I had the displeasure of a terrible and unforgettable experience recently, where our room developed a very strong mildew and mold problem over the course of an evening. This post reflects on that time and makes recommendations for both travelers and hotels on how to address the problem.
We needed a cheap hotel near our target destination, where my lady was training for a triathlon. I had credit from Orbitz from previous stays, so found a hotel* that fit our needs. Everything started off normal, with no issues, as we checked in early afternoon, dropped our stuff, and headed out. We did notice a mild mold smell in the air upon entering the room, but thought little of it. Big mistake…
When we returned early evening, the smell had intensified significantly. We brought it up to the attention of the front desk agent, who informed us that unfortunately their hotel was sold out for the evening. We spent a couple hours in the lobby before attempting to sleep, but by that time the smell had so permeated the room that simply stepping one foot inside the room was an issue.
My lady refused to sleep there and I agreed with her, me having medical issues that would be exacerbated by such airborne pollutants. We asked to switch rooms, but the hotel was full. We asked to be refunded & put up in another equitable hotel in the nearby area, but the agent refused our request and said he did not have the authority to do either. No manager was present and apparently nothing could be done, other than a mild spray to odorize the room. This was neither helpful nor useful for us.
I tried calling the corporate customer line, which was *inconveniently* only open during normal business hours. I left a very angry voicemail, where the prompt said I would hear back within 24 hours. That obviously would not work for us and our timeframe, as it was after midnight at that point.
This continued for a bit, before we finally surrendered and drove back home – an hour in the opposite direction of the next day’s destination. It was a miserable and disgusting experience and one of the worst hotel stays I have ever had. The service and lack of empathy, compassion, or willingness to help was abysmal. I’ve placed the hotel and chain on my blacklist of companies, and had to spend time to drive back towards our destination, as well as deal with their insufferable and unhelpful corporate agents.
They did refund our money as we did not stay the night, but it was with great hesitation and argument – as they said that we spent some hours between checkin and checkout there. We spent those hours outside the hotel, as the mold festered. Our arguments were sanitary and health-related, and I debated calling the public safety and health services line of the township in question. (Upon writing this, I did call about this issue, as it’s a public concern).
Their repeated insistence to call the next morning and speak with the manager and owner (without actually giving us any phone number, simply telling us to call the hotel) was unhelpful.
Additionally, they offered as a last resort a refund and 20% off the next stay, or 20% in points towards a next reservation. We found this incredibly insulting. Our first stay in your hotel and chain, with such a terrible experience, and here is a 20% coupon for next time?
How could this fiasco have been better handled by both parties?
What can either side do to both avoid the situation and ensure it does not happen again?
If it does happen again, how can it go more smoothly?
My lady and I discussed this further and thought heavily on how this could have been better.
On our side, we could have immediately brought the mold to the attention of the attendant upon checkin. We did not expect the smell to be so powerful in the evenings and it caught us off guard.
However, on the hotel side, there are so many flaws in their operation that I could discuss.
First, it’s not too difficult to avoid these issues. Thorough cleaning of the rooms or checking on them on a regular basis (when unoccupied, of course) would prevent many of these health issues and concerns.
Empower your employees. Hotels where agents are limited in their actions invite angry and upset customers, as agents have no flexibility to improve their experience. If you’re not going to have a manager on staff at all hours, then your front desk agents should have the ability to make adjustments/refund/put us up in another hotel.
Revise or replace corporate guidelines. The stringent adherence to impossible guidelines – no putting up in alternative arrangements, etc. – defeats the purpose of customer service.
Understand the point of view of the guests. Don’t offer insulting forms of compensation (20% off the next mold-filled stay? Really?!) Don’t tell them to call the corporate line when they won’t respond for a day or two.
Establish protocol. Plan for emergencies and have established operating procedure and stick to it. This hotel must have had issues previously, but they were clearly unprepared and did not handle the situation appropriately.
This is an experience I’d like to forget and one that I hope never happens to any reader. That being said, it was a good learning experience (I am sure) on both sides. Speak up early about issues, and make sure they’re resolved. Otherwise, vote with your dollar!
*because this could happen anywhere, hotel name will not be used. Also, the experience was so mind-numbingly frustrating, and I don’t want to feel the anger when the name is used.
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What do you think of my response? Any other advice? Got any horror stories of your own? Let me know in the comments, or reach me directly at TheHotelion@gmail.com! Like my posts? See more here, on TravelUpdate! Follow me on Facebook (The Hotelion, if searching, use a space!!) or on Twitter and Instagram: @TheHotelion