If La Quinta wanted to charge you a $250 cleaning fee, it should have notified you of the problem after your stay and provided you with evidence of the damage. It did neither. Instead, it charged your card without so much as a courtesy call. Then, when you discovered the fee on your account, it seemed to avoid you. That’s not right.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say La Quinta is trying to make a little extra money from its guests with these charges. But just like La Quinta, I don’t really have any hard evidence that this is happening, let alone on a broader scale. (But if it were, it wouldn’t surprise me.)
I’m really puzzled that the general manager appeared to avoid you and then advised you to dispute your credit card charges. That’s kind of odd. Normally, a hotel can provide a receipt for cleaning services or photographic evidence (ashes on the bedspread or burn marks in the carpet). Advising you to “just dispute the charge” is missing a few really important steps in the resolution process.
I’m not sure how this could have been avoided. Do we now have to take photos of our hotel rooms before checking out? That seems ridiculous, but maybe that would have helped you. If you don’t have pictures, or some other evidence that you’re smoke-free, how do you prove to your credit card company that you didn’t light up in your room?
I contacted La Quinta on your behalf. A representative said the corporate office contacted the hotel and had concluded this was a “training opportunity.” In other words, something went wrong on the La Quinta side. I agree.
La Quinta said it would not fight your credit card dispute. You have received a full refund.