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Setting Diamonds

I am writing in reference to Christopher Reynolds’ piece (“Diamonds (Five, Please) Are Hotels’ Best Friend,” Jan. 10) about the Automobile Club rating program for hotels. What Reynolds fails to point out is that the Automobile Club does not seek out the “best” hotels and “best” restaurants, but rather rates only hotels and restaurants that pay to be rated.

MITCHELL W. BLOCK

Santa Monica

Christopher Reynolds responds: Jeff Spring, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Southern California, reports that “there’s no charge at all” for a hotel or restaurant to be listed in a AAA guidebook, or evaluated through the organization’s diamond rating system. He notes, however, that the Auto Club does sell advertisement space in its guides, in addition to its regular listings. Also, Spring notes, some hotels pay $500-$1,000 annually for the right to display the AAA logo prominently , but such spending plays no role in the organization’s evaluations.

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The elegant Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel won’t get five diamonds from me for its formal restaurant. Last September, four of us went to celebrate a special birthday. Things started well but then our waiter “forgot” us. After a long wait, another waiter came to substitute. Two of the party had sole with abalone, a recommendation of the chef. The abalone was so tough it was inedible. We waited a long time for our dessert order and they did graciously comp the birthday guest her dessert. The coffee arrived almost 20 minutes later. Things were no better when we went for our car. It took almost 30 minutes to get our car from valet parking. Perhaps it was an off night, but when I spend that kind of money, I expect the food and service to warrant the expense.

THOMAS E. LAWSON, JR.

Long Beach


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