Monday 19 November 2007

Meeting Mr. Big Stuff

That Hotel is off limits

I know that I would not return to Catalonia Atenas Hotel or any hotel in the Catalonia group when next I visit Barcelona. I chose this hotel because it came near the top of the list of hotels that were recommended by the event organiser of the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum.

Obviously, I was deluded into thinking the 4* designation meant it had an element of service and professionalism but compared to the 4* Riu Hotel Maspalomas I stayed in for my September holidays in Gran Canaria, one would be comparing class with trash.

A reviewer on Trip Advisor sums it up, it was a youth hostel masquerading as a 4* hotel which is why they had no mini-bars but vending machines on the ground floor and the hotel card stated one could not invite guests – typical of a hostel, one would say.

My concept of a 4* hotel is that service, comfort and accommodation tries to make it home away from home – there was not character in this hotel, I was glad to be out of it as much as possible.

The housekeeping was atrocious, you would not believe that my “Do Not Disturb” card was removed again like last Sunday; the subtext of one stay at the hotel is “Do Not Return” even under the pain of death.

It might well be that other hotels in the Catalonia group of hotels are a lot better and live up their billing considering this is supposed to depict Catalan hospitality, this hotel was such let down and the only service I got was being moved from a cubicle to a fair-sized room at arrival – the notion that someone thought 8 nights in that hell-hole are best spent in Room 1009 with a view like from a prison cell leaves me speechless – those guys really do have to polish up their act – Big Time!

Lounging towards Zara

I could not wait to check out this morning and I had checked to see if there was a business lounge at Barcelona airport, I did not even have the mind of doing any sightseeing either though my flight was not till 17:05.

I tried to check-in around 13:00 and I was told I would have to wait till 15:00 because the Barcelona airport was too small to accommodate my 30kg luggage for 4 hours and also would not be able to gain access to the business lounge either.

But these ladies at the check-in desk think on their feet and in minutes had moved me to the 15:10 flight with a better seat, I made a beeline to the business lounge which was just functional, apart from the drinks and snacks, I found one had to pay for wireless connectivity – really, in a business class lounge – sometimes.

Then I thought I would treat myself to something new and bought a winter coat at Zara the flagship fashion chain of Spain – sadly, the attendants did not wise up to the option of opening another cashier till when the queue grew to 10 people deep. At least 2 people asked that this be done and the lady just looked and shrugged as at least 6 other workers in the store idled away rearranging clothes.

I quipped that people who have to rush to the boarding gates may not be able to wait and others seeing queues this long might be discouraged and consequently they would lose customers because of poor service. One would think working in an international airport space would mean service is not sedentary in delivery – the fool me.

Mr. Big Stuff

I finally boarded my flight but not before a yuppie-like Northern Caucasian - looking a lot more tanned than a Berber with more gel in his coifed locks to set alight a volcano that would make Krakatoa look like a candle-light - made his presence known.

To some people, he probably is Mr. Big Stuff; the unfortunate consequence is that such people make everyone else look stuffy when in fact we are just plain irritated.

Big phone, big voice, silly conversation, all looks, more money and zero social graces, I thought I had seen the last of him till when I tried to recline my seat and it was pushed back forcefully that I found myself apologising profusely.

Wait a minute, I am supposed to be in a business class seat, something must be wrong, so rather that engage the man in conversation about why I could not recline my seat, I asked the airhostess to check why my seat would not recline. I also asked her to find out if it was affecting the man behind me and he said no – so recline I did and fell asleep.

The cabin crew were then advised to take their seats and we had not even landed when the man had his phone on with flowing conversation to some lady – some people – in fact, he was obnoxious throughout the flight; complaining about the volume and price of the cheap duty-free perfume and asking for coffee twice after all the catering had been cleared.

Unfortunately, one cannot choose the company of people to fly with paying for any premium rate service does not confer social graces on the customer – breeding always has a way of being self-evident.

That was the week that was in Barcelona.

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