Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't Join the Harvard Club

Do you have standards? Then don't join the Harvard Club.

Sure, the Downtown Club offers beautiful views of the Charles River and downtown Boston. Yes, the food is delicious and the service is unparalleled. And I'm sure the Main Clubhouse is a veritable hall of delights.

But their member services staff can't get their act together. Allow me to expound.

At Fiancé's urging, in mid-October I electronically handed over a few hundred bucks for the privilege of eating out and name-dropping. Were I one year older, I would have had to pony up over a thousand bucks. Fortunately, I am still 30.

A couple of weeks pass by. Nothing from the Harvard Club. In November, I email a member services person. He apologizes and says the new member packet is on its way. In the meantime, I am to use the guest member number 666* to enter the premises. Fiancé and I still need to submit photo IDs every time we want to go up the Club. The guards at the front desk of One Federal have to open the turnstiles for us. Okay, no problem.

A couple more weeks go by. At that point, we'd had a dinner there and enjoyed it. I wrote to the member services person again to check in about the new member packet. No response.

The next day, I received an email from another member services person. "Dear Peter," it began. (If you do not know me, dear reader, I assure you I am not a Peter.) The email gently reminded me that since my member dues were so low, I had to spend a minimum amount at the Club every quarter.

I responded politely that I am Fragrant Elephant, the member, and I'll definitely come again to give them more of my money. I also asked when I might expect to receive my new member packet. Again, no response.

So off we went on the day before Thanksgiving. Lunch was terrific. The wait staff were as superb as ever. I asked the girl at the front desk about a new member packet, and she directed me to member services. I could not even lol at this irony. I asked about maybe getting an ID so we could just breeze in next time. She pulled out a folder, wrote my name on a card, and handed it to me.

I gave it back. "My name is not Elephant Fragrant," I told her. "It's Fragrant Elephant."

She said the system had my name wrong, and she changed it on the computer. She gave me a new card and told me to get a barcode from downstairs.

Next, I wanted to know if I could change my payment information, since I'm there already. (I had recently changed my credit card no thanks to a scam Chinese website and my own idiocy.) When you eat at the Club, they don't give you a receipt -- they bill your credit card. So they needed my new info if they wanted me to pay for the awesome lobster casserole in my stomach. "No, just do it online," said the receptionist. "Use your [REDACTED] and your [REDACTED] to log in."

I logged in and discovered that "hideous" is the aesthetic for the Harvard Club intranet design. Turns out I can only change my credit card info by authorizing the Club to automatically charge me monthly. I am leery of this option, since I just received a bill that demanded an extra thirty bucks for not meeting my minimum. I guess they didn't count our dinner, because Fiancé paid for it. Alas, chivalry! Thy days art over!

In the Harvard Club's defense, it looks and sounds really fancy. But like the University, it seems to have its share of absentminded professionals.

In conclusion: come for the food and service, flee from the management.

This rant is brought to you by Three Drinks Thursdays.

*666 is not actual member number

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