Let me begin here by first acknowledging that what I’m about to describe qualifies as a middle-class white guy issue. It’s trivial in the grand scheme of daily existence. But still.
It was a couple of weeks ago that my wife, Jill, and I ditched town and drove up the coast to picturesque Big Sur for a long-planned, five-night trip. Months before, we had booked time in the heralded Treebones Resort, where people like us who aren’t so great at roughing it can go “glamping.” That, of course, stands for “glamorous camping,” which is what we would be doing while sleeping in a yurt.
What is a yurt, you’re asking? It’s a surprisingly spacious, circular fabric structure with wood lattice frames, in this case with a bed and a sink and a glass-enclosed, fire-bearing heater. Very cozy. It’s not the cheapest way to camp — $255 a night plus tax — but you get to feel almost like you’re communing with nature.
And the views of the Pacific Ocean? Breathtaking.
Everything was nice and yurty until our fourth day, when Jill decided that the area atop the heater would make a dandy place to dry her wet bathing suit. The unit melted part of the suit, which adhered to the thick glass enclosing the flame.
A threatening letter from the resort left on our bed by housekeeping the next day told us that there would be charges for “damage” to the heater. So much for getting my mellow on. I instantly flew into litigation/paper-trail mode, taking pictures of the heater and demanding to speak with the resort owner — a nice fellow named John Handy, who runs Treebones with his wife and kids.
Jill and I explained to him that we were able to take the edge of a dull knife and fairly easily scrape off much of the melted suit remnants, particularly after reheating the glass. Mr. Handy assured us, “Don’t worry, it’s $1,000 to replace the special glass, but I’m sure we’ll be able to clean it up for no more than $100.”
Now I was thinking, “What? A thousand bucks? Is this dude off his yurt?” Somehow, this was less than fully reassuring. But I was able to go back to the yurt and — after a brief period of blind rage — was able to relax and enjoy the starry sky on our final night in yurtville.
More or less relieved, we left Treebones thinking, “OK, they’re reasonable people, we did kind of a dumb thing, but they’ll clean it and no harm done.”
I continued thinking this way until receiving a call four days later. The Treebones representative on the line exclaimed, “Good news! We were able to get the junk off the glass and it’s as good as new.”
Then came the addendum: “We’ll only have to charge you $100.”
For a moment, I felt reassured. The moment quickly passed.
“So,” I replied, “how did you calculate that we still somehow owe you $100? Is that what cleaning the glass cost you in razor blade-wielding labor? To have it professionally scrubbed at Yurts R Us? Please enlighten me.”
The lady on the phone, obviously merely the errand gal, had no answer. And while I gave them the lousy hundred bucks to make this go away, the situation left me thinking the following: What truly idiotic business people these folks are.
We had already paid them something like $1,800 in yurt lodging and to dine in their overpriced on-site restaurant and sushi bar. Was it really worth their while to soak us for that additional $100 and lose a customer — or, worse, have a customer advertise their lack of goodwill to his friends, family, acquaintances and column readers?
Let’s say this really did set them back $100 somehow. What happened to the wisdom of swallowing a small loss to serve a greater business good? It would be a shame were that concept to have disappeared for good.