How to Avoid a Hotel Nightmare. Does “Clean” Enter Into Hotel Ratings?

August 6, 2007 at 12:00 pm 1 comment

Is it clean? I’d like to know before I get there. You’d like to think that any hotel at all that is rated with a star or diamond or any rating system has at least passed the basic “clean” test. By that I mean that the linens were changed since the last guest, the bathroom has been cleaned and sanitized, the towels are fresh and the room has been somewhat deodorized from previous guests. Beyond that, I’d like to think that the higher the rating, the cleaner the hotel room — bedspreads washed/drycleaned frequently, the mattress/mattress pad are cleaned and sanitized often, the carpets and floors are shampooed or washed and so forth. But is that always the case? Not necessarily.

Betsy’s Experience in Dallas
A 24-year-old friend of mine booked a hotel through a popular online low-fare travel site for a 3-day getaway. The hotel had 2 stars, was inexpensive (about $71), but many hotels on the list were in that price range. She booked it and left for Dallas. Upon arrival, she found her room to be dirty — still not cleaned from previous guests. She asked the desk clerk for a different room. No problem, the clerk said she hadn’t had a chance to “check” that first room. But Betsy’s second room was even worse — can you believe it? Here’s her list of what was amiss in the rooms:

Room #1:
-urine and hair on toilet, and something floating on the bottom

Room #2:
-door didn’t lock when you shut it
– vomit on toilet (and down toilet sides) and stuff floating in it
-hair on bathroom counter and floor
-stain on pillow and hair on sheets–did they even change them?
– mold in tub and ceiling in bathroom
-mold/water stains, cobwebs on bedroom ceiling
– no internet access as promised
– floor/carpeting had not been vacuumed
-unpleasant odor in general
-massive yellow stain on corner of bedskirt, that was totally visible
– sticky dresser top– spilled drink or something
-ALL walls were dirty, scratched, had holes in them
-non-smoking room, but there were cigarette burns in the blanket
-fire safety sheet on door hasn’t been updated since June 1999.
-“Do Not Disturb” door hanger filthy with visible crud.

Betsy could not even consider staying there another minute. She called home and had her folks book another room for that night and subsequent nights in Dallas — a nearby Hilton Garden Inn that proved to be clean, fresh and affordable. But now she had two hotel bills for the same nights. She has been trying to contact the popular booking site, but has not yet received any response. She is in the process of disputing the payment through her credit card company.

How Can You Avoid a Hotel Nightmare?

  • Visit the Hotel’s Own Website. A start, but not always reliable. Betsy did check the hotel’s own Website. It sounded okay. Pictures looked okay. Nothing special. (What she didn’t “see” was that the pictures were “canned.” Too many photos of the Dallas skyline, not enough of the hotel amenities. But in this case, the hotel pix were probably from the day it was built.) Anybody could make that mistake.
  • Look at Prevailing Room Rates on the Hotel’s Site. I’ve often used this as a guide to what I may be paying on any discount site. But in this case, the hotel’s site listed its regular rates quite a bit higher, giving the impression it was a more deluxe hotel. But beware — it is usually true that you get what you pay for.
  • Hotel Description Might Be a Clue. This hotel’s description focused on the area, talking about its close proximity to a convention center and hundreds of restaurants — not on its own amenities. Like the photos, the description was vague.
  • Don’t Go By an Impressive Name. Don’t make the mistake of associating a luxurious-sounding name with quality. Ritz, plaza and other similar copycat names are just “puttin’ on the ritz!”
  • Check Any Available Reviews. Don’t skip this step. Read all the reviews provided on the online travel site. They were mixed for this hotel, most not good. (I checked the other major online travel sites: 1 prominent site did not list this hotel; 3 others did with 1 and 2 star ratings and bad reviews. Doesn’t anybody check on the hotels they sell to unwary travelers?
  • Check This site offers forums on various cities. Tap into the city forum you need, search for a hotel you’re interested in and see what people have said. Or add your own question about the hotel and someone will answer. It’s a very active forum and I’ve found its recommendations accurate.
  • How to Get a Refund. Betsy is working on that. Various Internet comments seem to say that it’s very difficult to get online travel sites to respond. She can dispute the charge through her credit card company. Beyond that, she can check with the hotel itself, even though she purchased through an online service. With the complaints she had about this hotel (and accompanying photos she took in the 2nd room), she can contact the Dallas Board of Health, the Dallas Convention Bureau, Better Business Bureau, Dallas Chamber of Commerce. She can put her experience on and other similar travel sites that accept comments.


  • I did not include any of Betsy’s numerous and well-detailed photos — they were just too gross. But she ought to send them along to the online travel site and all the other places she will contact about this hotel.
  • This site offers a Customer Care page. It gives you 3 e-mail contact addresses plus phone and mail contact options plus an online contact form. This hotel search site actually gives you a point-by-point guide to using their site and a invitation to contact them if your hotel is not as expected. quikpick-logo.jpgCheck out the positive press Quikbook has gotten from travel experts. That’s why I chose to offer my readers hotel choices through Quikbook. Good prices, ability to change or cancel reservations and no upfront payment for most hotels. Plus customer service stands far above the others. And Quikbook assures me that they fully stand behind all hotels listed on their site as Quikpicks. Look for the Quickpick symbol on the hotel description. By the way, Quikbook is on my site as a service to you — no commission or remuneration comes back to me if you do business with them.

RATINGS — Do you see “clean” mentioned?

  • Traveler’s Aide article on ratings.
  • Rating chart definitions for Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia.
  • Orbitz. Rating system defined by Orbitz.
  • Mobil Travel Guide. How Mobil rates hotels.
  • AAA. Diamond rating system explained.
  • Zagat. Survey and rating details.
  • Practical Traveler: Sorting Out Stars. Excerpt: “In interviews, representatives from, Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity said they not only took into account Mobil and AAA ratings when coming up with their rankings but also did their own inspections (at least in major cities) and considered customer feedback.” My comment: I don’t believe that onsite inspections take place very often; if they did, this particular Dallas hotel would not be on anybody’s list.

Conclusion: Without a personal recommendation or sterling reputation (like Hilton, for example), choosing a hotel can be a gamble. Do some homework.

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Entry filed under: Dallas, Digressions, Girlfriend Getaways, Plan Your Getaway.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mike allan  |  July 16, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Do hotel pillows ever get cleaned?


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