Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This is what happens when people DON'T complain.

I wrote the follow letter to the CEO, Steve Solberg. “I am writing to you because of the mishaps at two of your hotels: Montgomery Renaissance and Ross Bridge Renaissance. I am a journalist as well as doing an internet radio show. I, along with other writers stayed at the Montgomery venue September 8-11 and Ross Bridge from September 11-13th.

Let me begin with the hotel in Montgomery. I was there to attend the Travel Media Showcase. Several weeks prior to the event I called this hotel and spoke to a woman in sales and marketing requesting an upgrade to a suite as I would be doing my radio show Thursday evening from my room and would be inviting guests. Needless to say, I wanted my guests to be comfortable and sit in a living room area rather than my bedroom.

It was an “I’ll ask my boss” situation and agreed upon. I told her that I would be promoting the hotel during the show. I also stated that the show was done via internet and that I would need internet access as well as long distance phone access. None of this appeared to be a problem. I had also spoken with Bill Lang about this as well as being able to experience the spa at each of the resorts. I want to make it clear that I had the intention of writing about both hotels as well.

Upon arrival at the hotel I was not asked if I required assistance with my luggage. I checked in to find that I was getting a room on the 12th floor Executive level but it was not a suite. At this point it was clear to me that I had to change the format of my radio show and have people simply call into the show to interview, which also changed those that I would be interviewing.

Not having internet access I called down to the desk as I believed that the information would be logged into my account. It was not and I was interrogated and having to keep explaining that this was not a TMS request and that I would be talking about the hotel. The person kept trying to give me someone from TMS to make the request and I had to keep on explaining until I finally got the fee waived.

I had set up the show to have the mayor, Todd Strange call in as my first guest. Approximately a half and hour before the 5:30 p.m. scheduled time, I logged on to find out that the internet access was disabled even though it was enabled prior. I called to the desk to ask why and told the person that their mayor was calling into the show in half an hour. I had to give an explanation again as to why I required the access, which should be complimentary. I had not given a credit card as I did not expect any expenses to incur.

I finally got the access approximately 15 minutes prior to air time and upon calling into the show found that I was unable to call long distance. They had to send up a technician and I again emphasized that their mayor was calling soon. The technician came up and was unable to resolve the issue. At 5:30 I noticed on my “switchboard” that someone was calling in and it was, in fact, the mayor.

As the show progressed it appeared that the mayor was being quite patient and continued to hold. I had to use the technician’s cellphone in order to call the internet station and explain to both the mayor and another guest that was calling in that I was unable to do the show due to “the ineptness of the hotel staff”.

There was no GM on both Thursday evening or Friday morning to complain to. There was an assistant that listened and simply did her “public relations job” with the “how can I make it up to you” and smiling attitude. All of the representatives from tourism and many of the writers asked how the show went and needless to say I was angrily telling them. When I asked as to the CEO of the PCH group to send a letter to it appeared that nobody on the staff was able to obtain the information.

Now, let’s get to the Ross Bridge hotel where Bill professed that “everything would go smooth” and Javier told us to enjoy whatever we wanted and simply charge it to the room. We were not sure as to what that meant, but I guess I should have bought a set up clubs and an outfit.

The radio show that I was doing at this hotel was focused on the culinary tour of Birmingham and having heard that there would be no suites available, set up the show for people to call in.

What I am going to share next is my own fiasco. I can assure you that 15 other writers were quite angry as well. After lunch I returned to the hotel at approximately 1 p.m. to find that my room was not visited by housekeeping. The show was scheduled for 3 p.m. and I did invite one person to join me as a co-host.

I called down to the desk and was told that they just haven’t gotten to my room as yet and asked if housekeeping should be sent to the room. I agreed. It is now almost 2:30 and I call down to the desk. This time I asked the person’s name. Ellen said that someone hadn’t come to my room due to having the system read that we were all checking out that day. I was very clear that I would be doing my radio show from 3 to 4:30 and not to have housekeeping come up. I also requested to have someone from management call me and was told that Steve Miller and Javier were both on the premises and that one of them would call me at 4:30

Having told them this there did not appear to be a reason that I needed to place a “do not disturb” sign on my door. As I was about five minutes into the show there was a knock at the door. My co-host answered the door as I called out telling her to come back at 4:30. Keep in mind that I am “live” on the air. She did not understand English and five or so minutes later there was another knock at the door. My co-host had to explain that housekeeping could not enter as I was doing a radio show.

I waited until 5 p.m. for a phone call and finally went downstairs to the front desk. I was told that neither of the managers was on the premises this day. The manger on duty told me that there was a communication problem regarding the check out date and apologized.

Now, there was quite an ample time while I was calling on the phone and being told about the check out problem and even when I was standing there at the front desk speaking with the manager, to inform me that my key would not work. Needless to say I did not find this out until I went back up to my room and of course not able to call down since there did not appear to be any house phones. So, hear I was back down to the desk. Please keep in mind that I was staying in room #305 which was the farthest away from the elevator.

When I finally returned to my room it appeared that housekeeping had made a visit. After dinner I returned to my room to view a turndown service complete with chocolates, my robe laid out on the bed and amenities in my bathroom that were not there when I checked in. Turndown service was not given the evening before and I wondered as to why the inconsistency as well as whether the hotel thought that by doing this it would clear up all that occurred. I thought that the other writers were probably thinking the same thing and it appeared that I was singled out for the turndown service. Am I to conclude that one pays extra for the service and that there is a different price for the rooms depending upon the service?”

I later found out that Ross Bridge "manager on the premises", Javier was there and playing tennis with one of the writers. So, why did nobody contact him when the chaos went into place?

The answer? “Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and thought provoking letter expressing your experience at the Montgomery Renaissance and Ross Bridge Renaissance. I apologize for the difficulties you experienced and understand your frustration. Fortunately these type of incidents are not common on our hotels or we would not receive the wonderful ratings and other accolades we routinely are awarded.

I hope your future travels will be more pleasant. Kindest regards."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watch Out For Tenants!

It looks as if a tenant can set it up for the landlord to get visited by the City. Complain about something that isn't so, like that there is no carbon monoxide detector and then remove it before the City gets there to inspect. How about signing a lease that says that the tenant inspected the apartment and agrees that everything is in working order and accepts the apartment "as is" and then complain to the City. Hey, no one put a gun to the tenants head to sign and...to boot...the rent wasn't raised for the second time. Here is a photo of the hidden Carbon Monoxide Detector. Want a larger view? Complain about not having access to the roof when the tenant is blocking the access.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Our Great Leader in Birmingham

I almost forgot about our great leader in Birmingham...Vickie Ashford

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Birmingham Culinary Tour Continues

Off to Pepper Place Saturday Market I found the origin of the grits used in Clayton Sherrod's cooking and Highland's Bar & Grill chef, Frank Stit. Company is called McEwen & Sons who own a grist mill. Frank and Helen handles the milling while their sons, Frank Jr. and Luke raise chickens and sells their cage free eggs. Aside from the Grits appetizer served at Highland's, here is a photo of their seafood appetizer. Best thing was the Apalachicola oysters. Worst was the shrimp cocktail that had that "not so fresh" tast. Chef never came in to greet the 13 writers and I heard that he was at his other place located about four blocks away.

More on Birmingham culinary tour

We went to three wineries. At Ozan Vineyard and Cellars I am sipping their peach wine. Morgan Creek Vineyards located in Harpersville, focuses on Muscadine grapes. Although I did a full tasting, none of the wines appealed to me. That's not to say that the wines aren't good. The best was Vizzini Farms Winery where they create a Choclate Raspbery Merlot. The nose gets the chocolate. Sipping it you get the fruitiness of the Merlot and then it finishes in the back of the throat with chocolate.

Birmingham preview

Here are some photos taken on my culinary tour of Birmingham. Food products include: Golden Flake Potato Chips, Bud's Best Cookies, The Peanut Depot peanuts and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale. Shrimp and Grits was the focus at Jones Valley Urban Farms where we had breakfast and lesson from Chef Clayton Sherrod. Jones Valley Urban Farms is 5 acres of property in downtown Birmingham where the community takes a plot of land and grows organic fruits, vegetable and flowers. Photo is one of the breafast items of Brie with a peach sauce. Let's watch Chef Clayton prepare the Shrimp and Grits.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Videos Taken In Montgomery

During the TMS Brent Edwards sang "Feeling Good". Is Elvis in the house? Tracy Hamlin sang a few tunes with Eric Essix and his band. I took a tour of the King Baptist Church where Martin Luther King preached.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dreamland Bar-B-Que

We ate at this place just down the street from the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel called Dreamland Bar-B-Que. It's located in the area known as the Alley. I have one of the Alley. Then there's the Executive Chef cooking up the ribs, and another one of me with the owner Bob.

More of Montgomery

Here's a poster depicting Alabama characters. Then there is a group of some of the fabulous staff of the Montgomery CVB. Lastis the scene from my hotel window.

More on Montgomery

Here are some photos of Montgomery. Capitol Building. King Baptist Church.

Travel Media Showcase

I went to Montgomery to attend a TMS...Travel Media Showcase. A whole lot of tourist reps. It was like speed dating. Sitting in front of a rep for 15 minutes as they told me what they got and I told them what I could offer as a writer. Then talking about a possible "first date". I had a great time and looking forward to traveling to a lot of new destinations.

Want to first give you some photos of the TMS. We went to the Museum of Fine Arts for the opening ceremony. Mayor Todd Strange was there as well as characters from both Montgomery and Alabama itself such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.