Bad hotel room? How to request an upgrade or refund.
It was a good night, but the room in a Holiday Inn I returned to was less than desirable. The air conditioning did not cool properly. The closet door was off its hinges. When I cut my finger on a sharp piece of metal protruding from the shower curtain rod, I knew I couldn’t stay.
Not every hotel room will be a winner, but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with sharp bits of metal in the shower — or bugs or noise or unsafe hotel room conditions — in every situation.
Hotels face the same staffing shortages as anywhere else, so a less-than-tidy bathroom or a messy breakfast room might not be a sign that a hotel is running out of steam.
Start with the front desk, says NerdWallet travel expert Sally French. “You don’t need to tweet to the main company Twitter account that their hotels are dirty because whoever runs the company Twitter can’t do anything about it,” French said.
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Always be polite “because the person at the front desk is a human too,” she said. “Have some level of understanding of the situation you’re in and the power they have to fix it.” This also goes with managing expectations. Thin towels in a $2,000 a night hotel room might be something to complain about, but for a $50 a night room? Not really.
French also recommended documenting the problem by taking pictures. If you’re calling from your cell phone, you’ll also have a log of how many calls you’ve made and when. That way, if the issue isn’t resolved, you can escalate the issue to hotel management, or if it’s part of a hotel chain, to the chain’s customer service department, and show that you tried to solve the problem directly.
If you can’t change hotels, or if you’re annoyed but don’t think it’s worth changing hotels, you can also ask for something that will make up for the inconvenience. For example, on a road trip across the country in 2019, I stopped at a hotel with mandatory valet parking, but none of the valets working then could drive, so I had to park the car myself. same. In exchange, the hotel waived the parking fee of $50 per night.
When Sonja Sherwood and her husband took a trip to New Paltz, NY, for what was both their anniversary and the first night away from their son since birth, a getaway and a good night’s sleep were both a priority. . They spent a beautiful day on a lake, followed by a meteor shower, “but it’s an old hotel, and there was water hammer in the pipes,” she said, describing it as a constant “clunk clunk clunk”. Not great for sleeping.
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She asked the front desk clerk if they could change rooms and told him their story of misfortune, that “we were parents moving away for the first time, and a full night’s sleep was our gift birthday,” she said. He upgraded them to the penthouse.
If a situation is untenable or dangerous and staying is not an option, you can request a refund. Sometimes it takes firmness. On a trip to Stockholm, Kayt Sukel, who has traveled six continents and is no stranger to bumps in the road, got a hotel room with a door that wouldn’t close, let alone lock. She and her son had arrived at the hotel late and after checking in the front desk clerk disappeared. She found a maintenance man, who told her that the employee could not be contacted and that she could not change rooms. She went to another hotel instead.
“But I didn’t leave until he paid me back every penny,” she said.
Trying to resolve the issue with the hotel is your best option, French said. If you booked the room through a third-party site, a refund is not impossible to obtain, but it may be more difficult because the third party must first collect the money from the hotel before they can refund you.
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You can try to dispute the charges with your credit card, but that process can also take time because the card issuer has to investigate and not decide in your favor, French said. Instead, check to see if your card already includes travel insurance. A lost or damaged baggage policy, for example, can extend beyond airline issues and also apply to a hotel breaking your bag while it’s been left in the checked baggage hall. And of course if you have taken out travel insurance, check if the condition of your room is covered; this generally applies if you have “cancel for any reason” coverage. This type of insurance would allow you to cancel, even halfway through, and be reimbursed for “a significant percentage,” which is why taking photos is also important, French said.
As for my hotel room in Rochester: I finally got a refund.
I was supposed to stay at the hotel for two nights, but checked out after one and moved on to the next stop on my road trip a day early. Given the state of the rest of the hotel – broken elevator and broken wine bottle in the stairwell which hadn’t been cleaned – I didn’t think getting another room would be better, nor would it was something the people working at the front desk could control.
Instead, I directly emailed management with photos. I also pointed out that I am a member of this hotel chain’s rewards program and booked the room with their hotel-branded credit card — all of which may help, French said.
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Within hours I was promised a refund. But when my points didn’t arrive five days later, or a week later, or a month later, I asked the hotel chain’s customer service to intervene. Their response was that the hotel manager said I was lying and they never promised me anything.
So I followed French’s advice and my screenshots of emails promising me a refund on social media. I tweeted about the situation and although I was angry, frustrated and accused of lying by the hotel manager, I did so without yelling in all caps, cries of malfeasance or even mentioning the name or the hotel location: just that i had stayed at one of the mega chain hotels and thought the situation was “strange”, included these screenshots and tagged the hotel’s corporate account.
The account asked me to send the details directly to them and viola, I got my refund. I already applied it to an October trip to Maine.