While traveling through Pennsylvania on a college tour with our daughter, my husband and I made a reservation for two nights at a Super 8 through Hotels.com. When we arrived, we were dismayed to find a hotel with questionable clientele (a couple behind us looking for a couple of hours' stay) and a hotel attendant behind a double-panel window.
I asked to see the room before signing paperwork. The attendant declined. Due to the hour and having no other options, we decided to spend the night but checked out early the next morning.
The room had been recently renovated, but the carpet was filthy. Our shoes stuck to it. The air conditioner was set at 45 degrees, and it took more than three hours for the room to heat up. The walls were so thin we could hear all the neighbors.
The room was supposed to be smoke free, yet the bedspread on one bed had cigarette burns and the room smelled of smoke. We did not have enough towels for three people and the bathroom had not been cleaned, as evidenced the next morning by our find of long red hairs stuck to the wall of the shower.
The next morning, a hotel attendant told me Super 8 had nothing to do with our transaction, and that I'd have to go through Hotels.com for a refund.
I have called Hotels.com and asked for a refund, but so far, I've gotten nowhere.
Can you help?
– Gladys Martin, Berea, Ohio
Are you sure you were booked at a Super 8? It sounds like you instead tried to check in at the No-Tell Motel.
Hotels.com shouldn't have sold you a room like that. But even a cursory online search would have revealed that this Super 8 was horrible. Sure, the Super 8 chain is a budget brand, but this one was – and I quote one of the recent write-ups – "just gross."
One reviewer advised everyone to "stay away" and the hotel received an aggregate rating that would embarrass anyone associated with the Super 8 brand.
In other words, you had ample warning.
Under terms of your reservation, your room was completely nonrefundable by the time you checked in, so technically Super 8 was right for refusing your refund – both to you and to Hotels.com.
But who cares about technicalities? Super 8's promise to be the "best in quality" means you should have expected more?
By the way, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips. When the air conditioner is turned down to 45 degrees, open a window. It will take only minutes to warm things up. If the rug is sticky and the shower is dirty and there's a smell of smoke, ask for another room. Most of all, when dealing with a refund request, put it all in writing. Calling Super 8 was just an exercise in futility.
I contacted Hotels.com. It helped you secure a $150 refund from Super 8. Hotels.com also sent you a $20 voucher as an apology.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at email@example.com.