They didn’t have the accessible room I reserved — what am I owed?

Some hotel amenities aren’t that important. Some are.

Having an accessible room, which is required under some state and federal laws, is a biggie. So when John and Carolyn Falabella asked me to look into their hotel’s failure to offer them the room they reserved, I knew it could be serious.

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But a closer look at their case one shows just how frustrating it can be to fix a major problem like this, particularly with a chain hotel. I’m not sure if I can make this right, but read on and let me know if you think I should get involved in mediating this dispute.

Falabella had reservations at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Va. He says he’d made a booking for an accessible room through Comfort Inn’s 800-number, and that he received a confirmation.

“When we checked in at the hotel, we asked if the room was mobility accessible,” he says. “The person who checked us in said no, but there was a bar in the bathroom. We accepted the room thinking the bar would be sufficient.”

It wasn’t. The bar was too small.

“We asked for and received a bathtub stool to gain access to the tub to prevent an accident. This helped a little, but not enough to comfortably use the bathroom,” he says.

Using the restroom was even more difficult.

He explains:

In order to use the toilet, the person had to get her wheelchair through the door, close the door, fold the chair, and unfold the chair to use it to mount and dismount the toilet. The bathroom door had to remain open while she performed her business. If the wheelchair had been the kind with the large wheels, entering the bathroom would have been impossible.

Now, bear in mind that the Falabellas had been told that the room they received wasn’t accessible. I’m sure they wish they’d rejected the accommodations on the spot.

Complaints to the hotel were fruitless. They approached someone at the front desk with the problem.

“He said he would tell his manager to see what they could do for us,” he said. ” He also told us we should have called the hotel directly rather than using the 800 number to book an [accessible] room.”

The couple checked out of the hotel the next morning, as planned, and hoped to hear back from Choice with an apology. But, surprise! — they didn’t. So they contacted corporate Choice.

A representative wrote back and said that because Choice properties are “individually owned” they can’t control the day-to-day operations.

What nonsense. Choice Hotels can strip this “individually owned” property of its flag, and it should do so if it fails to honor a reservation for an accessible room.

But at this point, what can the hotel really do except apologize?

“Choice hotels booked us for a mobility-accessible room,” says Falabellas. “We did not get what we paid for and would not have stayed there if we knew they did not have mobility access rooms available.”

He’d like a few additional Choice Rewards points for the trouble. That doesn’t sound like an expensive resolution to me. I’d like to see an apology and a promise to never let that happen again. There’s no way to go back in time and re-do the Falabellas’ visit, and therein lies the problem. Choice should have given them the right room in the first place.

Is it too late to make a difference?

(Update: Shortly after I wrote this, Choice corporate contacted the Falabellas and offered them 2,000 points for the trouble. “We told them ‘no,'” he says. “It takes 20,000 points to get a free night.”)

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