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Baja Bummers

July 14, 1996

My wife and I traveled to Baja California in reaction to your recent article ("Baja's Gold Coast," April 14) as we searched for the perfect romantic getaway. At the recommendation of the author, we chose the Hotel Cafe Americana. As we arrived, we were greeted by the man who owned the restaurant/hotel. As a person in the hospitality business, I found it amazing just how inhospitable anyone could be. The rooms were large, with dining tables, as the article suggested, but there was little else in the room. We thought a couple of drinks with the owner might help, (but) no such luck. No more pillows, no firewood; hot water would have been nice. And no rooms left for Saturday, we were told. This turned out to be a blessing.

STEVE HOCKETT

Long Beach

*

I am a regular reader of your Travel section and have appreciated many good travel tips you have given me. This time, however, the tip was a bummer. On May 1, when I called to make reservations at the Hotel Cafe Americana, the owner, Mr. Piazza, told me the room would be $83 a night instead of the $66 the article mentioned. OK, I thought, prices have gone up because of the good publicity. When I got my credit card statement June 2, the charge for the room had already been put through, but with a rate of $101 per night. Lots of tax, I thought!

It was too late to change plans, so I thought I would straighten things out with Mr. Piazza when we got there. Big mistake! When we got there at 11 a.m. June 8, Mr. Piazza was in his bikini, drinking cocktails poolside. His bartender/receptionist told us we had no reservations. When I told him about the credit card charge, he went to talk to Mr. Piazza, who was visibly upset at being disturbed. I explained the whole affair to him. He denied any knowledge of any communication with me. He said he would be able to put us up even though we had no reservation and offered us a downstairs room. Since we had specifically reserved an upstairs room, my wife insisted.

We were anxious to try the kitchen because your article stressed that attraction. Disappointment once again. The service was very slow, since a bartender seemed to be the only employee. Our bill for lunch for four, which consisted of three burritos, one taco and three beers, came to $45. Since they claimed they had no record of my room payment, I was forced to pay for the room a second time (I am now disputing the first charge with Visa). There was no hot water during our entire stay. We decided to get out of there before we got ripped off any more. I hope none of your other readers get lured into a very disappointing experience.

MAURICE R. TAUZIN

Beverly Hills

*

Regarding Hillary Hauser's assessment of the Hotel Cafe Americana, I made a weekend reservation and found the room the opposite of "charming," with tacky, suggestive pictures on the walls, and the "oceanfront" an empty lot and high wall away. Also, the "striking silver-haired owner" was rude and paraded around the premises drinking and wasuncomfortably "friendly" with the guests. We did find her other recommendations helpful. We moved to the Hotel Calafia, where we enjoyed a beautiful stay.

TOM PRICE

Los Angeles

*

We booked a four-night stay at the Hotel Cafe Americana beginning May 2, but because of an emergency, we had to check out early. At the time, we were told by the owner that we would be entitled to a refund for the two nights we did not stay. As we had put the rooms on a credit card, he advised us that as soon as the billing cleared, he would put through the appropriate credit. We took him at his word, but when the bill came through and I contacted him about the credit, he changed his story and would only allow us a credit toward a future stay. So, readers beware: If you have to leave early from a hotel stay, get the credit then and there, and don't rely on the word of the owner.

WILLIAM W. DAVIS

Long Beach

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