The truth in this bedbugs case will blow your mind

This bedbugs case has some untruths in it.

Sherrie Peters’ bedbugs case makes me uncomfortable, and not just because it involves bedbugs.

Her unfortunate story underscores the importance of honesty. Omitting information from a case can doom our advocacy efforts.

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First, let’s take a look at this case as it was presented to us. In her request for help, Peters told me that in January 2016 her family checked into an AmericInn motel.

Bedbugs in her hotel room?

“During our stay, we noticed an infestation of bedbugs in our room,” she recalled. “When bringing it to the attention of staff they confirmed that this room had bedbugs the week prior. We were then moved to another room.”

Moved to a different room?  Moving to another room is not the best plan of action when faced with an “infestation of bedbugs.” A better idea would be to take some pictures and immediately check out.

Peters reported that the motel had no manager on duty to discuss her concerns. The staff told her that she should call the manager after the weekend. On Monday, the manager told her that she should forward all her cleaning bills to the motel and he would provide reimbursement.

That promise appeared in Peter’s paper trail.  So it was surprising when Peters told me that the owner “just stopped responding to my requests for reimbursement.”

I carefully reviewed the paperwork that Peters had sent us. It did appear that after February 2016 she was met with silence from both the owner and manager. She told me she had also tried to contact the corporate office, but they referred her back to the owner.

No help from the corporate office

Every motel in the AmericInn franchise is independently owned, Peters explained. The corporate office refused to get involved.

This certainly is not a consumer-friendly policy.

If a motel is hanging the shingle of AmericInn, then the corporation should respond to a consumer complaint if the owner does not.

So, after receiving no response from the owner or the manager, I sent an inquiry to the headquarters of AmericInn. I explained the situation and asked if they could assist. They did respond, but only to refer us back to the owner of the motel.

At this point, I was stumped. Why would a motel offer to pay a cleaning bill, ask for receipts and then ignore any further interaction with the customer?

The shocking truth of this bedbugs case

I decided to send one last email to the company. I explained that we would be writing a story about this troubling bedbugs case and we would like to have AmericInn’s position.

This time, Ron Shimek, vice president of operations of AmericInn, responded. I was then given a new, alternative version of Peters’ case.

To begin with, no bedbugs had been confirmed at this location. However, in the spirit of positive consumer relations, the owner offered to pay Peters’ cleaning bills. She had submitted a typed itemized list that included cleaning fees and the values for items that needed to be replaced. The owner promptly sent her a $500 check and refunded her hotel stay. Peters cashed that check on March 6, 2016.

Is this extortion?

Shimek explained that Peters was not satisfied with the $500 and asked for $300 more. This extra amount was to replace headphones valued at $150 and some hockey equipment that Peters said she needed to replace because of their exposure to the bedbugs. At that time, the owner told her that if she provided receipts and produced the items that she wanted him to replace, he would then give her the additional reimbursement.

Instead of providing the owner with any receipts, Peters went to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and filed a complaint. AmericInn has a copy of the owner’s response. In that response to the AG, he explains that he asked for receipts for the somewhat questionable items on Peter’s reimbursement list. She did not forward any receipts. The AG closed the case.

After my phone call with Shimek, I emailed Peters to ask if this was all true. Now, a month after I had begun advocating this case, Peters confirmed that the owner had sent her $500. She also shared a letter to the CEO of the company where she acknowledges that she was reimbursed this amount. But she tells the CEO that she is still expecting $300 to satisfy her complaint. She points out to him that the company should be pleased that she has not gone to social media with her story.

I told Peters that there would be no further payments from AmericInn. The company considers the case completely closed. And so do we.

An advocate feeling a bit bamboozled

In this case, if we had been provided all the facts initially, we would have dismissed it. Peters was given a clear and reasonable resolution by the owner. She only needed to provide receipts for her expenses and proof that she had been forced to dispose of the high-ticket items on her list. The owner said he would have reimbursed her. For some reason, she did not send these receipts or provide any proof of disposal.

When a consumer purposely leaves out information that significantly changes the core of their story, it wastes our time and the company’s time. We can’t advocate a case properly with half-truths and omissions. Our advocacy team receives many cases every day, and we want to help as many consumers as possible. A case like this just diverts our energies to a useless endeavor — and that’s not fair to anyone.

Update: Since this article first appeared in March 2017, the Wyndham Hotel chain has acquired the AmericInn Hotel chain.

Should AmericInn have given Sherrie Peters the additional $300?

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27 thoughts on “The truth in this bedbugs case will blow your mind

  1. Now that takes balls. Complaining to the state’s AG and a consumer advocate that you’re looking for reimbursement for your items when a hotel has been infected with bedbugs, when they’ve already completely refunded your stay AND provided $500 cash to clean/replace any items. But you want more, so you leave out key correspondence and parts of the story to make it look like the hotel is screwing you. Again, balls.

    Here we have an owner that not only did the right thing, but went above and beyond, and the OP is trying to make him look bad. I’m angry for the owner. The good thing is he comes out looking like the reasonable party, by any measure.

        1. Yes but that’s the hotel, I would think they have a vested interest in stating they don’t have bed bugs even if they did. If they didn’t, why reimburse the LW for any of her damage receipts?

          1. Companies can do things they don’t have to do in the interest of goodwill. On this site are plenty of stories of people receiving refunds on nonrefundable cruises, plane tickets, etc. The companies in a lot of these cases did nothing wrong but decided to refund anyway.

  2. Lets not beat around the bush. It wasn’t a “half-truth.” Ms. Peters lied.

    She threatened AmericInn that, if they didn’t give her the additional $300 she demanded, she’d go to social media with her story. They didn’t, and she did, attempting to use as a platform to do so, and lying about AmericInn’s response in order to get more attention.

    1. Yeah, that word does sometimes get overused…but in this case I’m with you. And here’s another word I think fits: shakedown.

  3. I find it hard to believe that cleaning was really $500…maybe some additional items got thrown into the mix. Her “half-truths” cause me to disbelieve her story in its entirety!

  4. Who keeps receipts for everything they’ve ever purchased? And even if you had all of those receipts, how could you possibly find the one in question? I often wonder about that for lost luggage. Seriously, who has receipts for every piece of clothing? And then know which receipt is which?

    1. I did not read this to mean they wanted the original purchase receipts, but the receipts of the replacements, along with proof that she actually *owned* the items being replaced. If she was buying replacements expecting to get reimbursed, then yeah, she absolutely SHOULD keep those receipts! And if she didn’t have the original receipts for the supposedly damaged items (which is understandable), she could have just dropped them in a box and shipped them to the owner. That would have met both objectives: proof that she owned those items to begin with, and proof that the money she was demanding was in fact for replacing them.

      But we all know she couldn’t do either. She was just shaking them down for more cash, because she thought she could.

  5. HAHAHAHA..snort..AHAHAHA!!! Sorry, don’t mean to guffaw out loud, but before I voted in the poll I literally said to myself, “I’ll bet there’s one yes vote. And I bet I know who it is.” And sure enough…there’s one yes vote! Too funny.

    Kudos, Christopher, for writing the true story here. If you hadn’t, it sounds as if the LW was about to execute an entirely unfair and unwarranted smear campaign on a business that, as far as I’m concerned, went WAY out of their way to provide outstanding customer service, over and above what was necessary. (I mean really…$500? Items had to be replaced? Cleaning wasn’t good enough? Gimme a break.)

  6. Failing to provide receipts for newly purchased items means there were no newly purchased items.

    I think the hotel went above and beyond by paying the original $500 with just a hand written note instead of requiring receipts for those items as well, or at least the receipts showing the cost of cleaning.

    The OP leaving out key details to try and sway things in their direction was just completely wrong. Did she really believe the truth would not come out?

  7. The story points out that upon her initial complaint, she sent a typed itemized list of items needing cleaning or replacement. The hotel promptly refunded her stay and sent her a $500 check, which she promptly cashed. By her cashing the check, she is signaling acceptance of this as a resolution. And unless this is an amateur one person business, which it is not, then I’m pretty sure the check came with a letter explaining that this was for resolution of her case.

    Most major health programs centered on public health provide specific instructions on how to deal with personal property and when to discard specific items. Had she done that, that may have helped her case. Otherwise her “disposal” of headphones and hockey equipment appears dubious.

    1. Or the “not only should they not give her an additional $300 but she should return the $500 that they already gave her.”

  8. Tingling spidey senses right now. First, apparently, no actual infestation and second, not able to submit receipts for items most people would likely have receipts for as many such items are paid for via credit card and so, such evidence is easy to secure if you don’t have copies in hand.

    Frankly, I am wondering (as awful as this is to think) if this is the first such “infestation” this OP has discovered….

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