What does a hotel owe me for construction noise?

All Robin Rosner wanted was a little peace and quiet when she checked into the Sheraton Centre in Toronto recently.

All she got was chaos and noise — lots of noise.

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“I awoke to find my message light blinking about 3 a.m. and learned that they would be power-washing the exterior of the building starting the next day,” she says. “They were suggesting people keep their blinds closed for privacy.”

And that wasn’t all.

“They also pointed out some construction work on one of the main streets might result in a detour,” she says. But the hotel failed to tell her that its garden wasn’t open, even though it was the middle of the summer, which was a problem for Rosner, because she was traveling with her dog.

“I enjoyed the garden and I had planned to spend time in it with my canine, who uses the garden. Of course, I clean up after her,” she says.

Closed garden. Street construction. Power-washing. Had Rosner known about all of these, would she have booked a room at the Sheraton?

No, she says.

But that’s the thing: the hotel didn’t tell her about it until she had checked in.

Is that right?

Well, Sheraton specifically guarantees a “peaceful, relaxing vacation” on its site, so it’s reasonable to assume you would actually get something resembling peace and quiet. In the past, the hotel would send her a note about a week before she checked in, reminding her that her room is nonrefundable and giving her a heads-up on any events at her hotel, including construction.

By the way, Rosner doesn’t expect a noise-free stay at Sheraton.

“I understand these tasks must be done,” she says. “But for leisure travelers, I just think we deserve to be informed in advance. Maybe if folks knew, they’d cancel. But that’s what I’m writing to ask you about. What’s fair to expect?”

I asked Sheraton to weigh in on this question. A representative emailed me back and admitted Rosner’s “disappointment is understandable.” I’m hopeful they will fix this for her, but I haven’t officially asked it to intervene.

I agree with Rosner that she should have been notified of the construction and facilities closure in advance — at the very least, in time for her to cancel her reservation. But that’s easier said than done. A hotel may not know about its facilities closure until the day it happens. In that case, a real-time resolution, like a voucher or an upgrade, might do the trick.

Construction and noise problems rank as one of the top ten hotel complaints. The last reader query I wrote about, which involved a Hotwire hotel, was only partially resolved, and only after the stay. Ideally, these issues should be fixed before they become an issue for guests.

I can push Sheraton to consider helping Rosner. But should I? Or is this just a lesson learned about staying in hotels in the big city?

Update: (2 p.m.) Just received a voice mail from Sheraton. This case has been resolved and Rosner is “very happy” according to a representative. I will try to get details.

Should I mediate Robin Rosner's case?

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62 thoughts on “What does a hotel owe me for construction noise?

  1. Chris… I think you stay away from this one…
    1. The construction in the area is not the hotel’s fault nor do they owe her anything because Toronto decided to fix its roads (or whatever was causing the detour).
    2. The power washing of the building is routine maintenance. It has to happen at sometime. The narrative didn’t go into how many days of her stay it was going on but they’re normally not outside your window for a week. It shouldn’t have effected her stay dramatically. (To me this is the equivalent of someone complaining about window washing in a high rise)
    3. The garden is the only possible area of complaint. It is listed on the hotel’s website ( http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/property/features/index.html?propertyID=271 ). Without knowing why it was closed and for how much of her stay it was closed, its hard to say if the complaint is valid.

    In short Chris, she seems like a “laundry lister” to me. I’m not sure you should take this one on…

    1. It’s funny that on the site, they list “local” attractions, and some of them are more than 89 miles from the hotel – not very “local”!

      The Waterfall Gardens do sound nice: “An oasis by day or night, our two-story waterfall and pond is the perfect sanctuary in the centre of the city. Enjoy the change of scenery and take a break from the urban bustle in 2.5 acres of picturesque waterfalls, gardens and terraces.” If it’s close by, I could see how she would prefer these gardens to a regular city park (if there is one nearby).

  2. I used a targeted Google search for the quoted phrase “peaceful, relaxing vacation” on the sheraton.com site and wasn’t able to find it, much less a guarantee about it. Same with Starwood (though there was one resort in Europe that used that phrase).

    If indeed it is guaranteed, as you specify (“Sheraton specifically guarantees…”), and the power washing ONLY affected that, then I think the OP might possibly have grounds for a few points. Same with the garden. As John Baker noted, this does not extend to the city streets. And, no cash.

    Otherwise, while I think the OP has the right to complain, to not give more business to Sheraton, and to write bad reviews, I don’t think it rises to the level of compensation.

      1. Checked out that link. It is titled Sheraton Hotels and Resorts. The “peaceful” aspect was listed under the Sheraton Resorts. So was she at a resort or a hotel? If a hotel, the peaceful statement doesn’t apply. (The link to the 60 locations was broken so couldn’t look it up)

        1. Wow @edboston:disqus you and I agree on something …. On their website, the property is listed and titled as a hotel so I don’t think Chris’s link applies..

          1. Oh wow. Can’t have that now can we? So…

            The link applies. Just that one paragraph about the “peaceful” aspect doesn’t.

            *grin* just teasing you.

          1. And?

            These comments were in regards to Chris’ statement about “peaceful, relaxing vacation”, not the comfort of the beds or it just being a space to relax. That blurb doesn’t address the peaceful aspect which is what the OP is saying she didn’t get.

          2. Did she get what the blurb advertises?

            What time of day/night did the power washing occur? For how long and to what extent were guests disturbed? Why was the advertised garden atrium closed? How long was it closed?

            Answer those questions and then maybe we can have a meaningful discussion.

          3. Yes she did. She got a comfy bed and a relaxing space. The blurb doesn’t say anything about it being peaceful. All those questions are moot as they don’t pertain to the comment I originally made. And that was to Chris’ comment that the peaceful description was only for the resorts and not the hotels. Now if you want to keep to the original topic, then we can have a meaningful discussion. So do you have any comments about Chris’ statement that Sheraton, in general, advertises a peaceful stay at *ALL* properties, something the link Chris provided doesn’t imply?

          4. I don’t speak for Chris. Looks like you and I don’t agree on what “a space to relax”, and “designed for a great night of sleep” entails.

          5. Like I said. My comment has absolutely *NOTHING* to do with if shr got a comfy bed and a relaxing space. It was to Chris’ implication that the blurb in the link he provided covered all properties where it only mentions the peaceful aspect applies to only the resorts. Your link to the part about relaxing space and comfy bed is irrelevant as it doesn’t address the original topic my post was addressing.

          6. Fair enough. I wasn’t disputing your original comment BTW. Just offering additional info I believe is broadly relevant.

          7. Fair enough. I wasn’t disputing your original comment BTW. Just offering additional info I believe is broadly relevant.

      2. “Whether you’re looking for a peaceful, relaxing vacation or a fun-filled family getaway, our breathtaking resorts provide the perfect setting to make new memories.”

        Was her stay “breathtaking?” If she wasn’t left gasping for air, should she get a refund? Can she get some sort of voucher is she fails to make new memories?

        1. Was her stay at a resort? That description applies to their resort property, not the hotels. And yes, they are different and listed separately.

  3. I don’t see what you can do for her. Was the garden the only place in Toronto where she could have walked her dog?

    The road construction wouldn’t have been anything the hotel could do anything about, and as for the power washing of the building, while I agree that they should have warned her, how much advance notice of the scheduling did the hotel themselves have? It seems to me that it takes a while to set up, and things may not be definite until the last minute.

    1. A good way to handle this would be to talk to the manager.

      “I have my dog with me and the garden area is closed. Is there someplace nearby where I can walk her?” Say that with a smile, closed mouth and open ears.

      At a minimum, she may have had that particular issue resolved. She may have even been extended some compensation for her inconvenience.

      (As an aside, I’m not sure that they would want her dog taking a crap in their waterfall garden, anyhow.)

      1. Great advice. And my first thought was “I wonder if the garden was closed to repair damage done by past guests’ canines?” I love dogs, but a dog park and manicured waterfall gardens are far different things. Maybe it was a tiny dog that just liked to run around, but still.

  4. It seems a representative from Sheraton is aware of the complaint. Let the hotel do it’s own mediation before getting involved.
    Even if the hotel rejects Rosner’s request for compensation, I would still not mediate. What does Rosner want? While not explicitly said, my perception of the situation is that Rosner expects a full refund of her stay. That would not be reasonable and should not happen.
    Did Rosner complain during the stay? There is nothing the hotel can do about the street noise and construction. If memory serves right (have stayed at the hotel in the past), the hotel is right across the street from a city park. A staff member could have suggested other places to “walk her dog.” The hotel may have offered complementary breakfast or moved her to the other side of the hotel had she complained the morning of the incident.
    In my experience, if you want a “peaceful and relaxing” experience, avoid booking ANY hotel in the middle of a city. Lack of construction does not guarantee no noise. One of my worst experiences with noise was from a nightclub across the street from the luxury hotel in a downtown area

    1. While not explicitly said, my perception of the situation is that Rosner expects a full refund of her stay.

      OP: “What’s fair to expect?”

      Answer: ” Since you asked that question you must be expecting a full refund of your stay. So you deserve nothing except our scorn for daring to imply that anything might be expected at all.”

  5. They have to do this stuff sometime. I am certain they were not power washing at 6am and kept it to hours you are apt to be more awake. I was put up in a hotel after I had an extensive shoulder surgery that required me to fly out of town. They were doing work to the exterior and rewiring all of the interior rooms cable. The day of my surgery, they were knocking on the door seeking to enter and rewire the cable within an hour of my return. I was sleeping and my boyfriend denied them entry. They came back an hour later and again, I was asleep and he said no. They came back an hour later and I had been made aware of the situation. He told them that if they finished ALL of the other rooms in the entire hotel first, they could come back but they better not knock on the door or enter the room for the remainder of our stay (another 2 nights) because I was just out of surgery and needed to rest. We also did not want anyone in the room where all of the bottles of post-surgery meds were lined up.

    1. I am certain they were not power washing at 6am and kept it to hours you are apt to be more awake.

      What makes you so certain? This hotel is on a busy central street across from City Hall with street cars running every 5 minutes during business hours.

      Power washing above pedestrian sidewalks and walkways generally requires closing those areas to the public. I’ve usually seen that done late at night or early in the morning in other downtowns.

      1. Power washing a building is also easier to do in natural light.

        But what makes Laura certain is that, if the washing were done inconveniently early or late, Robin would have complained about that.

  6. What routine maintenance tasks do potential clients need to be warned about? Can we have a list? How much advance notice is required?

      1. If you ran a hotel you would contact all current and upcoming guests of the pool cleaning schedule, when you were going to vacuum the lobby, when you were having handrails repainted, etc?

        1. No. But if the pool were being refinished or otherwise closed for days, I’d expect it to be posted on the website

      2. I was told to move from a slot machine in Vegas because that area of the casino was going to be cleaned. I was never provided a schedule for casino cleaning at booking or check in.

          1. I’ll never attempt to come close Raven’s level of snarkiness. The Snarkerer’s Apprentice has a nice ring to it though! 😉

    1. Dear Mr. Jim,
      For a complete list, please remit the sum of one hundred American dollars to…
      Prince Ooguboogu, Nigeria 🙂

  7. Veto power washing and construction in the area. If she complained about the closed garden while she was there, I would’ve said to give her a free perk (eg. breakfast or room upgrade). If she waited until after, then nothing.

  8. This particular Sheraton location has had construction on the adjacent streets all summer long, I work one block away. They would have know about it. I have business colleagues flying in and purposely suggest they stay at the Ritz to avoid this. I continually see guests of the Sheraton struggling with their suitcases walking across ripped up streets because cabs can not get to the entrance of the hotel.

  9. I am going to have to go with no on this one. Power washing generally occurs during the day when she could leave and have things to do, and isn’t really that loud except when its her window, which is a short period of time. The hotel has no control over street construction, and often times there is little or no notice. And as far as the garden, Google maps shows the hotel to be across the street from a public park which is many many times larger than the hotels very tiny garden.

    I am thinking to OP is just looking to get something for nothing and coming up with a laundry list of complains to help accomplish this. I see her complaints to be a non-issue. If the hotel were performing construction on their own property at night keeping people up and didn’t notify anyone, I would 100% say this needs to be mediated.

    I too have traveled with a dog many times, I never depend on a hotel to provide a place for my dog to do business, if they do, its a bonus.

  10. I’ve dealt as management team member in a similar situation, although we did try to inform our guests that some work was happening prior. I agree that you should not need to weigh in, and it is a nice gesture should they wish to compensate to the full extent of a refund, or perhaps an upgrade on next stay could be appropriate, as it sounds like she has stayed there before or knows the hotel well. The hotel could have handled it better, perhaps, but she shouldn’t need someone else to expand the issue further.

    1. Toronto’s Sheraton Centre is a major commercial hotel – definitely not a resort – located downtown, directly across the street from City Hall. There are no parks nearby. It’s all concrete (including the so-called city park in front of City Hall), tall buildings – and, it seems, there’s always construction. But then, isn’t that like all big cities nowadays? It’s certainly no place for a nice little doggie that wants its exercise. There are better places to stay with a doggie that are just outside the city core. The hotel could, in the interest of public relations, make a small gesture of recompense, but it’s not obliged to do much more than that.

    1. They wouldn’t. I’m pretty sure they just sent out a system wide message to all the rooms and then message lights on the phones would light up.
      In any case, this woman got a raw deal. Sometimes, but not always, when I book rooms on hotel and other travel websites, there is information about construction work and other renovations being done at the property. It would definitely affect my choice to stay there or not, especially if it’s a vacation. As guests, we can’t be expected to call the hotel ahead of time and ask if there’s any construction going on.

  11. Ugh! Peace and quiet in a city center hotel? With a dog? No mention of speaking to the front desk, but she writes to a consumer advocate. Enough said!

  12. I use to teach a course in office practice. One of the principles I taught young doctors anxious to build a practice, is the best advertising is a satisfied patient. Sherator seems to have forgotten this. Managers should have the lattitude to offer immediate tokens of the company’s understanding of a customer’s honest complaint. There’s the legal aspect, the ethical aspect, and “just good business sense.”

    So often we read in this Website examples of companies doing foolish things… allowing small things to exacerbate to a major consumer disagreement… even after resolution, tends to leave a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth. Think how a bowl of fruit or flowers, a sincere apology, a pair of earplugs and a personal visit (or call) from the front desk could have avoided this situation. Now thousands of readers know, that given a choice between Sheraton and another hotel, they will consciously or subconsciously choose the other hotel.

  13. Construction requires permits, which means it is always known long in advance, unless there is an emergency water line rupture or something.
    They should disclose such things as it has a major impact upon a stay.
    Maybe they should give her a full refund and be a little more proactive in the future.

  14. Bigger picture for me on this: I help organizations select destinations and contract sites for meetings/conferences. This is a question I ask – and contract for knowledge shared when known and provisions for what happens when there is not “quiet enjoyment” – http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Right+to+quiet+enjoyment and http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/covenant_of_quiet_enjoyment. Should it not be the same for an individual hotel guest? This is the same for leisure or biz travelers. I’m guessing the hotel’s management knew of this before the 3 a.m. call!

  15. I am actually on the fence on this one. The hotel should have told her that their garden was to be closed during her stay–especially since she was bringing a pet with her. From the way the letter is phrased she had been there before and could have asked about the garden. (Or else the garden was open for part of her stay and then closed as she mentioned having enjoyed the garden.) Routine maintenance is carried out during the day when most visitors might be expected to be out and I see no problem with that.
    It is the construction that has me dithering, She must have noticed it when she arrived if it was right at the hotel and did not seem to ask about the noise then. According to her letter she was advised on the message that the construction on one of the main streets might cause a detour. It did not say that it was right at the hotel and that is why I voted no for getting involved.
    Problems cannot be solved if they are not brought up with management at the time the problem occurred. The garden issue should have been brought up with the manager immediately as that is her only true legitimate complaint.

  16. I don’t understand the 3:00 a.m. phone call. Didn’t they know a little earlier? Or was this an emergency power washing?

    1. Most hotels have a system where they can record a single message and push it out to the voice mail boxes in all of the hotel rooms. This does not cause the phone to ring, it just turns on the new message light. They typically push these out overnight so the guests can get their message first thing in the morning. The OP never mentioned a phone call, that that she awoke at 3am to find the message.

    2. There was no phone call at 3:00 a.m. That’s when she saw the message light flashing. That’s an interesting part of the letter: She never says the phone actually rang and also never says her waking up at 3:00 a.m. was in any way the hotel’s fault, but she certainly gives off that impression.

  17. She lost me at the gripe about the power washing. That doesn’t take all that long and it has to be done sometime; she might as well have been griping that a vacuum was being used on premises during her stay.. I’d say, at best, her blinds would have needed to of been closed for a couple hours while the washing in that general area was completed.

  18. I don’t understand why people don’t address these types of concerns while they are at the hotel. Had she asked, it’s possible she could have been moved to a different floor that might have already been pressure-washed. And, perhaps she could have been granted access to a small portion of the garden.

    There are plenty of creative ways to solve problems. It’s unfortunate she didn’t consult the hotel staff. After reading about the street construction in some of the comments, I’d bet good money that managers at this hotel have successfully resolved plenty of noise complaints.

  19. I’ve stayed in several hotels or motels in the last year with construction issues. However, these were clearly known and disclosed by the hotel. One was a complete rebuilding of the entrance of the Hilton Anaheim that links the hotel to the convention center. It was disclosed when I booked the room and before I had a chance to back out. Another I found out that the lobby wasn’t completed by looking at reviews, but it wasn’t exactly disclosed when I booked it. I knew, got a good rate, and didn’t worry too much about it. When we got there the lobby was still under construction (looked like it would be nice after completion) and the temporary lobby was a lectern in the back entrance. They had a note that by signing for acceptance of a room meant acknowledging the construction issues, including possible construction noise between 8 AM and 4 PM (we were there on a weekend so no construction). They did allow anyone to back out of a reservation even if it was past the normal cancellation cutoff, so that was something in their favor. Still – I don’t know what to think that they would have sprung that on someone who didn’t do any research before booking. In any case, our stay was fine, but you’d think it was a horrible place to stay by several of the reviews. Our room wasn’t perfect. It looked like someone abused the sink, but everything worked.

    Now I’m not sure about power washing or anything that might be noisy. Every hotel I’ve been to in the last year has housekeeping, including vacuuming using commercial equipment (i.e. it’s gonna be loud).

  20. I am glad this was resolved but had it not been I would have said you should intervene. Perhaps just your phone call allowed the dispute to be resolved without you. However, there were just too many issues with this one reservation that I would have advised you to advocate for. Power washing for a day – not a big deal, but the garden being closed, the construction noise, etc. – too many things the hotel should have told the guest about and allowed her to move to another hotel.

  21. I have stayed in many hotels and resorts where there was ongoing construction (refurbishing rooms, regular painting in hallways, repainting the exterior, even jackhammering at the pool). All was done during hours that most guest should be awake. Very little of it was intrusive enough that I even noticed. I have stayed at hotels where certain facilities were closed. In either case, sometimes I was informed about it, sometimes I was not. I will say that every hotel I stayed at where a major amenity, like the pool or the spa, was to be closed during my stay I was notified either when making my reservation or in advance of my arrival.

    I think it is unrealistic to book a stay at a hotel in the middle of the city and expect perfect quiet and relaxation. Cities are noisy. On the other hand, if this was a resort in the wilderness surrounded by acres of forest and there was construction noise, then I would be upset.

    Nothing this person encountered was the fault of the hotel other than the garden area being closed. While I feel that since this was an important amenity to the OP, she should have received an upgraded room or a free meal to compensate for this. And maybe advance notification. If the notification really wasn’t provided, the hotel should do a better job.

    Glad the OP got a satisfactory resolution.

    1. Once had a guest that complained because the lawn was being mowed outside her room at 10am. She complained again two days later when it was mowed at 2pm. When the manager asked her what would be a convenient time to schedule the mowing outside her room, her reply was “not during her stay.”

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