Do I deserve a refund for a hotel shower that didn’t work?

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By Christopher Elliott

The Hotel Universo in Florence, Italy, describes itself as a “hyper-modern” property where you can be surrounded by “bright colors and pop art-inspired prints.”

Presumably, that also includes working showers.

But when Ben Backes checked in for a recent three-day stay, he found that might have been asking for too much.

Stiff showers and surly surprises

“Our first morning there we noticed the shower valve handle was stiff and hard to move,” he says. “The second morning it broke right off.”

Backes called the front desk right away. A hotel representative said the Universo was fully booked, so his family couldn’t be moved to a different room.

“Then they sent a porter up to try to pound it back in place,” he says. “That didn’t work. Later, they informed us they couldn’t fix it.”

He decided to accept the fact that his room didn’t have a shower. (Would you go without showering for two days in Florence? Well, I grew up a few hours’ drive north of Florence, and I can tell you the locals probably didn’t think it was a big deal to skip a shower. But I digress.)

He decided to wait until the day of his departure to resolve the problem. And here’s what happened next:

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When I went to check out I asked the front desk if they would lower our bill because we couldn’t shower for two days of our stay.

The response was less than friendly.

The owners were upset about the shower, which they said had worked when we arrived. He intimated that we broke it intentionally and not only would they not refund any money but I should count my lucky stars they weren’t charging me for repairs.

Nobody did anything improper with that handle. It was simply worn out.

Wow. If the hotel thing doesn’t work out, I’m sure they can always open a car rental franchise.

Fair compensation and hotel accountability

Shower handles break — it’s called wear and tear. If Backes were a rock musician, I might see things the hotel’s way. But we was taking his nephew and niece on a high-school graduation trip to Italy. Come on.

What does Bakes want?

At the time I checked out, I probably would have been satisfied if they shaved 50 euros off the bill. But because of their “customer service” I wouldn’t mind more.

The whole bill for three nights was right about 500 euros. But I don’t know, this is my first time having a problem like this… I don’t what would be a fair trade for six showers.

Neither do I.

I think this problem might have been handled (no pun intended) differently. Having 100 percent occupancy in Florence in April is rare, but not unheard of. I think it’s far more likely that the hotel didn’t have any accommodations in Backes’ room class. (Related: How to get a refund from your hotel — even when it doesn’t want to give you one.)

Even so, some properties have a hospitality suite they can make available to a guest who doesn’t have a working shower. My point being, I think Backes may have given up too soon after his shower stopped working. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

I’ve never heard of a hotel paying a guest after the stay for an amenity that should have come with the room. But I suppose it’s possible.

My advocacy team and I am more concerned with the hotel owner’s statement — as relayed by Backes — that he was lucky that he wasn’t being charged for the shower. Backes has filed a complaint with the Florence Tourist Offices and disputed this charge on his credit card, neither of which will probably do much good.

What do you think he should do?

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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.

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