A hole in the tub at the Holiday Inn – and a “miscellaneous” $500 charge

Bondarchuck/Shutterstock
Bondarchuck/Shutterstock

OK, so the headline of this story reads like the title of a bad sci-fi novel, but for Donna Speron and her husband, who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Burlington, Wash., it was an unfortunate reality.

When they checked into their room at the Holiday Inn, they noticed a little problem with the bathroom.

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“My husband noticed prior to taking a shower that the bathtub insert had a hole within it,” she says. “He thought it was odd that they had given him a room in disrepair but it didn’t stop him from using the shower, so he didn’t complain about it or concern himself with it.”

He should have. A few weeks later, the couple received their credit card bill.

“Along with the room charge was an additional miscellaneous charge on Sept. 26, 4 days after our stay, of $500,” she says. “We had no prior notification of such charges from the hotel.”

The Speron’s story is a teaching moment for anyone who plans to stay in a hotel this summer. But it is also an unfortunate tale of corporate intransigence that happens too often in the travel industry.

When they circled back with the Holiday Inn, a manager confirmed that the $500 charge was for the tub.

“My husband explained that this damage was done prior to his occupying the room, but the manager simply stated that he did not have funds for this type of repair, and that we were responsible,” she says. “He agreed to discount the charge to $300, but later denied making such a statement, which was equally disturbing.”

Here’s what should have happened when the Sperons checked in: When they saw the damaged tub, they should have called the front desk to report it. They should have taken pictures of the damage on their phone, asked for a different room, and specifically addressed this with a manager when they checked out.

In other words, they should have mentioned the damage to a manager at check-out, shown a manager the photos and asked for assurances that they wouldn’t get a $500 “miscellaneous” charge.

Of course, Holiday Inn’s housekeepers should have reported the damage as soon as they saw it (don’t they clean the tubs?) and resolved this before the guest checked out — not days afterwards, with a mysterious $500 charge.

Also, Shouldn’t Speron be entitled to some kind of work invoice before getting a charge on her card?

Did Speron damage the tub? I don’t know. Is she responsible for the damage? Maybe. But the hotel can’t just add an arbitrary charge to their bill without some kind of documentation.

I contacted Holiday Inn in January, asking it to take another look at this case. It acknowledged my email and promised to look into it. It was followed by two months of radio silence. I contacted Holiday Inn twice again in late February, and my contact simply ignored my requests.

That’s disappointing.

I had all but given up on this case, but decided to follow up with Speron one final time. Last I heard, she had decided to dispute her credit card charges, so I wanted to find out if there was at least some hope for a refund.

Turns out that corporate Holiday Inn had taken care of the problem — quietly. After my inquiry, a corporate liaison based in Salt Lake City contacted her and refunded the $500. He also made arrangements to have corporate Holiday Inn pay the franchisee in Washington for the alleged damage, she says.

Should Holiday Inn have charged Donna Speron for the bathtub?

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