Hotel Horror Story

Pompalo Hotels are known worldwide for their superior hospitality. “Pleasing the best people in the best places with relish” is their slogan, proudly personified on lobby signage in locations from Caracas to the Congo.

At marble check-in consoles, the eager welcome staff, whose hair and sideburns have been trimmed to regulation size, greet new guests with fawning admiration.

There’s an oddness to those effusive greetings. Smiles can be face-stretchingly broad. Some arrivals have remarked that they are treated like a long-lost relative…with a lot of money. And when staff accepts a credit card to pay for the stay, that affection either gains or drops.

A pedestrian Visa or MasterCard receives a sympathetic dip of the head. The lesser American Express cards — blue, plum, affinity — get a wan smile, as if to say, yes you’re a member of the family — but not one held in the highest esteem. A Green Amex informs that you don’t have a lot of money but appreciate the finer things, as do we.

When a front-desk clerk receives a Gold Card, it’s as if the warmth of the sun has shed its brilliance upon his face. A Platinum Card engenders a stiffening of the spine, a squaring of the shoulders, an even broader smile. And should a Black Card be proffered, the faint clicking of a pair of highly polished shoes can be heard from underneath the stand.

“Are you here on business?” a Pompalo new best friend might ask. “Is there anything we can do to make your stay more satisfying?” Or, “What a pretty little girl. We will have a child-size robe and slippers delivered to your room post-haste.” Or, “May I suggest a complimentary upgrade to a room with a better view and a nice big bathtub?” to females traveling alone.

Each guest is escorted to the elevator by a strong bellman, even those pikers who think they can avoid paying a tip by rolling their own luggage to their room. They’ll be told with a broad smile, “Allow me to accompany you to acquaint you with Pompalo’s en-suite systems. They can be a bit daunting.” Powerless against this practiced treatment, a guest normally releases the luggage grip and allows the stranger to practice his trade.

Meanwhile, at the sound of the elevator closing, the lobby clerk’s hand slips under the desk to press a hidden button. It will notify housekeeping that the guest has arrived and to prepare a surprise treat. A bottle of Champagne on ice, perhaps. Or a fruit-and-cheese plate. Or perhaps plump strawberries dipped in chocolate, although their arrival sometimes strikes some female guests traveling alone as sad and somewhat cruel.

Whether by nature or training, Pompalo’s uniformed bellmen are chatty sorts. “Will you be staying long? Are you visiting family in town?” one may ask as he unlocks the door and inserts the key card in a slot that turns the lights on. “This Pompalo is an LEED-certified hotel, so the lights and a/c will only turn on when you put your card in this little pocket. We’re sustainable.”

He’ll continue, “There’s a deep Jacuzzi in the bathroom. If you have a moment, please review our bathing menu. Our AquaSavant can curate a bath that will meet all your requirements for temperature, essential oils or bath salts, music and reading material. So much more relaxing than a shower after traveling.” Or he may say, “Do you know about the music or food or film festival happening this weekend? It’s right in the center of town. I can ask the concierge can arrange a ticket for you.”

Always, always his palm remains available to receive his due. He will continue talking until a tip is passed to him, as much in acknowledgment of service as to get him to shut up.

In the back office, something a bit more sinister is taking place. Workers at computers are furiously accessing the guest’s personal information. Not simply age and marital status, job and net worth, but also friends and family. Is this single traveler well connected… or someone basically alone in the world?

The AquaSavant is a small but powerfully built man with a deeply creased face that forces a smile during working hours. Bidden by the guest, he arrives with fluffy towels, a loofa, and a thermometer to gauge the water.

Unlike the bellman, he’s not chatty. After determining the guest’s desires, he sets to creating a watery sanctuary. When finished, he bows and exits.

Inside a nearby linen closet, he waits and checks his watch. In exactly eighteen minutes, he returns to the room, silently opens the door with a universal key and stealthily makes his way into the bathroom.

The guest is always caught off guard and usually too surprised to even scream as his bony hand reaches for her head and pushes her deeper, deeper into the water. Sometimes they put up quite a fight, splashing and flailing; sometimes it’s so easy, it’s as if these lonely types craved suicide by room service.

Backing away, he dries his hands, picks up the phone and dials a special number. When a voice answers, he says in a monotone, “We have an accident in 309.” Then he returns to let the water out of the tub, uses one of those fluffy towels as a shroud, and departs.

With utmost speed and efficiency, a room-service crew arrives and wheels their cart to the bathroom. One lifts the legs, the other the arms of the still-warm victim. They place her underneath the cart, reposition the crisp white linen that covers the sides, exit, and roll her down the hallway to an unmarked door.

There is still much work to be done before the feast. After all, we are committed to “pleasing the best people…with relish.” And our other guests, the cannibals, are already salivating over the menu.