• Yet another Marriott ADA Fail – Renaissance Asheville, NC

    My wife and I are visiting our nieces in NC and booked an accessible room at the Renaissance Asheville. Unfortunately, the room is not ADA-compliant and has problems beyond accessibility.  Firstly and most importantly, the bathroom is not ADA-compliant.  There is insufficient clear turning space for a wheelchair and no room for a wheelchair to pull up next to the toilet for a transfer (see picture below).  I had a very hard time using this bathroom. I called the front desk but there was no other room available.  

    Second, the aisle between the beds is too narrow for a wheelchair (see picture below).  There was also furniture blocking the path to the window and the access to the second bed (I called and had this furniture removed, making the room somewhat ADA-compliant).

    Finally, the parking situation is abominable.  The disabled spots are the closest parking spaces to the front entrance, but there is a very steep driveway that one has to climb to get to the front entrance. There is no accessible pathway marked from the parking spaces and no accessible sidewalk (I had to wheel up the driveway between cars, making sure I didn’t get run over).  How is this allowed in this day and age? Oh, wait…it isn’t.

    The individual that signs off on these properties as being ADA-compliant needs remedial training in the ADAAG.

    As for non-ADA related problems, the TV in the room does not allow you to plug in any HDMI devices. The website advertises a “Plug-In High Tech room” but this was anything but.  The standard Marriott jacks were on the desk, but none of them worked. When I called the front desk about it, they said they know they don’t work and they had no jack pack they could offer because the TVs were so old that they were not compatible.  So, I resigned myself to watching TV.  ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 were showing no signal or a scrambled signal. Called the front desk again and they sent maintenance up who jiggled a few wires and it started working properly.  Next morning, they were out again (as were about 5 other HD channels). I didn’t bother complaining about it as I was getting dressed to leave. And I won’t even mention the fact that there are only about 10 HD channels and the rest are in SD (most of which are broadcast in HD) and have poor picture quality, even for SD. Is it that hard to have a mostly-HD lineup, especially in a Renaissance property?

    Today, we left the room around 11:30 AM and housekeeping was down the hall. It wasn’t that late so I didn’t see the need to tell housekeeping that I needed the room made up.  Well, we got back to the room around 5:30 and the room had not been touched. I did not have a DND sign on the door (which was the front desk’s first excuse) and was never called (usually there is a message if the DND sign is on as housekeeping would call and ask if I needed service or towels).  Oh, and regarding the towels, they are very hard and thin and nowhere near the plush towels they used to be.

    Renaissance properties are supposed to be part of the “Distinctive Premium” line of hotels, but the last few stays at Renaissance properties have fallen far short of this standard. The hotels are old and in dire need of being refreshed. For that matter, I can say the same thing about my last few Ritz-Carlton stays as well. I don’t mind an old hotel, but there shouldn’t be water spots on the bathroom ceilings, chipped tiles, old furnishings, outdated electronics, and, most importantly, non-ADA-compliant rooms being sold as ADA-compliant.

    I am getting more and more frustrated with Marriott properties that I may just ignore my Gold Elite status and stay elsewhere (or maybe Sheraton properties have a better track record – with the merger, now I can try them). I hope they clean up their act soon as this is getting very tiresome and something I don’t need to deal with whenever I travel.

     

    Bathroom floor
    Bathroom floor

     

    Space between beds
    Space between beds


  • Rapid Reaction: Billy Joel Concert – 12/31/2016 – BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL

    Note to readers: Apologies for the shift between a review to a note to Billy.  Too much work to fix it.

    Went to see Billy for the 99th time on New Year’s Eve, 2016. My wife, who came to the show last year, isn’t a big Billy fan so she sat this one out. She understands my passion for seeing Billy and was OK with me going by myself.  Is she the best wife in the world or what?

    Tonight exemplified why I see so many Billy shows.  Despite the shortcomings of the show, it ranks in the top 10 Billy shows I have seen (can’t touch the Montauk “Back at the Ranch”, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, or Fenway shows based on venue alone or the show I tied Billy’s shoe for him or when I sang the last line to It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me). Let’s start at the beginning.

    For the past few weeks, I have been meaning to write a set list for the New Year’s Eve show explaining the reasoning for each song.  I never got to it, but some of my suggestions were followed. Such as:

    • Opening with Prelude/Angry Young Man: Is there a finer moment in live music than when Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated score from The Natural crescendos, the venue goes dark, the crowd is on their feet cheering and the white-hot spotlight shines on Billy poised to play the opening to Prelude/Angry Young Man?
    • Playing Miami 2017 right after Auld Lang Syne. OK, this one may have been obvious, but it was fantastic to hear Miami 2017 as the first Billy song of 2017. Has anything ever been so perfect? And we got “rats”!
    • Playing Souvenir. Haven’t heard this live in a while, and while it was rushed and abbreviated to conclude in time for midnight, it was still greatly appreciated.

    Now, what made this night so special was the fact that Billy played Until the Night. It wasn’t a “fielder’s choice” (more on that later), but was on the set list. I nearly fell out of my chair. Was I really hearing this live? One of my favorite songs of all time. I figured I had as much of a chance of hearing this live as I did of hearing Tomorrow is Today (my all-time favorite song – the revised Cold Spring Harbor version with just piano, not the original with the rest of the band).  It was incredible. When I heard the sax solo reverberate throughout the arena, I trembled. It was incredible. Thank you so much for playing this. I saw everyone take their bathroom break during this song, but it was their loss. Wow. Please continue to include deep cuts from your albums – it’s what makes seeing you so special.

    So, as for the rest of the show, here are my thoughts:

    • As mentioned above, every show should open with Prelude/Angry Young Man. There really is no other option. Miami 2017 isn’t great as an opening number. Thankfully you stopped doing A Matter of Trust as an opening number years ago.
    • Everyone missing the cue to play You May Be Right the first time and the late glass break were hilarious. Don’t know how many people noticed, but I did and I was laughing throughout Big Shot.
    • Thank you for not playing Only the Good Die Young. I realized you replaced it with Uptown Girl, which isn’t any better, but at least it was different.
    • Nessun Dorma? Wow! Totally awesome! Keep that in the show.
    • Keeping the Faith – excellent song – was great to hear it live.
    • The Longest Time – better than This is the Time, so can’t complain too much.
    • Pressure needs to be part of every show. It is such a powerful concert song – get rid of River of Dreams or, even better, We Didn’t Start the Fire (talk about a song that is devoid of anything musical). I realize you aren’t going to run across the stage from keyboard to keyboard like you used to, but the energy from Pressure is palpable and it needs to be in the first third of the show.
    • If you do play River of Dreams, it really always needs to be preceded by Lullaby. It is such a natural segue from the tender Lullaby into the sleepy stream of consciousness River of Dreams.
    • No surprise guests for a New Year’s Eve show, which was a bit surprising, and the same tired joke about Elton, which wasn’t.
    • Thank you for the tributes to Joe Cocker (which didn’t appear to be any easier on Crystal this year), Glenn Frey, and George Michael. Well done.

    My 100th Billy show will be in Orlando on 1/27.  Here are my suggestions for the set list:

    • Prelude/Angry Young Man
      • See above – there really is no other viable option.
    • Pressure
      • Fits here perfectly to keep the crowd pumped up
    • Intro/Welcome/Schtick
    • My Life
      • Great song to get the crown going again after the pause
      • Beethoven’s 9th should be mandatory during intro – it works so well.
      • I love Tommy as I do everyone in the band but the sound mix needs to emphasize the piano at all times. When was the last time you really listened to the piano part on My Life or Allentown? They are both phenomenal but on these two tracks the piano is notably drowned out by Tommy’s guitar. Please adjust the sound mix – the crowd will love you for it.
    • Sometimes a Fantasy
      • Not the greatest song, but a crowd-pleaser that works well live.
    • Don’t Ask Me Why
      • Great concert song
    • Summer, Highland Falls
      • Better than The Entertainer.
    • NY State of Mind
      • I realize you need a break after that (we are all getting older), so this fits in here. Always get goose bumps during this song. Never remove this from the show.
    • Vienna
      • The “fielder’s choice” needs to stop – you know everyone is going to pick the second song so why pretend like they have a choice? And you are dismissing some phenomenal concert choices with this tactic.
    • Miami 2017
      • No explanation needed.
    • Stop in Nevada
      • Never heard this live and would love to. Great song.
    • She’s Always a Woman/She’s Got A Way
      • Has to go somewhere – why not here?
    • Big Man on Mulberry Street
      • This track always gets cut in favor of Vienna or Summer, Highland Falls. I love both of those songs, but you have such a phenomenal brass section with Karl, Mark, and Crystal – why wouldn’t you use them to their maximum and include this in every show? It is fun, upbeat, and has such a great horn arrangement.
    • Allentown
      • See comments above under My Life.
    • Extremes
      • Why did this ever leave the set list? Such a great concert song and great improv opportunity.
    • Half a Mile Away
      • OK, since you went for Until the Night, I have to assume that almost nothing is off limits. This is so much better than Zanzibar as the featured piece from 52nd Street (though would be nice to hear Zanzibar and Stiletto at every show – again, you have Karl, Mark, and Crystal – use them). The crowd may not know it, but they will love it. Try it in Orlando and let’s see what happens.
    • Scenes
      • Perhaps the greatest song you do live. Do not change a thing. This is perfect as is and the closing is as close to perfection as possible – the best way to end the main set.

    Encores

    • Movin’ Out
      • As part of the closing package, this song is perfect and the ending with Crystal, Mark, and Karl joining together walking towards center stage is sublime and such a great lead-in to Only the Good Die Young.
    • Only the Good Die Young
      • As much as I am not thrilled with this song, I realize its place in history and it works well in the show as part of the closing package. I miss you running around during this song, but hey – none of us can do what we did 20 years ago.
    • Big Shot
      • Again, great song for this part of the show. I miss your antics on this one, too.
    • Rock & Roll
      • Not a huge fan of this, but it’s a crowd pleaser and fun.
    • You May Be Right
      • One of your best songs live and a great way to end the closing package.
    • Piano Man
      • Every show should end with this. The moment when the band stops and the house lights are turned on during the final chorus is extremely powerful – don’t change a thing.
    • Souvenir
      • The best way to say good night to everyone. A short nugget you can play alone which gives everyone just a little bit more when they thought it was all over.

    You will notice that some songs are notably absent:

    • Fire
      • You can easily dispense with this – insipid, boring concert song with no musical value. The Wonder Bread of your catalog.
    • Uptown Girl
      • When did this creep back into the rotation? Ugh. See notes on Fire.
    • Lullaby/River of Dreams
      • Only redeeming qualities are if you play Lullaby as the intro and whatever you play during the River of Dreams pause (Hard Day’s Night is played out – Led Zep/Eagles has been fun the past few shows)

    And here are a few songs which need to be kept/thrown into the rotation:

    • Ballad
      • When did this get the boot? Such a fun song, especially live.
    • Streetlife Serenader
      • Wow – what a powerful song live (listen to the Attic version, especially the bridge and closing). Really should be included from time to time.
      • If Sleeping with the Television On and Laura made it into a few set lists, this should as well.
    • I’ve Loved These Days
      • Given that we are all getting older, figured this would be a staple by now.
    • Leyna
      • Great song, especially live.
    • A Room of Our Own
      • Same as Leyna
    • And So It Goes
      • Great short rest song and your current vocal tone fits this piece perfectly
    • Famous Last Words / 2000 Years
      • Figured one of these would be on the New Year’s Eve set list, but neither was. Famous Last Words is a better song live if I had to choose.

    If you read this far, thank you. Looking forward to the Jan. 27 show. See you in Orlando.



  • Peyton and Me

    In honor of what will likely be Peyton Manning’s last game, here are a couple of pictures of me and Peyton from December 5, 1999 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, FL. He was very gracious and was happy to pose with me.

    This was back when I would wear the colors of whomever was playing the Dolphins (I was a Dolphins season ticket holder, if you can believe that). As I got older, that became tiresome and now I just wear my Jets gear no matter who the opponent is. I also have a Dan Marino picture from this day. Will post that another day.

     

     

    Peyton1

    Peyton2

     

     

     



  • Hertz ORD Massive ADA Fail

    I am traveling on business to Milwaukee and decided to fly into Chicago and drive to Milwaukee.  I rented a car from Hertz. As Hertz no longer offers hand controls in minivans, I rented a large SUV. My confirmation shows a large SUV being rented.  I requested hand controls left (HCL) and called Special Services to have the spinner knob added. The rep put me on hold and came back and told me that he confirmed with the location manager that the HCL and spinner knob would be added. This was on Sept. 8.  For the past few days, I have been trying to call the location to directly confirm the HCL and knob but nobody ever answers or returns the numerous messages I left.

     

    Today, I arrived at ORD and took the bus to the rental location.  As usual, my name was nowhere to be found on the Gold board (not sure why I even bother using it).  I go and wait on line (the avoidance of which is the reason to use Gold) and the rep looks for my car, finds it, and asks her associate to confirm the spinner knob.  While waiting, the text telling me where my car is (which should have been sent while I was in the air) finally arrives, but that’s another issue.  The associate returns and indicates that there is no knob. The manager eventually comes over, says he has to find a mechanic to install the knob, and that I have to wait. 40 minutes later, I go over to the car to see what the delay is since installing the knob should take 10 minutes. I look in the vehicle and see that there are no hand controls!
    I ask where the hand controls are and get a blank stare from the manager. I ask him how he expects me to drive the vehicle (I am a bilateral amputee in a wheelchair). Same blank stare.

     

    I ask him to find out where the vehicle I need is located. An hour later, they cannot find the vehicle and have no options for me.

     

    On top of all this,  my SUV was changed to a minivan without telling me and, as we all know, Hertz no longer installs hand controls in minivans (why, I have no idea). I prefer minivans, so that wasn’t very disturbing, but the fact that they changed it without notifying me is very problematic and may be the cause of this entire debacle.

     

    Luckily, I am with a colleague who said he would drive today but he is leaving tomorrow and I have to drive to Milwaukee tomorrow night for a business meeting early Monday and have no idea how I am going to get there.

     

    Hertz is trying to find a vehicle for me and will call me if and when they find one. I’m not holding my breath and plan on having a car service drive me and I will bill Hertz.

     

    This is completely and totally unacceptable. The manager confirmed the hand controls as shown on the reservation below.

     

    To be continued….

     

    The Hertz reservation confirmation

     



  • JW Marriott ADA Fail – This is becoming a trend with Marriott

    I checked in to the JW Marriott Essex House New York last night and was welcomed with the most disconcerting ADA room I have seen.  Here’s a picture of the bathroom sink:

    Notice anything wrong with this picture?
    Notice anything wrong with this picture?

     

    How am I expected to access the sink? There is no place for my legs to go under the sink.  And how can I lean into the sink when the faucet controls are right in front of me? Here’s what a wheelchair user looks like when they use a sink:

    What sadist designed this ADA bathroom? Who puts faucet handles in front of a sink? While this design may be artsy and comfortable for able-bodied people, wheelchair users have special needs and this sink fails on all fronts. I don’t know exactly what ADAAG requires, but this can’t possibly be compliant. I checked with the front desk and all of the bathrooms are like this. No excuses about this being an old hotel since the sinks are apparently part of a “refresh” and look pretty new (as opposed to the shower which has cracked tiles and ancient controls which feel like they are going to fall out of the wall if you touch them too hard (and for the record, they also appear to be non-ADA compliant, though I cannot speak to what ADAAG requires for shower controls)).

    This is yet another entry in a long line of ADA violations for Marriott (see my earlier posts herehere, and here). They need to do something about this or they are going to lose me as a customer for good. Their ADA consultant needs to be fired and replaced with someone competent because this is just unacceptable.



  • Yet Another Marriott Family Hotel ADA Fail (Ritz-Carlton this time)

    We are visiting Atlanta and decided to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Downtown as I was able to find an accessible suite, or so I thought.  My reservation said that I was guaranteed a “Mobility Accessible Room with Roll-in Shower”:

     

    Reservation Details
    Reservation Details

     

    After the debacle at a Renaissance in Pittsburgh (click here for details), I decided to email ahead of arrival to see what I was in for. I asked to confirm that the room was wheelchair accessible and this was the response I received: “The bath is half accessible which means it has grab rails in the shower tub combination. The shower is not a roll in shower however. ” Ummm…grab rails do not make for an ADA bathroom.

    So much for an accurate website reservation.  I was OK with this as I can use a tub or roll-in shower and actually prefer a tub, so I figured I should be fine.  Well, the reality of things was a bit different.

    The only accessible feature in the room is the non-master BR bathroom which is a proper accessible bathroom despite the email response, albeit with a few issues (more on this later). The rest of the suite, however is not accessible.  The door is barely wide enough for me to get through (I have a wheelchair with a 29″ track) and does not have a lowered peephole.  The master BR is not accessible at all. The desk is in a corner and a wheelchair cannot access the desk. Very narrow path around the bed as well.  And the bathroom in the master BR is a standard non-ADA bathroom.  So, I was relegated to the outside bathroom and to using the table in the living room area as a desk. As for the bathroom, people in wheelchairs can’t reach up to get the shampoo and conditioner you leave on the only rack in the shower, and leaving the handheld shower at its highest setting doesn’t make things easy for a disabled customer – yes, we can ask someone to help and I’m sure the staff would be happy to assist, but that is an imposition and puts us in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for help all the time.

    The valet area of the hotel is also very poorly designed.  There is a curb the entire length of the driveway with no curb cut.  For a wheelchair to enter the hotel, you have to go down the driveway where the cars go (very dangerous) and then come back up the hill on the sidewalk so you can enter the building. Not only is this difficult and dangerous (putting wheelchair users in the middle of automotive traffic), but it also requires you to leave the covered area and be exposed to the weather. This is a simple fix that should have been done years ago.

    I don’t know what has happened to the Marriott family of hotels. I became a Marriott loyalist because they were the first hotel to allow me to reserve and guarantee an accessible room online, but now everyone does that so my reason for staying at Marriott properties has been eliminated.  My past few stays at Marriott brand hotels have been underwhelming to say the least. Marriott needs to hire an new ADA coordinator and review every property and their reservation system.  I shouldn’t have to confirm every detail of a reservation – if the system says a room is accessible with a roll-in shower, the room should be.  If I am guaranteed a king accessible room, the system shouldn’t try and upgrade me out of an accessible room. We are way past the era of blaming the computer system – Marriott is a sophisticated company and their systems should be state of the art.

    I’m very disappointed in Marriott and hope this trend is reversed as I have been generally pleased over the years but lately it has been a different story.

    And on a non-ADA note, the electronics on these properties need to be updated. The TVs are ancient, the HDMI jacks rarely work for plugging your computer in, and there are only a handful of HD channels – the rest are modulated SD channels and they look horrible. The guest services menu on the TVs take forever and frequently don’t work. The wifi in these hotels also needs to be updated – very slow, even if you pay for the premium package. And before you say that’s because there are many users, I have tried in the middle of the night and received the same slow speeds. Free wifi isn’t really a benefit if it is too slow to use. And paying for really poor wifi is just a slap in the face.

     



  • Marriott Renaissance Pittsburgh is total ADA fail

    Following up on my prior post on the Renaissance Pittsburgh, I checked in yesterday expecting a disaster.  It was even worse than I imagined.

    When I initially checked in and tried to confirm that the room was an accessible room with a king bed and a tub, I was told that there were no accessible rooms with a tub.  I explained that I discussed this very issue with the hotel’s GM and was told that the room I was assigned has a tub. Another individual behind the front desk indicated that there was a note and that my room does have a tub.  So I take my key and head upstairs.  The room I was assigned was at the end of the hall. Upon entering, I am faced with the fact that the pathway into the room has a very tight turn and is extremely narrow.  There is no way that my wheelchair would be able to get through:

     

    Room1a

     

    Room1b

    I call the front desk and explain the situation. I am advised that the bellman will come up with keys for a different room.  The bellman arrives and we head over to the next room. It is even worse:

    Room2a

    Room2

     

    Who designed these rooms? Have they even read the ADAAG? How do they expect a wheelchair user to enter these rooms? Totally and completely unacceptable for a hotel of this caliber (for any hotel, really).

     

    I go back down to the front desk and explain that neither room is acceptable. The rep shrugs and says that all of the accessible rooms are the same.  I ask if the bellman can help me move some furniture to allow me to enter the room. The rep agrees and the bellman and I head back up to the first room. He moves one of the nightstands and pushes the bed over to allow me to get into the room. OK – great. Now I can get into the room.  Quite an ordeal for anyone to go through to simply get into a hotel room.

    PS – if you need ice, it’s nice to know that there is an automated door opener. Too bad it doesn’t work (see below):

     

    2014-12-09 01.14.26

     

    2014-12-09 01.15.07

     



  • Marriott “upgrades” me out of a wheelchair accessible room for a better view

    I am traveling for business next week and made a reservation a few weeks ago for a wheelchair accessible room with a king bed and a tub (“KAT”). I am a Marriott loyalist due to their website being the first that allowed me to guarantee an accessible room (I hate calling and dealing with CSRs who are just reading a script and are generally not very helpful).  Usually, I have no issues. This time was very different. My original reservation was for a KAT with a city view (accessible rooms almost never have the preferred views – they are usually the crappiest locations the hotel has to offer – see NYC Marriott Marquis accessible rooms).  Here’s what the email said (note the date I made the reservation):

    The original confirmation email
    The original confirmation email (click for larger view)

     

    Today, I go and check the reservation online and see this:

     

    The reservation status on the website a few weeks later.
    The reservation status on the website a few weeks later (click for larger view)

     

    WHAT?????  How did this happen?

    I called Marriott and they said I was “upgraded” to an executive level room with a river view but that there are no accessible rooms that meet my requirements on that level.

    OK….so why did you move me?  Did you really think that I would prefer a nicer view and a non-accessible room?

    I appreciate the gesture, but how is it possible that Marriott has a reservation system that would move someone out of an accessible room into a non-accessible room?

    The first rep was at a loss to figure this out and transferred me to the “special services” line.  They called the hotel and told me that the reservation was “fixed” and that I now had a KAT despite what the website said. Not being the trusting type, I called the hotel directly. They said the room was accessible but had a roll-in shower.  So the rep at the hotel transferred me to their local reservation person who said that they only had two KAT rooms and that because a room number was not assigned to me when I made the reservation (is it ever?), I was not put in one. Ummm…..sure…..OK….but then why does my confirmation email say that a KAT is guaranteed?  While all this was going on, I made another reservation for the same night for the exact same room and received an email confirming that my request for a KAT was guaranteed.

    I went back and forth with the reservation desk at the hotel trying to find out why I was upgraded and why my email told me my room was guaranteed when it in fact was not. She could not answer that question and said her manager would look into it. Ultimately, she confirmed that I was in a KAT and apologized that it was on the third floor.

    What would have happened if I had not checked online to see that my reservation was still in good shape? How can Marriott allow this to happen? I stay almost exclusively at Marriotts due to the consistency of their accessible rooms and that I don’t have to call to make or change a reservation.  This is very scary because this isn’t just not getting the bed you prefer – an accessible room is a necessity for me.

    I look forward to seeing how Marriott handles this matter. Stay tuned.