All the Terrible Things Rich People Do on Vacation
Unwinding from the stress that comes with having sold your soul to the devil is hard, you know.
This article is part of Payday, our look at wealth, money and class. Check out all our coverage here.
Generally speaking, rich people can be terrible. It's hard to like someone who rakes in obscene bonuses for dismantling institutions like the NHS, replacing orphanages with skyscrapers, or selling weapons to the third world. But rich people might be even more insufferable when they're on vacation—unwinding from the stress that comes with having sold your soul to the devil is hard, you know.
We asked some friends working in the upscale tourist industry in Greece, France, and Spain about the worst things that they've seen $$$ people do.
RACISM AT THE GOLF CLUB
Once, a 40-something American banker came to our hotel with his butler, who was African American. The banker wouldn't lift a finger, except to play golf. Initially, I naïvely assumed that the butler had it pretty good, considering how insanely wealthy his boss was. But then at some point, the banker uttered the grossest thing I've ever heard in my life: He'd just lost his ball in the woods after a bad shot, when he turned to me and said loudly: "I'm gonna tell my labrador to go get it." The butler then rushed into the woods to find it.
Another time, a German booked a suite for himself and three more rooms for his bodyguards. Upon arrival, he asked if I could show him around the hotel grounds in a golf cart. He sat in the passenger's seat, balancing a bottle of wine between his knees, and, even though the cart could fit two more people, he asked his henchmen to run behind us. They ran for 45 minutes. From time to time, he would ask me to accelerate just to watch them sprint—he was bent double with laughter throughout the drive.
Christophe, receptionist and golf club manager—Deauville
A REALLY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY
Once a Russian family came to Madrid to celebrate the birthday of their youngest daughter. As soon as they arrived—they didn't even wait to check-in—they asked me to hire a small plane or a helicopter that would pick them up at the hotel rooftop that same night, for a brief flight above the city. During the flight, they wanted to be able to throw balloons in the sky—balloons on which they'd written their best wishes for their beloved girl. It all had to happen to the soundtrack of the birthday girl's favorite pop song playing in a loop. Of course, they were not going to take no for an answer and were prepared to pay whatever it took to make their plans a reality.
Gloria, personalised attention—Madrid
HAPPY ENDINGS IN THE AEGEAN
Four Russian guys chartered two of our yachts for a trip around the Greek islands. One boat was for them and the other was for a group of ladies, whom they had also rented. The whole thing soon turned into what looked like a porn set. From the moment we left the harbor, the guests started to walk around completely naked in front of the whole crew, until eventually they started having sex in front of us too. I felt very uncomfortable throughout the trip, but technically, the boat is the customer's private space, and as long as they don't ask you to participate in the act, you have no other option but to be discreet.
Every morning, the entire boat turned into one big orgy that lasted till late at night, when the girls were sent back to their yacht in an inflatable dinghy. It might sound kinky, but it's not the ideal situation to get caught up in when you're working. But the whole point is for the customer to leave happy. And happy they left.
Michael, skipper—mostly in the Cyclades
JUST LIKE AT HOME
The hotel I work for offers this "From Home to Home" service, for guests who are likely to spend a longer time with us. It usually involves changing some carpets, sofas, curtains, and things like that, so they feel more at home during their months-long stay. But the game changes completely when the guests are either Arab or royals. Most recently, we've had to change the bathtub on one of our suites for one that was gold plated with embedded diamonds.
María, client services manager, Madrid
COCAINE ON BOARD
In the summers, I work as a chief mate on luxury yachts—what some call "small yachts." These rich men's toys are normally worth several million dollars. My job is to maintain the right balance between customer expectations and shipboard operations—and also to supervise the crew members when they're out of control.
Once, an English guy rented a 115-foot long boat and invited his friends to spend a week with him. They all were seasoned capitalists in their 50s—they all worked in the financial sector—and they were very into exhibiting their young girlfriends and their fake boobs. They were fun and loved to party—which meant that to them, it was perfectly normal to have containers stuffed with cocaine onboard. Before we left the port, they took care to hide drugs all over the boat. At first, partying with them was exciting, although they were hard to keep up with. Especially with my boss, who kept snorting lines 24/7—at lunch, before a jet ski tour, while fishing, and in the middle of the night. This situation lasted a couple of weeks. One day, I found harder drugs on the boat and that was my breaking point. The next day, I packed my bags and looked for a healthier work environment.
Sophie, chief mate on Sailing Ships—mostly in the Caribbean and the Cyclades
THE RELIGIOUS SERBIAN
People most often ask for women and drugs. If you don't want to get dragged into that kind of business yourself, you just have to point to the right people. Drugs are very easy to get hold of, but they're awfully expensive. Women are harder to find. However, my weirdest experience with a wealthy customer does not involve any cocaine or prostitutes. It stars a Serbian CEO, who was also a devout Christian.
On the first day of his stay, he asked me to rearrange the furniture, burn him a bunch of CDs of Byzantine music, and open a couple of bottles of champagne—each worth about $1,700. He also demanded that I accompany him wherever he went—to the beach, to dinner, and a bunch of parties. He wouldn't let me leave his side, and to be honest, I was really enjoying it. Then one night, after the two of us had just come back from a rather wild party, he decided that he needed to immediately get to Tinos—an island about an hour away from Mykonos, where we were—to light a prayer candle. Tinos is basically Ibiza for Greek Christian grannies. He rented a 130-foot-long boat, and the next thing I know, it's 7 AM and I am in Tinos, surrounded by elderly ladies making their way to the church of Our Lady of Tinos on their knees.
RICH OLD PEOPLE ARE THE WORST
The worst job I've ever had was for a yacht charter agency when I was 20. It was the beginning of summer, and I thought it would be brilliant to get paid to hop from Greek island to Greek island. A friend of mine, who already worked there, helped me get a waitressing position at the agency. I was told that I was expected to be at my customers' beck and call 24/7, and to never complain about the long working hours. I was also told I'd earn $830 per week, which had already eliminated any possibility of complaining in my mind.
I was sent to a luxury cruiser yacht that had been chartered by two Russian couples in their 70s. The yacht cost $83,000 per week, and of course along with it, they'd rented the crew, which included another waiter, the cook, the captain, a cleaner, and myself. We would be traveling around the Ionian islands—specifically to Paxi, Lefkada, and Kefallonia.
From day one, their behavior was atrocious. The first meal I served was prawn pasta, and as soon as I brought out the plates, one of the two women got me to peel her prawns, saying: "Come here, you do it for me." While on the job, all I could think of was shoving the prawns into her eye sockets but didn't say anything. As soon as they finished eating, the other wife demanded that I massage her feet. I told them that I was there to serve drinks and food, and they called the agency to complain and I quit. For the next couple of days—while I was waiting for the yacht to moor at Lefkada, where I'd be replaced by another girl—every time they'd get hammered, one of the women would call me "little bitch."
She would also ring the service bell in the middle of the night to ask me to bring her water, she'd make the cook prepare a new meal as soon as he'd finished cooking for the day, and she'd spill wine on the floor on purpose just to make the cleaner mop it. The cherry on the cake was that every time I'd approach their table to refill their glasses, one of the husbands would grope my thigh. He kept moving his hand higher and higher, until I told him I'd tell his wife. This is what happens when old people have too much money. They know they don't have much time left so they turn into wankers. I got off at Lefkada, I took the ferry back home, and never got paid.
Dimitra, Waitress on a yacht—mostly in the Ionian Sea
WINE FROM HEAVEN
I used to work as a sommelier at the restaurant of a five-star hotel. One of the most common requests I'd get from wealthy clients was to serve them their favorite wine, even if it wasn't on our wine list. Which wouldn't be that big a deal, if the vino they asked for wasn't often in another part of the world. I constantly had to speak to people in Paris, London, New York, or Buenos Aires to find their drink of preference—wine that cost between like $2,200 and $7,700 per bottle—and then hire a plane and pilot to deliver it in Barcelona, in time for the client's dinner.
Sometimes, married men flirt with me. They offer to buy me a drink at the bar and give me their phone number, but that's pretty much as far as it goes. I must have hundreds of numbers from relatively well-known businessmen and politicians in my phone. Sometimes, they invite me to their room too. I remember this one time I was working the reception desk, when a father in his 50s entered the lobby with his two teenage daughters in tow. He asked for two rooms on separate floors—one for himself, and one for his girls. I fulfilled his request, and he gave me about a $100 tip. The following evening, I understood why. The family had dinner at the hotel restaurant, and once they were done, the dad asked his daughters to go to bed. After that, he approached the reception desk and said, with a charming smile: "If you're bored, you know where to find me." He must have waited a long time.
There are also many thieves among the very wealthy. Once, the cleaning lady went into a room to clean after a customer had checked out and found that the pillows and a painting had disappeared. I had to debit the customer's credit card and call to let her know. Instead of denying it, though, the woman simply said: "Yes, charge my card. I'm not a thief. I just wanted this painting so badly." She seemed to think that the hotel was her personal shopping center.
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