Dallas hospitality doesn't measure up, so far

February 2, 2011
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As they say in the "Wizard of Oz," we’re not in Kansas anymore. Or in my case, I’m not in Indy. I’m in Dallas to cover the Indianapolis 2012 Super Bowl host committee.

The first thing I noted upon arriving Tuesday at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport—and granted it was shortly before midnight after flying through two blizzards, an ice storm and sub-arctic temperatures in four cities—was that Dallas doesn’t exactly roll out the red carpet.

Super Bowl signage, decorations or notations were, well, sparse is putting it nicely. There certainly weren’t any information booths for Super Bowl visitors. I didn’t expect there to be a greeting committee at that late hour, but finding a single helpful soul was a real challenge.

Catching a cab was another story altogether. Super Bowl host committees love to impress media members due to what they might write about the city. So they provide a free cab ride from the airport to the media hotel, among other things.

But when I tried to inquire about this, a full-fledged fight broke out among about five Dallas-Fort Worth cab drivers. I was later informed by a local that cab operators are in the midst of some sort of strike. It has something to do with clean air emissions and allowing cabs with certain types of engines to go to the front of the line.

In any event, it was freezing cold when I arrived Tuesday night, and I was in no mood to hear it. So I simply said, “How much?” I felt like Bob Barker. Cabbies started screaming at me, “$50, $50.” One yelled “$60!” One cab driver raced up, slammed on his brakes and started screaming, “You’re not supposed to be picking him up here!” Then he began taking down license plate numbers.

“But wait,” I said, “I have a confirmation slip for a free cab ride.” One guy yelled, “No one will take you. It’s too late and too far.” In the end, one nice fellow, said, “I’ll take you, get in.”

I’m a fiscal conservative from Indiana, so naturally, I said, “How much?”

“Just get in, I’ll take care of you.” So, freezing in temps in the teens, I did what any clueless, half-starved journalist would. I got in.

The cab driver loaded up two other folks and preceded to charge them $60 each. But when he got me to the hotel, he told me my ride was free. I’m frugal, but I’m no fool. This guy took care of me, so I took care of him. I gladly tipped him $20. After all, it was midnight, and the roads were covered with at least an inch of ice.

Through my air odyssey, the airlines lost my luggage. I don’t really blame them for that. It’s no small miracle that I got here at all.

But my Hoosier sensibilities say when you pay $250 a night for a hotel, you should get bowed in and bowed out. So when I told the hotel receptionist my sad story, I was expecting a welcome kit with a toothbrush, comb, razor and maybe something to deal with my contact lenses.

What I got was a curious stare, and an offer of a tiny toothbrush and two itty bitty containers of tooth paste. And a contact lens case with the warning, “Wash it out before you use it.”

Are you kidding me? I asked about a 24-hour drug store. She pointed me to the gift shop. Now, I was impressed that the gift shop was open at midnight. But I was less impressed when they charged me $16.37 for a small bottle of contact lens soaking solution and a new contact lens case. Well, I guess that’s the cost of doing business. At least I hope my boss feels that way.

I asked several locals if the Super Bowl was a big deal here in Dallas. I got several varied responses, from enthusiastic to somewhat tepid. I expected more. Texas is, after all, football country.

The Super Bowl signage downtown is much more dramatic, and I hope to get a better feel for how Dallas is rolling out the red carpet today.

Is it always bigger in Texas? I guess we’ll find out this week.

  • Indy will impress all with our preparedness and hospitality. That will be what gives us a shot at a second superbowl. Indy will make sure the roads are paved in salt if we get another ice storm next year.

    It is ironic that I pointed out over a year ago that Dallas is not able to handle ice storms that are not unusual this time of year.
  • Get thee to Deep Ellum
    I'm not surprised at your lack of welcome by Dallas. The Big D has a serious superiority complex where they feel you're darn lucky to bask in their Texan glory just by being there. However, you'll find the hospitality a lot better down in Deep Ellum - kind of a Broad Ripple on steroids part of the city.
    • So glad to be gone
      I lived in Texas for six years. I was so glad to see it in my rear-view mirror.
    • Dallas
      Well, Dallas is going through a terrible storm, as we are. Except their taxi drivers aren't used to that kind of weather, so nerves are frayed. You're lucky to have made it to your hotel alive.
    • Deep Ellum
      Deep Ellum is a ghost town. Not sure how long ago you've been to Deep Ellum. Uptown is where the action is these days.
    • more of the same
      I'm certain visitors to Indy in 2012 will experience more of the same treatment. SB is a huge flush of people and no one will be able to motivate the mass of people to act beyond their limited scope of execution. Thank goodness no one will care either when the time comes.
    • Chris,

      How many cities have the ability to successfully execute the wide range of events we have? From the 500/400 to Final Fours, AFC Championships, NBA Championships etc...? All have had rave reviews, and the Superbowl will as well.
    • Big state pales to Hoosier state
      I travel for business. Texas and many other states pale when it comes to Hoosier hospitality. That cab situation there is a real fiasco, and it's something the city fathers should have gotten under control long ago. But Indy has some issues to handle too. Hospitality aside, I seriously wonder if they'll have enough cabs and other mass transit to handle the influx.
    • Gimme more of this
      The IBJ needs more of this kind of writing in their blogs. Good stuff! Indy is going to rock and roll the 2012 Super Bowl.
    • Super Service
      What an unfortunate situation. Glad to say the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee is creating a Super Service Training program so that hospitality industry workers and all 8,000 volunteers will be well informed and have a consistent warm welcome. We plan to show off Hoosier Hospitality at its finest :)
    • In Dallas
      It's a little crazy down here in Dallas. I'm paying $265 a night for a hotel room, and the heat system can't even keep up with the cold temps. The streets, 3 days removed from the ice storm, are still in terrible shape. This is shades of the Super Bowl in Atlanta a few years back. At least a city like Indy is prepared to handle what mother nature throws its way. I think all this has really torpedoed Jerry Jones effort at landing another Super Bowl after this one.

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    Sponsored by
    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.