I’ve been in the hospitality business since 1968. In that time, I think I’ve seen it all—but every time I think that, something else happens that boggles my mind. I thought I’d tell you just a few of the stories I’ve collected over the years.
When I was in high school I worked the front desk at the Tidewater Motor Lodge in West Yarmouth. Usually I worked the day shift, but every once in a while I covered the desk at night. One week the VFW was in town for a parade, and we had a number of them staying with us.
At about 10:00 at night I heard explosions coming from the area of the outdoor pool. When I headed to the pool to check it out I saw about fifteen of the VFW guys standing around the pool and laughing their heads off. As I got closer, I saw what was happening. They were tossing their empty beer cans into the pool and then firing shotguns to try to sink them. Right. I headed back to the office to call the police.
In 1986 I bought a hotel in Bass River called the Smuggler’s Beach Motor Lodge. We closed the sale at the beginning of the season with the weekend coming up. The place was full for the weekend, but on Friday we discovered we had no housekeepers. My father and I started cleaning the rooms ourselves, and we called in everyone we could think of to help. It wasn’t enough. We had people showing up, and their rooms were only partially cleaned. We had no other choice. We handed out sheets and towels as they checked in and told people they’d have to finish cleaning the rooms themselves. We also offered them a free night’s stay as an apology. Virtually everyone was fine with that, so we ordered a pile of pizza and some beer and had a party for everyone in the function room later that day. Many of those people became repeat customers, and every year they asked what time the pizza party was.
In 1990, I was doing a consulting job in Schladming, Austria in a lovely little resort right where they filmed The Sound of Music. Yes, it was that beautiful. But here was the problem: We had fifty-five units, but only fifty television sets. Every day the staff had a mad scramble to move televisions into the rooms occupied by Germans, and they would leave the rooms of people from other countries without TVs. This seemed to work until one day an angry American came to the front desk to complain. “There’s no television in our unit,” he said.
Ingrid who ran the front desk and was one of the toughest people I have ever known, replied, “Yes, that’s right. You don’t need a TV.”
“Why not?” he inquired angrily.
“Because you don’t even know how to speak German.”
He stood there stunned for a moment, and then slowly shook his head and walked away.
Some of my favorite stories concern my current resort, The Sandcastle Resort and Club in Provincetown, Massachusetts. If you don’t know anything about Provincetown, let me say that it might best be described as an alternative lifestyle community. The LGBTQ community is well represented in our little town. We’re also a timeshare resort, so many of our guests are actually owners, and they generally own one week out of the whole year.
I was walking by the oceanfront building one morning when I saw a truck backed up to one of the units. I didn’t think much of it until I saw two guys carrying a couch out of one of the units and loading it into the back of their truck. When I asked what they were doing, they told me they were taking the couch home with them because it was better than the one they had. “You can’t do that,” I said, “that couch doesn’t belong to you.”
“Yes it does,” was the reply, “we’re owners here, so this is our couch and we’re taking it.”
Another call to the police.
Memorial Day weekend is well known in Provincetown as Baby Dyke Weekend. It’s the weekend when hundreds of young lesbians descend on the town to spend the weekend drinking and partying. We get more than our fair share of them staying at the resort, and as you might imagine, nighttime security is very important when your guests are in town for a big party like that.
A few years ago our night security guy, Kenny, called in sick. No problem, Louise and I decided we could handle security. We were able to keep most of the craziness in check until about 2:30 in the morning, when we got a complaint at the front desk about the people partying in room 234. I told Louise that I would handle it, and off I went to give whoever it was a stern talking to.
I knocked on 234, and the door was opened by maybe the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen—and she was naked from the waist up. I looked behind her and saw another five good-looking young women partying behind her in various states of undress, including two who were completely naked. Summoning my authoritarian voice, I sternly told the lady at the door that the noise had to stop, “and I mean right now.”
She looked me straight in the eye, sidled up to me, and put her arms around my neck. “But don’t you want to come in and party with us?” she said, in a voice that made my stomach drop. Oh Lord, yes, yes I do … but Louise is expecting me back.
“No,” I said, “either you quiet down or I’ll call the police and they’ll remove all of you from the property. Now don’t make me come back.” To this day I wonder what might have happened if Louise hadn’t been waiting for me. Would I still have been strong enough to say no? I guess we’ll never know.
One owner I’ll never forget is Tutu Man. Tutu Man would come every October. He was in his eighties, and would appear in the lobby every day dressed in ballet shoes, pink tights, a pink tutu, and nothing else. We would spend the rest of the day watching Tutu Man dance and pirouette all over the resort.
I was at the front desk one day when our head housekeeper came down borderline hysterical, saying "I no go back, I no go back.” After she calmed down, she told us it was Tutu Man, but she wouldn’t say what the problem was. Off to Tutu Man’s room we went to see what was up. Opening the door, we spied Tutu Man lying face down on the floor, completely naked. Inserted into his—well, you know—was a white pole. At the top of the pole was an American flag, and some sort of motor that allowed the flag to spin around. As we stood there gaping at the sight, Tutu Man started to sing “God Bless America.”
Tutu Man passed away a couple of years ago. I miss Tutu Man.