A Review of Skytop Lodge: The Collapse of an Icon

I realize that you may be reading this article because you are considering a stay at Skytop Lodge in Skytop, Pennsylvania. I provide a full review below. But if you want the Cliff Notes version: Don’t go. The fees approach that of a Four Seasons resort, yet Skytop provides you with the cleanliness of a truck stop and the service attentiveness of a Motel 8. I take that one back. The service wasn’t that good.

Ever since I became an author, my observations on business experiences has become acute. For right or wrong, every business experience I have ever had is a study in the right and wrong ways to build and maintain a successful business. Skytop Lodge was that exact opportunity. In fact, it was one that I anxiously anticipated since I am working on an upcoming book about attracting lifelong customers. I thought Skytop would be an exemplary model for this exact goal. Sadly, it is not.

I discovered Skytop in 2000. A friend of mine suggested I take my wife there for a couple’s getaway. He explained how it was one of the last bastions of traditional, high touch, resorts in the northeast. Tucked away (and I mean tucked away) in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, the hotel offered white glove service, six course meals (jacket required for dinner), complimented with a sprawling property full of activities (archery, crochet, hiking trails, canoeing, tobogganing, and even a small private ski slope). It was expensive, but worth every penny. My wife and I had the time of our lives, then.

We returned every few years in one fashion or another. I hosted multiple business conferences there, and Skytop consistently impressed my colleagues. I brought my entire family on multiple occasions. Skytop became tradition. I can’t say it was fourteen years of perfection. Skytop made mistakes, but they were minor and the tentative staff addressed issues. We continued to return. We were thrilled every time.

Fast forward to 2015 – the collapse of Skytop in every way imaginable. My wife had a significant birthday, and we celebrated in a big way. I hosted a surprise party at our house. Her friends came from all over to celebrate with her, including her best friend of forty years from California. We showered my wife with fun, celebration, small gifts and one big one – I reserved a two-day, two-night stay at Skytop for my wife and her friend from California.

The cost for this two-day retreat was a rich $1,500 (approximately) but perceivably worth every penny – my wife only sees her best friend on the rarest occasions due to the distance. I wanted them to have an unforgettable time together. They wanted the same. It was unforgettable, but sadly due to the collapse of this former icon. Here is a summary of what happened:

1. On arrival they had to wait an extended time to check in. Why? No one was at the desk. Maybe that is acceptable at a Motel 8. But to stand at a desk, abandoned, is a lousy way to start a luxurious get away.
2. They check-in and their room gets downgraded. Yes, you read that correctly. They checked into the “Luxury Grand Suite” I had reserved for them, and without telling them, they got downgraded to a “Junior Suite.” I have never heard of a hotel “providing” a downgrade, but that is what happened.
3. They checked into their room, to find torn furniture (yes, you read that correctly as well), cobwebs and dust everywhere. You might expect this at Herman Munster’s house, but Skytop? Come on.
4. When I called my wife to see how she liked her Luxury Suite, I discovered the downgrade. After another hour of calls, and my wife and her friend standing at (an again abandoned) check-in desk, the “mistake” was discovered and they were moved to the proper Luxury Suite. Which came with more dust and cobwebs!
5. They thought a trip to the spa would fix this bad start, but it got worse. I assume you don’t often associate musty, dated and bad smelling with a spa, but that is exactly what they experienced.
6. As a final surprise, I made a trip up to have dinner with my wife and her friend. The multiple course meals, with jackets required, were always a fun touch of class that we look forward to. I arrived in my fancy schmancy suit, to see my wife and her friend sitting in the dining room at their table. There was a smattering of other guests…. in t-shirts. It looked like the dining rules had changed (or at least as the host explained, the new dress code is an experiment). The dinner service, like the rest of the service, was nothing short of lacking and unremarkable. Ordering drinks literally took twenty minutes, because the wine waitress “didn’t realize we were here.” The meal (albeit tasty) was not our choices.They were out of our favorite plate, which was the special for the evening. Not sure how that happened, because there were so few guests and it was early. We wanted a second round of drinks but never could order them, we were forgotten again.
7. And this is when things got worse! After dinner I bid ado to my wife so she could enjoy one final night and hopefully have a restful, comfortable evening with her friend. But it looked like Skytop was hosting a conference, party or both, in the rooms adjacent to where my wife was staying. Loud party music started at midnight. The pot smoking (which is still illegal in Pennsylvania) inside the building started at 2am. A call to security was fruitless. No one came. Nothing stopped. Fireworks started blowing up at 5am. Sleep? None! Comfort? None! Security? None! If it wasn’t so horrible, it would be laughable.

My wife returned home having literally her worst experience at a hotel or resort ever. And that includes staying at Motel 8s. I wish I could say the miserable Skytop experienced ended there, but it gets worse…

I called Skytop to explain the horrible experience and my request for a refund. To spend $1,500 for my wife to have the worst time of her life at a grossly understaffed, unmaintained “resort” that doesn’t care to enforce the rules or even the law, seems a little (ahem – a lot) inappropriate. It took three calls and two managers to have them “make me an offer.” They would refund me approximately $300 or I could get a $500 credit to come back again.

I asked for a full refund. They declined (let it be noted that was the only prompt response during this entire experience). I felt totally manipulated. They offered $500, which means I would have to spend another $1,000 to return! They wanted to make things right, by making me spend more money. Sadly, I had no choice but to accept the $300 refund. Which they then didn’t issue!!!! It took yet another call, to another voicemail (yes there was a lot of that too) for them to finally process the refund.

Here is the deal. Mistakes happen. Sometimes catastrophes. They are hard to recover from, but it is doable. Skytop and its management team could have acknowledged the calamity it has become, fully refunded the entire fee, and even demonstrated how they intend to take service and security seriously. But they didn’t.

For the $1,200 they kept, here is what they’ve lost: They have lost me, my family, and every future conference I host. It’s a shame, that it’s no longer a resort. Instead Skytop has plunged into an inevitable collapse.

On the bright side, Skytop will be in my upcoming book. Sadly it will be featured as an example of what not to do.

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