Travel Troubleshooter: Smoking room not what she reserved

Published: Sunday, May. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3H

I tried addressing an issue with a Days Inn and with Wyndham, which owns the chain, but did not get a response. I recently stayed at the Days Inn in Fernandina Beach, Fla. I reserved a nonsmoking room but was given a smoking room when I checked it.

I spoke with a manager, who told me he was sorry he couldn't offer me a nonsmoking room.

So, my question to Wyndham: Is it policy to accept a reservation for a nonsmoking room when no such room is available? I wrote to Wyndham, but after several emails, it stopped answering.

I understand a hotel cannot always guarantee a nonsmoking room. But, the manager admits none was available when I made my reservation. I never would have completed the reservation had I known that. They would have charged me a day's stay had I not shown up; they should compensate me a day's stay for not having the room.

I do feel Wyndham and Days Inn should somehow be accountable for this misleading action.

– Debbie Rosenkranz, Miami

Let me state my bias up front: Smoking should not be allowed in a hotel room. Ever.

Unfortunately, at the time you stayed in your hotel, Florida state law permitted smoking. But a look at the Days Inn site also showed that the room type you booked also said your room would be "nonsmoking," which led you to conclude you wouldn't have to inhale trace amounts of carcinogens as you slept.

This is a clear-cut case of a hotel offering a product and failing to deliver.

But things aren't always so defined. I checked into a Hampton Inn in Van Buren, Ark., recently, and had a nonsmoking room, but it was on a smoking floor. When my kids walked into the bathroom, they were met with the strong odor of cigarettes.

Complaints to the management were shrugged off – after all, we were technically staying in a nonsmoking room.

By the way, if you've made a lifestyle choice to smoke, I'm not judging you. But please don't do it anywhere near my kids. Their right to breathe clean air trumps your right to smoke.

Looking back, I would have said something to the Days Inn manager as soon as you checked in. If you couldn't be accommodated in one of its nonsmoking rooms, it might have sent you to another Wyndham-owned property close by, at its expense (that's called "walking" in hotel lingo). But once you unpacked your belongings and decided to stay, the hotel more or less assumed the room is acceptable and that you agreed to pay for it.

Wyndham shouldn't have dropped the matter when you contacted it. It owed you an explanation, at the very least, if not an apology for giving you a smoking room. As far as I can tell, it didn't give you either.

I contacted Wyndham on your behalf, and it offered you a free room night to make up for the room mix-up.


Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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