I was on business in the greater Houston area last week, a trip that wouldn’t have been all that bad if not for the hovel of a hotel I had stayed in. I’m not exactly picky about hotels either. I’m generally okay with a bed, shower ( it doesn’t need to have the best shower head), high-speed Internet and some kind of breakfast provided in the morning. In fact, I was just going to leave a negative comment card right up until the morning I checked out. Here’s what was lacking in this place:
- There were bugs in the room. I noticed both ants and, later, small flies in the room. The ants are a particularly big deal since I was on the second story of the hotel. That gives me a hint that the maintenance on the place has been sliding for a while. The solution was to send someone to Home Depot and have them come up and spray the sill of the window where I saw the ants. A day later, there will still ants on the sill. Hmmm.
- The lighting sucked. When you’re using a computer screen and doing a fair amount of reading, light is important. The only fixed lighting was in the entryway and bathroom. All of it was fluorescent lighting that took up to a minute to flicker to life. The rest of the lighting was all via lamps positioned in awkward places. The room might as well have been underground for how poorly lit it remained even with all of the lights turned on.
- The iron couldn’t be filled. When you’re traveling on business, ironing shirts so you look at least semi-professional is a must and you aren’t taking the wrinkles out of a cotton shirt with a dry iron.
- The hairdryer had visible cracks. Hmmm… are we seeing the maintenance pattern yet again? It was still functional, but I worry about using cracked electronics, especially ones that draw 1500W and operate in wet environments.
- The breakfast was abysmal. When I pick a business hotel, I pick one with a hot breakfast. It saves me money on my food budget and is very convenient. This place, however, made Village Inn seem like haute cuisine. The eggs were bland, the grits tasted watery (despite a consistency to the contrary) and they somehow accomplished the impossible task of cooking all of the flavor out of the bacon. I was dumb enough to think they were having an off day and went back a second time. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…
- The breakfast seating area was always overcrowded. There was never adequate seating in the breakfast area, forcing me to take my “food” (and I use that loosely) up to my room. Kinda kills the convenience of a dining area when it’s functionally unusable, eh?
- Everything in my suitcase had a weird smell when I got home. There was some kind of smell in the hotel room from the get-go that was reminiscent of really bad cologne. When you’re in the room, you kind of get used to it and don’t think about it any more. When I got home, however, the smell had permeated every piece of clothing in my suitcase, suit included. I’d have a right mind to send them my dry-cleaning bill as well.
I’d pretty much hit the grand slam of sucky hotels. As I said before, all of this simply warranted leaving a “you suck” sign on the desk as I left. The final straw came the morning I was checking out.
In any hotel, I use the alarm clock when one’s available. It’s quick and easy to set and I don’t have to try and navigate the silly wake-up call systems. When I do so, I first check to make sure the clock has a battery backup, just in case. This one did, so I thought I was all set.
Imagine my surprise when I wake up the morning of my flight to find the clock blinking 5:40 at me, daylight peeking through the curtains. I jumped up and checked by cell phone to see that I had an hour before my flight left. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that packing, checking out, driving 15 minutes to the airport and returning a rental car is not something that can be accomplished in 30 minutes so that I could check my bag. I had to call up Delta and re-book for a flight leaving 8 hours later at an extra $195.
This left me rightfully incensed. Up to that point, it hadn’t cost anything for the hotel to suck. Now it was a big chunk of my time and a fat wad of cash. After I rebooked my flight and got ready to leave, I dropped by the desk and asked to speak with the manager. Apparently he wasn’t in, so I went out for breakfast (Denny’s totally spanked this place, no joke) and headed over to the airport.
I finally get a call from the manager as I’m kicking it at Bush Intercontinental about 4 hours after I checked out. Instead of making good on the “100% satisfied or it’s free” policy posted in the room, he tried to give me some song a dance about the management and ownership changing just two weeks ago and they were trying to get everything fixed up and blah blah blah. Good for you, but that’s hardly my problem. His offer? Bumping the room to $80 a night, not even covering my wasted time or the extra money the company had to pay for my flight.
This is the point where I spelled it all out: I’m not paying for this terrible hotel. He could either give me a refund, I’d work through the corporate office or I’d get the credit card issuer to reverse the charge. That’s the point where he said there was nothing he could do for me and I lodged a complaint with the corporate location.
I got a letter from Choice Hotels today, but it’s not encouraging. The buck got passed to the owner/head manager of the hotel while providing me little substantive indication as to what kind of resolution to expect. My gut tells me that it’s going to come down to calling in AmEx to fight this one, but they still have about a week to sort it out on their own. Needless to say, I’m thinking I might stick to Hampton Inn or Fairfields from now on.
And the kicker? After I got back to Salt Lake (8 hours late), I find that I had left my headlights on in the car and run the battery dead. I had to spend an hour and a half sitting in the parking lot waiting for roadside assist. Boo.