Have you ever booked a hotel online which you thought looked great on the hotel website only to discover that it more closely resembles The Bates Motel upon your arrival? And found yourself wondering, “What the heck am I doing here? Why on earth did I book this wretched place?” You are not alone!
Quite often hotel websites can be very misleading. They contain photos of hotel rooms and facilities that may have been taken 10-20 years ago, or the last time the hotel was renovated. Another scam is that some hotel chains may have standard photographs of hotel rooms that they use to represent all hotels in that particular chain even though in reality, some of their hotels are high end and others more closely resemble 1 star motels. How are you to know the difference?
Another kicker is that usually by the time you arrive at the hotel (or motel), you won’t be allowed to cancel without any penalty. Most hotels have very strict cancellation policies which usually require that you provide 24-48 hours notice or more to cancel your reservation.
Websites like TripAdvisor can be immensely helpful when selecting a hotel because for the most part, the reviews are legitimate. Occasionally however, especially if the town you plan to stay in is quite small, even the top rated hotel might not just be up to your usual standards. Sometimes even the top rated hotel can be well, much, much worse than you had ever imagined. Below are some of my hotel booking horror stories:
Oriental Working Girl Oasis
I needed to stay at a hotel that was relatively close to my first appointment that I had scheduled for early the following morning. After reviewing all of the hotels on TripAdvisor (but without reading the reviews I must add!), I booked myself into a hotel that was rated 4/5 stars, was very highly rated in the provincial hotel rating system and wasn’t cheap. At $175 per night, how bad could it be?
Upon my arrival at this “hotel”, I quickly realized that it was more of a motel and located within walking distance from a strip club. In the hotel lobby, I noticed that the high ranking they received from the provincial hotel rating system was well out of date. They put me in a room that I can only describe as an ‘Oriental Working Girl Oasis’, to put it nicely. The picture of this Oriental themed room is from the hotels website and was clearly taken before it was ever used. What you can’t see in this picture is that the room:
- had mirrors all around the bed and on the ceiling
- stunk like cigars and perfume
- had no windows, just a sliding door to the street
- and everything was covered in dust (clearly nobody was using the desk!)
I didn’t want to touch or use anything in that room.
So what did I do?
I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I kept all of my clothes on including my boots and a hat, drank a bottle of wine, passed out on the bed (on top of the covers on my jacket) and just got up and left immediately for my meeting the next morning. I didn’t even open my suitcase. I left it in the car because I was sure that some sort of vermin or insects would get into it. I know this doesn’t sound very classy, but in speaking with other sales representatives, I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has experienced this!
In doing some research, I discovered that this small town with a population of just over 50,000 people has 4 strip clubs. That’s 1 strip club per 12,500 people! In Canada, Windsor and Montreal both claim to have the highest number of strip clubs in Canada. Windsor has 10 strip clubs to service a population of 217,000 (ratio of 1:21,700) and Montreal has 75 strip clubs to service a population of 1.62 Million people (ratio of 1: 21,600). Based on this basic internet research I’ve done, I’m pretty sure I was staying in the Strip Club Capital of Canada! Next time around, I stayed at a very nice place that was over an hour from my first meeting.
Escort Escapade Hotel: The 5 Star Experience
This hotel I found online and not on a trusted traveler site. I was looking for a nice hotel in this particular city where I had an early meeting the next morning. In an internet search, this 5 star hotel came up. The website looked nice and the pictures of the room looked fabulous. The price was decent as well. I must add that this hotel website was in both English and French and the English side didn’t seem to make too much sense to me. The gist was that it was ideal for all business travelers and it had photos of what appeared to be business or high class couples enjoying champagne in the hotel room. When I went to make the reservation, I noticed that you could only do so if you paid in full with PayPal in advance. I called the hotel and they informed me that they do not accept credit cards but will accept cash or PayPal. This was a HUGE red flag! I asked my coworker to read the French side of the webpage, and well, let’s just say that there was a lot of information about this place that was either not correctly translated into English or not translated period! In particular, this “hotel” offered packages for business travelers where the hotel room was accompanied by an escort! I was sure glad to find this out BEFORE I decided to book this hotel and show up. Needless to say, I found alternative accommodations that did not come with an escort!
I discovered this gem which I call “Hotel Hell” when I first started out in sales. One of my superiors recommended to me that when I am researching hotels, that I should book those that were either in close proximity a major highway or the airport, depending on my schedule, so that is precisely what I did. However, having just researched location and price, I did not spend much time researching the quality of these hotels and now I am much the wiser!
This hotel was supposedly close to the airport and very reasonably priced. I had a very early flight the next morning, so I figured it would be fine to just spend the night. As I pulled up to the hotel, I quickly realized that it was in much poorer shape than the photos on the website had indicated. I noticed a bar/club/bowling alley on the main floor of this “hotel” and as I was pulling into the driveway, I witnessed a drug deal clearly taking place in front of the hotel in broad daylight. I immediately thought I would be a target of some sort of crime since I was driving an Audi A4, which was a complimentary upgrade from the rental car company. So much for that being a blessing! I hesitated going into the hotel, but I didn’t know where else to go since there were no other hotels in sight, because it was NOWHERE NEAR THE AIRPORT and I also didn’t want to just leave my belongings in car since I was sure it would be broken into.
At the front desk, I was informed that I had to pay in full for the room in advance and they asked me if I needed the room for the night or just a few hours??? Yikes!! Now if that wasn’t a bad sign, I don’t know what is!
I proceeded to the room and well, I couldn’t believe my eyes! These are some highlights:
- The huge old school 27″ TV had a large sign on it saying “Please Do Not Remove From Room”
- The bed sheets were filthy, torn and had clear hand prints on them
- The window opened to the roof outside and had no locking mechanism
- There was no phone in the room
- Mouse or maybe rat excrement in the room corners
So what did I do?
I didn’t even want to sit on the bed it was so horrifically disgusting. I needed to find another hotel room ASAP. There was just NO way I was staying here. The problem was, I was in an unfamiliar city, there was no phone book in the room and my computer was dead (but I’m sure there was no internet access anyways!) so I had no way of figuring out another place to go. I had misplaced my city map and I felt lost.
So what did I do? I called my ex-boyfriend, whom I hadn’t spoken with in at least 5 years, hoping that he still lived in this city which is where he had moved here after our break-up. Luckily, he answered the phone and bailed me out. He escorted me out of the hotel (no pun intended) which made me feel safer since he was a big guy and he drove with me to a much nicer hotel that actually was close to the airport. I’ll never forget when he arrived at my hotel room, he said to me, “What are you doing here? I wouldn’t even &*%$ prostitutes in this hotel!” That was reassuring!
Needless to say, I’ve never stayed at discount hotels since, even if they are part of a major chain!
I also make sure to thoroughly research the reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and read them in great detail. When booking hotels now, my preferences are in the following order:
- Hotel amenities
- Positive Reviews*** MAKE SURE YOU READ THE REVIEWS FOR DETAILS! I CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH!
So the next time you’re booking a hotel, make sure you do your research and not just blindly trust the hotel website because otherwise, you might just be in for a horrific surprise.
Bates Hotel anyone? Count me out!
If you have the time, take 5 minutes to write a review of the hotels you stay at regardless of whether or not your review is good or bad. All of us depend on those honest reviews.
Safe travels my friends.
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