My hotel left me sleeping in my car during the hurricane


In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, John Monaghan makes his way to the Sheraton Suites where he has a confirmed reservation. He is looking forward to resting his weary head after a day of precarious travel. Instead, he is greeted with a closed hotel and is forced to sleep in his car. Is he due any compensation for his troubles?

Question: I had a “guaranteed” two-night reservation at Sheraton Suites in Cypress Creek, Fla. checking in on September 11. When I arrived at the hotel it was closed. No one called or emailed me to let me know. Apparently, the hotel transferred guests to other properties due to Hurricane Irma. But I was just abandoned.

It was impossible for me to find an alternative hotel for the first night so I was left to sleep in my rental car. The second night I was able to book a room at a local Marriott.

I asked for some compensation for the gross mishandling of my reservation. I spoke to the front desk supervisor of the Sheraton several times, and she told me that management agreed to reimburse me for my stay at the Marriott. She said that a check was sent to me. I believe that this was a lie, because I never received any check.

I have Platinum status with Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, but this doesn’t seem to make any difference to the company.

This was not a prepaid reservation. But I would like to be reimbursed for the stay at the Marriott and I would like additional points for my inconvenience. This hotel left me with no place to go during a hurricane. Can you help? — John Monaghan, Oakland Park, Fla.

Answer: What an awful experience. There should have been some system in place that would have alerted you to the sudden closure of this hotel.

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But there wasn’t. And you were inconvenienced in a truly unpleasant way.

When you made your “guaranteed” reservation you never imagined that you would be spending the entire night in the parking lot of the hotel rather than in a comfy bed.

And to make matters worse, when you reached out to the management of this Sheraton, the supervisor did not seem to understand the gravity of the situation.


She apologized for the “short notice of cancellation” which seemed to disregard the fact that you didn’t actually receive any notice. In fact, your notice of cancellation was delivered in the form of a shuttered hotel — not a very customer-friendly way of canceling a valued traveler’s reservation.

Additionally, she was unable to explain why other guests were transferred to available hotels in the area, but you were completely abandoned.

Your growing frustration was evident as the emails progressed and the supervisor continued to refuse to acknowledge the level of inconvenience you had suffered.

Finally, perhaps in an attempt to stop your emails, you were informed that the hotel management team had considered your request. The supervisor told you that because of your “folio” with the company (platinum status), you would be refunded for the night at the Marriott as a goodwill gesture.

Although you were still disgruntled with the entire event and the follow-up, you accepted the resolution.

Several weeks later, when you had not received the promised compensation, you contacted this manager again. This time she told you that the request was still pending “corporate approval.”

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Having reached your limit with this hotel’s management, you reached out to our advocacy team.

I reviewed your paper trail and noted that you had diligently tried to resolve this problem on your own over the course of several weeks. Your conversations seemed to be going in circles with no end in sight.

I reached out to Marriott, (company contacts can be found on our website) the parent company of the Sheraton Hotels, and within hours your problem was resolved.

It’s unclear what corporate approval the Sheraton was waiting for, but the Marriott corporate office quickly reached out to you and apologized. The executive that called you assured you that you would receive the reimbursement check ASAP. Additionally, you were granted the bonus points that you were seeking for your trouble.

You were pleased with this resolution and felt satisfied that the Marriott redeemed itself with the personal call to you and the offered resolution.

It’s unfortunate that you were forced to spend the night in your car during the hurricane, but hopefully, the company will use your case as an example and develop a better alert system for future bad weather emergency closures.


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, consumer advocate, writer and photographer who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. She is Advocacy & Editorial Director at Elliott.org.

  • Marc

    This illustrates that Marriott the corporation may have the best intent of the guests in mind, but it is the locally controlled representatives with whom guests interact with who may be more focused on their own hotel’s benchmarks than on the guest experiences. Provides a good case study of the need for corporations to outreach and be more visible and reachable to identify and quickly resolve experiences like these that you should never want to have advertised.

  • Noah Kimmel

    To your point of local vs. global, and I am not sure about these specific properties, Marriott is also highly franchised. While the corporation manages some properties, most are not owned by Marriott. Marriott just gives them all the tools to be successful (layouts and construction, loyalty program, customers and branding, IT services, etc.). This certainly isn’t the customer’s problem, but many franchise businesses, especially in travel (hotel and rental car to be specific) the customer winds up caught in the middle.

  • Chris Johnson

    Not that this is quite the same type of hotel, but Red Roof Inns used to be 100% company owned and not franchised, and all new construction. The company prided themselves on this and frequently mentioned it in their advertisements. I always had a flawless experience at a Red Roof Inn although their hotels are pretty simple and I didn’t expect much anyway. Then the company started franchising the late 90s and surprise, surprise, I stayed at a franchised location which was an old hotel that had been converted (you could see the age of the place), I saw that no effort had been made to clean the bathroom of my room when I first entered it and although the front desk sent someone to clean it, I didn’t get a hint of an apology. Not traumatized by it or anything, but it goes to show you how local franchisees can easily damage the reputation of a national chain supposedly known for high standards and control. Of course, nearly all hotel chains franchise in some way or another so it can be a crap shoot. Thank God for online reviews.

  • Alan Gore

    That “short notice of cancellation” was probably an email that went to LW’s spam folder. And which arrived while he was inflight and unable to receive it in time.

    If text is offered as a means of being contacted, always use it.

  • Jeff W.

    This is a tough one. While I am certainly sympathetic to the OP, let us put some things in perspective.

    The first issue is the claim that the hotel transferred guests to other hotels. That is certainly true, but I would qualify that in asking if that meant guests who had already checked in or did that also include guests who might be checking in. If I recall, the hurricane hit the area on Sept 10 or even the 11th.

    So I would surmise that the hotel staff took care of the guests already on property then left to take care of their own families. And most likely did not think that people who were not already there would be traveling in during this event to check in later in the day.

    This is where the corporate policies most likely failed. They should have known that the hotel was being evacuated and dealt with the reservations. The on-site staff takes care of the staff/guests already present and corporate takes care of everything else.

    It is also possible that someone did try to contact him, but was unable. If he was traveling during a hurricane, there could have been a communication breakdown.

    Regardless, it should not have taken him that long to find a resolution.

  • FQTVLR

    The OP should have received a call from Sheraton’s central reservation and/or an email telling him the hotel was closed and offering alternate accommodation. What happened was inexcusable.
    And then my curiosity got the better of me as it seemed odd that he would be traveling through an area suffering major power outages and other damage from a hurricane. (I lived on the Gulf Coast for many years and this is not something we did unless it was an emergency.) He notes his place of residence as Oakland Park Florida which is in Broward County. I looked up the Sheraton in Cypress Creek and the only result was one on Cypress Creek in Fort Lauderdale, a very short distance from Oakland Park. So I am either very geographically challenged or this story is a bit weird. Again it does not excuse no notification but the proximity of the two places to each other is rather odd.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Corporations often monitor their twitter/facebook/social media accounts very closely. It is possible if he tagged them in a tweet that night, they would at least have contacted him to render whatever aid was possible. I would recommend that anyone needing rapid assistance try this route.

  • y_p_w

    I’d probably want every avenue to be notified these days. However, the last time I had to worry about a storm I don’t think text messaging from anyone in the travel industry was standard. Of course that was when people texted each other, but the cost was typically 10 cents a text sent or received. I remember hearing cases of kids constantly texting their friends and racking up hundreds of dollars in fees.

    It was over a decade ago, but I was dealing with a storm going through the Florida Keys. My rooms in Islamorada and Key West were automatically cancelled and my reserved tours were also cancelled. I received several voice messages sent to my cell phone number, which was convenient since I had my phone with me. I got email too, but that wasn’t quite as convenient at a time before the smart phone became common.

    Of course this is a force majeure situation so legally their obligations go out the window. Anything they do is as a courtesy.

  • J.L. Quebbeman

    I’m sorry I am not more sympathetic about this issue. You posted this comment from Oakland Park, which is adjacent to Cypress Creek. It’s not like you were traveling a great distance. I suspect you made a reservation planning to shelter there from Irma instead of someplace else. Unless you were planning on paying with accumulated points, you would have had to pay for your 2-night stay anyway. So, by moving to the Marriott and paying there, the only thing I would think you would be eligible for would be any difference between the rate you reserved for at Sheraton versus what you ended up paying at Marriott.

    For what it’s worth, I live in the area and planned to evacuate by flying on Allegiant and my flight was cancelled on Friday so I was stuck with driving. I paid for my flight with points so those points were returned to my account. Similiarly, that should be the only thing you should be compensated for, any increased difference.

  • Lindabator

    true – I think he did not have an updated profile with them to contact him and never checked his emails, so was shocked upon arrival. BUT he had to know there was a hurricane in the area – why not call in advance??

  • Lindabator

    I find a LOT of my long-term memberships need to b updated regularly, or all info is going to old emails/phone numbers, and I would bet that happened her as well. But if you KNOW there is a hurricane, why not call in advance?

  • Bobby Dale

    The ink is barely dry on the merger, thus the integration of Marriott and Starwood brands is still a work in progress. My experience has been that Marriott brands are extremely customer friendly and responsive across the board whereas Sheraton/Starwoods behaved more as you would expect franchised locations, some managed by SPG and others self managed, i.e. different hotels have different policies. Expect to see the former SPG brands become more like Marriott brands, more consistent, over time.
    Marriott watched the train wrecks at United Continental and American USAir America West and is working hard to avert such disasters. The Delta Northwest merger went relatively smoothly, considering the size, as the management was willing to keep the best parts of either operation. The NCL/Oceania/Regent integration has overcome most bumps and is sailing along better than I would have expected.

  • FQTVLR

    But he was also close to his home–about 4 miles away. Not a big distance…

  • Bobby Dale

    By September 11 Irma was a Tropical Storm, and the center of circulation, along with the worst weather was past both Oakland Park and Cypress Creek, with Cypress Creek being closer to danger as it is nominally closer to Lake Okechobee, which in major hurricanes presents a danger of overflow into Palm Beach County.
    Next Oakland Park is west of Federal Hwy (US 1) which is not in evacuation zones A or B, and Broward County had lifted evacuation orders by the 11th.

  • kanehi

    With today’s mobile SMS services the hotel could’ve en masse message everyone to go to a particular hotel for accommodations or at least email their clients and instructed them where to go. Reservations are electronically done why not use it to the fullest? Also hurricane Irma was in the news for weeks so I wonder why the client didn’t phone ahead regarding the status of her stay.

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