The Retreat at Artesian Lakes / Chain-O-Lakes Resort
I attended a wedding at the Retreat at Artesian Lakes f/k/a Chain O Lakes Resort & Conference Center in Cleveland, Texas in July 2007. The bride is very close to me. The Retreat at Artesian Lakes (Chain of Lakes, Chain-O-Lakes), its' owner and managers, ruined her wedding. The following reflects my reviews, opinions, point of views and judgments of the events that transpired.
The major problem encountered was that the establishment ran out of food. The contract provided for about 175 guests. However, the so called resort only provided enough food for about 75 people - about 100 people did not eat. To make matters worse, the owner and manager, did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to rectify the situation. Guests were stuck in the middle of the woods and were left on their own to provide their own food!! The OWNER, simply stated that the kitchen was completely out of food and proceeded to shut down service. (can you believe she was the owner?!) Our family stepped into action to provide leftovers from the cabins and order pizza for the guests (which we PAID for that night, they refunded us one week later). Some guest momentarily left the wedding to drive the 16 miles (about a 20-30 minute drive on the backroads) into town to eat Fried Chicken. Other guests simply left early. This one HUGE mistake had the effect of dampening the mood of ... what was supposed to be ..... a celebration!!!
Dealing with the Owner and Management was as horrible as the wedding experience. The OWNER denied any wrong doing and responsibility. Only to say sorry for the inconvenience. I found the owner and management to be rude, unprofessional, inept and lacking in sincerity. I was surprised that the OWNER and a Coordinator would act in such a way. People with titles normally do not provide terrible customer service.
This was only one of MANY mistakes.
1. First was the lack of food.
- Among those that did not eat: Two (2) diabetic guests, a pregnant woman in her first trimester (where nutrition is very important), a young lady recently diagnosed with cancer, children under the age of 12, and the elderly.
- Some guest drank alcohol and cocktails with the reasonable expectation that food would be served.Therefore some guest that did not expect to be drunk, in fact became drunk.
- Guest ate leftovers from the cabins which included fruit, cookies, potato chips, and sandwiches put on silver trays. Classy!
2. The toilets in the Lodge could not handle 175 guests. They were all clogged up. Women started using the men's bathroom. It was an embarrassing situation for the couple and the guests.
3. The food that was served was not properly cooked. The Roast was not just rare - it was BLUE in color. The steak skewers were tough. So those that did have food, it was inedible.
4. Dinner was served 35 minutes late. When food finally arrived, guests rushed to the buffet line. There were reported waits of up to an hour in line, only to be turned away because the Retreat at Artesian Lakes ran out of food.
5. To service 175 guests, the Resort only provided 4 attendants (1 was a * useless* Wedding Coordinator, 2 servers and 1 carver). This was not enough to handle the needs of all the guests. For example, a young guest cut her foot on glass that went straight through her shoe. Her little sister said she saw an employee sweep glass under the table. It was mass chaos for the servers!
6. The plates at the buffet service were soaking wet - water spilled on the guests' formal attire. They momentarily ran out of silverware and plates in the middle of service.
7. The dorms included with the "Lodge Package" were not prepared for guest arrival. The beds were not prepared. Blankets were not folded. Which went unused anyways because guests that planned to stay overnight, decided to go home because of their discomfort.
All these factors above demonstrate that, that night, The Retreat at Artesian Lakes (Chain O Lakes) did not have the infrastructure, materials, goods, services, and food to facilitate 175 guests as promised. The services provided was not typical of a "Resort & Conference Center" that portrays itself to be a professional establishment that caters to large events. Instead, the Resort was amateur at best. It felt like the Resort grossly misrepresented themselves. My family feels deceived - it was on the verge of fraud given the way they represent themselves on their website and their tour. They are far from who they represented themselves to be. This was not a situation in which the couple miscalculated. In fact, the couple overestimated the number of guests - there were no-shows even. Additionally, the so called "Resort" had customary notice beforehand of the number of guests to expect - yet they were simply unprepared.
Weddings are not cheap. In providing a refund, it is my understanding that the resort refunded approximately 25% of the total wedding contract. Additionally, the Retreat at Artesian Lakes provided the extended family brunch the next day. This refund is inadequate when 66% of their guest did not eat, their ENTIRE wedding was ruined, and that the fact that the management practically abandoned us. Weddings take months of planning and every detail counts - from the invitations to the decor. Everything was overshadowed by the establishment's shortcomings.
I feel that the owner and manger even acted improperly in the refund process (surprise surprise). Initially the Resort essentially offered nothing but the brunch. This was like a smack in the face to our family. The brunch was the least they could do when everybody went to bed hungry. The couple had to fight for what was owed to them and still the Resort came up short. The couple should not have had to fight for their refund given the mismanagement of the "Resort". I can't believe our family was treated this way when in addition to the wedding contract, our family rented 5 cabins and 3 homes at the Resort.
I recommend that you do not have your event here. It is in my opinion that the owner, management, and staff are inept and incapable of handling over 75 guests. They will ruin your - corporate event, party, reception, wedding! On a positive, the place is beautiful. And the 3 people on staff that night were hard working - the fact that the owner and management mismanaged was not the servers fault. The 3 member staff worked hard at trying to make the situation better. In fact despite what happened, one staff member was tipped extra on top of the gratuity because she worked so hard that evening.