Help, my hotel just turned into a Comfort Inn – now what?

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When a hotel changes its name, what happens to your reservation? That’s not a theoretical question for Tami Pope, who reserved a block of 22 rooms at the Holiday Inn Express in La Grange, Ky., this summer.

Until the Holiday Inn Express became a Comfort Inn & Suites.

“I got online to check on my reservations and it said they were canceled,” she says. “I never received any cancellation notice from the hotel, so I called. I was told that the hotel was changed to a Comfort Inn & Suites and were no longer going to honor the reservations.”

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Why hadn’t anyone contacted her? A hotel representative said Holiday Inn would take care of it, and that they would call to rebook her 22 rooms before her stay in June.

“I was not contacted by anyone or offered rebooking at another location in the area,” she says.

Could the new Comfort Inn honor her old reservation? Sure, if she wanted to pay $275 a night, as opposed to the $102 she’d been given on her original confirmation.

She adds,

I called Holiday Inn guest services and they called the hotel and were told that they would not honor the reservations.

I then contacted the hotel myself, trying to find out who their management company is so I can contact them, and was told that they would not give me that information to call Holiday Inn.

No one will own up to this and they are just leaving me out in the cold. I have tried to find other accommodations in the area and I can’t find anything less than an hour to 1 1/2 hours away.

I can’t believe this can be legal.

Well, Tami, neither can I.

I have some great contacts at Holiday Inn, so I figure this would be easily fixed. I reached out to them and a few weeks later, received a hopeful, one-sentence response: “Just to let you know this has been handled!”

I asked Pope if this had, indeed, been handled.

“That would be the wrong word,” she says. “I finally heard back from Holiday Inn corporate yesterday and all they did was say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t do anything’.”

In the meantime, Pope has paid more money to stay at a Marriott property a half hour away.

How about Comfort Inn?

“The Comfort Inn did nothing and refused to return any calls,” she says. “Comfort Inn corporate refused to give me the name of the management company that runs that hotel. Their response to me asking for that was, ‘Go to the hall of records and get it yourself’.”

Really?

I contacted Comfort Inn. It hasn’t responded to me, either.

I’m not happy to close this case. Someone should have taken responsibility for Pope’s reservation during the reflagging. You don’t just walk away from a 22-room reservation like that.

Who is responsible for this?

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95 thoughts on “Help, my hotel just turned into a Comfort Inn – now what?

  1. Landlord-tenant laws usually dictate that when ownership of a property changes, the contract must still be upheld with the same terms and conditions through the remainder of the term. It would be nice if the same rule applied to hotel reservations.

    Have you tried contacting Comfort Inn’s parent company, Choice Hotels?

    1. I don’t think the landlord/tenant laws apply to short term rentals like this. In California, I believe the stay has to extend at least 30 days before they kick in.

      1. Same case when I was working in WI. I actually negotiated a 1 year contract with a hotel there and they said anything over 30 days we had to do a lease.

        After I moved out of NY, and then went back and stayed in a hotel, they refunded all of my tax after 60 days in the same hotel. So perhaps its 60 days in NY?

  2. With 22 rooms, she might have gone through the sales office of the hotel, not the regular guest reservations. It might be that the contract is directly with the hotel. And such, she might have recourse.

    1. That would be the first question to ask (What does the contract say?), so I suspect Chris has that information. He’s probably just leaving it out to stimulate conversation here.

        1. Do you ask LW’s questions before writing your article? 22 rooms all having the same rate is very unusual unless there was a contract. Hotel rates are like airline fares, they only have so many rooms allotted for one price and then it goes up.

          1. That really depends on the hotel. My favorite LA hotel has 1000+ rooms. 22 rooms is probably nothing for them

    1. I live right down the road from LaGrane, KY and its not a very big place. I’m just curious as to what is happening there during the time she made the reservation. Wedding is all I could think of.

  3. I’ve never really considered the question that seems to be at issue here. When making a reservation through the central reservations office of a particular brand, is a contract formed with the company owning the hotel brand, or with the individually-owned hotel? If the latter, I would think that the individually-owned hotel is responsible, regardless of the hotel brand for which it possesses a franchise. If the former, then I would think that the company owning the hotel brand has a responsibility for either paying for a room at the same hotel, even if it now has a competitor’s franchise, or walking the customer and paying for a room at a comparable hotel. In either case, someone should be liable (just as if the customer had breached a reservation contract and was required to pay for an unused hotel room).

  4. Is a reservation considered a contract?

    If I remember correctly, a contract must have an offer, acceptance, and consideration. A fully refundable contract might not have consideration (something of value promised), but might one that is non-refundable or has other restrictions attached?

    Say I run up my water bill. If someone buys my house, that water bill is attached to it, and the buyer is responsible. In this case, it seems as though the “contract” signed by the previous hotel should go with the property. It should not just magically disappear on change of ownership, just like my water bill wouldn’t magically disappear if I sold my house.

    1. The water bill remains your responsibility I think, it does not pass with the house. Same for any utility, no?

      1. It varies by state. I used to live in a state where it was tied to the property like backprop suggests, and it stunk when I bought my house because I was stuck with a $300 back water bill, and went to court and found out there was nothing I could do as I owned the property and its debt. The water bill was tied to the property one, not any person. Later when I moved and rented the property, the tenants stopped paying the water bill and I was responsible once again. There was no way to put it in the tenants name, it was the houses bill.

        The state I live in now ties utilities to whoever has the service in their name. So if I sold my house and owed for water, it wouldn’t go to the buyers.

          1. We would have title insurance in my state to cover things like that. I think. I’ve never had to invoke it.

          2. I did ask my attorney, and was told that I couldn’t. there was a 4 corners clause in the sales contract which the attorney and title company said was also a state requirement.

      2. In my state/locality/county, as emanon says, it goes with the property in the form of a lien against it. Electric and phone might be different, but water, sewer, and trash service are tied to the dwelling itself.

    2. Making something fully refundable does not alter whether its a contract. Consider a 30 day no questions asked return policy or a three day cooling off period. That’s just part of the contract.

  5. It’s a shame that this happened to the OP, but $275.00 for a Comfort Inn! The web rate at that place is $84.00. How far ahead did book? Did they not know or neglect to inform her of the change in ownership?

    1. I almost spit my coffee when I read the room rate.
      Just finished a road (well really mountain) trip in New Hampshire and stayed at Comfort Inns. I did not pay more than 120 for each night for their best rooms.
      BTW, the Comfort Inns in Lincoln and No. Conway were great.

    2. It could have been a ‘special event’ rate for a particular holiday/weekend or local event in town. I was a Reservations Manager for Holiday Inns in the 90’s in Atlanta/Buckhead, and we optimized room rates based on local events (Braves, Olympics, etc.)

        1. It depends on when the booking was made and when the event was announced. I had a client booked at a $99 a night rate at the MGM in Vegas, many years back. In the afternoon that I made the reservation, the Tyson fight was rescheduled for the same date as my client’s stay. That room rate jumped to almost $400, but the hotel honored the original $99 booking rate I was holding. I didn’t know about the rate increase until I called late in the day to book a second room for one of the client’s family member who could get the $99 and didn’t travel as $400 was too much for what had been offered earlier for $99.

  6. Holiday Inn had the reservation. If they closed and rebranded, the reservations are still w/ Holiday Inn. They should take care of the situation.

  7. I’m shocked that a reservation for that many rooms wasn’t under contract. At most HI Express properties, that would be a large portion of their total rooms. I don’t know any hotel that would do that without a contract. Makes me wonder if the OP really had a reservation or just thought she did….

  8. Stating that she “checked online” seems to imply that she had booked these rooms willy-nilly, individually, 1 at a time, over a certain period…rather than with the Sales Director of the property or the chain’s group sales 800-line. Anytime that more than 10 rooms is booked at the same time, invariably there is a contract.

    1. Good point, I didn’t think about that. I’ve never seen a hotel that let people book that many rooms or a block on-line.

    1. Oy, what a screw-up. The complainant should be made whole. Imagine: no one bothered to inform her of the change. That’s sloppiness taken to the highest level. Let Holiday Inn and Comfort Inn sort it out between them, decide who’s more at fault for this chaos – and reimburse her accordingly. Else both outfits richly deserve the black eye they’ll get out of all this.

      1. Unfortunately, that seems to be the norm when hotels are re-branded or sold. Sometimes the transitions goes well, sometimes old reservations are canceled without notice. The travel boards are replete with such situations.

  9. Cases like this really upset me. When I worked in the business world, when one busienss buys another, they buy all of their assets and liabilities. Yet when hotels get sold, they seem to no care about any previous commitments. Also the Comfort Inn almost tripped the price? Seriously? I consider a Comfort Inn a downgrade from a Holiday Inn Express.

    I really don’t see what Holiday Inn can do since they sold the hotel. I feel this falls on Comfort Inn as they bought the hotel, reservations and all. The fact that they won’t even give out contact information shocks me. This hotel needs a public shaming. Horrible!

    1. My experience is that when one business buys another, they go through great lengths to structure the deal to avoid obtaining the liabilities, if possible.

    2. I always thought so too.. until my husband bought me a day package at a spa that was bought a few months later. They refused to redeem it. Eventually they offered to “honor” half of the $300 value, but I said I’d rather give that business to someone more “honorable” (see what I did there?). That spa is now out of business 🙂

      1. That stinks too. I am curious what case law would say in regards to someone buying a business with pre-paid service?

        1. Never mind case law – what about common sense and taking care of customers, who could turn into loyal customers? Don’t any of these businesses (HI, Comfort, Mel’s day spa) see the value in extending a bit of goodwill in situations like this? A little consideration pays for itself.

          1. ORguest, you’re very right! I get regular pampering to keep from becoming violent 🙂 and they really did lose a lot of potential business from me. I can only suspect that there were a lot of us who were disgusted with their refusal to honor all the gift packages purchased as Xmas gifts. Thousands of dollars down the drain = p.o.’d massageless patrons!

          2. Was the certificate purchased directly from the spa? If so, was it paid with a credit card?

          3. Yes to from the spa, and paid with debit card. Twas Xmas 2012 though and I attempted to redeem in April/May 2013, I believe. A year later, I’m still bitter though 🙂

          4. What consumer protection do debit cards offer? I don’t use one. Credit cards are good for something like this and why I use them for expensive purchases. I asked about the location of the purchase, as I see Groupon denials posted at stores around here. Also, check your state’s law regarding gift certificates. In CA, we have laws regarding gift certificates and gift cards.

        2. Unless it was one store in a chain (meaning other locations were open for business even if not near you), I would imagine a pre-paid service would be escheated to the relevant state.

        3. If you buy the business then the new owner must fulfill the contract and performs the service. If you buy just the assets then the customer is SOL.

          1. Wow! So who is liable then? Whats to stop someone from opening a store, selling hundreds of gift certificates, even special sale ones, and then selling the assets?

          2. The original business would remain liable. However, the original business might be a shell, defunct, etc. If the original business is a sole proprietor, the owner might be sipping Mai Tai’s in Brazil

            There are good reason for this law though. Fraud notwithstanding. If a business is failing and needs to sell assets to raise capital, pay off creditors, etc.no one would be willing to purchase assets if he or she needed to do a due diligence to ensure that he’s not inadvertently purchasing unknown liabilities as well.

            However, that asset-only sale shield only applies if the transaction is an arms-length transaction, i.e. the purchaser pays fair value.

    3. I don’t see any reason why the hotel wouldn’t want to honor the previous reservations. And the $275 amount they quote is absolutely absurd. For some reason the hotel simply decided they didn’t want her business.

  10. At least I know where NOT to stay in La Grange . . . if only because I don’t want to stay at a property where the management is stupid enough to throw away 22 confirmed reservations!

    1. Ethics aside, it might make great business sense. Why sell 22 rooms for $102, if you can sell the room for $275?

      Sheraton Pasadena had the same kerfuffle recently. They inadvertently allowed regular reservations over New Years Eve (Tournament of Roses). They cancelled them because they were able to sell them at a much higher rate to a group.

      1. You are right. If they sell 9 rooms at the new rate, they will make a little more money than selling 22 rooms at the old rate.

        1. But they won’t because the most expensive option available on Comfort Inn’s website for La Grange is $120 per night. They quoted the rack rate. For some reason they just didn’t want the OP’s business.

          1. Perhaps. We don’t know enough of what else may be happening. What else is included in the $275 rate? I contracted with a hotel recently. The rate quoted on the website was truly irrelevant. The hotel tried to sell many add-ons to the room rate, e.g. upgraded rooms, internet, parking, additional meals, etc. Also, additional persons were additional charges.

            Besides, if the hotel is quoting $85 rates, why doesn’t the OP just cancel her $102 rate and book those?

      2. “If” being the operative term. Comfort Inn’s website shows the La Grange location starting at $85 per night with nothing being over $120. The $275 figure must be the rack rate and they won’t be getting anywhere close to that.

      3. Question for counsel: Doesn’t a successor business assume both the benefits and the obligations of a purchased organization?

        1. It depends on how the transaction is structured.

          If you buy a business you receive the assets, including the intangibles such as name and goodwill, as well as the liabilities, i.e. debts and obligations.

          However, the purchaser may just want the assets. Say Whole Foods purchases a nearly bankruptcy Chevron station because of its location, promptly tears it down, and builds a Whole Foods. That would be structured as an asset sale and Whole Foods would not be liable for the Chevron’s stations debts.

          You know its an asset sale because Whole Foods doesn’t care the stations, goodwill, name, reputation, etc.

          1. My thoughts exactly. This doesn’t seem to be a simple asset acquisition. Here, Comfort bought the entire operation of the Holiday. It continues to provide rooms and services similar to those Comfort provided, using the same facilities. It has essentially stepped in and assumed doing what Holiday had been doing, albeit under its own name. Under the circumstances, I would have considered insisting that Comfort accept Holiday’s obligations and perform under the original terms and conditions.

  11. My other question was whether or not HI Express knew they were in the process of being sold when they took her reservation. If she just recently booked these for sometime this summer, you can’t tell me the sale of a business property would go through that quickly. Wouldn’t that constitute fraud?

    1. No. Until the ink is dry on the paper, HI Express owned the property and had every right to continue taking reservation

    2. Failing to continue taking reservations would have been a disaster for the business. Nobody wants to take over an empty hotel that has been turning away reservations. That’s one of the main reasons that most hotels honor reservations from prior to ownership changes. Continuing to take reservations is the norm. The new owners failing to honor them is the problem.

    3. No, it seems like it would be but they have every right to continue to do business since the deal isn’t done until, well, the deal is done. That would cause undo hardship to the seller otherwise (the buyer could drag things out and drive the buyer into taking an unfair deal).

  12. She looked online and saw her rooms were cancelled? Did she book all those rooms online? Our agency handles group bookings daily, and we work with the sales office of each hotel, getting a special rate, not a rack rate. I would think a sales office would have contacted her if she booked directly.
    We actually something similar happen to us, except we were notified. A few years ago, we booked the Hampton Inn in Cadillac, MI and received a letter telling us that the hotel was no longer going to be a Hampton Inn and to contact the hotel to reconfirm our stay. The new management honored our rate but we only had one room for one night midweek.

  13. WOW! I think we have a new winner of the all-time poor customer service trophy.

    “Just to let you know this has been handled!”

    Translation: “We told this woman to go pound salt”.

  14. There is something fishy about this story. Why would a Comfort Inn In La Grange KY cost $275.00 a night this summer? I just checked rates periodically thru the summer and $84.00 is the average?? Am I missing something here?

    1. Agreed. There are two events happening in La Grange this June, and the rates during those events run between $98 and $131 (without applying discount codes like AAA, etc.). Very strange. I agree with an earlier poster: it looks like they don’t want the OP’s business.

      1. I believe there is more to this story – I think she booked all individually, and now wants them to honor her “group” and they only recognize these as individual bookings, so she would need to re-do entire reservation. She probably asked what that would be, and they quoted the rack rate.

  15. Don’t understand one thing – if she HAD booked this as a GROUP, she would have had a contract very specific about such things – and would NOT have been able to pull that info up online. So did she book these individually? Then she has no leg to stand on, as these are NOT contracted with specific terms and conditions.

    1. And she probably would have had lower rates, too. How large is this hotel that they gave her all those rooms for that one same price?

    2. I posted the same thing before reading more comments. I just went to website and to book 10+ rooms online you are automatically redirected to a Group Travel Reservation form and once received you’ll get an email or a call.

      1. Update – my post above was wrong, I went to the Comfort Inn site. I just went to the Holiday Inn Express site and at over 9 rooms (10 or more) they send you to another page but you may reserve it online.

  16. Comfort Inn should have made every effort to contact her immediately and negotiate a new res. It is not the guest’s job to ride herd on a hotel to make sure it doesn’t disappear. Holiday Inn should have notified her as well, but it’s Comfort’s responsibility to take care of upcoming reservations. This not the LAW, it’s basic common sense and CUSTOMER SERVICE.

  17. Most hotel sites don’t allow you to book that many rooms at once online. They make you call to handle it directly with the hotel. I think the OP has a lot more information that was withheld to make their story more interesting. That said, even a single reservation that was canceled by the original hotel should have been communicated. Unfortunately with the feeling, just a feeling, the OP left out information of their saga, I can’t help but wonder if they simply didn’t see the email from the original hotel. The new hotel owes them nothing. It wasn’t their reservation.

    1. Update to my post – I went to the Holiday Inn Express site and at over 9 rooms you are redirected to another page and it is possible to reserve 22 rooms online at the same rate. My apologies to the OP regarding my post.

  18. This thing is a load of crap. Poorly handled by both companies.
    The “go to the hall of records” response is outrageous.
    How it is that both these companies can run ads telling the public how wonderful they are when they pull crap like this.
    The Comfort Inn response is worse. That chain is now on my “liste de poop”…In other words, I am now avoiding their properties.

  19. There is something severely wrong with this story. I can’t find a room for anywhere close to that amount with no discounts. Someone trying to slander the property?

  20. I got screwed for a very similar reason (albeit for only 1 room) more than a couple of decades ago, when a then-Howard Johnson’s on Tropicana in Las Vegas lost its branding -although I was never able to find out if the management company remained the same. I had a reservation for 5 or 6 nights, and was actually contacted and told how much more I would have to pay for the “new arrangements” – so I cancelled the reservation entirely (weith inadequate proof, apparently, for whatever reason; as I said, it was a long time ago). Anyhow, after staying somewhere else during that trip, I found on my next credit card statement that I had been billed for one or two nights at the original place (although I can’t remember now if I was billed at the “old” or the “new” rate – but billed unjustifiably, regardless). I protested to the hotel of course, and directly to Howard Johnson’s national office as well (including in writing), and was basically told to take a hike. During my next trip to Vegas, I went to the trouble of visiting the office of the local hotel association; they promised to try to do “something” for me, but never even bothered to get back to me. I couldn’t even get the satisfaction of a chargeback from my credit card company, for some reason supposedly involving some obscure law in Nevada that I never bothered to check out or verify, because I had already spent ‘way more time on this than it had deserved. (That’s generally how “they” get you, of course!)

    Needless to say, I never once stayed again anywhere at a Howard Johnson’s, did my very best to make sure that everyone I knew was aware that they should avoid the chain as well – and have taken some perhaps dirty but, I hope, understandable pleasure at the misfortunes and downfall of the company over the years. If anyone deserved it, they did!

    And Chris, never mind that you were probably in diapers or in primary school at the time … WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU ?

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