Southern hospitality now comes at a price |

Southern hospitality now comes at a price

Linda E. Johnson

My husband’s family is from the South, so this year we invited ourselves to his cousin’s house in Madison, Tenn., for Thanksgiving.

Southern hospitality is such that so many invitations are extended over the years, there is no need for a specific invitation. It is understood that you are family and therefore you are welcome. I love it.

Once other family members and friends found out that we were bringing Tom’s 80-year-old mother, they began to make plans to be there also. Family members came from Florida, Louisiana and Illinois. In order to alleviate the congestion at Tom’s cousin’s house, we decided to stay at the Opryland Hotel.

We arrived at 11 p.m. The hotel was quiet and stunningly beautiful. It encompasses five enormous lobbies and each lobby was decorated with lights, nutcrackers, ornaments and poinsettias. The hotel designers did an excellent job of recreating the charm of the antebellum south by using the architecture of that time, with the addition of waterfalls, bridges and landscaping throughout. It was both romantic and relaxing.

Our first clue that something was amiss in the old South was the next morning when we went to use the fitness facility. They charged us $4.33 per day or $6.50 for three days. Typically in a hotel of this caliber (given the room rates), the fitness facility would be a part of the package.

We paid, we worked out and headed out for breakfast. The restaurant we wanted to go to (there are eight advertised restaurants in the facility) was closed, so we ended up eating a breakfast roll at a small coffee outlet in the hotel.

Later, when we went to pick up our tickets for the Grand Ole Opry, Tom was told that for $10 each, they would provide a shuttle service for us to the Opry on Saturday night.

Tom said, “Isn’t the auditorium just next door?”

“Well, yes it is,” the guest clerk replied, “but there may be construction between here and there.” Well, I don’t believe there will be construction on Saturday night,” Tom commented, as he took his tickets and left for valet parking.

Now, valet parking was another story. For this unique and wonderful service, they charged $14 per day. Because the lobbies were so stunning, because they had a dancing water show complete with amplified piano music three times nightly, and because they promote these attributes to the locals and to church groups throughout the southern United States, literally hordes of people swarm throughout the hotel after 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Ingress becomes almost impossible.

We fought through traffic in the hotel driveway for over 45 minutes one night so we could park our car and go to our room.

On Saturday, before the Opry, Tom and I decided that we wanted a nice, quiet dinner. I called reservations at the hotel and was told that several restaurants were closed and that those that were open had been turned into buffets with no reservations. Needless to say, the lines were long. We called room service and got a busy signal. We ended up eating some over-priced barbecue on a Wonder bun in the hotel food court.

After the Opry, we enjoyed the 10 minute walk back to the hotel. Then we went to retrieve our car from valet parking so we could go downtown, get something to eat, and go dancing. We waited more than 45 minutes for our car, and by the time we got downtown, the kitchens were closed. We begged a plate of cold nacho chips and salsa and were glad to get them.

I have been to one or two goat ropings, a county fair and a Motel 6, and I have never been treated this poorly.

Clearly, the Opryland Hotel has become the victim of cost accounting. The bean counters have analyzed the cost of each service and attempted to pass that cost along to the customer. I am in business, my husband is in business, and we understand the necessity of making a profit. However, it is also necessary to remember who you are and what service you are providing.

The folks at Gaylord Entertainment (the owners of the hotel) have completely lost sight of the fact that they are in the hospitality business and they have desecrated the memory of southern hospitality. So the moral of the story is, if you are in Nashville and you want to experience true southern hospitality, stay with Tom’s cousin.

Linda E. Johnson is a 25-year-resident of Carson City, a wife, mother and attorney, who enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and ate one too many ham biscuits.