The historic Rathbone Mansion offers an “authentic” New Orleans experience, with its antebellum architecture and “warm” Southern hospitality. But it was a little too authentic for Cori Maldonado, who reserved his rooms through Bookit.com.
“Our room was strewn with debris, insects and rodents,” he says. “My partner and I were forced to leave the property and check in elsewhere after management refused to move us.”
A hotel representative scoffed at the guests, chiding them because, “Two grown men could not kill a few bugs.”
Then again, isn’t that what you hire exterminators to do?
The Rathbone kept $375 of Maldonado’s money, insisting that it had a no-refund policy. But Maldonado says he’d never been informed of the policy, and disputed the charge with American Express. His card sided with the Rathbone, and now he wants me to go to bat for him.
As someone who has stayed in New Orleans and had a close encounter with an insect in my room, I’m sympathetic to his situation. (This particular bug was an enormous cockroach that couldn’t be killed, even after repeated clubbings with a shoe.)
Maldonado says he didn’t start by dispute the charge on his card. Instead, he did what he probably should have done before his stay. He researched the Rathbone, and found that he wasn’t alone.
“There were hundreds of negative consumer reviews including specific complaints of mice, insects, and terrible customer service,” he says. “The general manager at the facility seems to be the mastermind behind the terribly-run [hotel].’”
Next, he asked the Rathbone and BookIt for his money back. No can do, said the hotel. Rules are rules. So he filed a dispute.
The details of the dispute read like an episode of Fawlty Towers. They include:
Indifferent service. No one was there to check the men into the hotel. “We waited outside for several hours,” says Maldonado. “No staff or instruction was provided at the hotel. ” Eventually, another guest helped him find his room.
Shabby facilities. When Maldonado entered his room, he was met with a stale, moist odor. “Unable to open windows, as they were painted shut, I again tried to contact hotel staff to no avail,” he says. “My room was filled with insects, not to mention the same moist and pungent odor present upon arrival.”
Rude managers. “I have never been subjected to such hostility as a guest at a hotel,” he says. Appeals to the hotel’s manager were brushed off, belittled or ignored, he claims. The alleged offenses were numerous – from complaints about windows that were painted shut and being told to just “open a door” to asking for breakfast when breakfast was “no longer being served.”
One thing is clear: The Rathbone and Maldonado were a bad fit.
The response from the property was equally unflattering. Bear in mind that for many hotels, responding to a dispute is too time-consuming and generally not worth the effort. But the Rathbone didn’t seem to mind. It insisted that on numerous occasions, it presented the guest with its terms, and that he accepted them. He had to have known about the refund rules.
The manager made a handwritten notation that he was “very rude” and that he complained about “mosquitos.” She added, “Really?”
Normally, when a case has been referred to a lawyer or goes to a credit card dispute, it’s out of my control. But in this instance, the stories told by both parties are so diametrically opposed that they are almost jarring. Both couldn’t possibly be correct.
Should I step into the fray and try to mediate this dispute? Or should Maldonado chalk this up to a lesson learned about staying at “authentic” antebellum hotels in the South without checking the reviews first?