My hotel is being used as Section 8 temporary housing. I demand a refund!

By | January 12th, 2017

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Maria Telegdy’s photos from her recent stay at a Relax Inn would make for a disturbing novel. Since we don’t have space for a novel here, we’ll just have to summarize her case and share the images with you.

Telegdy’s case demonstrates the need to keep calm, even when you know that you’re being ripped off. And it’s yet another cautionary tale about nonrefundable, opaque hotel rates.

Telegdy used Hotwire’s “HotRate Deal” feature to book a seven-night trip this fall. The HotRate Deals require prepayment and don’t reveal your actual hotel until after you complete the booking. Hotwire describes HotRate deals as “amazing deals that, once purchased, cannot be cancelled, exchanged, refunded or changed.”

Telegdy selected a two-star hotel in the general neighborhood she wished to stay. She notes that the description of the unknown hotel said “Quality Inn or similar.” She then received notification that she would be staying at the Relax Inn of Augusta, Georgia.

When she arrived, Telegdy was less than impressed with its location in a seedy area with an adjacent adult bookstore.

After some initial confusion during check-in, where she says that she was told her room had been given away to a “long-term renter,” she became convinced that the hotel was being used as Section 8 temporary housing. This is the Federal government-sponsored housing program that provides vouchers to participants that they can use at housing facilities, including some motels, which will accept the voucher as payment.

Telegdy told us that she is familiar with this voucher program.

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“In September, Hotwire sent me to a hotel in Phoenix that was used as Section 8, except that hotel was better maintained and had a separate wing for regular travelers,” she told our advocates.

Eventually, a manager arrived and confirmed that they did have a room for her. But when she checked in, she found it to be “deplorable” with “smashed bugs on dirty walls, peeling wallpaper, filthy vents and a disabled smoke detector.” (See images, above.)

Telegdy suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which can make it difficult to breathe, so when she smelled cigarette smoke coming from outside her room she knew that she would be unable to complete her stay.

Telegdy tells us that she slept with a scarf over her nose and mouth to avoid the smoke for the one night that she was forced to stay there. The next morning she informed the front desk staff that she would not be staying the additional six nights. Luckily, she had the forethought to take some pictures of her room before she left.

When Telegdy arrived home she called Hotwire to request a refund for the six nights that she did not stay. Hotwire referred her back to the nonrefundable terms of the HotRate Deals and rejected her request.

Telegdy then began her writing and calling campaign to Hotwire. Unfortunately, she used tactics that are rarely successful when approaching a company with a complaint. She admits that she was so incensed that she lost her temper and cursed at the customer service agent.

Her letters also reflected her anger and included many extraneous details; including her belief that some of the guests at this motel were “Section 8 residents.” She also threatened Hotwire that she would never be using them again. This threat typically backfires for the consumer, with the company losing interest in helping a lost customer.

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When Telegdy’s complaint letters only resulted in Hotwire offering her a $25 travel voucher, she turned to us for help. In her words to us: “Adding insult to injury with that $25 voucher as I look at it, because it won’t cost them anything especially if I am never using them again. I have traveled the world and not even in the backwoods of Africa have I slept in a place as bad as this hotel.”

We reviewed her case and wrote a short, polite letter to Hotwire, including the photographs of the room.

These photographs show exposed lightbulbs, dirty walls and vents, falling draperies and the disabled smoke detector. We did not ask Hotwire about Telegdy’s assertions that the motel was being used for temporary Section 8 housing, because ultimately it does not matter. Every guest is entitled to a safe and clean living environment regardless of how they are making payment for their stay. One look at Telegdy’s photos makes it clear that this motel is not providing a clean or safe environment.

A working smoke detector is required in every motel room under Georgia Title 25 Code Section 25-2-40. By virtue of this information alone, we believe Telegdy was entitled to leave this motel early and receive a refund.

Hotwire agreed with us and completely refunded Telegdy for her stay. They also thanked us for the photos and concur that changes need to be made at this particular motel. But they noted that Telegdy should have called Hotwire as soon as she discovered that the motel was not acceptable, and they would have attempted to rectify the situation immediately.

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The moral of this story: When troubles arise with a company, remember to be polite, concise and fact-based in your letter of complaint. You want to convince the company that they want to help you. Keep in mind the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

  • Ben

    > reflected her anger and included many extraneous details

    I believe this contributed to the lack of satisfactory resolution. Glad the advocates were able to get this solved appropriately.

  • AAGK

    Hey, Augusta, GA Section 8 Administrators: This property is not fit for human beings. Cross this place off your list and reevaluate your housing options.

  • fairmont1955

    Photos as proof and facts are always the way to go. It’s hard to try to deny a refund when you are shown that codes/safety are violated. I’m glad to hear Hotwire changed its answer once this strategy was used. I am a big fan of their blind deals and it’s always worked out great for me in multiple cities.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    Should it not be, “Catch more FLIES with honey than vinegar”?

    Bees are the manufacturer, not the consumer. I doubt they want to see another drop of honey at the end of the workweek.

    Also, while the OP violated every rule of complaint writing (laundry list, threatening not to use the company again, etc), in this case, I may have done the same thing. Not sure how calm I’d be once I found out I was send to a mixed use hotel which violated codes and was adjacent to an adult bookstore. Sometimes letting out steam is more valuable than a resolution. Not often, but sometimes.

  • Dutchess

    I am particularly indignant at the fact that she’s throwing around the fact that the hotel may be used for “Section 8 Housing”. She comes across as classist and elitist. OMG, poor or economically disadvantaged people were there? How did you manage??!!? **clutches pearls**

  • Patrica

    YES! That was my thought as I looked at the pictures, before even reading. It should NOT be a place reimbursed for section 8. I would not use it as a dog kennel for rescued dogs. Honest.

  • AAGK

    That’s ridiculous. I’m staying in a Ritz Carlton right now and long term residents occupy half the property. This hotel is a dump bc the owners are slumlords taking taxpayer money without providing habitable conditions in exchange. Hopefully those residents will connect with a suitable group to advocate for them.

  • Using Hotwire seems to be asking for trouble. I like to know what I’m picking before I pay. I’m funny that way….

  • C Schwartz

    There has been a tradition of some building owners, whether for residential apartments or hotels, to abuse the Section 8 program. The properties are run down and they make more money from Section 8 than from non subsidized programs.

  • C Schwartz

    Interesting, I did not read it that way, Where I live there are some really bad building owners (both of residential apartments and hotels) that take the Section 8 vouchers because they make more money that way than they could by renting the apt or room. We have that problem with the city DHS where I live, they pay a lot for homeless families to have an apartment or room and they end up paying more than market rate for the apartment.

    Here is the text of one report:

    The DOI was also troubled by how much DHS is paying: For instance, at one rundown shelter, ” Brooklyn Acacia’s contract rate, which includes both rent and social services, was $104.17 per family per night ($3,125 monthly)The average rent for buildings in the same neighborhood as the five clusters reveals rents of $528, $725, $858, $950, and $1200 a month. Based on this comparison, the City is paying two to three times market rate for these substandard living conditions.” At a hotel shelter, “According to DHS the average rate per night per family for the hotel is $94.70 ($2,841 monthly). The City is paying this amount for families of up to four people to live in one room with a bathroom and kitchenette. ”

    I immediately thought of the hotel owner abusing the system because the place is so run down.

  • C Schwartz

    This is a big problem in a lot of cities — basically slum lords are making a great profit off these programs and the places are dreadful.

    Here is the text of a critical report for NYC where I live

    ?The DOI was also troubled by how much DHS is paying: For instance, at one rundown shelter, ” Brooklyn Acacia’s contract rate, which includes both rent and social services, was $104.17 per family per night ($3,125 monthly)The average rent for buildings in the same neighborhood as the five clusters reveals rents of $528, $725, $858, $950, and $1200 a month. Based on this comparison, the City is paying two to three times market rate for these substandard living conditions.” At a hotel shelter, “According to DHS the average rate per night per family for the hotel is $94.70 ($2,841 monthly). The City is paying this amount for families of up to four people to live in one room with a bathroom and kitchenette. “

  • Annie M

    Why do people wait to go home to call instead of calling Hotwire from the hotel and asking to be moved?

    Why anyone would request a 2 star hotel who has COPD is also a mystery.

  • jim6555

    Perhaps a 2 star hotel room is all that they can afford.

    If this is a 2 star Hotwire room, I don’t really want to know what their 1 star room looks like.

  • cscasi

    Looks like the best things for her to have done was take the pictures she did immediately, call Hotwire and explain to it why it was unacceptable to stay there (most likely that it was way below standards and unsafe). Oh, by the way I have photographs and please tell me a good number to send them directly to you. Then, Hotwire would have the facts in hand and have been able to take immediate action. I am truly surprised that she HAD to stay there the first night (no explanation of why was given). Had she provided Hotwire all that within the first hour of her arrival, I am almost certain it would have found her a better safer place to stay in the area and would have immediately taken care of the money issue.
    I am glad that Chris and his team were able to assist her in getting a refund for the six nights she did not stay.

  • cscasi

    I see your point. However, no proof was presented that proves the hotel was in fact being used for Section 8 housing. That was what she thought/imagined/felt (and perhaps it was/is), but she had no proof to proffer. Saying these things when one does not have proof, can certainly muddy the waters and cause companies to question one’s claims. But, she had photographic evidence and that is why Hotwire refunded her the money.

  • cscasi

    But, has it been proven that it was a mixed use hotel; or just an assumption made by Telegdy that it was? How can we say for certain that it, at the time, was or was not so?

  • cscasi

    Especially when no one comes in and forces the landlords to make repairs and perform the necessary upkeep for one’s safety, etc. It would seem obvious that, at least in this case, the city’s health and safety department (code Dept.) has fallen down on its services; i.e. not inspecting a place like this regularly and writing necessary violations until the property is brought up to code or make it close down. If a greedy landlord wanted to stay in business, he/she would do what is necessary or else. It seems like some of these cities look the other way on code enforcement of such places,

  • C Schwartz

    You are correct, I reread it. There was no proof, and what makes it worse is that the headline says she left because it was section 8 — when the truth seems more that she left because the place was a dump — and the photos show that. The headlines sometimes are little click-baity. Putting in a suspicion that the hotel was used as Section 8 has no bearing on the terrible condition of the room.

    I read the post in a certain way because there has been a lot of news where I live about the substandard accommodations given by DHS in NYC — in December two small children were killed when a radiator burst and scalded them in a dump of an apartment used by DHS for the homeless — and when I heard the price the city was paying it was shocking — the owner is a known slumlord and the city is inept. So I had a certain frame of mind when I read the story.

    All those extras are not needed, the issue was the room being in horrible shape.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Unfortunately, YES I have lost my temper and badly because I’m a person who is very reasonable, and takes care of every issue that needs attention, immediatlety as the problems arise. When I’m being given the run around my emotions take over, and it is very unfortunate for those who try to ping-pong me. I got really mad, when every time I called, I was offered the $25 hot dollars, and also instead of hearing me out, HOTWIRE kept me on line, while they called the Hotel/Motel and verified my story with the reception. I will never fudge a story and as the article proves, I take responsibility even for my actions which were not a classy move. I did not know I can call Hotwire immediately and report a problem, now I know. They do have good HOTDEALS, but I also have noticed, 1st reservation with Hotwire is at a fantastic rate, and in a 4-5 star Hotel, (like Westin in N. Chicago, for $38/night) and as you keep using them over and over, the quality of the residence goes down and the price goes up. Anyway, thanks to Michelle Friedman my problem was solved, I got my refund (I was also reasonable not to ask for the entire refund, I deducted the 1 night stay), and I will be more diplomatic in the future how I handle disagreements. Thanks Michelle Friedman .

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    I would prefer in the future, if HOTWIRE decide to advertise for a place like this, to go and check it out before they sell the rooms for a dump as Relax Inn.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Not to mention the water from the bathtub was rusty colored, and the towel they given me had a football size burn in the middel, and the burn was visible only on the edges of the cut where they removed the huge burned section of the towel.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Trip advisor on the other hand, has pictures for this Hotel/Motel from outside and in reality the place does not look like the photos on Trip advisor.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    The excuse for the deplorable condition of the place was posted at reception”Please excuse our mess, we are in process of construction”. This would be another reason, why the place/dump should have not been used for any purpose, while under construction. And my biggest complaint was the stinch and the non-functioning smoke alarm and open wall plug with wires sticking out.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    To the defence of HOTWIRE, I used them for 11 years, the last 2 Hotels (Phoenix and Augusta) were the most deplorable they sent me to.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Exactly jim6555……besides until this last reservation with HOTWIRE they always given me good rooms at better Hotels.

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, slackers being supported by MY money. Looked all over the Constitution of the USA; can’t find the part that says I’m responsible for supporting people not my family……

  • The Original Joe S

    Deplorable? Like a Trump supporter? Ha hahahahahahaha!

  • Dutchess

    So edgy! I found the sovereign citizen guys! Please tell me more about gold fringe flags.

  • joycexyz

    Yes, Hotwire has amazing deals, alright. It’s also amazing that anyone would stay more than 30 seconds in such squalor. As an aside, it’s a pity that unfortunate people needing temporary housing must endure those conditions.

  • joycexyz

    You’re all heart! How about a little gratitude that you have a roof over your head, food in your belly and a roof over your head? I am not a religious person, but I do believe we have an obligation to help others not as fortunate.

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, I’m all heart. I WORKED for what I have, put myself through college and watched while welfare kings sat out and drank beer while I worked for less than they got. Charity, supposed to be a voluntary giving from the goodness of your heart, begins at home: I want my stuff to go to MY family. The gubmint takes “charity” at the point of a gun every 15 april, so there’s my contribution and my obligation is satisfied. The rest goes to my kids and grandkids.
    Yeah, I have gratitude that I became successful without taking from others. I’m also happy that I have dealt with the department of redundancy department, as shown in your post about roofs.

  • The Original Joe S

    Tell me more about the do-gooder progressive thieving LIBTARD philosophy of stealing from the productive members of society and giving it to the slackers.
    A lot of this will cease come 20 January. The people who WORK are FED UP with this nonsense.

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    That building should have been condemned a long time ago. As my understanding was, the “manager” is a former veteran, (He told me that personally), so knowing all that, I think they have a special agreement with the city of Augusta to house “homeless veterans” and the less fortunate people. Still, HOTWIRE should not just advertise for everybody, w/out first making sure that the building is suitable for occupancy. (and yes the people who vere there, looked very down on their luck). And to justify my staying for more than 30 seconds is: My money was tied up with HOTWIRE and the “sqalor”. I was dropped off there by a friend I was visiting. She stayed with me until 9 PM at the Hotel, than she returned home, assuring me that the next day I will be rescued by her. When I visit friends all over the country, I refuse their offer to stay at their house. I do NOT like to bother nobody so I do stay in Hotels. The next morning I was rescued and did accept the offer of staying with my friends family for the entire week. ( Also I’m the person who very rarely compllain, and this was one of those situations when I had a legitimate complaint and I was not getting the appropriate attention from HOTWIRE.

  • pauletteb

    Off point, yet again. This isn’t the place for your political rants.

  • The Original Joe S

    She comes across as classist and elitist. OMG, poor or economically
    disadvantaged people were there? How did you manage??!!? **clutches

    Not at all off point. Dutchess’ post above dripping with bleating heart teardrops. Simply replying to it when ATTACKED for not being a “compassionate” libtard. Explaining that it ain’t my responsibility to transfer wealth to strangers. Of course, “progressives” don’t understand the concept.

    I loathed LIBERALS even before they changed their names from COMMUNISTS.

  • AAGK

    I live in NY as well. This is a complex issue involving many different City agencies. The DOI is amazing but this isn’t really a DHS issue, or at least shouldn’t be one exclusively.

  • AAGK

    Maria, I have a feeling that Hotwire does better in certain regions than others, where they have less info about the properties. If you still want to give them a chance, then stick to the destinations where they served you well in the past. Avoid Phx and GA for sure. As for new places, if there is a pattern to your successful stays (for ex in big cities or the northeast, etc) then stick to the markets you think Hotwire can manage.

  • C Schwartz

    DHS is a mess here in NYC — I am sure you heard about the breaking radiator that scalded two toddlers to death in December — the apt was under contract with DHS and one of the co-owners of the building was on one of the lists of the worst landlords in the city for open violations — the so called cluster sites, which have been very profitable for slumlords…

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Thanks AAGK. Your advice is well taken. :-)

  • AAGK

    I missed this story but just googled it. I see the HRA Commissioner issued the 1st statement and the DOB is involved as well as the NYCEDC. ACS should probably also be in the mix. Can’t really blame this on DHS but I get the sentiment.

  • AAGK

    People who stay longer are probably better neighbors bc they are more invested in making the property a better place. I can see why that point may have not been clear but that’s what I was going for.

  • Dutchess

    Except she didn’t say the hotel was full of “drug dealers and prostitutes” she kept claiming “section 8” as if that is some damning piece of evidence that the place was unfit for habitation. Does she think all people who need housing assistance are prostitutes and drug dealers? Are we supposed to associate section 8 with drug dealers and prostitution? If so, that isn’t elitist, it’s ignorant.

    I live in one of the most desirable parts of my city, it’s also the most expensive part of the city. Guess what? We have the highest percentage of affordable housing (read: people on housing assistance aka section 8) in the city right in my neighborhood. Lots of people want to live in my neighborhood, lots of people buy million dollar condos in my neighborhood.

    If you have a problem with the rooms, the list the problems of the rooms, If you see criminal activity, say it, don’t cry Section 8 and assume everyone has the same prejudices you do.

  • Lindabator

    agreed! a 2 star? REALLY?

  • Lindabator

    they do not advertise for anyone, merely sell rooms at a multitude of venues – it is a 2 star for a reason, and you should have researched their various 2 star options to see if it was worth the bidding risk

  • Lindabator

    no he is referring to this hotel, just that even the Ritz has many long-term guests, and that does not make it substandard

  • Maria K. Telegdy

    Thank you for your input. You don’t know all the circumstances, and it wasn’t my first “pony ride with HOTWIRE”……..Your answer reflects what you understood from the article, I’m speaking from what I experienced, and I do not think I have to explain why I chose that Hotel, and if they do NOT advertise, how come it was availabe on their site as a choice? But it is interesting you suggest RESEARCHING their 2 star HOTELS, How? I’d be really interested as anyone else here, How do you research it?. I would like to know for future reference, so please share that with us.

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