Erika Spott is a card-carrying member of Choice Hotels’ loyalty program, and she gives the hotel chain her business because she can always count on getting clean, reasonably-priced room.
Until she visited Avon, Ind., for a family event recently.
“We booked two non-smoking rooms at the Comfort Inn,” she says. “When we returned from spending the day with our family around 10:30 p.m., our room reeked of cigarette smoke — enough to gag a smoker.”
Spott was traveling with her 84-year-old mother, and knew that it would be difficult to sleep in a smoky room. So she called the front desk.
“No one came to even check it and all they told me was basically too bad and that they had no other rooms available, but they would run the ozone machine in the morning after we were out of the room,” she says.
But the next day, things got worse. Not only did the smoke remain, but housekeeping hadn’t serviced the room.
“Again, I reported everything to the front desk and again no one cared enough to come and see,” Spott says. “The excuse was that there was no one to cover the front desk if they left it for a few minutes.”
She checked out of the Comfort Inn a day early and drove home, unable to stand a third “horrible, stinky night” at the Comfort Inn. The staff told her they couldn’t authorize a refund of her third night, and to contact a manager.
Let’s pick up the paper trail. Here’s how Comfort Inn responded to her complaint.
Please accept my most sincere apologies for the issue that you experienced. I understand that your room smelled of smoke at some point during your stay, although it was a nonsmoking room and did not smell of smoke when you arrived.
Unfortunately, because our hotel is not a nonsmoking property, there can be a transfer of air from the surrounding rooms. As I explained to your during our recent conversation, we did run the ozone machine in your room while you were out on Saturday, and put extra deodorizer in the room.
I understand that you preferred not to change rooms on Saturday because the issue had already occurred and you had already attended your event.
As you mentioned, I offered to discount your room rate by $20 for the inconvenience of your issue, and you declined my offer. Again, I apologize that you did not have most positive experience possible at our property.
We strive to exceed our guest’s expectations. Thank you again for your feedback, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Well, that’s definitely not a form letter.
Based on Comfort Inn’s reply, it seems the hotel didn’t exactly ignore Spott’s issue. It offered to move her to another room, which it says she declined. It treated the room with deodorizers. And finally, it offered a discount off her room rate for the inconvenience.
(Disclosure: I’m a nonsmoker. I don’t think anyone should be lighting up in a hotel room, but I understand there are those who disagree with me. That’s fine. I try to stay at a smoke-free hotel wherever possible. Let’s move on.)
The question here is: Did Choice Hotels and Comfort Inn do enough for Spott?
I can see both sides of this argument. Spott shouldn’t have ever been assigned a room with cigarette smoke in it, and if she was, the hotel should have moved her quickly. The folks at the front desk didn’t seem to care about her predicament, as far as she is concerned. And how about a refund on the last night she didn’t use?
From the manager’s point of view, however, the hotel handled this by the book. It offered to move her, deodorized her room, and gave her a discount on her room.
It’s not enough, says Spott.
That amount doesn’t even cover the drycleaning of our suits. And, more importantly, where was I to go at 11 p.m., with my 84 year old mother in a town I’ve never been to before?
Instead of rendering guests homeless late at night, how about delivering on the type of room (cleaned, and non-smoking) that I had reserved? (A novel approach, I know!)
Maybe the answer to the question of whether she was adequately compensated depends on your perspective.