Can this trip be saved? Slipped and fell at a luxury resort — how about a refund?

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By Christopher Elliott

The Langham Huntington, Pasadena is billed as a five-diamond “iconic landmark hotel” at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California. You can’t get a room next weekend for less than $200 a night.

But Joanne Pratt won’t be checking in to the Langham any time soon. During her last visit, she had an accident — I’ll let her explain what happened in a minute — and she wants me to help make things right.

Unfortunately, there’s no standard protocol for dealing with guest injuries. Hotels handle them on a case-by-case basis. And travel insurance doesn’t always work, either.

While Pratt was a guest at the hotel in early February, her toilet overflowed.

In turning around to try to jiggle the handle to make it stop, I slipped and fell on the marble floor, finding myself lying in about an inch of water in my nightgown.

I badly injured my left knee. It was not broken but more than a month later still hurts and requires physical therapy. Although the hotel’s insurance company claims the hotel has no liability, they are covering my medical bills and physical therapy.

End of story? Not quite

I was appalled at the hotel’s lack of response to my injury. On the basis that we did not “Experience 5 Star Luxury, Comfort, and Supreme Service,” as advertised, I requested that the hotel refund our hotel costs in the amount of $957. Although apparently in response to my email, an insurance company representative finally contacted me, I still have received no response from Langham.

So Pratt slipped and fell, the hotel covered her medical bills, but she wants it to refund her room, too? Hmm. I don’t know about that.

I can understand her point of view. She was promised a “five-star” experience, but when her toilet overflowed and she cracked her knee — and when the hotel staff failed to respond the way she expected it to — the Langham fell short.

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At the same time, the hotel is paying for her medical bills. And it did provide her with a room, as promised. (An overflowing toilet in a hotel is common, and it’s not always easy to figure out who’s responsible. It could be a previous guest, or bad plumbing or it could be the current guests who’s at fault. Not gonna get into that discussion here.)

Pratt sent me her email to the Langham, and after I read it, I suspected I knew the reason the hotel was silent.

Here’s what she wrote:

I am bringing this matter to your attention because our stay at one of your major hotels was so far below the standards that we expected.

We did not “Experience 5 Star Luxury, Comfort, and Supreme Service,” as advertised and request 1) a refund of our hotel costs in the amount of $957.44 and 2) in addition, $7,500 as compensation for my medical bills and pain in lieu of my filing a lawsuit.

Yep, she said the “S” word. And when that happens, any halfway competent hotel manager sends the email to the legal department without replying. (Related: A traveler walked past an aloe bush and injured his eye.)

Meanwhile, Pratt is trying to dispute her credit card charges from the hotel.

I have formally made a protest to Mastercard but the options listed for withholding payment are: Did not make a guaranteed reservation or authorize this charge; Reservation was cancelled; or Merchant was paid by other means, none of which fit the basis for my request.

This isn’t easy. I think a $7,500 payment may be too much — a court might find otherwise — but I agree with Pratt that if her account is correct, she didn’t experience five-star hospitality. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problem.)

Should I get involved?

Update (5/11): Pratt decided to dispute her hotel charges. I heard back from her today. She’s received a full refund.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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