Help! Choice Hotels canceled our reservation to see the eclipse

More than a year in advance, Nancy Barnby secures her lodging inside the direct path of the August 21, 2017, solar eclipse viewing area in Oregon. Now she needs our help because that hotel has changed hands and her reservation has been summarily discarded by the new owner. With just weeks left before the eclipse, is there any way to save her celestial experience?

Question: Since 2014, My husband and I have been planning our road trip to see the total eclipse of the sun. Last year we booked two nights (August 19 and 20, 2017) in Albany, Oregon, because of its location within the path of the best viewing for the eclipse. We confirmed our room at La Quinta for $120 per night.

I just discovered that this hotel was sold to Choice Hotels in December. The new owners decided not to keep any of the prior reservations — but also didn’t inform us. Now it’s too late to find alternative reservations since every hotel for miles around is solidly booked during that three-day window.

I contacted the Choice executives who I found listed on your website and received a canned, generic response which did not in any way address my complaints.

I believe it was unconscionable for the new owners of the motel to ignore previous reservations. We can’t make a two-week trip with no place to stay for those two nights. We have looked forward to this trip for years and we even bought special glasses to view the eclipse.

I merely want Choice Hotels to find us a room for the nights we had reserved. The company owns 10 motel properties in the immediate region. This is not a matter of money but a ruined, long-planned road trip — the highlight being the eclipse. I am very upset with Choice Hotels. Can you help? — Nancy Barnby, Menlo Park, Calif.

Answer: How disappointing for a wrench to be thrown into your carefully laid plans at this late date.

Related story:   A typo on my airline ticket

You had done your homework about this rare solar event in which the moon will completely block the sun. You had carefully studied all the information available about the Solar Eclipse 2017 and made sure to book a hotel that was within the “path of totality” — the area that would provide you the best possible chance to see the full eclipse.

And when you booked your hotel a year in advance, you felt confident that this part of your trip was firm. It wasn’t until recently, when you attempted to reconfirm, that you discovered you no longer had a reservation.

The manager of the hotel in question, which is now an Econo Lodge, offered to put you on a waitlist — with everyone else who no longer had a reservation.

Obviously, this did not seem like a suitable plan on which to rest your hopes. So you contacted us.

I contacted Choice Hotels and, initially, received a somewhat canned response of my own. This representative told me that they were aware of your situation and that they were working directly with you.

You reported though that the only “help” you had received was a list of their branded hotels that you could check yourself for availability. You were not surprised to find that each one was sold out.

I tried again with Choice Hotels, and this time I reached someone who understood your plight and empathized. She began to make inquiries at various hotels in the area.

Her first offer was generous, but not quite right for you. She offered you a free two-night stay at a hotel about 45 minutes outside of the viewing area and a promise of parking at your preferred hotel during the eclipse.

Related story:   "Unethical" travel agent claims commission after client finds a bargain online

You explained that with traffic this could easily lead to missing the eclipse completely and you politely asked if there were any other possibilities closer to your original hotel.

The representative then discovered that there was a hotel available, but their rates were almost as astronomical as the eclipse at $500 to $1,000 per night. This is quite lofty for a hotel that typically runs for $120 to $200 per night. And there was another catch — a three night minimum stay. Yikes!

But this hotel did match your location requirements, and with no better option you began to consider it.

As you were reflecting on your options, your story suddenly took a phenomenal turn. The Choice Hotel representative emailed you with the good news that this new hotel would allow you to stay just the two nights that you wanted.

And the best part? The company proved that it truly was regretful that your original plans had been disrupted. The representative gave you complimentary Choice Points to cover your entire stay at the pricey hotel.

You are completely satisfied with this outcome and I sense that Choice Hotels has made a loyal customer for life.

Enjoy your trip and don’t forget those protective glasses!

Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

%d bloggers like this:
Get smart. Sign up for the newsletter.