Opportunities Missed

22 May 2005

Tourist traps mean different things to different people. For some, they are treasure troves of trinkets and tribal lore. All alliteration aside, most people prefer to avoid the place known as a tourist trap.

Historic downtown Memphis, Tennessee is a place that has some tourist traps and some remarkable places to visit. Short on recollection of the latter, I’ll mention a place that has the potential to go either way. Last night it was the former.

Type “the peabody” into Google and your first link will take you to one of Memphis’s grand ole hotels. Rennovated and operated by a local family, this fine old place is full of the tales of the past. It’s beautiful, but attempts to preserve it as designed have left it looking a bit tired and worn in some areas.

Attempts to add modern expansion to it have resulted in the worst kind of disasters in space planning, customer convenience, parking and traffic flow. Park your car in one of the first available spots for “self-parking” and you’ll hike from somewhere in North Mississippi to the lobby. Forget to prepay for parking and you’ll wind up in a line of cars idling while owners exit their vehicles to search for one of the machines that takes money and validates your parking receipt.

If the place is busy – as it was last night – no one is in charge. Bellhops are feuding with valet parking attendants. “Not my job” can be heard often. The concierge desk is unmanned. Curbside luggage handlers are deciding what kind of item they will and won’t handle based on their own interpretations of “liability.”

One guest continually referred to the concierge as the connoisseur. Were it not for those moments of hilarity, I’d have made quite the scene. As it was, I exited with the full assurance that the Peabody’s ducks – look it up – will forever get better treatment than customers, guests and those who attend events there.

That is, until someone realizes that the difference between a fine hotel and a tourist trap has far more to do with substance than image.

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