Not a trick question: When is a suite not a suite?

Hotels use marketing-speak to hype their facilities all the time — the five-star restaurant that only deserves four or the “spa” that’s an old conference room with a treadmill and a few weights. Experienced travelers expect these little white lies.

But when Sandy Martin and her two adult children stayed at the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., recently, she says the property crossed a line. She booked a suite but didn’t get one.

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This is the weekly feature called Should I Take The Case, where I ask you if I should be the reader’s advocate. As always, I don’t have the company’s official rebuttal, so for those of you who will tell me there’s another side to this story, let me save you the trouble — I know there is.

“We booked a suite, we called ahead to ensure a suite and we got a basic room,” says Martin.

She continues,

I have been struggling for ten months with cancer, and decided to bring my two young adult foster children on a vacation as an antidote to the months of hospitals and doctors.

We knew that we needed two rooms or two distinct spaces, so that I could nap, due to my low energy.

I initially booked in the Huntley Hotel, which was running a major sale, but then realized they had no suites. So I hunted around for a hotel with suites and found the Shore Hotel (through both Travelocity and TripAdvisor, and with good comments on Yelp).

I have never stayed in such an expensive hotel; this was a huge splurge for us and we eagerly looked forward to it for weeks. My daughter was actually counting the days.

But when they checked in, they were disappointed.

When we arrived at the Shore Hotel, our room was called a ‘suite’, but I was stunned to see only one space.

I expressed my confusion to the staff member who helped us carry our bags up, Randall (I’m fairly sure that was his name), and he immediately called the front desk. There was nothing that could be done then, and we were exhausted from traveling, so he told me to talk with the front desk in the morning.

The Shore Hotel advertises two kinds of suites — a king and a junior suite.

The following morning, Martin spoke with a hotel representative, who explained that they were indeed in a suite. A junior suite. She agreed to upgrade them to a king suite as a courtesy. (Not that it would have made much of a difference. The “king” was still too small for the group, according to the hotel’s site.)

But before she could, another reservation for a king suite came in, and Martin says they were stuck.

“I was stunned by both the way the hotel openly chooses to redefine words in the English language to its own benefit, and by the fact that the room disappeared right in front of me,” she says. “She moved us to a room with better windows and balcony, but less space, and promised to keep working on it. I heard nothing else during the next five days we were there.”

Here’s the issue. If Martin went online to look at the definition of the junior suite, she would have seen that the quarters were going to be tight. But she says she called the hotel and was given assurances that she’d be in a traditional, two-room suite.

“The three of us in the room were tripping over each other, crawling over the beds to move around, and generally being very irritable,” she says. “This was not at all the splurge vacation we had chosen.” Also, her family experienced some noise outside their room, which is not unusual in a place like Santa Monica.

What followed was a series of emails between Martin and the hotel. She asked for half her money back, and it agreed to comp her for one night. Here’s the final rejection letter from the director of guest services:

First and foremost thank you for choosing the Shore Hotel on your visit to Santa Monica. I was troubled to find out that we clearly did not meet your expectations on the room. The issue that I am having is that I am not exactly sure how the expectation was given.

After speaking with the staff that took your reservation they were able to articulate the differences in our suite categories. The Jr. Suite was the room type reserved and confirmed on the email sent to you. This was the type of room we provided when you arrived.

Again I apologize for any confusion and that we did not meet your expectation on the room you reserved. I feel that we were quite reasonable with the compensation that we offered in excess of $500 for your inconvenience with the room and the noise you experienced on property. With that in mind I am going to respectfully decline your request for two more additional nights.

Martin is unhappy with that.

“I think it was insufficient, considering the amount of discomfort we experienced,” she says.

Here’s the thing: One of the key definitions of a suite is that it has “multiple” rooms. (It varies between hotel chains.) So if a customer calls you and says, “I have three adults and I’m looking for a suite with two bedrooms” — and the representative says, “Yes, that’s what our suites offer,” then this is an open-and-shut case. The Martin’s didn’t get what they paid for.

If, however, they made their reservation online, reviewed the confirmation carefully and only had a non-specific conversation about their accommodations when they phoned, then … well, maybe the Shore Hotel has already overcompensated them.

Parenthetically, I don’t think these room classifications are helping anyone. I’ve never understood how the “standard” room can be a shoebox, the “deluxe” room can be a regular room and the “suite” can be a room with enough room for a pull-out bed. When did hotels become airlines?

One thing seems clear: When you’re staying in a hotel, a suite isn’t a shore thing.

Should I take Sandy Martin's case?

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106 thoughts on “Not a trick question: When is a suite not a suite?

  1. I say mediate. By definition, a suite is multiple rooms. It’s like ordering a juicy t-bone and getting a McDonalds hamburger instead. Not what you ordered or could reasonably expect.

      1. A junior suite has another name – a room. It’s not a suite if it doesn’t have two rooms. Giving a larger room and calling it a junior suite is just a cop out.

    1. As someone that’s spends 75-100 nights a year in a hotel, I can assure you that suite does not always mean two rooms. By definition it should but that’s simply not the case for the hotel industry.

      1. Well, maybe in double-plus-good hotel-speak that’s the meaning, but in plain Ænglish, it means two rooms. Always record the conversations with slimeballs.

        1. She researched the hotel on Tripadvisor, Travelocity, and Yelp and never noticed that the suite didn’t have two rooms?

          I don’t simply don’t believe that she called and they said “The suite has two rooms”. Maybe she called and asked was it a suite (and made the assumption it was two rooms) or maybe she didn’t. This is not some small property where the owner lied to her to get her business. The average hotel employee has no vested interest in the place and couldn’t care less if she decides to stay there or not. They have no reason to lie.

          Again, I do feel bad for her but she did lots of research and she made one crucial error by assuming that suite means two rooms. 30 seconds on that hotels website would show it doesn’t.

          They gave her $500 in compensation when they didn’t have to give her anything. Time to stop being greedy and move on.

      2. Like you said – it should mean two rooms. The fact that it doesn’t, does not make it correct that it doesn’t. Hotels repeatedly lying doesn’t make a lie into the truth.

    2. Agree with Grant and Freehiker,

      In the hotel industry a suite does not necessarily mean multiple rooms. If you read room details carefully, you will find a good description.

      Also a junior suite simply means a separate living area, not necessary a separate room. Its akin to a studio apartment.

      1. In other words, the industry redefined king sized or deluxe room into junior suite – deceptive and, again, not the definition of the word “suite” according to the dictionary. Hence the problem.

      2. Totally agree. a suite can be a suite if it has a separate area for sleeping and for dining or kitchen or whatever. It does not need to have a separate door/room.

        Didn’t get this part “considering the amount of discomfort we experienced” What discomfort is that, exactly? the discomfort of having to argue with the staff? Were the placed in a room with one bed? And I’m sorry, but I’ve stayed in vegas with 3-4 people in a 350 square foot room before and we were never “tripping over each other”. When I hear things like this i just think excessive whiner.

        1. What is considered a “separate” area, though? I just looked at the website, and it looks to me like the junior suite is just a room with a kitchenette, a tables shoved in somewhere, and a pull out sofa. That’s pretty much a regular room with a kitchenette added. I wouldn’t really call that a “separate” area, no matter how the hotel describes it.

          This isn’t to say I agree with her complaint… it’s pretty obvious what she was getting if she reserved it online. The king suite isn’t even a real one bedroom… it’s one room with a half wall. I do have an issue with their descriptions, even though ultimately the hotel does say it’s only a partial separation. But still… don’t call it a one bedroom if it’s not.

        2. Lady has cancer. Escaped from hospital with adult children to get a break from being tortured in hospital. Why is it most people on this blog automatically side with the scumbags of the industry?

          1. Why she was in the hotel is not relevant. in fact, if someone was battling cancer and actualy got away to a nice destination, one would think that they would actually be HAPPY, rather than trying to find fault in every little thing and use words to make the situation sound way worse than it really is. Several in my family have died of cancer and no matter how trivial the good things were, they were grateful when they happened, because every day was special. they didn’t sit there and complain that they were put out because they were inconvenienced a little.

      1. No, the article doesn’t apply to Hampton Inn & Suites, at least to the numerous Hamptons where I stayed. I’ve never encountered a one-room suite when I booked suites. Suites are always two rooms. As a matter of fact, I noticed that Hampton makes a good distinction. If the hotel’s name doesn’t say “Suites” (i.e. just “Hampton Inn”), then it doesn’t offer suites. We always look for “Suites” first so that my whole family can fit. If Hampton gives me a one-room “suite” even when I book suites, I would be quite pissed. (But it may be a regional thing.)

          1. Ah, okay, so I guess “Studio” means one-room, just like “Junior”. Now I see your point. If other hotels calls one-room accommodations “suites”, then I guess this hotel can also call one-room accommodations suites.

          2. Kind of … my point is the term Suite is no longer generally accepted to mean multiple rooms. In fact, quite a few hotels and hotel chains use it to describe a larger room with a sitting area.

            The Hyatt Regency in FL where my family stays uses the term Jr. Suite to mean the same thing… Large room with a sitting area.

          3. Suite in todays day an age simply means a larger than normal room. For high end hotels like Ritz, etc it usually is mote than one room. But for budget and moderate hotels it is simply a larger room.

          4. Well, I’m not sure Hampton, Homewood, and Embassy are “budget” (they are budget to me), but they have two-room suites with doors and I like them.

      2. The Webster definition:
        : a group of rooms that is used for one purpose
        : a group of rooms in a hotel that is used by one person, couple, family, etc.

        Wikipedia is only as good as whomever edited it & is typically not accepted as a source in higher level academic work as a result.

        1. Yes… but Wiki is a good source for understanding the “street” or generally accepted definition of a term since the dictionary providers tend to lag behind by years. Beyond that, if you looked below, I linked to two different sources for the definition of a Junior Suite, which is what she booked. One of those being from a law dictionary.

          1. Generally accepted definition by slimeballs in an industry known to cheat its customers at every opportunity.

        1. Then she should have looked at the hotels website to look at pictures of their definition of a suite and she would have seen exactly what she was getting.

    3. As a travel agent I can assure you a suite doesn’t always mean multi rooms. Many times it is simply a larger room with a sitting area.

    4. I agree, I’ve been upgraded to suites several times which were no more than larger regular rooms. A suite as you say should be more than one room.

  2. Wow Chris I have never been so on the fence about one of these. So many little tidbits that go one way then the other.

    (I’m sorry about the cancer. I have been there with a family member who finally succumbed to cancer, but that should have no bearing on this at all.)

    It seems like she didn’t research the property too well before/after booking. Then it goes into a he said/she said situation. But if the hotel knew there were 3 adults you would think there would be sufficient room. But then she wants half the money back… Sheesh. Makes your head spin…

    So, does she have proof of what type of room she booked? If so, what does the website say that specific room offers? If that matches what she received, then really she has no leg to stand on. But if the website offered more than the room she stayed in, then you should mediate. But if you mediate what does she really deserve? Half the money seems a stretch.

    1. This is the description on their website:
      The Junior Suites provide a slightly larger guestroom experience. These
      rooms have an added sitting area, a sofa bed, and a more intimate

      1. Which really isn’t a suite, to be fair. I more have an issue with how the hotel calls it a suite and then tries to pretend it’s more than a regular hotel room with a kitchenette… if it even has that (it looks like it does in the picture though). An “added sitting area” with a “sofa bed” just means it’s a slightly larger than average room… and even then I bet it was smaller than a lot of “regular rooms.”

        1. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying she’s right. I just don’t like how this hotel is pretending this room is more than it really is. The “king suite” isn’t even a one bedroom suite… it’s got a half wall. That’s what a junior suite should be. And yet the description says it’s a “one bedroom.” No, it’s not. It’s a room with a half wall partition. Don’t call it a one bedroom suite. Just be clear up front. It’s not until the end that the hotel clarifies the half wall. At least it does include that… but I still say it’s trying to make the room sound like more than it is hoping people won’t read the whole description and will focus on the “one bedroom” part.

  3. cancer is horrible, but that should have no bearing on this at all.

    this person should deal with the fact that she didn’t research enough, or read the fine print. it clearly says on the website that the jr suite is only up to 375 sq feet. AND you can clearly see from the two photos of the room that there’s just a small sitting area to the one side, but it’s not a big room.

    the hotel already gave them a bigger room and cash. frankly, that’s too much. and complaints like these that happen all the time, too often, that it makes it all the harder for people who have really gotten screwed over to get the things they need.

    1. 375 square feet is barely a standard hotel room. Even a junior suite to me means larger room that may not be separate, but it least it is LARGER. What can 375 feet be larger than? I’d hate, hate, hate to have to stay in a normal room in this hotel.

  4. I just Googled “suite,” and on the first page alone found it defined as a “set,” “group” or “pair” of rooms, as well as “two rooms” and “two separate rooms,” so I was thinking, “Go get ’em, Chris.” But then, I Googled “hotel junior suite definition,” and things got a lot murkier. The general consensus is that a junior suite is, “a hybrid of a standard room and a larger suite. Most junior suites include a standard bedroom area and a small living area. Sometimes they are all housed in one long room, and other times they are separated into different rooms.” Sooo, “Don’t go get ’em, Chris.” It’s a slimy bastardization of the word “suite,” but, unfortunately, IS the common definition. 🙁

    1. But why would she go looking for that definition? Logically, a “junior suite” should match the definition of a “suite” but with smaller rooms. I don’t think” adding “junior” relieves them of the obligation to provide some kind of suite, i.e. multiple rooms.

      1. I’m just not sure what Chris would hang his hat on. The Shore Hotel’s definition of a junior suite is front and center on its website, Ms. Martin booked a junior suite (presumably through the website or a travel agent who had access to the website), and after all was said and done, the hotel offered her over $500 in compensation. How could Chris ask for more and keep a straight face?

        1. I fully agreee. In this case there was no need for dictionary, or long research: on the hotel’s website there is even a 360 dgr view of the room. Similar way I
          do not really understand the complain about the noise: just check the map. This are is busy, noisy 24/7.

        2. Besides the hotel definition, the website has a 360o. room view, which shows all the room. You can see the couch in the same area of the bed.

          Making things worst for OP’s claim, if you check about the larger King Suite, the description is clear:
          The One Bedroom Suites provide a separate living room and sleeping area, divided by a half wall.

          I’ll need to stretch a little to believe that while larger King Suite has only one bedroom divided by a half wall, the Junior suite will have two bedrooms with full walls. Or even a bedroom and a living room with full walls.

          1. I agree… but let’s be honest here… the hotel is trying to hide what their rooms really are. The king suite is NOT a “one bedroom suite.” It’s a room with a half wall. By that definition, all hotel rooms are “one bedroom” rooms. Adding a half wall doesn’t turn the area the bed is in into a bedroom. It’s just a room with a slightly more private bed area.

      2. Like Grant, I looked and couldn’t find anyone that defined a junior suite as having more than one room. Its all about what is reasonable.

        I could decide that a standard hotel room should have a jetted tub and a butler but that doesn’t mean that its a reasonable definition of a standard room or one that the hotel should have to live up to.

        1. They don’t have any real suites at all, though. Even the “king suite” is one room with a divider. I would term that a junior suite. I think the junior suite is a room with a kitchenette. Calling something a suite just because it has a “separate living area” is really stretching it. We drove from California to New Jersey and back again this summer and we stayed in at least 12 hotels. Probably 4, at least, had sofa beds and what could be termed a “separate living area.” Pretty much any room with a sofa bed has a separate living area, if you think about it. That doesn’t make those rooms suites. They’re just rooms with actual seats in front of the television.

      3. Ah, but whose logic are you going to employ? Odds are your own home has “rooms” that aren’t separated by doors from other rooms. (The dining room that is just an extension to the kitchen or an alcove off a living area, two living areas that flow into each other, etc. And how many “master suites” have you seen where the bathroom is actually fully open to the bedroom?) Junior suites and even full suites sometimes work in that same way. There’ll be an archway or divider screen between two areas with no door or things will be arranged in such a way that one large room clearly has two separate areas.

        If they’d represented this as being multiple rooms it’d be much easier to mediate. But they included a 360 degree view on their website. The only confusion was one of terms.

        1. It’s pretty clear there is no divider in the junior suite at all. The King Suite is the only room with a divider. I’m not saying I disagree with you… the pictures on the website make it very clear what the junior suite is. But I still think the hotel is being overly generous by describing the junior suite as a suite at all. It’s a room with a kitchenette and a pull out sofa. Regular rooms have the same things… minus the kitchenette. That hardly makes it a suite. And the king suite is what I would consider a junior suite to be, honestly.

    2. Record the conversation always. They are liars, so have it recorded, and then have ’em follow up with a written invoice describing the two rooms. Then there would be no confusion.

  5. I hope the LW’s health improves but her illness is not important to the problem. I find it unlikely that a hotel without a full suite told her it would be two rooms. I presume you will get a completely different story from the hotel. As a very frequent traveler I do know the difference between a junior suite and a suite, but understand the confusion when a traveler is not familiar. But I have a very hard time believing that a hotel will tell a guest that they will have a two room suite when they are booking a junior suite. The website is very clear about suite descriptions so a quick check there would have let her know what she was getting. Despite my skepticism I think you should look into this, if only to get the hotel’s side of this dispute.

    1. To be fair, I honestly believe she was told they have suites with two rooms. Just look at the description for the king suite. The website first says it’s a “one bedroom suite.” That strongly implies it has two rooms: a bedroom and a living room area. I find it very easy to believe someone said “oh yes, we have suites with two rooms” when in reality, all they have are “suites” with a room divider.

  6. I’ve personally been in “Suite” hotels where the “suite-ness” consists of a half-wall between the “living” area and sleeping area.

    Apparently in hotel-land, a suite is anything with a couch and coffee table, and does not refer to separate rooms.

    That said, since she called the hotel, if they told her wrong, then she has a case.

  7. Unfortunately for her she received exactly what she paid for. There is no case here unless the hotel decides to offer more compensation to avoid bad publicity.

  8. I never book a hotel room, let alone a vacation room, without looking at the floor plan on line. I voted ‘no’. The hotel has already over compensated for a customer who didn’t do their research.

    1. It sounds like she did do her research. She says she saw the description of a junior suite. She also says that she was told she would get something else. I think it’s more a question of whether she was justified in believing what she was told on the phone. I would agree that she probably was not.

  9. Sorry Chris but Wikipedia disagrees with you… Multiple rooms is not a requirement to for something to be called a “suite”

    Having stayed in suites in a number of different properties about the only consistent thing is that they tend to be bigger than the average room, but not always.

    I’m sorry that the LW didn’t do her research to find out exactly what constituted a “Jr. Suite” at this hotel but that’s not the hotel’s fault. If they provided her with what they reserved, they fulfilled their end of the bargain. Even with that, the hotel already provided her with $500 in compensation for her mistake. I think they have done enough.

  10. We’ve been noticing this as a more frequent problem as we travel with our toddler. We try to book true suites (with a door between the rooms – not just a doorway) so that we can put our little girl in one room, and my wife and I can have the other room. We’ve noticed the trend of hotels advertising “suites” that come in only one room, which means when we put our daughter to bed, we have to go to bed too. Needless to say, if we find this type of hotel, we do not stay there again. I think it’s a form of bait-and-switch. Once you’ve booked it, you’re hooked. It would be like advertising “queen bedrooms” as “small kings.”

    It seems these days, businesses are playing fast and loose with semantics. According to Merriam-Webster, a suite is a “group of rooms in a hotel”. Just because there’s a kitchenette or a couch, if it’s not separated from the sleeping space it’s not a suite, it’s a studio. To quote the great bard “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

      1. With which firm are you associated? Certainly you are not in the customer’s corner. You argue and argue and argue semantics to the detriment of the customer. Look in the dictionary under bull-shipper, it says “See John”…..

    1. It requires sleuthing to really know if you’re getting a two-room with an actual door and full wall. Been there and need to do that. One experience in an over-exagerrated hotel-speak suite taught me that also. So this is the LW’s experience to teach her that lesson too. Unfortunate, but reality.

      Why does travel include such a long list of “Watch out for…”? Sucks a lot of the fun out of it.

    2. You’re doing this with a toddler? Man, you’ve either got a well-trained toddler or you’re hoping beyond hope she stays in her own room, lol! Either way, it’s very admirable. My husband has taken to permanently sleeping in our office because our 4 1/2 year old took over his side of the bed. They say not to let kids sleep with you ever lest they never leave. It’s true, I think. I think she may never leave….

      1. I’m sure Isildain is referring to the typical suite setup where there is a living room type area with a separate doored bedroom. The desired door is between the living area and the bed area… creating a quiet room if/as necessary. Not two separate entrances to the hallway.

  11. If she looked at the photos and descriptions of the rooms online, it is clear what she was getting. Yes the word “suite” could be a bit misleading but always read the room descriptions!!

  12. While the definition of suite is two or more rooms, hotels have used it to describe a large single room. My husband often has a hard time sleeping so I always call to see if the suite is two rooms with a door so he can get up early without disturbing my sleep. I have found It is key to ask about a door…many hotels think that a seating area open to the bedroom is a suite. I feel very badly for the family that booked this hotel. It would have been nice due to the extreme circumstances to give them two rooms.

  13. I’ve had some sweet suites, and some disappointing ones as well. Most of the disappointing ones have been free upgrades, so I really can’t complain. I checked out the Shore Hotel’s website, just to see how they define their King versus Junior Suites, and it’s pretty obvious. The Junior suite you get a slightly larger guestroom with a small sitting area and a sleeper couch with a “more intimate” balcony, whatever that means. The King suite seems to fit your definition of a “traditional” suite – a separate bedroom and sitting room separated by a half wall with two private balconies and partial/full ocean views. Checked Travelocity, and the distinction is obvious there (but the prices were better for my random one-day on the Shore’s website directly) too.
    All that aside, surely their booking confirmation says Junior Suite or King Suite on it, right? They did have one of those, right? The hotel looks pretty “sweet,” right on the beach and not far from the Santa Monica Pier…it’s no wonder it was a little loud to boot.

  14. Honestly, I have no idea what constitutes a suite. It isn’t always multiple rooms. We recently stayed at a hotel in a regular room that was so spacious and broken into multiple areas that it looked almost exactly like the last “suite” we’d stayed in someplace else.

    But this part of the letter confuses me: How did the junior suite have accommodations for more people than a full suite? It had a sleeper sofa or something that the full suite lacked? That part seemed backwards.

    1. I’ve stayed in “suite” rooms where all it meant was there was a separate sitting area (sofa / coffee table + armchair) even though it was all in one big room. I remember raising my eyebrow when I saw the room, but then again, I didn’t need a separate room.

      1. I once booked a Suite at a Days Inn in Niagara Falls, NY. When I got to the postage stamp sized room, which didn’t have a separate seating area, I complained and was told its a “Sweet” not a “Suite”, because it has a “Sweet View”! Since the window was overgrown, dirty, and completely blocked the view, I left, went across the boarder into Canada, and got a room at the Sheridan. It too was not a suite, but was a “Falls View” and the view was pretty sweet.

  15. I voted no, I think the OP got enough compensation from the hotel already. She got the room she booked, and over $500 in compensation, I am not sure what she paid, but I am finding Jr. suites for $240 a night on their site.

    I went to the site and it clearly states that the Jr. Suite is a slightly larger room with a sofa area in the room. It even gives a 360 degree view. It also states that a king suite has two sleeping areas divided by a half wall and also gives a 360 degree view. They do offer 1-bedroom suites as well, but they are substantially more expensive. It’s very easy to see before you book. Yes, perhaps the word suite was misleading, however I think the key difference is the OP wanted a 1-bedroom suite, not a Jr. Suite. The key word is number of bedrooms. While I sympathize with her a little, I think she got enough.

    1. She would have needed one of their other suites to get what she wanted, though. She wanted an actual room from what I can tell. A divider wasn’t going to cut it (and I dispute their definition of those “suites”… the king suite is, IMO, more of what I would consider a junior suite to be and the junior suite is… well… it’s just a room with a sleeper sofa).

  16. What was the $500 in compensation? Was it a discount off a future stay? Or was it a partial refund or discount off the room rate she paid? If it was the future discount, then the hotel offered her nothing. And it seems strange that a reservation would be made for the one and only remaining King suite while they were waiting to be moved into it. And they probably would not have been happy with that either since the separation of the areas in the King suite are simply half walls which provides no privacy at all if that was what the LW was looking for.

    Sounds more like buyers remorse than anything.

    Wouldn’t two separate rooms that were either side by side or with a connecting door been more acceptable? Most hotels offer these options at a more reasonable cost than a true suite.

    1. Actually, the room being open and then reserved doesn’t surprise me. I I was trying to book a suite at a nearly sold out hotel for my family, and they were out of 1 bedroom suites, but had other rooms. I booked another room and called every day to see if the a suite opened up. I called before leaving on the day we planned to arrive and sure enough it opened up, and they were able to change our reservation. I’ve actually done that several times, but usually it becomes available a few days in advance, or not at all.

  17. In my experience as a hotel professional, I find that “suite” can be applied to various room types. In most cases it means it has a sleeping area and sitting area usually with pull-out sofa all within the same room. Calling it a suite does not necessarily mean two separate bedrooms. If she wanted to be certain she should have asked for it to be spelled out in her confirmation letter. A quick glance at the website room types, confirms that there is nothing pictured or described whatsoever that matches her wants of a 2 room suite. It’s all about the View at that hotel and the room types all look essentially the same. That said I think the hotel did everything they could to accommodate her request, they provided what she booked, and even offered a complimentary upgrade to a room with a premiere view, which again is what they advertise…The View! For a nearly sold out hotel with only 20 suites I’d say she made out as best as she could have. While it is sad she is suffering from cancer and I know she expected to get some reprieve from her treatments and spend time with her kids, I think she should accept the reimbursement of 1 night and be more thorough with her research next time when booking!

      1. I think it all depends on the type of property you are dealing with. At a box hotel (chain) they probably have an industry standard that can apply. However I am most familiar with Resorts were there really is no standard. My property has everything from standard rooms, to whirlpool suites, honeymoon suites, penthouse suites, and two room family suites. I think its really up to the property to define their room types as well as educate their staff to properly define those types to the guest.

    1. Rachel, with all due respect to your position, hotels are applying the word suite “to various room types”. The fact that hotels are doing this doesn’t make it right. Misusing the word suite is wrong. It’s a way for hotels to generate more revenue because people think they are booking 2 or more rooms … the definition of a suite. There’s no doubt about the definition, and there’s no doubt in my mind that hotels are preying on infrequent travellers that believe what the hotel tells them. A junior suite is a totally different animal, it’s a term coined by hotels and they can do whatever they want with a junior suite.

  18. Most of us who read and comment to Chris are pretty savvy travelers. We check, double check and triple check everything. We research every detail and caveat, then we make our final decision. We know that a “suite” is not always a “suite” as we believe them to be. (Just like we know “ocean view” does not always mean “ocean front”.)

    However, not all travelers are as savvy as we are. Hell, not all travelers have the patience that we do in our research. I have a feeling that the OP saw the term “suite”, as well as how much she was paying per night, and thought “oh, nice, two separate rooms” without reading the details. Then when her phone call “confirmed” her thought’s, she ended her research. We have all been there and done that.

    With all that being said, I think Chris shouldn’t mediate as the OP was given compensation in the form of both a room change as well as a night’s refund.

    1. From reading the story again, it sounds to me like she booked on the phone. According to her, she asked about two rooms and thought that’s what she was getting. According to the response she got from the hotel, the person who book the room was clear about junior suites and king suites and she knowingly booked a junior suite. So it sounds like she didn’t book and then call. It sounds like she saw the hotel and then called to book and thought she was getting one thing when in reality she wasn’t. I do find it odd that the person who booked the room for her remembers her such that that person can say “oh yeah, I was explicitly clear in what she was getting.” Maybe she’s a talker and told them all about being sick and that made her memorable. Or maybe the person just told the manager “I’m ALWAYS clear about what the person is booking” without actually remembering what this particular person was told. Who knows.

  19. We like to book suites too, and I can say from personal experience that the definition of a suite is all over the place in the hotel industry, and online descriptions are often not much help in determining if the suite is a glorified standard room or really has 2 separate rooms. We had the same problem over the summer. After carefully reading the website including all of the room descriptions and looking at the pictures of the rooms, I was convinced that the suite we were getting was truly a suite with a bedroom and a sofa sleeper in a separate living area separated by a door. Instead, it was the same setup as a standard room, only with a little more floor space. We complained to the front desk as the wording on their webpage was misleading. (Though it never did explicitly state that was a separate living area, the implication was there). They gave us a discount on the hotel room for our stay, which we decided was enough compensation. Still, we won’t return to that hotel.

    I would love for you to fight for this one because it annoys me to no end the way hotels misuse the term suite in describing their rooms. But, given there is no industry standard for what suite actually means, I don’t know that you have a leg to stand on with this case.

  20. So, here’s the thing…did she look at pictures online? Because I’ve stayed in suites that were bigger than my first apartment and some that literally had an extra chair. “Suite” is a subjective term; the industry standard is just “a bigger room.” Which, if you rooms are small, could be nothing more than a standard size room at another chain.

    I’m also disturbed that three adults would think that a “suite” would accommodate them, if it didn’t have separate rooms. Looking at the link above, even the “King Suite” is a one-bedroom.

    I feel that this woman received adequate compensation. I’m also one of those people who really don’t like the “this is an important trip because (insert unfortunate situation here)” Everyone’s trips are important to them. Perhaps the booking that took the King away (that is very odd; it should’ve been removed from inventory if the hotel indeed agreed to make the free upgrade) was another “once in a lifetime I’m a cancer patient trip.”

    (And complaints about noise in Santa Monica are like complaints about kids at Di$ney…seriously?)

    TL;DR: I’m not getting good feelings about this one and think you should keep your distance.

    1. Yet another travel situation in which the customer needs a team of contract lawyers on hand to make sense of the evolving terms in use by the travel industry. I long ago assumed that the word “suite” no longer referred to a suite of rooms (namely, more than one room). That the word “suite” had been massaged and downsized to simply mean a slightly larger room. A perfect example of exaggeration taken to the point of dishonesty by sheer inflation. Veteran travellers wouldn’t be fooled by such industry-speak but, alas, the innocent, occasional travellers, who can’t be expected to keep up with the lingo, would. Too bad for the complainant.

      1. Except in this case, the hotel DID actually describe the rooms, and included pictures on the website. I do agree that the hotel is overly generous with the definition of suite. In my opinion, the junior suite is just a room. A lot of hotel rooms have sleeper sofas and “separate sitting areas” (which are just chairs or sofas in front of the TV). The king suite I agree is basically a suite… but IMO that’s what a junior suite is.

    2. Let’s be clear here… the king suite is NOT a “one bedroom”. It’s ONE ROOM with a divider. In theory, the junior suite is also, by that definition, a “one bedroom.” A true “one bedroom” would have two completely separate spaces with a door. The king suite was a room with a half wall divider. It just irks me that the description started off with “a one bedroom” suite only to end with “and a half wall divider.”

  21. she did not do her research and possibly misheard the hotel representative (or maybe the representative didn’t understand her question).

    “i need a suite that will hold 3 people”
    “yes we have suites!”
    “that will hold 3 people?”
    “yes we have suites!”

    but a quick trip to hotels dot com will reveal (at all price/suite levels) their rooms are tiny. A few of the pics are clearly taken with panoramic lens.

  22. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
    (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

    Memo: From: Bureau of Obfuscation
    To: All concerned
    It has attention that our hotel guests would like couches in their suites. As Junior Suites have no room for a couch, we have decided to call the objects previously known as “chairs” by a more attractive name. They are in the future to be referred to as “juniour couches.”
    In a related matter, nightstands are now to be called “junior dining tables.”

    1. And the rooms with a half wall dividing the bed from the sitting area is going to be called “one bedroom suites”… because it IS one bedroom, right? It’s one bedroom that is DIVIDED… that makes A one bedroom suite, instead of a bedroom that has a wall divider 🙂

    2. It all depends upon what your definition of the word “is” is. And, of course, a BJ is NOT sex…. That’s from the highest authority available.

  23. The promise of an upgrade to King that was not actually honored is more disturbing than the original problem. But $500 seems fair to me.

  24. I voted yes. After reading comments, I learned that a suite does not necessarily mean multiple rooms, but I still think room and suite are such different words and need clear distinction. In the case of Shore Hotel, the hotel says a junior “suite” is a “slightly larger” room. Really? “Slightly larger” is all you need to qualify as a suite? Or is it a sofa bed that defines a suite? Hotel industry needs to come up with a less confusing nomenclature.

    1. It’s the sofa bed with the “separate sitting area”. Nevermind that the regular rooms probably have two queen bed, or even two king bed, options that would have slept more people than the “suite” they were in.

  25. Wow this is a closer vote than I would believe. People believe that they are going to be in a room like they see in the movies ie Last Vegas with multiple bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, etc. May not quite that. Why the heck did Snady not ask for a description of the room when she called to be sure she had a suite. They did not fib, stretch the truth, or do anything wrong. They call their rooms suites which is their right. If Sandy expected something special, then she should have done better research. Hotel is correct on this one.

  26. Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I just went on line to look at the hotel’s website and didn’t get past the fact that it’s 79º in Santa Monica. I have to go clean the snow off my car so I can get out of here in half an hour.

    1. It IS quite nice out here right now 🙂 It’s raining at the moment (I’m not in LA… I’m about 90 minutes away, but still), but the temperature is quite nice.

  27. I just got done reviewing the hotels website. I would consider even their 360 view to a poor way to tell what you are getting.

    Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of a suite (as of 2 minutes ago):
    1: a group of rooms that is used for one purpose
    2: a group of rooms in a hotel that is used by one person, couple, family, etc.

    Neither of this hotels “suites” meet this definition!!!!!!!!!!

    But I am a travel agent and I book hotels all the time. Here are the two standard language definitions for the two rooms shown by this hotel:

    Their “Junior Suite” is a “deluxe room room with a pullout sofa” period.
    Their “King Suite” is a “Junior Suite” by every standard I have ever seen. The half-wall separation makes it less than a suite, but more than a deluxe room. So we can accept “junior” as something “less than”. I have been booking and evaluating hotels since 1976. This has been a junior suite for at least 39 years, I have as reference. The Merriam-Webster definition is correct. The Shore Hotel’s definition, if used in a court of law could only be defined by a single word “fraud”.

  28. The website shows a junior suite and king suite
    The Junior Suites provide a slightly larger guestroom experience. These rooms have an added sitting area, a sofa bed, and a more intimate balcony

    King Suite
    The One Bedroom Suites provide a separate living room and sleeping area, divided by a half wall, making them ideal for small families or personal entertaining. These rooms are available in with a partial ocean view or a full ocean view overlooking from two private balconies.

    As a travel agent, I have seen many rooms called suites that are not two rooms, but one very large room with a separate sitting area.

    I have a few questions for Ms. Martin – 1. How did she find this hotel? Did she search online?
    2. Why didn’t she go to the website and look at the rooms, either before or right after booking?

    I don’t think you should get any more involved because part of the problem was the clients for not looking at the hotels website and because the hotel gave her plenty of compensation

  29. maybe when she was reading yelp and tripadvisor she could have looked at some of the pictures… suites are variable, i book a one bedroom suite, a two bedroom suite, just a suite these days just seems to be a bigger nicer room, it’s not by definition multiple rooms.

  30. I hope you do go after this hotel, Chris, and perhaps start a move against hotels telling lies about their “units”. A studio is a room. A suite is 2 or more rooms. The bathroom does not count as a room. Hotels have been pulling this “suite” stuff forever and it’s time someone called them on it. Not all travellers are savvy enough to 1) know this obfuscation goes on with hotels, 2) ask the specific questions when they call, and 3) read 55 reviews on TripAdvisor. I have walked into suites that are one huge room with a huge balcony, usually on an upgrade, I rarely need a suite. That’s great and we loved it, but what if I needed two separate spaces? A suite is 2 or more rooms. Period. How many beds in how many spaces are questions the guest needs to ask the hotel. I am so sick of the plain old lying that goes on in the travel business. Get ’em, Chris!

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