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Traveling with tea

As we packed for the book signing tour and convention, my wife and I carefully plotted what to bring along. Obviously, some good loose-leaf tea was a part of the process. My choices were my own Scottish Breakfast blend for first thing in the morning, our house Earl Grey (one of the most popular selections at our tea bar) for the afternoon, and Rooibos for bedtime. We brought along an infuser to brew the tea.

At most of the motels and hotels, there was a microwave oven in the room where we could heat up our water. Some have the microwave in the lobby. Others provided only a coffeepot, which yields coffee-flavored hot water (I skipped having tea those days).

Then we got to Las Vegas, where we’re attending a convention at Bally’s. We got to the room, and there’s no way to heat water. No hotplate, no coffeepot, no microwave.

Note to self: Travel with a device that heats water.

Not a problem. I’ll just call housekeeping and have them bring something up. That’s where I hit the first snag. I was informed by housekeeping that only “Platinum Players” get coffeepots in their rooms. I explained that I’m here for book signings and a business conference (the NCRA annual convention), not to gamble, and she explained that “it’s the rules.”

I asked for a manager, and she transferred me. Someone at the front desk answered, I asked again for a manager, and I spent 25 minutes on hold listening to advertising for the hotel. Yes, twenty-five minutes! When I first asked for the manager, I was not upset. Amused, yes. Mildly annoyed, perhaps. But I figured this was a minor snag and I would be making tea in a few minutes. By the time I actually got the Bally’s manager on the phone, my patience was starting to wane.

I reasonably explained the situation to her, and she explained that there was 24-hour room service, so I have no need for a water-heating device. I explained that by the time hot water from the kitchen arrived in my room, it would be tepid water, which does not make good tea. She explained that only Platinum Players got coffee pots, and I’m not a Platinum Player.

I explained that I wasn’t there to gamble, and it was my understanding that Bally’s actually welcomed business conferences. She said, “oh, yes, we do welcome business conferences, and the members order from room service.”

I asked if I was the first person ever to request a way to make tea in my hotel room. She grudgingly acknowledged that others have asked as well. I asked if she had blown them off the same way she was blowing me off. She got a wee bit huffy.

Note to self: Avoid staying at Bally’s in the future.

In over 30 years of business travel, my experience has been that good hotels are eager to provide their guests with whatever they need. Did you forget a toothbrush? They’ll give you one. Does your shirt need ironed? They’ll bring you an iron. Did your shoes get scuffed? They will provide a shoe polishing kit. They want your experience to be positive.

Bally’s, on the other hand, wants you to get out of your room and blow money in their casino. If you insist on staying in the room, they want you to buy coffee from room service ($12 for a pot of French roast, delivered in 20-30 minutes). I’m not one of those Tea Absolutists who insists on only the finest first-flush Darjeeling steeped for precisely 90 seconds in 210-212 degree carbon-filtered water. But I don’t want a Lipton teabag from room service, and I don’t want tea made with tepid water that was boiling ten minutes ago.

At this point, it’s not so much about the tea — I am an adaptable kind of guy — but about the fact that the manager would not work with me when I asked nicely, or even when I pushed. She refused to acknowledge that every 2-bit motel in the country is willing to accommodate my request for a way to heat my water, but Bally’s is not.

She made it clear that keeping the guest happy is not a priority for this hotel. Hoovering money out of the guests’ pockets is. Welcome to Las Vegas.

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