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

  1. Taking a picture of a bathtub? If I have to do this to prove my innocence then we definitely have hit rock bottom. No wonder Noah built a boat.

  2. What is next a light blub burns out and you are billed for it + an hour of maintenance time?

    Rent a cars that you have to pay for any thing that happens even planned maintenance like oil changes

  3. I’m surprised that the credit card didn’t automatically charge this back.

    What happened? Did the slip that they sign at check-in had one of those tiny fine prints saying “you are responsible for any damage based on our word alone, and we are not required to provide any proof, whatsoever”?

    In absence of anything signed, this was an unauthorized charge, and should’ve been an automatic chargeback.

    1. Most of the time, the T&Cs you sign at check in allow them to post bill your credit card for damage or anything charged to your room account.

    2. Yes, most hotel forms you sign at checkin say exactly that.

      One hotel I stayed at actually had signs stuck to every item in the room with a price you would be charged if it went missing. The prices were about 3 times what you could buy the exact same thing for at any WalMart or similar place, and most of the items (TV, microwave, mini fridge, etc.) were exactly the same brand and model you would be able to buy at WalMart. I thought it was funny that they had to do that to keep people from walking out with everything in the room. Since then I have tried to stay in slightly higher rated hotels. 😉

      1. I remember as a kid some hotels attached their TV remote control to the nightstand. I guess people really will steal anything.

  4. Ok … I’ll fess up I voted yes today …

    I don’t think I should have to pay for normal maintenance items when staying in a hotel. I do think that I should be on the hook if something happens outside the realm of normal maintenance or normal activity inside a hotel room (splintered chair, acid stains on the carpet, desk broken in half and … hole in the bathtub).

    If the OP’s husband calls when he sees the hole and they still charge him, I’d have voted no but that isn’t the case. He saw a hole in the bathtub, continued to use it and didn’t report it. If it hadn’t been reported up to that point, it might look to an independent viewer that he was attempting to hide that he’d knocked a hole in it (I have no idea how in normal use you would ever do it).

    Nice thing the HI took care of the charge.

    1. So, if your hotel room carpet has a slight stain, or the wall has some scratches or a paint chip, you will report this to the hotel? After all, they could blame any little problem on you.

      1. I guess we need a rental-car type pre-existing damage form where we can note any pre-existing damage to the tub, toilet, sink, and any stains on the carpet or bedspread.

    2. I agree that if you damage something beyond simple wear and tear that’s on you. I’m struggling to figure out how the OP could have made a hole in the bathtub though.

      As a college student I went skiing with some friends. One friend sat in a chair and it broke. (Friend was about 160 lbs). The management company wanted to charge him for the chair. I commented that I hope he wasn’t hurt by the fall. They backed down really fast. 😉

  5. I’m sorry, but what kind of person goes ahead and takes a shower with a hole in the tub? The water won’t go down the drain; it will leak onto and perhaps through the floor under the tub. OP should have reported this one immediately and asked for a different room.

    1. Maybe this can explain things.
      “My husband noticed prior to taking a shower that the bathtub insert had a hole within it.”

      If only the insert had a hole, wouldn’t the water still be caught by the old tub under the insert? Just asking a plumbing question for Mario or Luigi 🙂

      Maybe that’s why he did not think it would damage anything.

      1. When we finished the basement in our old place, we put in the bath room walls and a shower/tub insert. There was no old tub underneath, it was a new bathroom. In fact the majority of shower/tub inserts we saw were for new construction which is a lower cost alternative to a real tub and a tile wall. They do make special inserts to go over existing tubs as well like the ones you mention, but there were far fewer designed to go over existing tubs as they are sized differently to be able to do so (We looked for an older tub and it was cheaper to replace the tub).

        Also, the shower we put in our current basement still has a fiberglass insert, right over the floor, that connects to the drain, and then has lips for the tile walls.

        So it could be that the insert the OP described was designed to go over an existing shower, but in my experience its more than likely that the insert is the actual tub/shower itself and there is no tub underneath.

        1. Is an insert the same as just a liner?
          What’s providing any structural integrity to this plastic/fiberglass object?
          I always thought these were placed over old stuff that was beyond repair.
          Otherwise how can it withstand commercial abuse?
          Is there a pan below an insert?
          Quite confused.

          Added: Are you sure you don’t have one of those fiberglass bathtub and shower units? I have one of those but I don’t think the are called inserts.

          1. Our plumber had entire catalogs of inserts. They are quite rigid, and are sort of like single piece liners. Basically you build a cove out of studs and green-board, and slide (insert) the insert into the cove. It’s the floor and studs that support it. There was no pan in our cases, its rigid enough that the drain is installed directly into the insert, as are the faucet and shower head, etc. I think our old full insert was around $700, while in our current house, we went the tub and tile route wish was about double the cost, bu in my opinion looks better.

          2. I think we are talking about a fiberglass molded unit, right.
            When I google bath+insert, all that comes up are these molded units but they are not called inserts. That’s so strange.
            Yeah those things crack and break.
            I was just thinking if the OP saw them cracked and thought the (cheap) hotel didn’t give a damn, then why should he give a damn. Shower on …

          3. Yes, they are mostly molded fiberglass. That’s funny, the plumber both at the old house and this house called them inserts, so that’s why I have always called them too. Some of them are really high quality and last quite a while, but in my opinion are still not as good as a cast iron and enamel tub with tile walls.

            It would depend on the size of the crack/hole, if it was a hairline crack in the wall, I probably wouldn’t think twice, but if it was an actual hole anywhere, or even a small crack in the floor, I would report it. I have seen first hand what a tiny water leak can do and its not pretty.

            Maybe someone showered while wearing heals?

          4. I have one of these units and my house is circa 1985.
            My 3 sons still use this same bathtub/shower. Only maintenance I have to do is occasionally run a $2 Zip-It snare to remove hair from the drain.
            I have seen pictures of these things with cracks.
            How that can happen is beyond me.
            Maybe housecleaning dropped something heavy or fatbastard was a guest at the hotel.

            I still am not convinced that if there was an old hole there already, that a paying guest had an obligation to tell management about it. If the management did not care, why should he? Really.

          5. But how did the gust know if management cared or not? If the guest reported it and they said don’t worry about it, then shower on. But the only way to know if management cares is to report it. I don’t think the guest is responsible for the hold if it was already there, but if showering without reporting it caused additional damage, then I think the guest is responsible for the additional damage for not reporting it. I just think reporting it is the right thing to do.

          6. He assumed it since there was a hole already.
            Someone had to have cleaned the bathroom right?
            So if they don’t care, then why should he?
            I’m simply suggesting a plausible scenario.

            What is right or wrong is a personal thing.
            If he is NOT affected by the hole, then why should he care?
            He still go hot water and finished his shower.
            But to make him responsible for the hole and not telling management is not his job. He is not a plumber and may not know anything about leaks and stuff.

          7. I do think your scenario is plausible, but it could be the person who cleaned the bathroom is the one who damaged it, and didn’t report it to cover their hide. So plumbing aside, I still think the OP should have reported it regardless. The OP says they noticed it and found it odd to get a room in disrepair. I interpret that as a pretty big hole, so I really think they had a duty to report it.

          8. Read Trip Advisor and saw this pic. The bathroom fixtures don’t look as cheap as the ones I see in Home Depot. Certainly, I do not get the impression that this is a just flimsy “liner”. Maybe the tub is made of acrylic, sure.

            I really have a problem understanding or agreeing to what a guest’s “duty” is beyond being a customer and using the room.
            He paid his bill, he did not break anything, he did not create mayhem. Is he now suppose to play home inspector? He isn’t Bob Villa. He is just a plain ole guest. The way I see it it is the hotel management’s duty to inspect and to be diligent about repairs. Certainly they shouldn’t be expecting their guests to do it for them. Besides a hole (or what looks like a hole) is not equivalent to a leak – and if the room below (if one exists) ain’t complaining then why should he. Sorry but this guy can’t be blamed for anything.

            I would rather stick to the main topic of the story. He did not deserve to be charged for the damage he did not do. His only obligation is to fight the charge to protect himself.

          9. That doesn’t even look like an insert to me. Looks like a tub and some sort of thick acrylic liner. I really wish we had a picture of the hole.

            I do agree that the customer should not have to pay for the hole that he didn’t create. Though I respectfully disagree on the other topic, but maybe I am too extreme in that direction. I will report anything that I think I as the operator woudl want to know. Maybe I don’t have a legal duty to do so, but I feel obligated to let people know if there is damage, and to do what I can to mitigate further damage.

          10. Well that is because you are a SMART person and through experience you know how to avoid problems.
            But I gotta tell you, not many people think like you.
            In my opinion. most people would have simply turned on the hot water and showered. That includes 100% of my nephews and nieces.
            I think the reason is they have never repaired anything in their life. And they really believe milk comes from the grocery store.

          11. Thank you for the kind words, I always think of you as one of the smartest people in this site, and always trust and believe your knowledge and contributions. You have a better grasp on what people really do then me, I tend to think too ideally. Its funny you mentioned milk, because every morning when I get my son his milk I tell him how it comes from cows.

          12. The installer of your tub/shower knew what they were doing, that is why it is still in one piece. 🙂

            If the insert/unit is installed correctly, the installer puts down a deep layer of quick set on the floor and then places the unit on top of that. This gives a solid underlay so the fiberglass doesn’t have to bend and stretch when used. If you step in the tub/shower and you feel the fiberglass giving under your weight, the installer did not do a good job.

          13. Ok so now let’s hold the installer responsible 🙂
            I’m a big fan of this old house and adore those guys. I wish I had the knowledge of Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey and Norm Abram.
            Thanks for telling me since I don’t know much about these kinds of tubs. Does it matter if the tub is on the second or third floor of the house?

          14. I learned most of what I know about these things from watching TOH. And Holmes on Homes. 🙂 And I also did house construction in my “spare” time for several years working with Habitat for Humanity.

            The quick set underlay is, or should be, done regardless of where the unit is located. It doesn’t add so much weight that the floor needs reinforcing beyond what is already done to support a tub or shower. So, yes, even on the second or higher floor.

    2. They should have reported it, but we have no way of knowing how big a hole it was or where it was at in the tub. I’m assuming it was a crack in the fiberglass, which wouldn’t necessarily let much if any water through from a shower, depending on where it was at in the tub. Really, the $500 original charge would suggest there wasn’t any underlying water damage anywhere because that amount wouldn’t cover much beyond the tub. Possibly that was just a repair for the tub and not even a full replacement.

      1. I’ll tell you what. I have two boys in college. I assume that they and any of their classmates are quite oblivious to “cracks” in showers. They would not ever think it was their responsibility. They will probably shower “as is” and shrug their shoulders if asked if there was a drip anywhere. That’s housekeeping’s problem, right?

    3. Agreed. As I began reading the article I thought it was going to be that a subsequent leak caused the $500 damage to his room or maybe the room underneath him. I’m curious if he really saw the hole beforehand and how big it was or was it more, “uh oh, I got a bill so I better say it was already there.” Obviously not knowing anything about holes in tubs, I might just have inquired before taking a shower more because I wouldn’t want to cause water damage.

  6. While I have stayed at many hotels over the years that were not perfect (slightly dusty, visible wear on the furniture and fixtures, etc.), I have always immediately notified the front desk if I found something damaged or missing. The first thing I do when entering a hotel room that will be mine for the night is check that there is no obvious damage or anything missing that I expect to be there. The OP should have done the same. While we don’t know why there was such a huge hurry to take a shower on arrival, the few minutes it would have taken to report the damage and get moved to a different room would have saved a lot of hassle later on. Glad the charge was able to be reversed.

  7. The hole that keeps on giving? Maybe the manager was charging everyone who stayed in that room and see who protested or just paid.

    1. So while the manager made $500 per person off of the hole, the water damage kept growing in $1,000 per shower increments as people showered. I really don’t think the hotel woudl leave a hole to make a small amount of money that is far less than the damage not fixing the hole would cause.

    2. Years ago back in college we got stuck for a melted spot on a plastic bathroom sink that looked to have been caused by a curling iron. It was there when we moved in and we were certain the landlord had been charging tenants for it for years. For all I know, maybe he still is!

      1. I had a similar experience in college, I was charged my full deposit for damage caused by a dart board, I didn’t even have a dart board. When I asked for proof they sent a picture and it was the back wall in the inside of the closet that was full of pin holes. I never even noticed that wall. I bet they charged everyone for that every time as well.

        About six years ago when I moved from Memphis to Denver I rented an apartment while I was looking for a house. On my move-in inspection I handed the manager a 6 page laundry list of every single problem. I went into as much detail as:

        -Slats 3, 4, 7, 9, and 12 from the bottom on the venetian blind on the second window counterclockwise from the door in the guest bedroom are bent.
        -Counter top in master bathroom has a 3mm dent 1 inch from the mirror on the left size.
        -The guest bed room door knob is loose.
        -Carpet in main entry is loose from threshold an frayed.
        -2 foot dark spot in carpet in front of fire place.

        The list went on and on. The manager asked me if I really expected her to fix everything and said she has never seen a list like that and that all of these things are normal wear and tear and she didn’t think she should have to fix them to make the place inhabitable. I said it’s fine as-is, but I don’t expect her to charge me for any of these items when I move out. I got 100% of my deposit back on that place. Apartment Finder lists many many complaints by people who lived in that complex and said their entire deposit was taken for normal wear and tear, so I am happy I made a laundry list.

  8. So there are three sticks of dynamite attached to your car ignition on the dashboard and you start the car anyway?

    Holiday Inn was right. If you don’t mention something during your stay as significant as this, then you deserve the bill.

    1. So..it’s a set of pictures when we check in and another set as we’re about to check out, to prove the furniture is still there?

      Remember when an opportunity for travel was something you looked forward to, and on occasion could even be done spontaneously?

      1. Who said anything about pictures? You are physically present. So tell the front desk and ask them to send “engineering” to the room before you take a shower in a tub with an readily seen hole in the bottom.. In other words, don’t start the car with a bomb on the dashboard, have it blow up, and then blame the car manufacturer. Come on. A 15-second phone call to the front desk is all it takes for a clearly obvious problem.

        1. Of course it depends of when maintenance can get there if they ever do.

          I told this story a long time ago. I was staying at the Aria in Las Vegas with my parents. Some of the bathroom lights didn’t work. I didn’t realize there was a circuit breaker. I called maintenance three times. Each time they promised that they would send someone up.

          Finally my father found the breaker and reset it. The lights came on. Still no maintenance after three hours.

          That’s the last time I stayed at the Aria.

      2. Those days have long past!!!
        No need for photos if they reported the damage when they entered & demanded a room change.

        1. Nope. I don’t smoke, never saw any need for ashtrays. 🙂

          Neither have I ever wanted a towel, bath mat, coffee maker, TV, shower curtain, piece of furniture, bath robe, or anything else I ever had in any hotel room I ever stayed in. I also don’t take all of the sugar packets on the table in a restaurant. Mainly because I usually had better at home.

          1. I must have been very sheltered. I didn’t know people routinely stole stuff like ashtrays and towels until I read an article, probably here, about Holiday Inn’s towel amnesty.

        2. Like @MarkKelling:disqus, neither have I. Seem to recall it’s one of those pesky 10 Commandments or something like that. 😉

  9. Great hotels at now getting into the post rental damage business. Next thing you know Delta Airlines is going to start charging customers extra when they have mechanical issues after a flight.

  10. I actually voted yes this time. While I don’t agree with the hotel charging the OP without letter her know first, I think the fact that they OP noticed the hole and decided to shower anyway is simply horrible of them. They should have notified the hotel immediately and asked for a different room, or if there isn’t a different room, asked for duct tape or have maintenance seal the hole. Showering after observing a hole is simply vindictive and negligent and can lead to much more damage. I don’t think the OP should pay for the hole it self, but any damage as a result of them noticing the hole I believe is on them.

  11. They saw the hole & did not report it immediately? I’m incredulous!
    This is simple, report it to the front desk (get a name), & change rooms immediately.
    .

  12. This is a rare event; a hotel acting like a car rental company.

    “but the manager simply stated that he did not have funds for this type of repair, and that we were responsible”

    similar to how if I rented a car, got the car rental company’s $200 insurance, then did $2,000 worth of damage they have to either
    A. actually pay to fix the car
    or B. try to fool the next renter in to paying for it.

    I would say 99% of the time you do not need to take pictures of a hotel room. The odds of meeting such an evil manager are about the same as getting stuck on a cruise that lost all engine power.

  13. When I get home I am going to tell my wife we have a hole in our bathtub, then I am going to show her the drain. You know, for April fools day.

    1. Good thing I’m not Mrs. emanon256. I have a large plumbing wrench just for situations like that. 🙂

  14. Stupidity by the client doesn’t negate the fact that this Manager tried to rip off the OP. I can’t believe that no other person who stayed in a room with a hole in the tub didn’t report it and neither did housekeeping. I think it was the case of the Manager taking advantage of a dope that didn’t report the problem.

    However, had I been Mrs. Speron the first thing I would have done was disputed my credit card. Then the second thing would have been to do the V8 head plunk to my husband for not asking to have his room changed.

    As for people who ask about having to take pictures whenever they travel – if there is a problem with a room I most certainly would have taken a picture of it. And when I rent a car I actually do go around and take pictures of every view of the car.

  15. There was a day when I used to insist on inspecting a room before we agreed to stay there. Actually, that was just 2 years ago at a Best Western. However, as a loyal Holiday Inn customer I have been less diligent with their hotels. That is a mistake. I have been less and less pleased with their hotels and certainly with their service. Priority Club? Oh, that’s gone. They don’t really care if you’re a regular guest or not anymore. Room smells bad? Well, you did book it online, and you’ll have to change it online, too. I’m going to go back to insisting on checking a room BEFORE I agree to stay there overnight. Choice Hotels lost my loyalty because of their nasty franchised hotels, and I’m seriously afraid IHG is about to do the same. I wonder if I can get any better service with Carlton Group?
    That said, if I ever saw damage in my hotel room at any hotel, I’d report it to the desk, get the name of the person I reported it to, and probably photograph it. It doesn’t take all that long to be diligent.

    1. That’s why I try to stay at the same hotels if possible. They track that you’re a repeat guest and are less likely to give you grief.

      1. Legal question (You can put it on my tab. I’ll make it up with helping you get free internet at the airport)

        I’m wondering… in the case of supposed damage, what are the legal rights of the guest? Do most of us sign an F-you agreement at check-in that makes us default liable for damage? Or can we insist they go to court, sue us, and then we can demand they produce the names of the previous guests and ask THEM if they saw the hole in the tub?

  16. I wonder what these hotel managers are thinking. Do they believe that someone will just pay a $500 miscellaneous fee? Do they have any sense of right or wrong? How do these bozos get hired? If your hotel runs on such a razor-thin profit margin, raise the rate a little, don’t cheat your customers.

  17. NEVER stay in a room that has any kind of “flaws!” Immediately report it and get a different
    room. This is only common sense. We always stay at timeshares and if something is wrong with our suite we immediately call them and we get a different one. Once the one we moved into had a horrible cooking smell — we got a different room. They are usually quite accommodating.

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