An uncomfortable night at the Comfort Suites

1-hospital bedHow do you say “I’m sorry” for a really bad hotel stay?

That probably depends on how bad “bad” is, right? Well, here’s what happened when Tracy Hart checked into a Comfort Inn in Fairfield, NJ, recently.

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Before I get to her story, I should probably say that she’s one of the hotel chain’s better customers. She carries a Choice Privileges credit card and “often” stays in its hotels when traveling on business or driving from Pennsylvania to Florida, where she has a vacation home. In other words, she knows this hotel chain really well.

She redeemed 16,000 award points for a night at the Comfort Inn, which seemed like the best place to stay because she had plans to be in New York until 11 p.m., on a recent evening. When she checked in, she was shocked by what she found.

“Wow,” she says. “I don’t know how this particular hotel manages to have the Comfort Inn name out front.”

The hotel was located in an iffy neighborhood, right next to a large “Adult Emporium” store.

The entryway was dirty linoleum tile, the whole place was shabby, the room didn’t seem clean, didn’t look like anyone had vacuumed. The sheets were limp.

Pretty yuck, but what were we going to do at this time of night? I asked to see another room, which they reluctantly let me do, but it was worse: there was a burn mark on the bedspread and just as shabby and dirty.

That’s not what she expected, nor is it what she should have expected. Comfort Inn bills itself as the exact opposite. From its website:

From the moment you arrive at Comfort Inn hotels, we want you to relax and feel at home. We offer a warm atmosphere and helpful service. You’ll restore yourself in our clean cozy rooms and you can stay connected with free high-speed internet access.

In the morning, you’ll enjoy the complimentary new Your Morning Breakfast with lots of options and hot items as well as a free newspaper. It all helps you start your day feeling renewed.

I’ll let Hart continue.

So we went to bed. At 9:30 the next morning, we were just waking up, and someone started to bang on the door.

We said “Hey we’re in here! Go away!” or something like that. The banging continued and then a key card was put into the slot and the door opened.

We could hear a man’s voice. Luckily, the chain was on the door. He rattled the door and the chain, but it held. I called the front desk; they weakly apologized.

I should have called the police, but it didn’t occur to me at that time.

She contacted me to find out how to handle the stay. Although I might have said something before checking out, I can understand why she would just want to leave as soon as possible. I suggested that she send a brief email to Choice Hotels, explaining her disappointment (and, of course, carefully vetting any future Choice stays).

She did. Here’s what happened.

Choice Privileges apologized and told me that in fact they are investigating that particular Comfort Inn location. They also gave me 8,000 points in my account.

I got the impression that they really don’t want to have hotel properties that don’t measure up to their brand image. This was the first bad experience I have ever had with the brand, and told them that. I am just glad we put the chain on the door.

Is that enough of an apology? Hart says she’s OK with getting half her points back, and I’m happy with the Choice promise to investigate this particular property. It looks squeaky clean from the outside. The user-generated reviews? Not so much.

Just for once, I’d like to see one of these properties lose its flag in response to a consumer complaint. In the meantime, what do you make of Choice’s response?

Did Choice Hotels offer Tracy Hart enough compensation?

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134 thoughts on “An uncomfortable night at the Comfort Suites

  1. That is likely a franchise property. They always tend to be the slummiest places on earth.

    As far as the guy banging on the door like a nutjob? Was that a hotel employee? If so, more compensation is definitely deserved. While I can’t fault a hotel for drunk or crazy guests, they should be able to manage their own people.

    1. Raven,

      Pretty much all hotel brands have plenty of franchise properties. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a Courtyard or Hampton that WASN’T a franchise. And I know I’ve stayed in Mariott’s, Hyatt’s, Crowne Plaza’s, and Holiday Inns that were franchise. I think it’s even common all the way up to the “main” brand for each lodging company.

      1. Yeah, but lower-end motel franchises seem to be the bottom of the barrel in my experience. They’re often owned by people who don’t care about the brand name and are just out to make a quick buck.

      2. Wasn’t there a recent blog article here about a Hilton in Paris that lost its relationship, with a reservation on HHonors points being summarily switched to another Hilton hotel?

        1. Yes, the former Hilton Arc de Triomphe. And we emphazised how little compensation a property gets for award stays. That said, she may have been given the lousiest room in a Comfort Inn. Yuck!

          1. I wonder how much this varies by company. A few years ago (2009) I was staying at a Marriott on points and chatting with the GM. He told me he loved guest who stay on points because they usually get more than they would for cash guests. He said Marriott International categorizes them to determine the points to charge and then remits $0.01 per point. This was in 2009, so it could have changed since. But the GM loved it. I paid with 20,000 points, so he got $200 when the going rate was about $120 a night. Though, I just staying in NY on pints and paid 25,000 a night and the going rate was $249 a night, so it was a wash.

          2. For Choice Prviledge Rewards:

            Hotels are reimbursed for reward nights based on their average daily rate (ADR) and occupancy for the night of the stay. The day ends when night audit is run, typically after midnight.
            If a hotel is 100% occupied when a reward night is used, reimbursement will be 90% of the ADR plus tax* for the date of the stay. *Certain states are excluded from tax reimbursements. The percent of reimbursement for reward nights when a hotel is not full in the U.S., Canada, Central America and Europe/Middle East (excluding Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden) will be based on the cumulative number of reward nights the hotel has accommodated as a percentage of their annual available rooms.

            Hotels that have sold less than 1.5% of their annual available rooms as reward nights will receive reimbursement equal to 40% of their ADR (plus tax if applicable). Hotels that have sold between 1.51% and 2.5% of their annual available rooms as reward nights will receive reimbursement equal to 50% of their ADR (plus tax if applicable). Hotels that have sold more than 2.5% of their annual available rooms as reward night rooms will receive reimbursement equal to 60% of their ADR (plus tax if applicable).

            So unless the motel is 100% full, they can expect only about 40%-60% of ADR as their REIMBURSEMENT RATE.

          3. …and it’s because of that ^^^ – – – a lot of places don’t assign points guests in the so-called “better” rooms – they’re usually placed in “last available” rooms. This kind of unwritten, unsaid policy is exactly the kind of headache that Choice Privileges staff are always having to deal with.

          4. Emanon, what he told you is not consistent with the findings of NYS Tax Appeals Tribunal:

            The reimbursement-rate calculation is performed annually, and the end result of the calculation determines the hotel’s reimbursement rate for the year.  The reimbursement rate for a participating hotel by Marriott Rewards varies depending on the brand and the volume of redemptions at the hotel, and takes into account two factors.  To the extent redeemed room nights are less than 2.5% of all paid room nights for a particular period, the reimbursement rate is $15.00.  Redeemed nights above 2.5% amount are reimbursed based on the hotel’s “RevPar,” Marriott’s term for the standard revenue per room at the hotel.  The end result of this calculation is a flat rate, classified as a percentage of RevPar.  Based on this calculation, a hotel will get 70% of RevPar, or 80% of RevPar, etc.  Generally, the more rooms are redeemed by a hotel, the higher percentage of RevPar it will receive. But no hotel would ever get 100% of RevPar.

            Note: since RevPar is ADR multiplied by Occupancy Rate then it is most likely lower than ADR most of the time.

            Added: just to be clear, the above refers to the reimbursement rate the property will get from marriott rewards. What you, the guest, pay Marriott in points is irrelevant to the computation of reimbursement rates.

          5. That’s really strange. Could that be just for NY? He did tell me the recalculate the $ amount per point from time to time, but nothing about a percentage. That’s seems counterintuitive. Why would a hotel ever take any points reservations if they get $15 for the first 2.5%? The hotel where I spoke to the GM was at close to 100% occupancy every night.

          6. I believe the loyalty participation program is same worldwide.

            In Marriotts case the reimbursement amount is fixed on a 13 month rolling basis.
            But that amount is decided by the formula described above. If the hotel had a consistently high occupancy rate and it booked more room rewards, then it wil get more compensation for reward stays.

          7. Hi Emanon, did you read the news about Starwood suing Le Parker Meridien (NYC and Palm Springs)? Starwood accused Parker of cheating – falsifying occupancy rate to 95% and up so they could get a higher SPG Reimbursement rate. The lawsuit said the difference in reimbursement would be more than $200 LESS if the occupancy rate was less than 95%.


            Man, who can you trust as partners nowadays?

          8. I didn’t. Wow! Thanks for sharing. This whole dynamic is so interesting. I am still scratching my head about what the GM told me.

    2. About the person trying to get in, if it wasn’t a hotel employee, I’d say they deserve a hell of a lot more compensation, including a police report on how a non-employee got access to a master card.

      1. Your guess whether it was or wasn’t a hotel employee is as good as mine. Why you would assume it wasn’t beats me.

        1. I said “IF”. I, like you, don’t know if it was a hotel employee or not. My reply said “IF it wasn’t a hotel employee.

        2. Because one would hope an employee hearing somebody call out “we’re in here” wouldn’t proceed to use his key card to try and enter the room.

          Granted, it was very likely an employee since the front desk offered an apology of sorts for the behavior, but even if the employee didn’t understand what was being said, under what circumstances would he try to enter an occupied room?

  2. Looking at Google maps and streetview, the adult emporium building seems to be a fair bit of a distance away, and there’s some landscaping separating the two commercial properties. Unless there are bright neon lights on that thing flashing into my room, I probably would not’ve even noticed it. The building’s closer to RT46, and I’d probably be more bothered by the traffic on this busy highway, all night.

    Having stayed at various Choice properties, occasionally, I wouldn’t expect 5-star service. They’re a budget place to crash down for the night, that’s all. As long as the beds and the bathroom are clean, that’s all I care about. Except for the hotel employee trying to barge into the room — which would be a valid bone to pick, sounds to me like someone is looking for a reason to complain, here.

    1. The first thing I did after reading the story was also to take a look at Google maps and street view. I have been through Fairfield several times and never viewed it as an “iffy” neighborhood, and Google street view confirms it. It is typical New Jersey highway, pedestrian unfriendly, but nothing out of the ordinary. Yes, there’s an adult establishment next door, but so what? Many hotels in midtown Manhattan are within a similar distance of retail stores selling the same type of merchandise.

      The lesson here is that if surrounding land use is important in deciding on where to spend the night, make inquiries. Look at Google street views, or call around and ask what businesses are next door. The hotel is responsible for its property, not the use of neighboring properties (zoning is a generally a municipal responsibility, so blame the municipality for any incompatible land uses). A hotel may sell itself by taking advantage of nearby natural resources (e.g., an ocean view), but in the absence of the hotel selling its environment as part of its sales pitch, it is up to consumer to determine if he or she desires to patronize a business in a particular location.

      1. No, you see, you’re supposed to be shocked and disgusted that any business would dare set-up shop next to those peddlers of smut!

        I think she was unhappy with her stay and decided to inflate her complaints by doing the “Laundry List” complaint letter and it worked. She got a partial refund.

  3. I can’t get too excited about this one. Most everything was subjective and mentioned in passing: “dirty linoleum tile”, “didn’t look like anyone had vacuumed” (why – were there hairballs? piles of dirt? candy wrappers? got pics?), “room didn’t seem clean” (why – mildew? soap scum? fingerprints?), and using “shabby” twice. And the staff was “reluctant” and later “weakly” apologized.

    In other words, OP is using all sorts of vague subjective words to spread her disappointment far and wide.

    The person at the door is a legit complaint – wish we had more details if it was an employee or what.

    I think the compensation was plenty.

    1. You forgot to mention it was near an “Adult Emporium” I mean how did she sleep at all that night knowing that people were looking at dirty smut all night, right next door?!? Oh the humanity!

      I agree, I think the people who vote that she didn’t get enough compensation on here have unreasonable expectations. She did after all have a place to stay. I’m not sure why people expect hotels or any business to refund you completely when you still used their service. If she left and found another hotel, then they should have refunded fully, otherwise take half the credit and move on with your life.

      1. I can say, if you want that satisfaction, go to Hilton. I have done many dollars worth of contract work with Hilton Hotels, and they hold true to their guarantee. If you are not satisfied, they will make it right. If they can’t, you don’t pay. I actually witnessed a customer at the front desk one morning on checkout who was “not satisfied” because he didn’t like the wallpaper. He was not charged for his stay. I don’t agree with it, but for those who want the best, perhaps Hilton is the way to go.

        1. I had a case with Hampton Inn where when I was checking out, mentioned that the only plug by the bed was completely full with the clock and lamp that I was unable to plug in some medical equipment I need at night. I made it only in passing as a suggestion for something they may want to address. I was very surprised when the manager, who was standing at the front desk at the time, started apologizing for the inconvenience and that the room was free because of that. I had not heard about their policy so wasn’t trying to get out of the room. I even offered the manager to just split the cost 50/50 but he refused. Guess where I stay now whenever I can. 🙂

          1. I am the same way. 1. They choose to do business with me, and 2. I have always liked their properties. I always pick Hilton chain over the others.

          2. As a person who has traveled with someone who needs a CPAP machine and lots of electronics you should invest in a small travel power strip. Single most important travel gadget I bring with me. Hotel rooms (purposely) have very few outlets in them and my strip takes up about as much room in my gas as a pair of dress socks.

      2. How oftendoes a hotel/motel state it is next to an Adult Emporium? Also, people frequenting such places expect a clean room too.

  4. I voted yes. You can’t blame the neighborhood on the hotel chain. The person coming into the room was probably cleaning or maintenance staff. I think that the 8,000 point was enough compensation for a room that was not clean.

  5. 1) Having a credit card doesn’t make her one of the chain’s “better customers”. There’s no correlation. It makes her a customer of Barclays. Was she a Choice Privileges Platinum or Diamond? Then, maybe, she’d be one of their better customers.

    2) It’s a Comfort Inn in Fairfield, NJ, not the Ritz. The reviews on Tripadvisor are very clear as to what the hotel offers. A search at room rates shows between $67 and $79 a night. You get what you (figuratively) pay for.

    3) Calling the police because someone tried and failed to enter the room? Who very likely was a hotel worker? Seriously? Histrionics. 9:30 is a pretty standard time for housekeeping to be coming around.

    1. It’s NOT a credit card, it”s a LOYALTY CARD. I have one with another chain that allows me to call them last minute, and they will find me a room. When I arrive, they thank me for coming, look at my ID, and hand me my key. That;s it. She is a high volume traveler and should get some esxtra respect.

      1. Jim, please re-read the original post, which states “She carries a Choice Privileges credit card”. This is a credit card offered by Barclays bank, offered to anyone.

        As I said, if she was a high volume traveler, she would be a Platinum or Diamond member, which is a loyalty status. I am quite aware what a loyalty program is. The choice privileges credit card is not one of them.

        1. I am curious about her definition of often. She, “‘often’ stays in its hotels when traveling on business or driving
          from Pennsylvania to Florida, where she has a vacation home.”

          I was talking to someone the other day who was bragging about how often they stay at hotels, and said they were a true road warrior. Sadly, I have had the same conversation many times, usually with the same results. I asked him what hotel status level he was and he said “The Top.” As we talked more, he said he is always traveling for business, and so on. (Sitting at the airport, not much else to talk about). As the conversation unfolded, it turns out he fly’s about 5 times a year for work, and stay at a hotel 10 to 12 nights a year.

          I have sadly had the same conversation many times with people who think they travel a lot and think they are top level elites in the loyalty programs and brag about it, and they usually are the lowest level, or no level at all and hardly travel at all. I stopped telling them I fly 150,000 miles a year and stay at a hotel over 200 nights a year because they usually don’t believe me.

          1. What difference does it make how often she stays in hotels, or whether or not she does, or does not, have a Loyalty card, or a high Loyalty member status? Chris is just affirming that she is not an unsophisticated, whiney traveller. Her experience at this sub-par property that has a Corporate brand is the issue here.

          2. Maybe an *unsophisticated* traveller would have done better. At least they might have a more realistic expectation of motels in the area and the low quality brand.

          3. I’ve stayed at some really, really nice Choice properties. And I’ve stayed at some really, really bad ones. You’re right… the area does matter. Even still, I’d hope that even if the area was crap (and I despise most of NJ), the hotel would be clean, etc. I stayed in a Choice hotel right next to EWR and it was pretty disgusting. But I only paid $50 for it. If I’d paid more (I probably still wouldn’t have complained… I’ve got a pretty high tolerance level), I would have been annoyed. If the room isn’t worth 16,000 points… the ROOM and the hotel in general, not the area, but the actual hotel, then yeah… I’d kinda want some points back so I could use them at one of the better Choice properties.

          4. This is a problem. Finding a good roadside motel “near” NYC. Standards are really third world. However, out in the “sticks” most motel chains are better than 3 star NYC hotels.

          5. I’ve got a Choice Privileges number although I don’t think I’ve used it in years. I’ve stayed at an EconoLodge that I found acceptable. It was old and seemed a little bit cramped. However, I paid $35 for one night. The place seemed older, but with a fresh paint job. The place was clean although one could tell it hasn’t been remodeled in 20 years. The hot water was hot and the free WiFi was working quite well. The only other amenities were apples, bananas, and some cheap pastries. The place was fine. I knew what I was getting and I was happy with what I got.

            Now if I’m at a Hilton property and a few things go wrong, then I’m pissed.

          6. For what it’s worth I searched Choice Privileges Redemption List and saw that they only charged 8,000 points for Comfort Hotels in Tokyo and Sapporo, Japan. Now that sounds like a great deal to me. A subway day pass is only 720¥ or about $9 so it does not matter if the hotel is not in central Ginza. She paid 16,000 points for a dive in NJ. No wonder they were so quick to give her back 8,000 points.

          7. Agree with this. Loyalty card or just a credit card, she’s not likely to earn points at a place she never stays at. And having familiarity with the chain demonstrates she had an idea of what to expect. And the chain actually affirmed that part of her story that this place didn’t measure up.

          8. Hey Emanon, ever think of moving back here to the East Coast? Looks like all you do is commute here from Colorado. 🙂 Happy New Year.

          9. Thanks, Happy New Year to you too.

            I wish! My wife would never go for it. I did help move my grandma back home last week which was nice. There are still so many destroyed houses around her, and so many people living in trailers who haven’t had their houses fixed, or don’t have insurance.

        2. But she also had more then enough points for a free room (16,000 is a lot of points in their system — more then 90%+ percent of travellers who don’t bother with the loyalty programs or only say somewhere once or twice a year).

      2. Choice does have a credit card through Barclays bank and it acts as both a loyalty and a credit card giving more points for using it at a Choice Hotel.

  6. She’s fine. If it was so horrible, she should have checked out and left and fought for return of all points. But she did stay. She did utilize the property and did so for ha;f price!

  7. Where is the client getting information on the location of a hotel? That is all important to me. A little research would tell me it was near a porno shop. Was this the only hotel that was available for her points? Also how was the hotel rated; 1star, 3 star, on the Choice hotel site? Never trust Trip Adviser, they are almost always wrong or faked. If this were a Hampton hotel, a full credit would be returned, and I do believe under the described circumstances, I would demand a full credit. Her high standing with Choice should lead to additional compensation. The further inspection of the hotel has no bearing on Hart’s compensation. That should be expected.

  8. I voted No. Probably because we just suffered a similar fate at a Days Inn in Austin. I’m quite familiar with Days Inn and didn’t expect luxury, so we opted for the motel nearest our family’s home and Texas University. When we arrived (fairly late), we found grit in the rug and hand-sized stains that appeared to be wax, dirt piles in the corners, and clumps of hair and lint on the bathroom floor. There was no shampoo, only one tiny bar of soap, no drinking glasses or coffee cups, and only about 1/4 roll of toilet paper (no spare). The basin drain wouldn’t close.

    We reported all of these deficiencies to the night manager, who blamed them on a “maid in training.” He handed us a bar of soap, some shampoo, and a roll of TP; he said he’d notify his boss “when he comes in.” The same man was on duty in the morning–no boss. When we returned in the evening, we found several broken beer bottles outside our door, beer cans in our parking space, and used dental floss on the door mat. The drain was still broken; the floors still had the same dirt. A different assistant was at the desk; no sign of the manager. We said we’d be leaving in the morning if we didn’t hear from him. The next day the manager was still among the missing. The assistant refused to refund our prepaid third night. We found another hotel anyway.

    My husband emailed the Days Inn headquarters and got a form letter saying that Days Inn regrets our unsatisfactory experience. We won’t be risking another one.

  9. I’ve been a Choice member since their program started, and I’ve run into similar situations. I no longer stay at Comfort Inn – only at Comfort Suites, and I ALWAYS look at the place before I sign in. After almost 10 years I’ve seen a distinctive decline in the quality of their hotels. I THINK that as the hotels age, the corporation sells them off as franchises. If that’s true, then the company doesn’t seem to care much about those franchises; the corporate inns are almost always very nice. At least that seems to be the case. Still, I’ve recently switched my loyalty to Country Inn and Suites which tend to be much nicer and the company (so far) seems interested in maintaining their quality. My Barclay credit card isn’t that important to me anymore and for 16,000 points I epect more quality than Choice seems able to maintain.

  10. I voted yes. She got more than I expected and I am glad she is happy with it. That was 50% off a night, after the fact. If she was not happy, she should have raised a fuss at the time, not given in and agreed to stay.

    I have stayed at Comfort Inns, a few other choice properties, and even and Days Inns. They are exactly what I expect, a crappy budget hotel with no real amenities, not the highest standards in cleaning, and horrible beds and sheets often with cigarette burns in them. And expecting not to see an adult emporium in NJ? Come on.

    I stand by my old saying, if they have to put “Comfort” or “Quality” in the name, its not going to be comfortable, and its not going to be Quality.

    Edit: Its pretty common for a maintenance person or cleaning person to try to enter the room. I don’t think they can hear very well through the doors and by 9:30 AM they expect most people to be gone. If I am going to be in the room after 7am. I always put on the “Do Not Disturb” sigh and have not had any one accidentally enter since. But when I forget, and am in the room, it happens frequently.

    1. Have to disagree a little bit with you on the “Comfort” and “Quality” thing. One of my all-time favorite places I’ve stayed was the Quality Inn in New Orleans near the French Quarter. Affordable, clean, fantastic hot breakfast buffet, super friendly folks (they could actually pronounce my name with one syllable without being prompted!) who remembered us on every trip in/out, worked with me to get reservations sorted out during NCAA tournament season. Truly “Quality”!

      Agree with you that Comfort Inns are hit and miss, but sometimes they’re the only property available on a long trip on the backroads that my husband and I like to drive.

      Also agree with you that 9:30 is pretty late by Housekeeping time. That’s what “Do Not Disturb” signs are for.

      1. There is a 10 page thread in flyertalk that you might find interesting
        Also the 8k point redemption levels for international locations look very interesting.
        So not all choice franchises are dumps but many here in NJ/NY/CT are especially near the highways. I have a very difficult time suggesting to friends who ask where they can stsy when they say the are driving through this area.

        1. Too funny. I found the “lovely” place we stayed at in Columbus, OH right there on the 1st page as one to avoid. Am appreciating the discussion on properties around Philly, as that’s our next road trip in March. But look, comment #39 recommends the exact same Comfort Inn that the OP disliked so much!

          1. At least they agree on the musty part. Linoleum is kind of passe so that motel must be old and not recently refurbished to the new Choice style standards.That said, there must be a lot of hotels or motels just struggling financially to remain open. After paying royalty fees, loyalty point fees, GDS fees, and commissions, I wonder what is left for the property owner? Oh I forgot the mortgage.

          2. BTW, If you wish to stay in Philly I can highly recommend the Best Western Independence Park Hotel. Now we didn’t have a car so I am not sure what the parking arragnements are, but it was charming, in a perfect location and came as a recommendation from a local. It was a doll factory many moons ago and they did an excellent job in keeping the character of the building. I wouldn’t stay in any Days Inn, Quality Inn or Comfort Inn on the east coast…ever! Beeen there, done that, never again. For road trips, we stay in Hampton Inns (consistant quality), County Inn and Suites and Best Western (pick these carefully, some as great, some not, very inconsistant)

          3. Thanks for the heads up. We’re planning on taking the train from NYC, then picking up a rental car in Philly to tour the Lincoln Highway in PA and hit Harrisburg on our way back to Philly and home. Lots of good info on that FlyerTalk thread Tony sent – some good Choice properties and some bad Choice properties. Unfortunately the bad outweighs the good in the Atlantic States area. Back on-topic: it would be nice if franchisees were held to some Corporate standard and that standard enforced. Then experiences such as the OP’s would be rare.

          4. Jeanne,

            Maybe you already know this, but let us do some math behind these FREE REWARD stays (like the OP did).

            She said she spent 16,000 points on that dirty motel.

            Note that when members earn 16,000 points staying and paying at Choice hotels, those hotels PAID Choice for those points.

            Since members make 10 points for every dollar paid in room revenue, then 16,000 points meant $1600 in room revenue (assuming the member did not accumulate the points by just shopping). The hotels that earned that $1600 have to pay Choice a 5% fee, or about $80, for the Choice Privileges program (on top of another 4-5% royalty fees). In other words, the hotel properties themselves FUNDED her free stay.

            The dirty hotel where she redeemed her free stay will be paid by Choice a reimbursement rate of about 40-60% of its Average Daily Rate (ADR). If that property’s ADR is (let’s say) $80, then that dirty hotel would have made a low $32 for a reimbursement rate. But remember since the reimbursement is considered revenue, the dirty hotel must pay Choice about 4-5% of that again as royalty fees.

            So let’s see, Choice collected $80 from the hotels for the 16,000 points and then gave one of the hotel no more than $30 back for a “FREE” stay. So Choice pocketed a cool $50 and let the properties duke it out with irate customers.

            I wonder what is the incentive of franchise to be too strict to its property owners since they might revolt and end the gravy train for the franchisor.

            I think Elliott was right when he said that mileage and point award plans are quite a scam. 🙂

          5. Re: “We’re planning on taking the train from NYC, then picking up a rental car in Philly to tour the Lincoln Highway in PA and hit Harrisburg on our way back to Philly and home.”

            My family used to live outside Philly (on the so-called mainline and Route 30, the Lincoln Highway). As I recall the drive on U.S. 30 to Lancaster (Amish country) was very pretty. Since this was a day trip to us (usually just to buy shoofly pie and eat ice cream), I can’t suggest where to stay.

            How much time do you have? I am not sure about the drive up to Harrisburg (not pretty). Maybe you can consider driving more West towards Chambersburg, then head south on I-81 towards Shenandoah Nat. Park. Maybe return the car and fly out from Charlottesville. Sorry if I recommended a huge detour. But if you haven’t seen Shenandoah yet, that place is one of the prettiest places in the USA (IMO). Alternatively, you can keep driving West on US30 and hit Latrobe at visit Arnie’s own golf course, then fly out of PIT. 🙂 My advance apologies for not minding my own business.

          6. West Coast isn’t much better for Choice properties. I had a 22-room block going to a Clarion in Anaheim for a family member’s funeral – most of them were flying in from the South Pacific – and it was nothing short of a nightmare (close-to-condemned building, bad service, etc). I vowed never to do that again – and I was working for a Comfort Inn at the time. These days, my boyfriend and I stick to Staybridge Suites when we travel. Sure, I can get an employee discount if it’s available at another Microtel or Wyndham-branded property, but at least at Staybridge, neither of us are ever disappointed.

            Another West Coast note on Choice properties… many of them are old Ramadas and Holiday Inns. And I’m going to save my opinion on Ramadas, too…

            Best Western recommendation (other than Independence Park, which is wonderful – from soup to nuts!): If you’re headed into Cocoa Beach, FL, get yourself a suite at the BW there. They’re very reasonably priced, their service is excellent and it’s a stone’s throw from the Cocoa Beach Pier.

  11. Part of me says “well, the OP stayed… they’re lucky they got anything back”… the other part of me says “no one deserves to stay in a rathole – at all.”

    I should be surprised that the front desk didn’t do more for her – – sadly, I’m not.

    I wish Choice could/would do more to bring their properties up to what the brand requirements are. Start enforcing fines, start yanking brands for non-compliance, etc. – I’ve worked for way too many Choice hotels that fell well below Choice’s ordinarily high standards. Of the few bright spots I’ve had with those properties, Choice Privileges has been the best of them. I’ve seen them try their damndest to make things better for their members. They really can only do so much, though, when the owner/s refuse to comply with Choice.

    1. Hey Nikki, can you give us an inside look on how housekeeping is paid on a typical 70 room Choice Franchise. I suspect they are paid by the room. I also would not be surprised if the type of guests that stay mess up the place a lot.

      1. That depends on the property… I’ve seen one where it was a couple that lived on-site, and they were paid $3-5 per room, under the table (Econo Lodge, 70 rms); one that contracted their back-of-house services to a company outside the hotel (Comfort Inn, 212 rms); another that paid regular minimum wage per hour (Comfort Inn, 72 rms; Comfort Suites, 91 rms); and yet another that paid the housekeepers $2 more per hour than the front desk clerks (Quality Hotel, 104 rms).

        Not surprisingly, the one that paid $2 more, had much better rooms. The owner of that Quality justified the pay difference, saying that the housekeeping staff has the hardest job in the hotel. Of course, the worst of them was the Econo Lodge.

        I’d get into more detail with my opinion, but – – I have some unpopular views about Choice properties as a whole. Just not looking to offend anyone’s sensibilities. 😀

        1. Thank you for the great info. I wish hotel or motels can post how much they paid their staff and be proud of it. As a guest, I would like to stay in one that paid people well because it will surely reflect on the service.

        2. Interesting. Thanks for sharing this. I do think that housekeeping is an area within the hotel that isn’t up to par, as it once was, even with the high end hotels. My standards are different if I am paying $65 a night vs $365 a night, but I still expect a clean room and safe room at any price!

          1. OK, that article gave me quite the laugh. That explains the rise of IHG and Wyndham-branded properties that suddenly became Choice, other new-name-old-building name brands (America’s Best Value, etc), and independent hotels/motels.

            I’m glad IHG tightened up the requirements for their Holiday Inns. Before they cracked the whip, a lot of them were looking worse than aged. It wasn’t a surprise to me to hear of roaches big enough to put a leash on them and give them a name…

            …much like a lot of the Choice properties I hear and read about.

  12. I wonder whatever happened to just not patronizing a business that you don’t like. Maybe it’s because I read this column regularly but it seems like every bad business experience turns into “What do I deserve?” or “How do they make up for X?” or “Is this enough compensation?”

    This is a perfect example. The customer is not out anything: her luggage wasn’t stolen, a brick didn’t fall off the hotel and damage her car, or anything. She just didn’t like the place, and felt it didn’t meet her subjective expectations.

    When you don’t care for an experience – at a hotel, restaurant, gas station – don’t return. Simple as that. Don’t go fishing for compensation.

    1. I hear what you’re saying…on the other hand, I can understand wanting to get some money (or in this case points) back when you don’t feel you got what you paid for. If I paid a hundred bucks for something, but the product I got was only worth 50, I’d want 50 back. So from that perspective I can see someone wanting to get something back when they didn’t get the experience they felt they should have.

      This case, though…seems to me she got exactly what she paid for. The place is a cheap chain motel franchise. She could have done just the tiniest bit of research and discovered what the place was like. Then she could have decided if it was worth the 16,000 points.

      As for the guy trying to get in – couldn’t she have at least made a quick phone call to the front desk? I certainly would like to know who was trying to barge into my room! Since she didn’t do that, she has no leg to stand on since it was likely housekeeping (yes, some housekeepers are male). I’ve had housekeeping walk in on me when I slept that late – that’s not uncommon at all.

      With all the online resources available these days to find out what to expect at hotels, I simply have no sympathy anymore for people who have a bad experience that they could have predicted had they spent just a few minutes online.

      1. That’s my point – she got what she paid for….everything she didn’t like was subjective in nature. Had she not gotten advertised wi-fi, that’s objective. Had they not served the promised breakfast, that’s objective. Each of those could have opened the door for compensation, as could, say, damages or loss of property.

        This is like going to a restaurant and not caring for the food. The answer: don’t go back.

        1. I agree with you – sorry if that wasn’t clear in my post. I guess the only part I didn’t agree with is the first sentence, in which you seem to decry anyone asking for compensation when they have a bad experience. In this case I didn’t think she deserved anything back. But there are other cases in which they do.

          But anyway, bottom line, on this case you and I are in complete agreement.

          1. Why have we come to the point where we feel compensation is required LeeAnne? I am more impressed with people when they bring a less than satifactory situation to the attention to the higher ups in hopes of improving things for the next person and not because there could be a reward for reporting it.

          2. Okay, so just to be clear: I believe compensation is required when I don’t get what I paid for, what was specifically promised to me, and what I can reasonably expect. Like I explained above – if I pay $100 for something, and get something worth half that, I want half my money back. I don’t care if it’s a product or a service. If I pay for 50 apples, and get 25 – I either want my other 25 apples, or I want half my money back. Same thing with a service – if I pay $100 to have my house cleaned, and they only clean the downstairs, I want $50 back.

            If I stay at a hotel and am promised a full breakfast, I expect to have a functioning room and to eat breakfast in the morning. If I then get no hot water, no heater in the dead of winter so I’m freezing all night, and the restaurant is closed for repairs, I want some money back because I didn’t get what I was promised and what I should reasonably expect for the price of my room.

            On the other hand, if I get a functioning room and breakfast, but the decor us ugly, the food is horrible, and there are stains on the carpet, and all of these deficiencies are clearly described on Trip Advisor…well then, I got what I paid for AND what I could reasonably expect. I may not have liked it, but too bad – I don’t deserve a penny back.

            I hope this helps explain what I mean.

          3. A very good question! And one that gives me pause for thought. So bear with me here…

            I think an argument could be made that one has a right to expect a clean room at any lodging, so not getting one should result in some compensation. Cleanliness is as much a basic requirement of any room as a usable bed and a functional bathroom.

            But another argument could be made that the cleanliness of a room doesn’t actually take away its basic functionality…it’s more of a subjective quality issue. You can still sleep in it, use the restroom, etc. So unless the room was so unsanitary that it was unusable, then a room that is not cleaned to your satisfaction shouldn’t result in compensation. You got what you paid for, you just didn’t like it as much as you thought you would.

            I don’t know which argument I agree with…discuss! 🙂

          4. I’d don’t really buy that second argument personally. Cleanliness is not really a usability issue like the basic functionality you listed. If you were promised a certain “atmosphere”, you are being promised a subjective quality. I guess the deciding factor in that case would be is the cleanliness of the room at the same level of other rooms or meet the parent company’s standards.

            I think the comp she got was fair, but with the parent company saying they were investigating that property, I would think that should tell them there really is a problem and gave her all the points back.

          5. I think there are some places (or highways) in between cities you don’t want to get stuck overnight.
            This and other parts of Jersey is one of them. I would compare it to getting stuck in Richmond on the way to Napa or getting stuck in Stockton. I think you know what I mean. Whenever I drive to the South from here just outside NYC, I make sure I have plenty of time to get to across the PA-NJ corridor before I need a motel because they are lousy. To me, that just part of travel common sense.

          6. You painted a good picture with the Richmond comparison…yuck! We do a lot of driving trips and I have to say that the east coast has the worst hotels for one night stays. It is hard to not find a Days Inn, Comfort Inn and such in many places, outside of large cities and nothing else.

        2. I’ve paid $30 for a motel and felt I got my money’s worth. I’ve paid $150 for a hotel and felt I got my money’s worth. I’ve paid $100 for a hotel and felt ripped off. I’ve also paid $40 for a motel and felt ripped off.

          Sometimes I wish that people would leave the price paid out of the equation. That often has only a tenuous relation to what should be expected. Judging by hotel type and known location should be the standard.

          It’s too easy these days to look up a place with mapping websites. One can choose a satellite image and see exactly what’s around the neighborhood.

        3. There’s an in-between stage between being totally satisfied and never going back to business you frequent. And that stage is reporting the problem. I agree people ask for compensation for things far too minor to warrant it, but the appeal of compensation is that it is a tangible acknowledgement that something wasn’t up to par.

          I honestly believe people would ask for compensation less if more places manned up and actually apologized for mistakes, rather than issuing half-apologies and non-apologies-that-sort-of-sound-like-apologies, but that’s how things are in our overly legalistic society. And, in this case the chain had no problem with compensating her by giving her half her points back, so if they were willing to go the compensation route it seems silly to second-guess them.

      2. Sometimes the only incentive for a business to changeis to feel it in the pocketbook so I understand wanting compensation for a disappointing stay. How many times will you visit one particular hotel?

        1. Well, me personally…one bad stay and I’m done! Too many options out there for hotels that are actually willing to earn my travel dollars. 😉 But then I’m not really one for product loyalty of any sort.

    2. Agree. If you read carefully, it seems like she chose the motel because of its PROXIMITY to New York (hopefully she meant NYC, or more specifically Manhattan) because she was checking in late after 11pm. It seems she drove from PA to NYC and stopped to stay the night at NJ on the way back to PA.

      While she may be used to driving down South from PA to FL, I bet she no clue how lousy the areas between PA and NJ can be on the way North and East to NYC.

  13. Not on this subject, but on the subject of hotels: Hilton has upped the amount of stays needed to achieve gold status, from 16 to 20. I usually check these things at the beginning of the year because Hilton doesn’t notify me of any changes. Perhaps there is someone reading this column that didn’t know this but should.

  14. Well, she can’t get compensation for the hotel being located near an Adult Emporium, and I’d be really pissed about the guy entering her room, but if she’s okay with what she got, then she got enough compensation.

  15. What do you expect? It’s Jersey and Comfort Inn. If you really want a comfortable stay after a late night in New York City, then stay in Manhattan and pay the price.

  16. Famous pro wrestler Kane once told a similar story; he was given a key card by the front desk but when he went to the room, it was already occupied (and the terrified couple inside had not put the chain lock up.)

    How can a hotel do that? don’t they have a record of what room is occupied and what room isn’t?

    UNLESS (in the case of the OP) did a random drunk guy stumble up the front desk and claim “I lost my key, but I’m in room —-” resulting in a free key?

    i think the OP deserves at least all her points back.

    1. Depends on the hotel. Quite a few of the card key systems are tied to the reservations computers, and a new key has to come from pulling up the reservation or other record. However, some places do have “dumb” systems where the clerk simply keys in the room number, enters the number of keys, and encodes each card key.

      These systems are also pretty simple. They have to know how each door lock is programmed. When a new set of keys is swiped, the door lock now locks out any previous keys. Any previous keys can probably be used until A) a timeout period is reached or B) the new guest keys have been used on the lock.

    2. Wow, funny story. It couldn’t be a little old lady walking into the room…it just had to be a huge pro-wrestler!

  17. …what about the other 8,000 points (in other words, a “full refund”)? I have had similar experiences (a”bummer” in an otherwise respectable chain) and have received full refunds with apologies…

  18. The lower end, less expensive hotels seem to have issues with keeping any type of standards or consistency through out their chain. I stopped staying in these hotels and I would recommend that Tracy try one of the travel websites to book last minute stays, and start collecting points at “better” properties. I am very surprised that Tracy didn’t get bedbugs from her stay!

  19. If they can’t even keep the lobby clean, that would worry me when it comes to the rooms. I think they scammed her. They charge as much as a nice hotel, and then provide horrible rooms hoping no one will complain.

  20. If it were me staying in such a motel/hotel, I wouldn’t be able to sleep. My near-phobia is of dirty (bed bugs?) mattress, mattress pad unwashed for months, and unclean sheets. The front desk folks would receive my request for a CSI-like black lite before I even sat on the bed. Shiver…. Pet Peeve: designated non-smoking rooms that are satuated with cigarette, MJ, cigar smoke. Very bad for serious lung problem & smoke sensitivity.

    1. I’ll admit that sometimes I stay at Motel 6 to save money. Sometimes it’s not bad at all. The biggest issue I have is that some of the clientele can be less than classy, as in (and I can’t think of any more descriptive term) trailer trash who argue all night and don’t have any concept that others are trying to sleep. Sometimes staying at a cheap motel is about as close as I’ve gotten to an episode of “Cops”. Some of the locations might even be known for prostitutes and/or drug dealers.

      Even without those issues, I have been placed in “non-smoking” rooms that reeked of stale smoke that someone attempted to cover up with deodorizer. And their pet policy can be interesting. I probably should have asked for another room, but the one I stayed in had the distinct smell of pet urine that soaked into the carpet under the bed. I know it can be deodorized with certain treatments. I bought some myself after a neighborhood dog left a present on our welcome mat.

      1. I felt like I was living an episode of Cops once, only I was staying at the Renaissance Times Square. Terrell Owens and his posse were on my floor, and one of them got into a fight with another, it spilled out into the hall. Walls were damaged, a sculpture thrown, and the cops were there for hours. The fight kept re-starting even with the cops present. It made for an interesting, and sleepless night. Eventually several people were arrested, some were kicked out, and it finally quieted down.

        Though I would expect that to happen more often at a cheap motel. It only happened one time out of over 1,200 stays at various Marriott properties. Makes an interesting story. (PS I didn’t ask for compensation).

        1. I don’t think you need to worry about T.O.’s posse ever again, since he’s rather broke right now and in no danger of ever having that kind of money again.

        2. I know someone who did night security for another nearby upscale hotel and he got stabbed by one of Bobby Brown’s posse when he tried to break up a fight.

  21. In my opinion, the point being hammered home was that the conditions were sub-par to the company advertising hype. My bottom line is, regardless of location, if you sell one product, yet deliver another, then make it right with the customer! Beyond that, what else needs discussed?

  22. I think they should have given her all the points back, and then another 16k on top. It’s a hotel they probably want to get rid of, and it’d be a very cheap way of probably delighting a frequent customer.

  23. Someone please explain to me how she can still be asleep at 930am on a dirty bed and room? Why would anyone sleep in this late if the place sucks? Wouldn’t a reasonable person leave as early as possible? Also, if I checked in a motel near midnight (after drinking in a party maybe), I won’t be awake enough to see dirty linoleum tiles, unvacuumed floors, holes in the bed cover, etc. I won’t even notice the adult shop nearby. I’ll just go straight to my room and crash. This sounds to me like a case of an unrealistic guest who expects too much for a free rewards stay from a cheap motel chain.

    1. Because, as hard as it maybe for you to believe, not everyone is like you Tony. Maybe it was because she had a long day and didn’t get to bed until late (hay, didn’t it say that in the story) and so may have been really tired.

      1. If she is the experienced business traveller that she says she is, then why would she leave NYC after 11pm, drive (presummably) across town, cross the GWB bridge, traverse I-80, exit in Fairfield and use a motel she has never been in before? Note, she could also have taken the Lincoln Tunnel and Rte 3 all the way.
        If you are tired after 11pm in NYC, you might want to consider at least a 4 star hotel in a nice area. Look, there is really no way to do NYC on the cheap. Parking alone is about 40 bucks. So what do you expect to get staying in a cheap Jersey motel that charges approx 79 bucks a night and you pay with points instead of cash?
        Gimme a break, this is NY area and there are so many roach motels here.
        Tired? Not tired enough to see enough to bitch about.

        1. You asked for someone to explain how she could still be asleep at 9:30am. I gave you a possible explaination. Don’t go bringing in all this irrelevant crap in your response.

          1. Of course it is relevant because she started her whole story about how experienced she was on travelling.
            Besides, if she was that dead tired, how could she have noticed all the things to bitch about other than being awakened at 930am by someone opening her door,

          2. No, it is not relevant to THE QUESTION YOU ASKED. Let me remind you. You ask… “Someone please explain to me how she can still be asleep at 930am on a dirty bed and room?” The question was how she could sleep so late. Not about how her level of travel expertise effected her sleep. Not about how observant she was at that time. Not if she knew the area. The question was how she could sleep until 9:30am.

            Now if you have any other comments ON THAT ONE QUESTION, go ahead and ask. Just stop trying to deflect the conversation onto an unrelated topic by introducing non-relevant crap into your replies.

          3. Well she never complained that she was tired. She only mentioned it was already late that night and the replacement room was worse since there was a cigarette burn on the bedsheet. So, if she was not dead tired, why not just walk away or get the heck out of the rat hole? Point being, she made it look worse because she was angling to get all her points back.

          4. Again. More irrelevant response that doesn’t address the question of how she could sleep until 9:30am. Doesn’t matter that she didn’t mention she was tired. Maybe her normal day has her sleep cycle from 2am to 10am (to give 8 hours). Doesn’t matter the reasons why she didn’t walk away. Nothing to do with why she slept until 9:30am. Point being, you are not addressing the very question you asked being how a person, the op in this case, could sleep until 9:30am.

            I have noticed this is a common occurrence in your responses. Someone talks about subject A and you reply with complete irrelevant subject B and try to make it sound likes it applies when it doesn’t.

            So, unless you want to respond to the ability to sleep until 9:30am and not about all this other irrelevant crap, this topic is closed for me.

          5. Whoops. Need a little edit here. Seems that last reply was from “Guest” and not directly from Tony. So strike the middle paragraph. Since I am not registered, I can’t edit the original.

      1. Oh, it’s not just the posters. The OP’s get the worst of it. I’ve yet to see a letter, regardless how badly the OP was treated and how many things they did right that should have prevented the problem where somebody didn’t have all the answers and was happy to explain why such a thing could NEVER happen to them.

      2. It’s the anonymity. Folks who would never dream of raising their voices to another person face-to-face feel free to slash and burn from behind their computer screens (or the wheel of a car).

  24. I’m totally amazed that no one seems to think someone trying to get into this woman’s room is a significant detail. I’m a guy and it would scare the crap out of me. So what if it was an employee. He could rob her, or worse, just as readily as someone from the dirty book store.

    And if the hotel doesn’t re-code the doors after someone walks off with a key-card (and this DOES happen), that could be anybody trying to get back into the room they stayed in the night before.

    1. I thought it was, but some others have covered that; either call the front desk (which is what I would have done), or put the DND sign outside the door. She’s traveled enough, so I would have thought she would have known that. (the OP, that is) Either way it goes, the housekeeper or maintenance guy trying to get in should have verified with the front desk first to see if it was occupied. Me – I’d have lit into someone for trying to get into my room like that. There’s no excuse for that without checking with the desk.

      As far as recoding keys, that’s supposed to happen with every new guest that comes in, or when a key is lost (as opposed to “I left it in my room”). Desk clerks are supposed to verify ID no matter what, and housekeeping is either directed not to let anyone in at all (and send them to the front desk), or call the desk AND verify ID. If the desk doesn’t care enough to ensure my security by doing any of the above, I ask for a manager and ask for new keys to be made – and then keep one of the old keys to verify that the lock has been re-coded. (Travelers, if you’re not already doing this, I strongly suggest you do.)

      1. ” put the DND sign outside the door”

        I have had, and seen, kids running through halls of hotels at night turning around those signs so it reads “maid service now”. I’ve noticed as of late that most of those signs don’t have the two options on it. Probably because of those problems.

        As for the recoding the key problem, something like this,, might be a good option too. While it may not actually stop someone from coming it, it’s going to make a lot of noise and hopefully drive them away.

        1. lol, I’ve never seen that (kids turning signs), but I’m not surprised that it would happen. I think I’d have had a fit.

          And the alarm!!! omg, that’s a fantastic idea. I wonder why more travelers don’t get those!

        2. No idea what happened to the post I originally had here – but… I’m not surprised at the idea of kids running the halls and turning signs. I’m sure it’s happened – I’ve just never seen it.

          And as for that alarm… Love that! I wonder why more travelers don’t have them… I’d suggest that too!

  25. We have stayed at a Comfort Inn Suites in Albany, Oregon. It is a very nice property. On the way back to our home in California we spent the night at a Comfort Inn in Redding, CA. We learned quickly there is a big difference in the cleanliness and quality but maybe it was just this property? Will make sure to be more careful next time.

  26. There are plenty of hotels (even as part of a reputable chain) that don’t measure up in the cleanliness department. Safety, however, is another matter. How do you make it up to your customers when you put their safety at risk? Even if they were not “harmed”, the clients were clearly intimidated by the pounding on the door and someone with keycard access. Frightening.

  27. I AM a Diamond Traveler (40+nights/year) with Choice Hotels: they are what they are: lower to middle end cost, (all I want is a relatively safe room, a bed, free 24hour coffee, and free internet) …and I stay in all of them: Econolodges on up to Comfort/Qualitys to Ascension and Clarions…But Choice is pretty damn good at making good either at the front desk or at coproarte level if there is a problem…you just have to directly and calmly describe the problem, and what you’d like to happen… I have found Choice Hotels on the whole a lot more flexible either at site or corporate than either Marriot or Hilton properties (and I USED to patronize them until they just got so damned expensive)….

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