Why is it that when fortunate circumstances allow a stop at a swank restaurant or an overnight in a rather expensive hotel, I’m often disappointed?

Perhaps I’ve been a budget-minded traveler for so long, it’s simply become too painful to let go of my cash, but I don’t think so.  I enjoyed a few too many spendthrift years when it was not painful in the least to spend money (just ask some of my longtime shopping companions.)

I’m not congenitally tight-fisted, but I like to get what we Americans call “bang for the buck.”  If I spend big money, I expect big satisfaction, because that’s what the swank places are selling us.  When they fail to deliver, it’s usually NOT from lack of Frette linens on the bed or because some exotic fusion food on an oversized plate didn’t rock the taste buds.

The expensive places tend to ruin their own experience through blasé service.

Through the generosity of a dear friend, I recently spent time in the bar of the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Every “Gold List” and “World’s Best” says it’s the place to go in that charming and distinctive Southwestern city.

Yes, their Silver Coin margarita was the best I’ve ever had, and the late afternoon lunch was delicious, but the service was atrocious for an upscale establishment.

I was with two other women; we were decently dressed and very polite.  It was not that busy in the bar area, although it was a Balloon Fiesta weekend so that part of the state was crowded.

The server was not rude; she merely ignored us.

Drink glasses sat empty, the bill had to be asked for and asked for again, and meantime we could see her chatting up possibly more interesting patrons over at the bar.

Is this an end of the world event?  Of course not, but I expect more, a LOT more, at a place that sells itself on its own wonderfulness.

My friend who actually paid the tab was mortified, and said over and over that she’d never had a bad experience there before.  I do believe her, but when you position yourself as the crème de la crème, you’d better deliver every single time.

Every single time with every patron, you high-end hotel and restaurant folks, so train your staffs with that in mind.  You’re charging me enough; you can afford it.

They lost their one shot with me.  Next time, if I have money, I’m checking out La Posada de Santa Fe or some other establishment in town.

You know, when I check in at your basic Hampton Inn, a U.S. hotel chain, I get invariably cheerful service, a good breakfast and free WiFi.  If I ever run into a bad Hampton Inn, I’ll probably cut them some slack, because they do not trumpet a “luxury” status or try to impress me with W Hotel attitude and pretentiously hipper-than-thou silliness.

Who charges big bucks and hasn’t disappointed me?

The Algonquin Hotel in New York City — great accomodations, but more importantly, friendly and welcoming service without any ‘tude.   The Restaurant De Silveren Spiegel in Amsterdam is typically Dutch in its open friendliness.  The Park Hyatt Tokyo; expensive food and well worth it, plus a gracious staff.   The Grand Hotel in Nancy, France, welcomed my two kids, which was important because one of them is named Nancy and she was very excited to visit their pretty city in Lorraine.

Where did I get the best meal with superb service while visiting New Mexico?  A local joint called Christy Mae’s, a few blocks away from old Route 66 in Albuquerque.   The waitress stuffed us with great food and made us laugh; I’d have paid double for the pleasure.

Technorati tags: travel, luxury travel, upscale travel, Santa Fe, New Mexico