From golf courses to vineyards, Donald Trump has invested in and licensed his name to many ventures around the world. They are not only gaudy and expensive, they often fail to live up to their hyperbolic promise.
For the Washington Post, travel writer Jason Wilson visits five Trump properties ─ in New Jersey, Virginia, Panama, Scotland, and Canada ─ to experience them as a customer and reviewer. He eats the food and sleeps in the rooms and describes the experience (though not the whole suckling pig for $495). What he finds is that these Trump businesses provide a dark vision of America and of Trump as “someone who would promise you the spectacle of a horse diving into the ocean, and then deliver a mule diving into a swimming pool.” This warped portrait includes classism, pettiness, poor taste, skeleton staffs, cosmetic bookshelves, unnecessarily tall structures, financial struggles, and false public narratives. In Vancouver, a woman drove past the Trump International Hotel & Tower and yelled, “Fuck you, Trump!” In Charlottesville, Wilson paid $15 to taste wine.
“Can I taste the sparkling rosé?” the young woman next to me asks. No, she’s told. She has to be a member of Trump Winery’s Wine Club to taste the sparkling rosé.
Trump-brand properties do not simply give tourists a taste of the good life or a successful business model. They’re portraits of exploitation and failure. The clearest image of salvation comes during the moment Wilson walks from Trump’s failed Taj Mahal in Atlantic City to the abandoned Trump Tower. “Here,” Wilson writes, “every mention of Trump has long been removed from the building, and grass now grows up through the pavement of the empty parking lots and entranceways. The Plaza will soon be demolished.” The best thing about Trump businesses is when they close.
Back in my room, still hungry, I open a container of honey roasted peanuts ($8) and a Mexican beer ($11) from the minibar, flip on CNN and lie on the bed watching reports on the first indictments in the Mueller investigation. As a jaded travel writer, someone who has stayed in many soulless hotels and eaten in many overpriced restaurants in many disappointing places, I’m completely at ease with a certain exquisite idleness and ennui. But there’s something profoundly unsettling about the sort of boredom that I’ve been feeling in the Trump properties over the past many weeks.
To be clear, none of my experience has been terrible, and some of it has been pleasant. Mostly, though, I’ve been overwhelmed by a relentless, insistent, in-your-face mediocrity: the scolding “Notice to Guests” in my room at the Trump MacLeod House & Lodge in Scotland, warning that I will be charged punitively if I take the lint brush, shoehorn, coasters or other Trump-branded amenities; the strange card displayed in my room at the Albemarle Estate in Charlottesville explaining that “Countryside stink bugs” will “occasionally be found” inside and the jar of stale chocolate chip cookies I’m told was the only food available later at night; the eerie near-emptiness and peeling paint of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Panama, touted as the tallest building in Central America. And it’s this mediocrity that’s the most disquieting.