Day 4: A smoking room, and a consumer with smoke coming out of his ears (ok, me)

Is it 2 for $2.50 or closer to $4? Hmmm
Is it 2 for $2.50 or closer to $4? Hmmm

OGDEN, Utah — So here I sit, eyes watering, in a smoking hotel room very much not of my own choice.  That’s ok.  Stuff happens. But it’s how it happened that has me angry.  It’s the toxic mixture of Internet-age consumer screwing and crappy customer service that has me really angry.  That, and moments later, I was informed I needed a rewards card at a gas station to get the 2 for $2.50 deal on bottled water. Otherwise, it would 3.83.

Maybe it’s Expedia’s fault. Maybe it’s Sleep Inn’s fault. Maybe the local hotel manager here is pulling a fast one on late-night guests.  But there I was, at 11:30, being told that my  room reservation was for a smoking room.

No, no, it wasn’t. I book often through Expedia, and I know I booked a non-smoking room.  Nope, it’s a smoking reservation. Anyway, I have nothing else available.  Well, that’s unacceptable, I’m leaving (to go where at 11:30, I wasn’t sure).  Cancel my reservation.  I’ve canceled it.  Are you sure? Yes.  (Sneer) Well, can I have a receipt or something?  I never took your money. I want something. Here’s a business card.  OK, tell me your name.  

Just then, as i walk out, my smartphone finally pulls up my reservation, and it says, clearly, non-smoking. I go back to the desk clerk.

Look, it says non-smoking!  Oh…well, he’s the manager.  Sir, I’m sorry, it’s these third parties they don’t care.  They code these things wrong, I keep complaining to them. Let me look and see what I can do.  Nothing. Well, follow me, you can have a smell of all four smoking rooms we have left.

I smell a room, it’s probably my best option at 11:45 p.m. So I go back to the front desk.

I already canceled his reservation. No, no, you can’t cancel these kinds of reservations. That’s what I was afraid of. Expedia already has my money, so how could you refund it? Right, you can’t cancel this kind of reservation.  

Surprise, no apology. In fact, now the clerk suddenly seems to forget I’m standing there.

I have a dog with me.  I know there’s a fee. Yes, it’s $11.  Put it on the card?

It said $10 on Expedia.  Any thoughts I had of not complaining about this just disappeared.  Would it have been free if I said Rusty was a smoker?

So I head across the way to buy some kind of appropriate midnight food and bottled water, and I grab to 2 for $2.50 bottles.  When the cashier rings them up, she tells me the price is $3.83.

I swear it said 2 for $2.50.  Well, do you have a loyalty card.  (To myself: for water?). No.  Sneer.  Stare.  I turn to leave. Well, I could use my card.  Yes, that would be nice of you.

Please look at the picture above.  Do you think I was properly informed of the potential for a non-loyalty-card 50 percent tax on my water? After all, I just lost $1 on the dog fee.  I can’t afford that.

One night in a smoking room isn’t a horrible thing.  But somebody took my $80 and gave me stinging eyes and a headache.  I plan on giving that headache right back.

A simple, “Oh, I’m sorry I almost cost you $80,” from the sneering clerk would have made me feel a whole lot better about the Sleep Inn.  I did think the manager who walked me up to the smoking room was sincere. I know something is very broken in the way Expedia and this hotel communicate. In fact, I know there’s a series of problems, and not just in Ogden. I’ve had fees misquoted, pet policies go wrong. I often call hotels directly after I get a price quote.  The hotels often don’t know what to do with me when I call.

And why do I really need a loyalty card to buy water?

 

About Bob Sullivan 1286 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.