This past Saturday, my wife and daughter traveled to Santa Rosa (home of the Charles M. Schultz museum!) for a fencing tournament (FYI: Marissa won her first medal, and everyone is very proud). Since it was a two-day tournament, and since Santa Rosa is about two hours from Palo Alto, they and most of the rest of the fencing club decided to stay up in Santa Rosa.
One of the other moms prepaid for rooms for the traveling party at the Extended Stay America – Santa Rosa – South using Hotwire. Take a gander at the Yelp page–I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a 1.5 star rating before! (My wife swears the ratings were better last month when they booked the rooms.)
Shortly after receiving a picture of the girls on the medal stand (again, very proud moment), I received the following text:
OMG hotel is overbooked. They don’t want to give us a refund.
A bit concerning, but essentially an unpleasant nuisance. Then a few minutes later, I received the following:
This hotel doesn’t want to help us book somewhere else. They called the police.
Okay, that’s reason for concern! Fortunately, that was followed up with:
Police are cool. They understand.
I want you to write a scathing review.
I won’t bother writing about the poor condition and cleanliness of the hotel. After all, my family never even stayed there, and the Yelp reviews more than have that issue covered. I particularly appreciated the review where the reviewer posted photos of the rash she developed on her arms from staying there.
Rather, I’d like to write about the unhelpfulness of the staff. Overbooking is unfortunate, but it happens. When it does, hotels have to “walk” some of the guests. But that’s where the Extended Stay America – Santa Rosa – South really distinguished itself on unhelpfulness.
Here is what is supposed to happen when you are “walked” from the article linked to above:
If you’re in the unlucky position of being walked, there are a few things the hotel must provide. First, they should cover the cost of one night at a comparable, alternative hotel. If necessary, they should also pay for a cab to the new hotel and the cost of a phone call to inform loved ones of your new location.
Or how about these guidelines from USA Today:
If your hotel is overbooked — either in advance or when you attempt to check in — ask the hotel to find you a room at a nearby property. The hotel should also pay for your first night there, plus the cost difference if the new room is more expensive and you stay there on subsequent nights. It should provide you with transportation to the other hotel. It should also give you a free phone call to notify your family or office of your lodging change.
In other words, if a hotel can’t honor a reservation, it should a) find you a room at a nearby hotel and b) pay for it. If you need transportation, it should provide it at no charge.
Instead of following these standard procedures, the front desk at the Extended Stay America – Santa Rosa – South (got to get the name right for Google’s spiders so that this review comes up on all future searches) opted to a) say it wasn’t their responsibility to help find other accommodations and b) refused to refund money that had already been paid (albeit via a third party like Hotwire). But the coup de grace is that when the traveling party asked to speak with the manager, the front desk clerk actually called the police, and when the police arrived, claimed that the overbooked guests were verbally abusive and threatening. Fortunately, the police appeared to be used to this sort of thing, apologized for the inconvenience, and quickly left.
The traveling party also called Extended Stay America’s main line, explained the treatment they had received, and were told that these decisions were up to the front desk.
Extended Stay America is a NYSE-traded company with a market cap of over $3 billion. CEO Gerry Lopez (a fellow Harvard Business School alum) is a well-respected executive who was previously CEO of AMC Theatres, and also held positions at Starbucks, Pepsico, and Procter & Gamble. There’s no good excuse for the company to treat paying guests so poorly, and to allow disgracefully bad front desk service.
Normally, I’d write a letter to the CEO, but I’m afraid that even if they offered me vouchers to stay at Extended Stay America, I’d be reluctant to risk the mysterious rashes, unclean sheets, and rude service that would apparently await me, so I’m settling for simply leaving this warning to other potential customers who might be considering a stay. Don’t.
In the words of Charles M. Schultz’s most famous character, “Good grief!”