James Lileks
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When we booked our spring break at a popular Mexican resort town, I checked the reviews. Every single hotel has a thread that looks like this:

No. 1 "We had the best time at Rio Magic Azur Playa! The staff was amazing, the beach was great, and the pool had just the right amount of chlorine — shout-out to Bruno, the hotel chlorinator, who also was our waiter one night in the fantastic restaurant where we had lobster tails marinated in anejo tequila, then saw a show that made Cirque Du Soleil look like an elementary school gym class where the kids are trying to climb a rope.

"The room had an ocean view on both sides — don't know how they managed that — and came with thick robes they just insisted we take home. Ten stars!"

Sounds nice, you think, until you read the next one:

No. 2 "Not all the towels had bloodstains. We didn't spend a lot of time in the room anyway, due to the mildew, the construction noise on the other side of the wall and the irritable carrion bird that took up residence on the curtain rod and cawed at all hours for food.

"We spent most of our time at the pool because the beach was choked entirely with sargassum weeds thick enough to support one of the black vehicles full of men with dark uniforms and submachine guns who patrol the area daily, extracting a "sun tax" from guests. It's mostly a party hotel for young people. (Shout-out to Bruno, who hosed the floors down every night.) We paid for an "Ocean View" room, but it actually looked out on a billboard with a poster of a George Clooney movie."

Well, I'm not staying there, you think. You read the next one:

No. 3 "Stay at the Rio Magic Azur Playa for the time of your life!!!! Upon arrival, we were given champagne and small cubes of wagyu beef, then carried to our room by four porters who had a stern, dry grip on our limbs.

"The room was spacious with 58 pillows on the bed — and if that sounds like work at bedtime (lol), a team of butlers appears at the push of a button and takes them off with the cutest little forklift you ever saw. Or heard — the horn plays "La Cucaracha"!! (Shout-out to the foreman of the butler team, Bruno, who directs the entire group while wearing a Zorro costume and performing rope tricks.) The food? To die for."

OK, well, I guess people have different experiences. One more. Can't resist.

No. 4 One star, and it's a dead neutron star that emits no light. Bellboy lost our bags between the cab and the front desk, never found them. Room OK, but snakes in toilet; staff said they would send someone but never did. Pool large, but lacked water. Cabaret OK, but next morning learned that the running gun battle was actually not part of the show.

"Complained about the cold shower and was subjected to a five-minute angry lecture about the United States annexing a portion of Mexico in 1848. I said it was a treaty not an annexation, but he wouldn't hear of it. Child held hostage, but eventually released — shout-out to Bruno, excellent negotiation skills. The food? To die for, because it's mostly undercooked pork and chicken."

I left a good review for the place where we stayed, but now I'm tempted to log in under a fake name and contradict everything I said. Except for the guy who did the magic show. He was great. Name started with a B, but I can't remember the rest.