From Florence to Boston by
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Prompted By Customer Service

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View from JK Place to Santa Maria Novella

We decided to take our first-ever trip to Italy and began planning in 2010. The trip took place in October, 2011. We reached out to our wonderful and well-traveled Vineyard neighbor, who delights in offering travel suggestions. We told him our thoughts about destinations and price points for accommodations, he came back with a variety of specific thoughts on hotels, restaurants, where to go, what to see, the name of a specific guide to use in Rome, but we MUST stay at J.K. Place in Florence.

He mailed us a long magazine article about the finest places in Italy. It included this blurb:

We read about the boutique hotel, which at the time only had one other location, in Capri, and we eagerly signed up.

They were a delight to deal with exclusively over email, totally professional. They arranged our guide for the desired times, arranged for a rental car to be delivered to the front of the hotel upon our departure, as we continued our trip driving through Tuscany. We arrived from Venice by train and the train station is walking distance to the hotel.

Upon arrival, and each day when we returned from our tours, we were greeted warmly, but professionally by the hotel staff with an offer of Prosecco or cappuccino, according to our wishes. There was a fresh fruit bowl in our gorgeous room (a  copy the European edition of  “Architectural Digest” showed photos of the award-winning renovations of this little gem of a hotel).

Here is their customer service statement on their website:


And they took this seriously (they have since broken away from the other J.K. Place hotels, now also in Rome and Paris, and are known simple as “The Place, Florence”, but a friend stayed there recently and assures us they are still fantastic). The concierge was happy to recommend, then make restaurant reservations for us each evening, all fabulous places. We had excellent breakfasts each morning. Nothing was lacking here.

Our guide, Lorella

They hired our guide, who was knowledgeable, spoke excellent English, had pre-bought our tickets to all the places we wished to see. We enjoyed her company very much (above, we are just outside the Boboli Gardens). In fact, we continued to correspond via email for a number of years, sharing stories of our families. She loved my reaction to seeing “The David”, since I had studied Renaissance art history in college. I found it incredibly moving.

On the other hand:

We have subscribed to the Boston Globe for years and years. As I wrote in an earlier story, I still enjoy the form-factor of the print edition, though when I must, I will read it online. I know the world is moving away from paper and I do read several other papers online only, but the Globe is doing their best to push us in that direction too. They are hard to love these days, despite that “Serving our community for 150 years” subheading.

We move our subscription between our summer and winter residences (both in Massachusetts) and have done so for 25 years. The cost of the subscription goes up quite a lot when we are on Martha’s Vineyard, as it is an island and everything must come in on a ferry (unless you are a migrant seeking asylum and Ron DeSantis charters a private plane with tax-payer money for you). Through the years, I call to tell about the change of address. It routinely takes me a LONG time to talk to a human to do this change of address. They somehow think that all transactions can be done via telephone prompts. That works if I am suspending the paper for a few days for a vacation (and they no longer give us credit for these, we pay for everything), but not when I want to give delivery instructions.

Our Newton house is on a corner lot. I want the paper delivered to the kitchen door (up the driveway, where it is under a covered area and I don’t have to get wet to retrieve it), but that is NOT our actual address, so I have to stress this. The first few days that I am home, it is usually tossed up on the front walk (where I don’t tend to look) and I have to walk out in inclement weather, down a few steps and try and find it. I am in my bathrobe and slippers. So I call again and again until the delivery person (hopefully) gets it correct.

Newton kitchen door

On Martha’s Vineyard, we have a driveway on either side of our house, but just one front door and my instructions are quite simple. Put it in front of the door.

Edgartown house, driveway on either side belonging to us

It is usually thrown on the first driveway, half-way under my car, so now I am walking out on a very public street in my bathrobe, looking for my paper. The first several days, it did not come at all. Eventually, for some reason this year, it wound up at my BACK door (the delivery person had to park, open a gate and walk onto my property to place it there.

Back door, through the single driveway gate

It took me quite a while to figure this out, but I sort of like this, as then I’m not concerned that some stranger will pick it up and I don’t have to open the front door in my bathrobe. It also does NOT arrive early. I’m lucky if it is here by 8am. But it does seem to get here, so that’s something. Can’t wait to see what happens when I return to Newton in October. The games begin!

I have a friend who lives north of the city who looked for his paper for some time, only to find out that it was no longer being delivered to that area! He was never told that and they kept charging for home delivery. With the price of gas so high, they couldn’t find drivers. He was furious and, after decades of reading the Globe, he canceled his subscription. He finally relented and now reads it online; not nearly as satisfying, but that’s his only option.

This is lousy service, poor communication, little regard for the customer. I understand the economics of print and delivery are changing, but the customer still deserves better.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Great story — and great concept — about the contrasts in the good vs. bad service, Betsy.

    As to the former, I’ve stayed at the Gritti Palace in Venice, which is one of the well known luxury hotels, and it was, indeed, very nice –but nothing that made it particularly different from othert luxury hotels. So wish I’d known of your fantastic boutique hotel.

    As to the latter, I have had similar stories with the delivery of the NY Times to our house. Most recently, when we returned from Iceland, there were all of our newspapers on the front porch from when we had gone, despite my clear message to them on their online form — which I saved on my computer — to suspend deivery. They were very apologetic about it when I called the day after I returned, although it was also impossible to find the phone number on their website. But who knows if they actually credited us/ made contribution to student newspapers, as requested. And, as the Globe now handles the Times’ home delivery in MA, I was not entirely surprised.

    Anyhow, much as I enjoyed hearing about your great customer service, misery loves company, too.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I’ve heard of the Gritti Palace, John. It is supposed to be quite luxurious. JK Place is in Florence, not Venice, but I’m sure there are boutique hotels in Venice as well (though we were not given comparable recommendations). We may stay at the newest one in Paris for my 70th birthday. We’ll see how flush we are feeling, given the state of the current economic melt-down.

      And my Globe didn’t come today (after a few day’s suspension while I was back in Newton). What a surprise! The home delivery business is in shambles. I am not at all surprised to hear your story, John (and yes, the Globe and NYT are delivered by the same service in the Greater Boston area; same poor service). Driving us all online…

      • John Shutkin says:

        Ooops, you’re right, Betsy. Stayed at the Grand Hotel Minerva in Florence, which was also not too shabby (and Tony Randall and his wife were also there), but JK Place sounds even better.

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          While skimming an Architectural Digest in 1986, Tony Randall’s NYC apartment was featured. He had a piece of artwork by the same artist that we did (in fact, it looked identical). I took a snapshot of ours, included a note and sent it to him, in care of the magazine. I got a nice note back from him. He seemed like a decent guy. Did you speak with him?

          I suspect there are plenty of great hotels in these fantastic Italian cities, John.

  2. Betsy, your newspaper delivery story hits close to home!
    As New Yorkers of course we can’t live without the Times and when we’re in Connecticut we have our subscription forwarded up there.

    It happens I’ve bumped into the local delivery guy once or twice and he seems like a nice guy, but he’s not very reliable! Lately many mornings there’s no paper, and altho we can read it online it’s not quite the same!

    So each day it doesn’t come I call and request re-delivery if possible or credit. And then I got an unsolicited email from NYTimes customer service saying they noticed all my non-delivery calls and would look into it.

    So I’ve been having a daily email exchange with a lovely young woman keeping her abreast of whether or not I have the paper!

    The upshot is it’s hard to get local delivery people, but they’ll keep trying!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Exactly right, Dana. No one can find delivery people these days, a thankless job and with the cost of gasoline, a dying business model. At least you can find someone to speak with. That’s a real step in the right direction.

  3. Marian says:

    If I ever get to Florence, I know where I want to stay, Betsy. The newspaper delivery problem seems ubiquitous, and I have been having similar issues. Finally I reached a supervisor (a real person!). Our problem was that the sidewalk sprinklers in our planned community were soaking the paper, and the carrier wouldn’t get out of the car to place it on our porch, so finally we agreed that they should always bag the paper. I have to go out to the driveway (which isn’t very far), but so far that’s been a good solution.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Glad I’ve convinced you about The Place in Florence, Mare. It gets a big thumbs up from me! Interesting about your sprinklers and bagging your paper. Our paper always comes bagged (sometimes in a NYT bag, since they are delivered by the same service). Maybe because we have inclement weather so frequently (except this summer, when we had NO rain for weeks and weeks). And mine is frequently under a window box that has a drip line, so wet even with no rain this summer. Glad they solved your problem.

    • That’s funny about the sprinkler wetting the papers.
      I’ve been having missed delivery problems and it seems it’s hard to find more delivery persons to hire.
      But at least on rainy or snowy days (when it does come) it’s wrapped in plastic and stays pretty dry!

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    The (ex J.K.) Place in Florence sounds remarkable indeed. Newspaper delivery issues are pretty widespread, as getting a print version seems to be a dying service overall, as media becomes entirely digital. They just announced the suspension of Monday print versions for a large chain here in Canada. Gives me a reason to feel like a cranky old person for sure.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    I totally relate to everything you wrote, Betsy. We loved our trip to Florence and Venice. Wish we had known about your hotel, although we did stay at a charming B&B our kids found for their honeymoon. The name escapes me, of course. Getting newspaper delivery these days is a challenge. Depending on who is delivering it, we may get it by 7 am or as late as 10 am. Or not at all.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It is 8:38am on Sunday morning as I write this, Laurie and I am again looking for my Boston Globe. It didn’t come yesterday, and I’m not feeling good about today. Sigh…

      I’m sure you had a lovely time in Venice and Florence. How can one go wrong in two such fantastic cities?

  6. Suzy says:

    I must make a note of The Place in Florence, in case I ever get there again. I can’t remember where I stayed before, but I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as nice. And in contrast, newspaper delivery is a headache everywhere. We finally changed to a virtual subscription, where it looks exactly like the physical paper but we read it on our computers. No worry about it getting wet or landing in the bushes!

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