So then…I strain to see outside my car window as I’m zipping home, searching for a nice hotel in the neighborhood to recommend to my friend Natalie when she visits next month. I’ve only lived in LA a few weeks, so I’m not that familiar with the area.
Suddenly I crest a curve and see a big beautiful building way up on a hill with a huge sign saying Plum Tree Inn. Most of the building’s obscured by huge trees but it looks really cool.
Natalie’s tired of the chain hotels she stays at for work, so I know she’ll enjoy the local flavor of a unique boutique hotel. But she’s in her late 20’s, like me, so she’s not rolling in cash — and I know I better check the rates.
At home, I kick off my shoes as I call directory assistance, who connects me with the Plum Tree Inn. Then I have the most bizarre conversation with a woman with a thick accent. And the end of our call’s a real kicker!
Me: Hello, can you please tell me how much it is to reserve a room?
Her: You want reserve room?
(Um, yeah, why else would I call your hotel? I think to myself.)
Me: Yes, is it expensive?
Her: No, no, not expensive. What room you want?
Me: I don’t know, just a regular room I guess. How much is it?
Her: What night you want room?
Me: July 18 and 19.
Her: Which one?
Me: BOTH nights. July 18 and July 19.
Her: BOTH NIGHTS? You want BOTH NIGHTS?
(omigod, why is she so surprised? Is the hotel so bad, no one ever stays a second night?)
Me: Yes, yes, I need a room for BOTH nights.
Her: How many people?
Me: Just one.
Her: JUST ONE?!
(seriously, what is wrong with this woman? Can she not hear me? She’s surprised by everything! Is this her first day on the job?)
Me: (impatiently) Yes, just one.
Her: You want a room for TWO nights for just ONE person?
Her: What they want eat?
Her: What one person want eat?
Me: I don’t know! (frustrated) Can’t she just decide when she gets there?
(seriously, has she EVER taken a hotel reservation before?)
Me: So how much is the room?
Her: Maybe one thousand dollars.
Me: ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Are you kidding me?
Her: You want whole room, right? Probably one thousand dollars.
(do their hotel rates just change on a whim? Are we GUESSING now?)
Her: Depend what eat.
Me: What? Who cares what she eats? How can you charge one thousand dollars for a hotel room?
Her: What? Not hotel. Restaurant.
And NOW we realize who’s the crazy one.
And it ain’t her.
Just take a moment to re-read that conversation above – and imagine what SHE must be thinking of ME as I ask these questions to reserve a room at her restaurant to throw a dinner party – for ONE person – for TWO nights in a row.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Pretty funny, right?
OK, but to be fair – IN MY DEFENSE, YOUR HONOR – why is a restaurant called the “Plum Tree INN?”
Doesn’t “inn” imply hotel? Or bed & breakfast? Or quaint boutique hotel?
Remember? “Mary & Joseph, there’s no room at the INN, so you gotta sleep in the barn?”
Inn = Hotel, people! You’re gonna get some calls for room reservations if you put a “hotel” synonym in your name!
You don’t see Hilton calling themselves Hilton RESTAURANT, do you? No, you do not. They call themselves Hilton HOTEL.
Do you see signs for Barnes & Noble Shoe Stores? No.
Or IKEA Medical Centers? Nope.
How about Victoria’s Secret Movie Theatre? Oh, wait. People actually WOULD go to a place called Victoria’s Secret Movie Theatre. (makes note for future business idea – call Shark Tank)
But you get my point – you can see how I might make assumptions about the services the Plum Tree INN offers, right?
Many years later, I see that the Plum Tree Inn has been torn down. And of course I wonder if they’ve gone out of business because of their fatal branding flaw – “hello, business manager, how about – oh, I don’t know – Plum Tree RESTAURANT?!”
But every time I pass that spot, I chuckle to myself to think what that woman must’ve been thinking when I called.
She probably thought I was some sort of crazed Howard Hughes-type character who enjoyed a good meal out, but simply couldn’t tolerate eating around other people. Of course, in LA, there probably ARE some eccentric billionaires who’d rent out a whole restaurant for a quiet meal.
And then I think: what if she had quoted a more reasonable price like $150 a night? I might have made the reservation, still not knowing the building’s true identity.
And I can only IMAGINE the look on Natalie’s face when she showed up with her luggage to “check in” to a fancy Chinese restaurant!
— Darcy Perdu
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(OK, people, ‘fess up! Share some of YOUR bodacious blunders and asinine assumptions! Ever been on one side of a funny misunderstanding? How about some odd or confusing business names? Do tell!)