayne logged onto the Internet, we talked about his website, and then we headed out for a walk and some dinner.
The next morning, I saw a piece of paper under the door. Assuming that it was the express check out form, I leaned down and picked it up. It wasn’t express check-out directions. (There wasn’t express anything at this particular hotel.) It was a bill fo $19.50 for Internet access.
I was stunned. Really? $19.50 for Internet access? I was sure that Dwayne would never have logged on if he had known that the fee was $19.50, so I asked him, and he was equally stunned. He swore that he had not seen a charge for $19.50 when he accessed the Internet.
Since there was no express check-out, I had to go back and wait in line again. When I got to the front, the desk clerk pointed out that I had a balance of $19.50. I told her that I didn’t want to pay it because 1.) my husband hadn’t seen any indication of charges, 2.) the fee was outrageous to begin with, and 3.) we stayed in hotels in the Holiday Inn chain all across the country in the summer, and we never had a charge.
The front desk clerk was very snippy with me and told me that the only way to login to the Internet was to accept the charges. She said that there was a place to accept “the terms.” I told her that my husband could read and that he said he never saw an indication of any charges, and she tilted her head to the side and blinked hard, once, and didn’t say anything, as if to suggest that, no, in fact, my husband cannot read.
Then she said that she was sure that the notices of the charges were clear because — get this — most hotel guests see the charges and call the front desk to check and see whether $19.50 is really the charge for Internet access.
“They call you because the charge is outrageous!” I snapped back triumphantly.
But no, there would be no triumph for me that day.
“And besides,” I added, “We stayed in Holiday Inns all across the country, and they never charged us for Internet access.”
“This,” said the perky clerk emphatically, “is New – York – City.”
“Is it more special,” I asked her, “to get on the Internet in New York City than, say, in Kansas City, Los Angeles or Boston?”
She didn’t answer me and gave me the same head tilted, single blink and pushed the bill toward me.
Welcome to New York City, folks, where the Internet is paved with gold.