Saturday, July 15, 2017

Local has its privileges

I took an overnight flight to Amsterdam via Detroit.  At check-in, I asked for a window--and then again at the gate, but they said it was full but I had an aisle.  At the moment the doors closed and there was still an empty seat between me and the fellow on the other aisle, we both cheered. "Business class," I said.  Then I noticed an empty row, window and aisle just couple of rows up.  "First class," I smiled.  The flight was not close to full--I guess they just wouldn't part with the moneyed classes.

I watched a wonderful French crime drama called "The Eavesdropper," which sounds even more profound in French...."La Mecanique de l'Ombre."

I wrote already of our beautiful arrival.  We arrived early, just before 6 am, but already light in the Dutch skies.  I helped a nice octogenarian couple off the plane with their suitcases to their airport escort.  I cleared customs and hopped the train into the center, beaming at being back in Amsterdam.

I arrived into Centraal just after 7am, and I headed to my usual stomping grounds at Hotel Beurstraat.  It was too early to check-in, so I left my stuff in storage at the hotel.  I made some initial arrangements for four days with a note. As I scratched the lazy black-and-white cat Figaro, I was told to come back at 11am after the previous day's check-out.

I wandered through the naked and empty streets and canals of Amsterdam.  The bleary Amsterdam crowds all gone to bed, and just the crows remaining to pick at the scattered trash.  I drank coffee after coffee as I beat back the jetlag.

Nearly 11am, I returned to the hotel.  There was a younger Turkish fellow at the desk.  I mentioned my reservation and asked for the usual room with shared bathroom.  I had expected $50 and was prepared for $60.  I had stayed prior earlier in the Spring at 40 euros because I knew Figaro.  I knew it was the middle of high season in Amsterdam, so I thought I was prepared.

Then he said, "320 euros."

"What?!?" I protested.  I explained that I had been coming here for a long time, and it was never that high. I had been here in the high season, and it was never double.

He dug in.  80 euros per night, it is always like this in high season.

I protested.  I was just here just a few months ago for 40 euros, it couldn't have doubled. I know this place, I pointed to the cat and said I even knew Figaro.

There was another couple there about to fork over for their room at 80 euros, and I knew I was stuck at the moment.

He said to ask the owner who was not far away.  I protested, explaining that I was practically a regular.  The owner stayed out of the fray and said of the guy at the counter, "I am the owner, but he is the boss."

So I grumped and said I would think about it as I stormed out (with my stuff still in their storage).

I stopped back in to ask a question, but no one was at the desk.  So I glanced over desk at the ledger and saw the actual prices.  I knew he was full of shit, and just wanted to cheat both me and the other guest who was checking in at  the same time.  I was done.

I asked the other discount hotel on the block, one which I had stayed in once prior, what their rate was.  It was 90 euros for a room with a private bathroom.  I would stay there out of spite if I couldn't do any better.  I would rather pay more for a room with a lil more, than double for a room I had already stayed in.

I got some coffee and tried to find options on the internet but the tablet was slow and dying of power.
So I went with the other cheap hotel on the block.  I chatted with the fellow in charge for a bit, and got him to offer me a deal.  Rather than 90 euros for the night, and 105 euros for the weekend (Fri, Sat & Sun), he could give me the economical room for 80 euro tonight and 90 per night for the weekend.  And now I had options.

The room was not much.  It did have a shower, but had an underground bunker feel despite being on the top floor.  But at least I had a room for the night at the same price as the original.  It felt a little claustrophobic, and it did not get past me that I was technically paying more for it than my preferred room--even being overpriced, so I was slightly cutting my nose.  I could make a final decision the next morning before I either had to check out or buy in.

The day and evening passed.

The next morning, I woke up late with a jet lag haze. I made my way back to the original Hotel Beurstraat, where I would check to see if one of the desk fellow I knew was there.

Sure enough, it was a Slovak fellow who I had met before.  We chatted in Czech for a bit as I played with Figaro.  He had a room for me.  Same room.  It was 70 euros per night, but since I was a regular guest, he knocked 10 euros off per night for the weekend.

So 60 euros in the end.  Because I knew some Czech, and Figaro.

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