Sunset Suite Bathroom

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: A three bedroom villa at a popular five-star resort— $5000/night

Enjoy this free chapter from my next book, Happier Than A Billionaire: An Acre in Paradise. I think we’ve all met people like this.

“When the Dinklemans arrive, we should hand them a cold drink. That would be a nice touch,” Rob suggests this morning.

That is a horrible idea.

I’ve grown increasingly anxious about our upcoming venture into hospitality. To ease my nerves, I peruse one-star reviews on luxury resorts. This gives me endless hours of amusement. I’m obsessed with reading about people who are especially hard to please. And many of these people seem to be lumped together as prestigious Gold Card Members of a certain five-star resort chain.

I’m always intrigued by people who inform me that they are gold card members of anything. I was once a card member of Costco. Unfortunately, there was nothing gold about it. I unwisely purchased a skyscraper-sized box of Pop-Tarts, along with a large bag of individually wrapped cream cheese packets that was set to expire in ninety days. Rob didn’t want the cream cheese to go bad, so he spread it on each Pop-Tart and ate them all day, every day, for three months. This inevitably led to a twenty-pound weight gain and sporadic twinges of angina.

You might be wondering what one has to do in order to become a prestigious Gold Card Member of a five-star luxury resort, and I am here to tell you. It appears the only requirement is to complain, a lot, about everything.

“But Nadine,” you’re asking, “do these expectations really ruin a perfectly good vacation?” Bet your complimentary shower cap they do.

Once one is in this fraternity, there are perks abound. Perks I was not even aware existed. But then again, I was raised thinking an ice machine in the lobby was the echelon of high society.

Somehow hotel staff can instantly recognize a gold card member by the cantankerous look on his face. A unique twinkle in a person’s eye as they calculate the speed in which they will secure a hot washcloth and glass of cold juice, both handed to them by a concierge trained at The Gold Card Instructional Camp located in Needmore, Florida. And this part is important.

Your concierge—let’s call him Jeeves— approaches with his tray of cold juice and hot washcloths. The towel must be handed to this individual using a tong of at least six inches in length. Jeeves will then make eye contact and watch as the gold card member wipes his beleaguered, entitled face.

Eye contact is key because once the individual has removed the last bead of perspiration from his forehead, Jeeves will again use his tongs to take the cloth back while simultaneously exchange it with a glass of juice. The juice—orange or mango, never apple—should be in a champagne flue for dramatic purposes. And it must be cold. Very cold. Fortress of Solitude cold.

While maintaining eye contact, the gold member leisurely sips his beverage. Jeeves nods his head in acknowledgment of how well the individual has accomplished the impressive skill of swallowing. Once the juice is finished—and this is critical— the concierge removes the drink from the guest’s hand and places it gently back on the tray.

I must have read a dozen one-star reviews from people who had their trip ruined by this delicate interaction of, what I like to call, the Washcloth-To-Juice Tango. There are missteps galore. Juice is given before the towel. Guests are subjected to lifting their own glasses of juice. Towels are not tong-delivered. And the biggest indignity of all, no eye contact throughout.

I’m fascinated by the last complaint the most: no eye contact. My life is designed around avoiding eye contact with every human on the planet. At five feet tall, with the uncanny ability to garner absolutely no attention from either sex, this is easily accomplished. But I’m keenly interested in this important card member feature, so I spend hours imaging the excruciating horror of it all, the idea of staring at Jeeves just to clock how much time he is staring back at me. This seems like a lot of pressure right after getting off a shuttle bus that smells like airplane farts. Let’s face it, shuttle buses always smell like airplane farts.

Now you can see why I can’t offer anyone a drink as they arrive at my house for fear I will not be staring at them long enough. Or, if they don’t know the Washcloth-To-Juice protocol of the stare, they will wonder why this lunatic is monitoring their ability to swallow mango juice. It’s a net loss for all involved.

If this was the only thing Gold Members complain about, I might give them a Gold Card pass. But these tragic incidents are lengthy. Some of which involve shaving “kids” that were not provided. I sure hope these are spelling errors and that they mean “kits” because if there is a shaving “kid,” I find it not only politically incorrect but wonder how I can get my hands on one.

These shaving kits are not to be requested, but placed strategically in the middle of the bathroom countertop, not less than four inches from the edge of either sink. If one is not present, a Gold Member will never contact housekeeping. Ever. The resentment festers until a brouhaha erupts in the lobby. This is where all Gold Card shitfests take place.

If their vacations aren’t ruined by the delicate Washcloth-To-Juice Tango, the shaving kit fiasco will surely finish the job. These guests will demand to speak to the manager, which from my experience traveling is always off somewhere in Barbados getting his own washcloth and juice handed to him.

The manager never appears. Telephone calls are never returned. And the zip-line tour is canceled because Jim tells his golden family they are all going home. But don’t let me give you the impression it’s just men that are disenfranchised when all of the accouterments are not provided. Oh no. Women have been known to sob in the corner as well.

The peculiar thing about their complaints is that they’re always personal in nature like they didn’t get a handwritten note in their room.

“It was my wife’s birthday, and she never received a note of good wishes. This dampened her experience and weighed heavily on our minds throughout the stay.”

Listen you privileged buffoon; my husband doesn’t even give me a handwritten card on my birthday. You expect Serafina from housekeeping to scribble some nonsense to your beloved? Should it be written on 14pt cardstock? Using a fountain pen crafted from the feathers of the endangered Quetzal bird? Hey Jim, how about you take the time and do it yourself? I want to punch you square in the face for even making me type this paragraph.

The problems lie in expectations. This is where it all goes wrong. The amount of time spent imagining how things will turn out steals away from reality. A reality that could be even better but Jim would never know it. Expecting all of these perks can ruin the moment. It’s best to let go and just have a good time. Because no matter who you are, or where you stay, air conditioners can break, neighbors will get drunk and bang on the wrong door, and occasionally jellyfish invade a bay preventing you from swimming.

What’s the solution? Lowered expectations, so low that anything good becomes a gold card experience. Just the fact that you get to go somewhere exotic is quite exceptional and very gold-cardish in itself. When you think about it, a simple ice machine can make your day when you’re holding a warm glass of mango juice.

Having low expectations when I moved to Costa Rica was my saving grace. If I had expected it all to go perfectly, I might not have appreciated the hilarity of Rob stuffing twelve thousand dollars in his underpants or all of the stories that make me look back at those first few years as being the best times of my life. I’m trying to go back to that mindset while building this house. The ending to this story will be a good one, no matter how it turns out. Somehow we’ll get by; we always have.

But don’t doubt for one second that the struggle is real for these Gold Card Members. One sorry sack ended his lengthy one-star review with this.

“The entertainment at night is not up to the standards one would expect. The singers were awful, dancers out of step. And unless you request a taxi, you are ten minutes from shopping in town. I guess if you want to die here and spend all your money, then this is the place.”

I’m already working on our lowered expectations brochures and have decided that these Gold Card Members may be onto something:

“Come experience Nadine’s off-pitch singing and Rob’s clumsy two-step. It’s to die for! And speaking of dying, feel free to do it here. As your hosts, we will check your pulse every morning after providing our hot washcloth and cold juice service. We promise to stare at you for just the right amount of time.”