Boston Harbor Hotel Hates The Frugal and the Fru Gal
I attended last friday's Movies by Moonlight, a free, free, free, presentation of American film classics at the Boston Harbor Hotel. I've been reading about this event for years, and this past Friday the selection was Roman Holiday, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. It's a classic film, and I believed the PR for the event when it described it as "a perfect summer date." The PR advised you to "bring a picnic" and "enjoy the ocean breezes." The movie was to be projected onto a screen floating on a barge anchored just off the pier.
What the PR does not describe is that the staff of the Boston Harbor Hotel hates this event, and has nothing but contempt for the frugal who attend it.
I called the hotel earlier in the day to speak with the concierge, to get the inside scoop on what time "sunset" really means, whether I should bring a chair, and what time I should arrive to ensure quality reviewing. I was told 8ish (earlier times for films later in the season) and that it was unnecessary to bring a chair as the hotel provided seating.
That last statement - that the hotel provides seating - turns out to be a Clintonian truth. The hotel provides rounds of 1/2 thick foam emblazoned with the Boston Harbor Hotel logo. That's it. This was just the first piece of misinformation delivered by the BHH concierge.
The hotel's plan is that you place this illusion of comfort onto one of the twenty (20!) spaces available on the stone steps leading to the pier. There isn't room for more than 20 adults on the granite stairs, which are so shallow, that each person has to take up three steps - one for the half of their butt cheeks that fit on the foam, one for their feet, and one for the backs of the knees. To ask anyone to occupy only two steps, as I did in a brash attempt to make the evening work, is to ask them to watch the movie with their nose resting on their knees.
There were a hundred adults jockeying for space on the stairs when I arrived, an hour early, as suggested by the concierge. The crowd continued to swell for the next hour. I would be hard pressed to say who was in a worse mood, the people crowded onto the stairs, or the staff designated to keep them from straying into the hotel's money maker, tables for two set up between the free seats and the edge of the pier. These tables were reserved for dinner only - as I learned when my friends and I decided to splurge on some over priced and under powered beverages in the cause of saving the nerve endings in our bottoms. We were rejected from the tables. When asked where we could sit, our questions were met with "I don't know, but you can't stand here," from the hotel staff. At the best, the hotel staff was merely rude, at their worst, they behaved like cowboys sending cattle into a slaughter house.
My attention was caught by the fact that chairs, clearly drawn from some banquet room in the hotel, had been set up in four rows on the screen's barge. I asked the hotel staff if those chairs were available to the public. "I don't know, why don't you just put your name down for a table?" was the unhelpful and petulant reply. In other words, "why don't you spend some money, you cheap bastards?" One of my friends conjectured that these seats were reserved for paying guests of the hotel. Too late, we learned that they were open to the public. By that time, the seats on the barge were filled with other frugal Bostonians, bobbing slightly with the drift of the water.
That's when the folks with the chairs began arriving. Here were the true cheap bastard cognoscenti, with their folding chairs and picnic baskets. They lined up along the right of the stone steps, with clear, albeit off center, views of the screen.
My friends and I had had enough. They were taking my word for it that Roman Holiday was a can't miss film, a classic romance that would cause them to run away to Rome and fall in love with a dissolute American journalist. But it just wasn't in our bottoms to last. Before the credits began, we abandoned our hard won steps and hit the road.
I'm guessing that the Boston Harbor Hotel receives some kind of tax break from the city of Boston for hosting free events. And they certainly spent enough money advertising the event. But just because the frugal movie lovers were their guests, they clearly have told their staff that they don't have to be kind to every guest, just the ones who pay.