Little did I know that the first assignment I had to complete was the worst one of all. I was to go to a hotel and use valet parking. If asked, I was to tell the valet attendant that I was checking in. Then, I was to wait for 20 minutes and return to get my car. At that point, I would act like I was leaving, so I could fill out the first part of my report. I would then go back to the valet area and tell the attendant that I was a mystery shopper. The last part was the completion of an audit form, where I would evaluate everything from their time clock to their fire extinguisher. It sounded simple enough, so, with forms in hand, I was ready to go.
We got to South Beach around 4:00 PM. The traffic was unreal. The people were unreal…literally. Mr. E said he had never seen so much plastic surgery in his life. It was amazing. The streets, cars and people were just like I had seen on TV. I always thought the shows about South Beach were an exaggeration. I was wrong.
We drove past the hotel 4 times before we finally found it. The street was like a parking lot, so driving past the building 4 times took almost an hour. The hotel was so trendy that, apparently, they did not need signage. Those who were cool enough would know where they were. Finally, we put on our cool glasses and located the hotel. We pulled up and stopped the Toyota between a Maserati and a Lamborghini. I begged Mr. E not to turn off the car, but he turned it off out of sheer habit.
You see, our Toyota had the nickname, “Old Smokey.” It looked like a nice enough car, but when we turned it on, smoke would billow from the tailpipe. It would smoke to the point that people would look to see what was on fire. It did not always do this, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would smoke at a South Beach hotel. That’s how our luck worked, and I was right. When the valet attendant started it, smoke poured out of that sucker like I had never seen it before. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die. Unfortunately, there was nothing natural, like rocks, to be found in all of South Beach.
Before the smoking began, I had to interact with the valet attendant. That was fun. I found it unfortunate that I had not continued my Spanish classes in high school. They would have come in handy. The attendant did not speak much English, and I did not speak much Spanish. He knew enough to ask me if we were checking in. I said yes, and he asked for my name so he could find it on his registration list. Uh-oh. That was not in the guidelines of the assignment, and I knew I was in trouble. I gave him my name, and he said it was not on the list. I told him I did not have a reservation but was going to check in. He told me he thought they were booked. Double uh-oh. The point of the assignment was to see if the attendant would park my car properly and to time how long it took to get my car back. If he did not park the car, I could not complete a major part of the form. I asked him to park my car, and he said no. He said he would wait until I saw if I could check in. He said to bring back the room key and he would park my car. I acted defensive, trying to throw him off guard. I insisted that he park my car, and he said no. He said he would accompany me to the front desk to make sure I checked in. This guy was starting to get on my nerves.
It was at this point that another attendant started my car to pull it forward and out of the way. The smoke was unbelievable. I wanted to cry.
The attendant walked me to the front desk and waited in line with me. I told him I could handle it, and he said he would wait. If persistence earned a bonus, this man was going to be rich. In my head, I was screaming because I did not happen to have room on my credit card to book a room at this hotel. The overnight parking alone cost $85, so I had no idea how much a room would be. Besides, I did not know whether I could get the charge reversed. I couldn’t think of what to do.
It was my turn in line, and the employee said she could help me. The attendant spoke in Spanish to her and explained, I hoped, that I wanted to check in. She checked and confirmed that there was no room. The attendant said he would accompany me to my car. I thought I was going to faint. I told him that I needed to use the restroom and that I would make a few calls to see if I could get a room somewhere else. I went to the restroom and called my scheduler. It was a Friday evening, and she was off duty. There was no answer, and I was up a creek without a paddle.
Finally, I went back to my car. It had never been parked, so I just had to mark those questions as “N/A.” I told the attendant why I was there and began to conduct my audit. He was friendlier to me after he found out that I was not just trying to get free parking. He and I struggled through the report together. He did not understand many of the questions I asked him, so I had to just wing it on a few answers.
Next, I got to visit a second South Beach hotel to complete the same assignment. Again, my car smoked like a chimney. Again, I wanted to die. I had prayed for two things. First, I prayed that I would get someone who spoke English, and second, I prayed that they would not have a registration list. The first prayer was somewhat answered, since the attendant knew about 5 words of English. I should have been more specific. The second prayer was answered, and there was no list. Halleluiah!
When we got inside the hotel, it was unreal. The entire lobby was white on white on white: white walls, white floors, white cushions on the floors with sheer white drapery hanging. It was the strangest lobby I had ever seen. I could not even figure out where the registration desk was. Luckily, I did not need it since I had no intention of checking in.
Mr. E asked where I wanted to go to wait for 20 minutes. “Find the nearest dark corner,” I said. Now, I had thought ahead and planned what I was going to wear for the visits. I knew I had to look trendy and in style. What I didn’t know was that there was absolutely nothing in my closet that would have made me fit in at a South Beach hotel. I have never felt so out of place in all my life!
We found a bench in a corner near the restroom, and we just watched people heading out to the pool. The show was worth the admission price. Those people were fascinating. The brand names and jewerly and expensive handbags were amazing. The plastic boobs were intriguing (more-so to Mr. Everything than to me).
The audit portion of this visit did not go much better than the first. It was difficult asking questions of a person who did not speak my language. That was what prompted me to post the Facebook status update, “Will the last American out of Miami please bring the flag?”
I definitely got to see the real Miami on that trip. It was my first, and hopefully only, trip to that area. Now, when I see the parking assignments for these locations listed on the job board and the schedulers are offering a bonus, I just chuckle. I know why. There wouldn’t be enough money offered to get me to return to these hotels. -Al