"Laundry day is a very dangerous day"

Trip Start Aug 17, 2007
Trip End Sep 22, 2007

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Thursday, August 30, 2007

This week we didn't make the Saturday outing, as the pool looked cool and inviting and the thought of lazing in a chair napping far outweighed any interest in schlepping about in a van over bumpy roads to wander around in the heat, no matter how interesting the site. I have to admit, well, let me say a bit about our accommodations. Eventually I'll say, "I have to admit, it's nice to come back to this hotel after a hard day of work." However, my adventure this week was not the usual tourist adventure. It was the following. The hotel is probably the single nicest hotel in Dakar. If you see photos of it you image luxury paradise. To be honest, inside the rooms you feel a bit more like Motel 8. The prices, however, resemble much more those of the previous. Let me give you a small example. We have made arrangements with a Senegalese woman outside of the hotel to do our laundry for 7,000 CFA per person per week. This is US$14 which to me sounded a bit much when I first arrived so I considered washing clothes by hand. Now, washing pants that are muddy and sweaty by hand is do-able but when the humidity prevents things from drying and mold is a looming possibility...not so much. I had heard and had no trouble believing that the hotel's laundry service was so expensive that $14 sounded like an amazing deal, but hadn't bothered looking into it as I figured I'd take everyone's word. So yesterday I round up my clothes, count the various items and make a list (last week a couple things were missing from my colleagues' returned laundry). I wrote my first name on the bag. Now, yes, this is the laundry bag provided by the hotel. But in order for them to take my laundry, process, clean and return it, they ask that you fill out the form provided in the drawer, conveniently in both French and English, then call them to have them come pick it up. I did none of this.
When I returned that evening, I thought my key had worked in the wrong door because there were clothes hanging just inside...but they seemed very familiar...and very clean. Then it hit me. There were little red tags with my room number stapled to my dresses and my underwear in a plastic bag folded more neatly than I thought was possible. I immediately called downstairs to say I hadn't requested this and could they first of all tell me how much I was being charged.
The first person passed me to the next guy who passed me to the next and then the next said he'd call back. After 15 minutes I called back myself and was again passed through four people until I got the manager who said he'd call me back. After 20 minutes I called back myself (are we noticing a pattern?) and was told he was gone and they didn't know if he'd be in tomorrow. Well, by now I'd calmed down enough to see that the maid had not only taken their form out of the drawer and done me the favor of completing it for me, she had taken the paper on which I'd written the items (including colleagues' room numbers, a to-do list and other things I no longer remember!). The price for the cleaning of what amounts to one, yes one, load of laundry was more than 55,000 CFA, which, if you are following the math here, is just over $110. Not exactly in my weekly budget.
To make a long story short (too late), I went to the front desk in person, having rehearsed my speech about how unacceptable it is to take someone's clothes from their room and remove a piece of paper that had important information on it and how I absolutely was not paying and if I had any choice I would not stay in this hotel, etc... Surprisingly enough, I was met by the extremely friendly and apologetic manager who had failed to call me back last night and apologized profusely on behalf of the entire hotel and seemed as shocked as I was to discover that the laundry list had apparently filled itself out in my absence. He promised everything was taken care of, but you better believe when I'm checking line-by-line over my $5 apple juices, $30 entrée-only dinners and $300 internet charges, I'll be making sure laundry is nowhere in there!
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