Quality Inn hits war hero with $200 broken-mirror fee

By | December 9th, 2009

mirrorLes Schrenk is not a rock star. He’s a law-abiding, 86-year-old World War II hero who is a model hotel guest.

So why is Quality Inn in Fort Pierce, Fla., insisting he pay $200 for a broken mirror?

“I just cannot afford to pay a $200 charge for something I did not do,” he told me.

Schrenk says the fee took him by surprise.

On the night of Oct. 1, we stayed for one night at Quality Inn, Ft. Pierce, Florida in room 109 and were billed for $50 for the room.

On our next credit card bill we were charged $50, plus another $200. We called the Quality Inn and first were told that the billing was a mistake and that a credit was given.

Then were told that a credit had not been given and the charge was for a broken mirror.

When we told the clerk — we think it was the owner claiming he was a clerk — that there was no mirror that we had broken, he said the manager would return our call, which he never did.

We contacted MasterCard and filled out a form denying responsibility, but after a few weeks the reply was rejected, saying the motel owner claimed we had broken a closet mirror and would not issue a credit.

Did Schrenk break the mirror, or not? He doesn’t fit the profile of a guest who would break a mirror. But even if he did, would it cost a hotel $200 to replace a mirror?

I share Schrenk’s skepticism. Why would the hotel change its story, calling it a “mistake” and later claiming he broke the mirror, if not to run down the clock on the 60 days he has to dispute a credit card charge?

I suggested he send a brief, polite email to Quality Inn at the corporate level, asking them to review his request, which he did.

He was told told that Quality Inn’s motels “are independently owned” and the only action they could take was to place a complaint in their file.

This made no sense.

If Schrenk broke the mirror, then the hotel should have contacted him immediately and presented him with a bill. Not waited weeks to surprise him with the real reason for the charge. I’m inclined to believe the word of a war hero on this one.

I contacted Quality Inn on his behalf. A few days later, he wrote to me with an update:

I received a phone call from Choice Hotels International’s executive office. A credit for $200 had been issued to our credit card. We are very thankful for your help in resolving this issue.

I’m happy to help, and glad that Quality Inn did the right thing.

(Photo: arielp/Flickr Creative Commons)

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