My son got sick in our hotel room. Now the manager wants me to pay for a new carpet


During her Sheraton hotel stay, Anna Eardley’s son becomes “sick” all over the room. She spends the rest of the night trying to clean up the problem, leaves a hefty tip for the maid and then dashes home. When she receives an angry call from the hotel manager telling her that she’s responsible for replacing the entire room’s carpet, she worriedly contacts us for help.

Question: I stayed at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel In Portsmouth, N.H. In the middle of the night, my eight year old woke up with projectile vomiting. He did not make it to the bathroom.

Despite both of us cleaning until the wee hours and what I thought was a generous tip, I received a phone call from the general manager of the hotel this morning. He said they have not been able to rent out the room since then, and are holding me liable for at least the cost of a new carpet.

Although I am angry at the situation, I know I am responsible and scared. I am not sure how to handle this. I am a single mom and tried to call around to find an attorney; no one would take the case (not that I can afford it!). One said to call the manager back and offer to pay for professional cleaning, and if that does not work, to say that I will have my attorney call them.

I am not sure what to do and need help handling this ASAP. The manager sounded threatening.

I would like to resolve this diplomatically with as little financial liability on my part while still taking responsibility for what happened (already checked; my renters insurance would not cover me on this).

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Maybe they could charge me for rug cleaning? I feel that without representation/advocacy, who knows? They could sue me and make me pay for recovery of the losses. I want to take responsibility but not be taken into bankruptcy. Please help me, I have no one else. I need experienced help. Anna Eardley, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Answer: When I read your email, my heart went straight out to you. Being a mom myself, I have a similar story in my mommy files. And I knew I must help you.

Several years ago, when my youngest daughter was three years old, I was staying at a hotel in Sicily when the same scenario struck. My child was happily toddling around the room, when to my horror, she was suddenly hit by an illness that caused quite a mess. All over the room. Yikes!

In that situation, I went straight to the front desk. In my broken Italian, I told my troubling tale. The management took pity on me and quickly dispatched a team of equally sympathetic housekeeping staff employees who cleaned the room and coddled my sickly daughter. I was very grateful.


Grazie. Mi Dispiace!

Cultural differences aside, I was amazed by the lack of understanding and concern that this hotel manager had for your situation and the stress that you were experiencing over your child’s illness.

I asked you to send me the manager’s complaint and demands. You told me that he had not put anything in writing yet, but had called you “in an irritable manner” and mentioned many charges that would soon be coming your way. You were understandably upset and nervous as to what the hotel was about to send you.

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In fact, you put the potential value of your case at $10,000 after the call from the manager. You were afraid that he might want to renovate the entire room at your expense.

Things took a different turn when you told the manager that you would be “represented” by Christopher Elliott and his advocacy team. He asked for proof.

I contacted the manager and let him know that we would need to see a written explanation and an official estimate of the damage that your young child caused with this sickness.

One month later and I am still waiting for his response.

You did find a miscellaneous charge on your credit card from the Sheraton for $50. This appears to be the cleaning fee, and you are perfectly happy to pay it.

You are pleased to put this “incident” behind you. However, it’s important to figure out where things went wrong here.

If I compare our situations, the difference is that I went straight to the front desk and asked for help. I explained the problem and gave the hotel an opportunity to assist me — which they did.

In your situation your embarrassment caused you to suffer in silence.

To your credit, you tried to clean up the room yourself. But without the proper cleaning equipment, you couldn’t. After you left, the maids found quite a mess with no explanation. They didn’t know anything about you or your son. They had no idea what caused this biological hazard.

The manager might have approached the situation in an entirely different way if a frazzled mom had appeared at the front desk pleading for assistance for her sickly child. Unfortunately, you didn’t give the hotel that opportunity. This led to confusion and even anger by the staff. And I believe that this is what ultimately led to the lack of empathy and the unhelpful way that the Sheraton staff handled your problem.

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I am pleased that your child is fine and that I was able to have helped — one (sometimes frazzled) mom to another.


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.

  • Alan Gore

    Cleaning up vomit would probably require a special treatment, but installing a new carpet at LW’s expense would be a money grab. Small wonder that the initial threat was not followed up. Commercial cleaning services are prepared to clean up after gunshot suicides.

  • The Original Joe S

    Yeah, just leaving a generous tip w/o explanation doesn’t really fix it. As recommended, OP shouldda spoken with the management. And then had the kid puke all over the lobby too! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Blamona

    As a business owner, we are required to have a HazMat cleaning kit (bag, gloves, special cleaners). While I understand being embarrassed, without saying anything at checkout made the problem many times worse. They have no idea what caused the stain, and would have serious issue. Probably have to replace the carpet under those circumstances. It’s not a $10,000 job. But as much as I feel for your situation, the damage was caused by you and really you tried to get out of it.

  • El Dorado Hills

    I agree, the front desk should have been notified immediately – so they could begin clean-up immediately – not after the mess has sat on/in the carpet until the maid found it. That could have resulted in a completely different outcome.
    It is unclear if there is permanent damage to the carpet, If there truly was she might have pursued her renter’s insurance coverage further. Normally renter policies have liability coverage which covers unintentional property damage (subject to policy terms)-and the damage was unintentional (if there really was damage and not just a mess). All policies are different and coverage conditions vary and are interpreted differently – this is jus a thought and not an opinion on whether or not coverage would have applied. In the end this appears moot.

  • Karen Nelson

    Had this happen while traveling with a college speech team. After we got the student into a warm tub we called the desk & were advised to roll up all her bedding (mess inside). Housekeeping came to collect it promptly & brought cleaners, paper towels & gloves so we could clean surfaces. Also brought clean linens & blankets & towels right away. We were there for a long weekend tournament & took turns looking after the student. Manager kept checking to see how we were doing.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    I had a similar experience at Disneyland. After my kid puked and we had him quarantined in the bathroom, we gathered up the soiled sheets into a pile and called down to the front desk. They sent up a member of housekeeping with cleaning supplies and fresh sheets. They cleaned up the bit that hit the floor and all was well. We were extremely apologetic to the staff and helped as much as we could under the circumstances.
    I think the important lesson here is to notify the hotel ASAP for a situation like this so that they know what to expect when coming into the room, either immediately or during routine housekeeping. I think a $50 cleaning charge was a good resolution.

  • finance_tony

    Courtesy goes both ways. The manager certainly wasn’t courteous, but then again, “dashing” out without saying anything to the staff is the apex of rude.

  • frostysnowman

    I feel for her, as that has happened to my family more than once in hotel rooms. Our most recent hotel clean-up involved excess purple hair dye that got all over the shower and tub of a sparkling white hotel bathroom. It’s a long story, but I got 99% of it cleaned up using a wet beach towel and shower gel. What we did every time was immediately call the front desk or housekeeping to explain what had happened. Each time staff was understanding and accomodating. The key is to be honest and up-front ASAP.

  • Bill___A

    Although the manager should have been able to tell what happened, I expect the reaction was due to the mess being left without any explanation. I recommend carrying a “little white bag” to have it handy. I do, and it has been used before (not by me).

  • Carchar

    My kid also woke up vomiting, but I was not with her. Her husband was. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it to the bathroom and it all got on the bed and the rug. She suspected food poisoning. She and her husband called the front desk to tell them what had happened. They also tried to clean what they could. Management was very understanding and told them it was not a problem.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “…but installing a new carpet at LW’s expense would be a money grab.”

    Maybe or maybe not…we don’t know all of the facts to make a judgement if it was a money grab or not.

    I consult with retailers and they have detailed Hazardous Materials policies, processes, etc. to comply with Federal, State, Local as well as internal regulations. In general, depending upon the ‘spill’, there are different steps, clean-up, bags, storage, etc. If you don’t believe me, go to a local Fry’s Food Store (the local Kroger brand in Arizona) and ask to speak with general manager and ask himher to explain their HazMat policies.

    Since the OP left the hotel without disclosing what took place in the room, the hotel staff could probably guess what it was but without knowing exactly…it is uncommon for companies to assume the worst thus the most expensive method to remove the ‘unknown’ subject. Since the hotel was a Sheraton brand, I won’t be surprise if their policy was “if the ‘spill’ is unknown then assume the worst.”

    Without knowing the ‘spill’ or ‘stain’, removal of the carpet may have been the ‘safest’ method to insure that staff is safe, future guests are safe, etc.

    Depending upon the ‘components’ of the ‘spill’ or ‘stain’ as well as the fabric of the carpet, the stain could have been set by the time the hotel cleaning staff arrive in the room. The only option could have been the replacement of the carpet. Do you like staying in a hotel room with carpet stains? I don’t.

    We were hosts to an international student…she dropped a bottle of nail polish in her bedroom…she didn’t tell us…we discovered it when we had the carpet cleaned by professionals in the summer…they spent 45 minutes trying to remove the stain (the size of a silver dollar) but were unable because it was at least four months old…our carpet cleaner told us that they could have removed it if it was within a few days (they would have come out and remove it for free…they are the best carpet cleaner in the Phoenix metro area)…we charged her for the replacement of the carpet and her mother paid.

    “Commercial cleaning services are prepared to clean up after gunshot suicides.” They don’t charge $ 50 to $ 100 for a clean-up.

    It is my guess that the hotel manager was upset with the way that the OP left the hotel without telling what was on the carpet.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    You understand the situation since you are business owner that is required to have a HazMat cleaning kit. Some of the readers of this blog don’t and they automatically assume that it is a money grab. Without knowing what the ‘spill’ or ‘stain’ is, it is the SOP for businesses to assume the worst to be on the safe side.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The manager might have know but without being 100% sure they must assume the worst for the removal and cleanup per HazMat policies.

    I agree with you that the reaction from the manager was due to the fact that the OP left without telling anyone.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “I am a single mom and tried to call around to find an attorney; no one would take the case (not that I can afford it!). I want to take responsibility but not be taken into bankruptcy. Please help me, I have no one else.”

    Does the Elliott staff check out the OP claims of their financial status (“not that I can afford it”, “bankruptcy”, etc.)? I did a quick Google check of the OP and there is a person of the same name in Mamaroneck, NY that is a medical doctor that specializes in Diagnostic Radiology. Yes…the OP could NOT be this person but IF the OP is that person that is a doctor that specializes in Diagnostic Radiology, I have doubts about her financial claims that she made.

    Radiologist are among the highest paid doctors: 1) As of Oct 2017, the average pay for a Radiologist is $209,524 annually (Source: ScalePay). 2) With an average income of nearly $350,000 a year, radiology retains its spot among the three highest paid medical (Source: Wiki Professional). 3) The median annual salary for diagnostic radiologists in the U.S. is $490,399 in 2016, just shy of the half-million mark, continuing a rebound in wage growth that began in 2014, according to a new survey on physician compensation by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

    I am not saying that a person that makes over $ 100,000 a year can’t be represented by this blog. I just have issues with people that do not provide a full disclosure and/or pull out the various ‘sympathy’ cards to slant their case.

    Why I googled the OP…too much saccharine in this article from the OP…way too many ‘sympathy’ cards!

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    You are correct…it is vital that the clean-up starts immediately as well as it is not advisable for a guest to clean the ‘spill’ or ‘stain’ on the carpet (it is okay to clean the mess on the tiles). Depending upon the ‘components’ of the stainspill and fabric, a person could set the stain in the fabric by trying to clean it themselves. One of our family’s businesses was a dry cleaner and I can’t tell you how many times a customer ruin their garment by trying to remove a stain before they came to the store.

  • C Schwartz

    I unfortunately have had to deal with this with a family member who was terminally ill and wanted to stay in the home.
    Bad home health care aids did not clean up vomit or notify anyone — and it quickly sinks deeply down into the carpet and stains the padding. Letting it settle is not good.
    We paid more for cleaning than this person did.
    A gun shot suicide likely costs tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. I was told by the insurance company that these human fluid bio hazard clean up costs are high. One ends up paying for proper disposal (not just tossed in the garbage).
    This family member did die in a hospital but we were prepared for the worst after paying for cleaning up vomit and blood.

  • C Schwartz

    The same with having a terminally ill person staying at home — vomit stains quickly and deeply and settles into the carpet pad. The home health aids only did a superficial cleaning and the stain settled. Expensive clean up costs were the result.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Unless you have experienced it yourself, most readers do not understand 1) how vomit or other bodily fluids can affect carpets especially if it is not immediately addressed; 2) the cost to clean and 3) the HazMat requirements for blood, human fluids, etc. as well as cost for disposal of medical wastebiowasteetc.

    My father was severely ill in his last year of life. We had to deal with a blood cleanup when he fell down the stairs due to a doctor prescribing a prescription that had a severe reaction with another prescription which was know to the medical community.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree..I am sure that the manager wasn’t courteous due to 1) not knowing the ‘stain’ thus filling out a ton of HazMat paperwork; 2) losing revenues for not being able to rent the room.

  • C Schwartz

    I am so sorry; having recently dealt with a similar situation I know what you are talking about and have a lot of empathy for you.

    It is very difficult to clean and costly and it is distressing to read some of the dismissive comments. Vomit has a lot of stomach acid which stains badly. Blood also settles in deeply.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    We carry a 2-gal bucket ($ 1 from the Dollar Tree) in our car when we go on vacation.

  • C Schwartz

    One issue I wonder about — how well was the cleaning until the “wee hours” done? What did they use, toilet paper? Towels? Were there vomit soaked towels left festering in the room?

    Having dealt with a terminally ill family member staying in the home it is not easy to clean this up without serious professional cleaners and tools and the stains and smell linger.

  • C Schwartz

    Also the single mom never explained why she did not inform the front desk. I think there are still phones in Sheratons that one can pick up and be connected to the front desk — or why not mention it when checking out instead of “leaving a generous tip” and waltzing out the door without notifying the hotel.

    Imagine the smell when entering the room….

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Thank you.

    I agree with you about the dismissive comments. There are some readers that do research, think, analyze, etc. the situation before commenting. Then there are some readers that think that every thing is a money grab; every company is out to get their customers; every customer is lying; etc.

    Don’t get me wrong…there are bad companies out there but there are bad customers as well.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “I was amazed by the lack of understanding and concern that this hotel manager had for your situation and the stress that you were experiencing over your child’s illness.”

    Michelle: How did the manager knew that the OP’s child was sick since she walked out of the hotel with NO communications. I am amazed that the OP left the hotel without telling the hotel the situation. At the time that I am writing this comment, all of the readers have commented that the OP should have told the hotel stuff that her kid vomit in the room.

    I Googled the OP since there was way too much saccharine in this article from the OP and I found ONLY one person in Mamaroneck, NY with the same exact same name and she is a medical doctor. IF the OP is a doctor, I think that a medical doctor is capable of treating and dealing with a sick child than the average parent.

    It is common to get food poisoning or a 24-hour bug while traveling…I got a case of food poisoning last week and I can’t recall how many times my son and I have gotten sick when traveling on vacation or when I am on a business trip…my wife has been pretty lucky on our trips.

  • C Schwartz

    I had not even focused on this point. The manager would not know if the vomit was from a sick child or an adult quickly drinking a bottle of Night Train…. especially as the traveler left without telling anyone..

  • C Schwartz

    Yes there are some commentators here that are very dogmatic in their thinking and some that are combative. I sometimes take a break from commenting but there are times I learn so I do return.

    Your comments on this topic have been particularly insightful.

  • sellC1964 .

    Lord knows what other “bio hazards” already existed on the carpet to start with…

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Like the other readers have commented, the OP made the mistakes of not communicating to the hotel when it happened as well as leaving the hotel without telling them. Most if not hotels are understanding when a guest get sick but they are not understanding when a guest doesn’t tell them and leave.

    “..what I thought was a generous tip…”

    What was the amount?…everyone has an different opinion on being ‘generous’. Most people will say “I left $ XX tip” not “a generous tip”. Even if she left $ 100…that $ 100 went to the housekeeper not the hotel which had to pay an employee to clean the carpet or hire a company to clean the carpet.

    “He said they have not been able to rent out the room since then, and are holding me liable for at least the cost of a new carpet.”

    The OP is lucky that the hotel is not asking for loss revenue of the room.

  • Tricia K

    You must have been terrified at the thought of having to pay to replace the carpet because of the unfortunate timing of your son’s illness. I’m glad it has been resolved. I had a similar story with a Sheraton when my daughter was four. She rolled over in bed and smacked into the sharp edge on the nightstand. I woke up to a screaming child with blood gushing from her face. My husband called the front desk who sent a security guard to sit with our seven year old (who was sound asleep and didnt wake until morning) and another drive us to the local ER where they stitched my daughter’s lip (when we got home she needed a root canal). The cleaning staff never cleaned the room the next day, (I don’t remember if it when they ever did clean up the mess before we checked out—we were there for a business trip and couldn’t go home early), leaving the blood soaked carpet for my daughter to see and start crying over repeatedly. When we got home, I wrote to their corporate office and relayed my experience to them and my frustration over trying to get the room cleaned or moved to another room. They apologized and gave us a gift certificate for two free nights at any Sheraton. I think you could avoid any similar problem in the future by letting the front desk staff know about your son’s illness, not only somthey know how to clean it properly, but for the safety of their employees as they clean it up.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Any hotel, especially a Sheraton, is insured for incidental damage. There is plenty of carpet cleaning equipment for the spilled wine, on the carpets and beds, the dropped food from room service, (remember that the mustard side always lands face down) and a 100 other stains that plague hotel rooms. The Manager should be dismissed, or at least sent to sensitivity school. What a crock that they even tried to EXTORT money. I would even go back to my credit card to demand the charge be removed until explained to my satisfaction.

  • Michelle Friedman

    “Michelle: How did the manager knew that the OP’s child was sick since she walked out of the hotel with NO communications. I am amazed that the OP left the hotel without telling the hotel the situation. At the time that I am writing this comment, all of the readers have commented that the OP should have told the hotel stuff that her kid vomit in the room.”

    As I pointed out in the article, this was the primary problem — she should have given the hotel the opportunity to immediately help. The fact that she did not, is what caused the negative reaction of the hotel staff members.
    And in answer to your other question: No, we do not investigate the financial status of any consumer who contacts us.

  • SSpiffy

    More anecdata.
    We had something similar happen at the Sahara in Vegas. My wife had an intestinal blockage form on the way there and woke up in the morning vomiting uncontrollably. My first call was 911, second was the front desk.
    Hotel Risk Management supervisor beat the paramedics there, Housekeeping was ready in the hall as she was transported. By the time I got back to the room 5 hours later after getting her checked into the hospital, there was no evidence that anything had happened. Rug was clean and fresh smelling, mattress had been replaced, and a nice note from housekeeping. All for no “cleaning fee” on my bill.
    Wife spent the 5 of the 7 days there in the hospital, hasn’t happened again.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Thank you for responding to my question. Does it make sense to check out the OP’s story…the whole story. When someone makes a claim that they are ‘destitute’ but turns out to be a doctor with a specialty that makes it one of the three highest paying doctor positions…it looks like the OP wanted to paint a picture that wasn’t the real picture.

    I think that everyone regardless if they are making minimum wage or are a millionaire should be served by the Elliott team. But when an OP paints a picture of ‘destitute’ to make their case more appealing in the ‘court of public opinion’, I just think that is not right.

  • Michelle Friedman

    Whether Ms. Eardley is destitute, a highly paid doctor or somewhere in between did not impact this case. Her child became ill in a hotel room (which, based on the comments, many readers can relate to). She made a mistake in how she handled the situation — that is clear.
    When we take a case, we base our decision on whether a company is treating a consumer fairly, not whether the consumer can absorb the financial burden. In this case, the hotel had the opportunity to forward any financial damage that it suffered as a result of this problem — it did not. So to answer your question: No, I don’t think we should be investigating the financial status of anyone who contacts us.
    I understand your point of view and I do appreciate your comments. Thank you:)

  • C Schwartz

    Spilled wine and food are significantly different than vomit, blood, human tissue and the sort. I take it you have never dealt with a terminally ill person in the home; I would rather deal with mustard or red wine any day. Cleaning up human fluids has a different protocol than mustard, food or wine, especially in a room that will be available for rent (vs a sick person’s home). Which would you rather stay in — a hotel room where someone spilled wine or mustard the night before or a room where there was projectile vomit the night before — and neither room had been professionally cleaned and the stains settled? I would stay in the wine mustard infused room.

  • C Schwartz

    Michelle it is wonderful that you answered ArixoneRoadWarrior. I understand that you cannot investigate the financial situation of the customers; ARW was concerned that this person was playing the sympathy cards — and not giving an accurate representation of her situation.

    Most if not all of us sympathize — I have gotten terrible food poisoning while traveling –the worst was when I got sick off of type of seafood. I threw up violently for hours in the hotel. It was ugly. I have never eaten that type of seafood again as I still have the memory of being so sick. The hotel was notified and was understanding. The issue was the comment that the hotel did not have empathy for a person with a sick child; a hotel can not be empathetic if they did not know what the problem was.

    And I agree that all customers, no matter what their financial status, should be eligible for Elliot advocacy.

    Thank you for all you do as a volunteer advocate.

  • Travelnut

    From the sounds of it, they might have needed several barf bags. Or one huge one.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    They also didn’t know how widespread the hazard was, because the LW attempted to clean it, rather than notifying the hotel and pointing out the spots to be cleaned.

    This used to happen in my dorm all of the time. If you report it, you pay for the affected area. If you try to clean it up, you pay for the whole room.

  • disqus_wK5MCy17IP

    Can I suggest that this board add an option to flag comments that advocate credit card disputes that amount to stealing?

  • Bill___A

    Probably a good idea.

  • IGoEverywhere

    You hit a nerve. We took care of my mother for 5 years of massive body fluid issues. I still maintain that the hotel was wrong and if it was that much cost, they are insured.

  • jsn55

    The issue here is how she handled the situation. “Dashing off” after leaving a generous tip (housekeepers don’t usually shampoo carpets, so the tip went to waste) is nearly guaranteed to create an ugly situation . As Michelle explained, you have to face up to facts and negotiate a solution when you’ve caused a problem. Departing the hotel and hoping for the best are not very good responses to a nasty problem.

  • C Schwartz

    I am sorry yes having had to experience this recently it is on my mind; I am grateful that there was little suffering and thendecline was not prolonged. 5 years is a long time and I commend you for that. It must have been very difficult.

    But for insurance there is usually a deductible.

    And by not telling the hotel the hotel could not be proactive. There is usually 4 four hour window from check out time to the next check in time. If the hotel does not know they cannot address it immediately.

    And what if the hotel was fully booked the next day? Where does that person go? Who wants to stay in a room that smells of vomit?

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