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 the executive director of 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.

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