North Vancouver Comfort Inn's "100% Satisfaction Guarantee" Is More Like 10-15%

A man wrote in to travel writer Christopher Elliott to complain about the awful experience he and his wife had with Comfort Inn & Suites in North Vancouver, British Columbia. When they checked in, they were surprised with a “free upgrade,” but found the room was unclean and lacked linens. They asked to be given the room they initially reserved, then discovered the water was lukewarm during their entire visit, and the coffee machine was broken. The hotel’s ice machine was also broken. Richard said in each case he complained to the front desk but only got an apology—and when he contacted Choice Hotels to complain, they told him he should have brought the issues to the attention of the hotel, and consequently they would not honor their 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

Elliott goes over the fine print of the guarantee and discovers that it’s mostly meaningless marketing twaddle:

Check out the fine print of the “100 Percent Satisfaction Guarantee” and you’ll see that there are some important exceptions. “If you are not satisfied with your accommodations or our service, please advise the front desk of a problem right away and give them an opportunity to correct the situation,” it says. “If the hotel staff is unable to satisfy you, they may give you up to one night’s free stay.”

Got that? You have to report a problem, and if the hotel can’t fix it you may be entitled to up to one night’s free stay. That’s such a vaguely worded guarantee that you have to wonder why Choice Hotels even bothers.

But it gets worse. “Not all international hotels participate in this program,” it adds. So the guarantee isn’t much of a guarantee to begin with, and your hotel, being an international property, didn’t have to honor it anyway.

Elliott was able to get Choice Hotels to refund the man for his stay at the hotel, but we wonder what happens to people who have similar experiences and don’t get the help of a bigwig travel guru. His suggestion is to escalate the problem when it happens—ask for a supervisor or manager if all you get are repeated apologies, and be prepared to discuss the satisfaction guarantee with the front desk. In addition, stay far away from the Comfort Inn & Suites in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

“Not so comfortable at the Comfort Inn” [Elliott.org]
(Photo: “The Shining”)

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  1. ottawa_guy says:

    Nasty Nasty!

    I just stayed at a Comfort Inn in Southern Virginia on my way to South Carolina. I found it quite comfortable, and the staff were nice and pleasant.

    If only the big chains would have one uniformed standard and if they found franchisees not doing the right proceedure or protocol, to rip them of the brand name and tell them to go and screw themselves.

  2. SuffolkHouse says:

    I dealt with a similar situation at a Ramada Express in Chattanooga. I didn’t get the room I reserved, was told no rooms were available. When I asked for a new room at another hotel, insisting they arrange it, they found a room. The room had a leak with the ceiling falling in. One of the beds was wet and stained, and it smelled terrible. I felt guilty staying there with my son and wife.

    They wouldn’t fix it, and the Corporate Headquarters told me that a refund was at the hotel’s discretion.

    Luckily I paid with a credit card, and got the credit card company involved. This forced the owner to refund.

  3. 67alecto says:

    I actually used to work at Choice Hotels for a few years and had to explain the guarantee to lots of people. Unfortuntely, there are a lot of scammers who would not complain about the room until checkout and then ask for it to be comp’d. Not going to happen.

    I’d always have to explain that “you have to give the hotel a chance to fix it”. Sometimes, that meant sending housekeeping down to clean the room, switching rooms, or even putting them up at a different hotel.

    With the right General Manager, the system works. Otherwise, it’s an epic fail and the loose language of the “100% satisfaction” can be exploited.

  4. petrarch1608 says:

    i had a similar experience staying at the cambie hostel in vancouver. ugh what a dump. I can’t complain too much though cause i was paying hostel prices.

  5. vastrightwing says:

    Doesn’t sound to me like Choice Hotels takes their guarantee very seriously.

  6. Meeker says:

    Not to pimp the place…

    but recently when I needed to stay in a hotel in Vancouver… the Sunset Inn ([www.sunsetinn.com]) was a really nice place, affordable… and most importantly CLEAN =)

  7. bohemian says:

    About ten years ago Comfort Suites was a pretty decent hotel chain. The individual hotels were consistent and well maintained. Choice is seriously slacking on standards and franchisee compliance. There is none. In the last few years we stayed at a few Comfort Suites none were well maintained. So we just quit staying at them.

    So far we have had good luck with Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express for both business and leisure travel. If were going to make it to either a major city or a tourist area we try to trade up via hotwire or priceline. Most 4 star hotels actually give a rip enough to make repairs and have some level of service.

  8. missdona says:

    @SuffolkHouse: Oh my God. I had a stay from hell a few years back at the Albany, NY Ramada. You brought back memories. All of the decent places in Albany were sold out, and this Ramada had no air conditioning and it was after a big concert, so the halls were full of drunken fans. Ahhh!

    @bohemian: Hamptons are great. I’ve stayed in probably 15-20 different ones over the past few years and have come away happy every time.

  9. bdgbill says:

    I’m kind of torn on this one.

    I’m not a hotel employee. I’m a grizzled Road Warrior with a couple thousand room nights under my belt.

    It’s true that the guarantee (like most guarantees) is meaningless. Travelocity’s guarantee that they advertise ad nauseum is very similar. “If you are not satisified we will try to fix it right away” Really?! Wow!

    This guy strikes me as a very infrequent traveler. The water wasn’t very hot, the in room coffee maker (which you really shouldn’t be using anyway for various reasons) wasn’t working and the ice machine was out of order (I really hope you were not going to eat any of that ice).

    Welcome to Quality Inn. How much did he pay? 50-60 bucks a night? Wake up, take your luke warm shower, go get a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts and go do whatever you are in town to do.

    So many tourists are obsessed with trying to use every single element at the hotel and bitching about whatever isn’t available. It’s a place to sleep folks, not Disney Land.

  10. Snarkysnake says:

    I travel a lot. Any Choice hotel is a crapshoot. Lets name names here,folks. I’ll start.

    Good – Hampton Inn
    Courtyard Marriott

    Bad – Super8
    Holiday Inn
    Choice

    Worst ANY Ramada

  11. EJXD2 says:

    I find Comfort Inn to be very hit or miss. I’ve stayed at properties that were great value (on par with a Hampton or Courtyard for less money), and I’ve stayed at others that were dumps. Over the course of the past few years I’d say the ratio has definitely skewed bad, however.

    I’m a big fan of Hampton Inn, but it seems as if its prices have increased lately.

  12. astruc says:

    I stayed in 3 Holiday Inns on a recent cross-country trek. They were just awful, the worst being Chattanooga and Kansas City (on the Plaza). Never again.

  13. KIRZEN2007 says:

    Given I’ve worked in hotels for a couple years, there are a couple important things to work with when haggling over things you should be getting. The question arises as to why you should have to haggle for anything that should by all rights be expected of your hotel.

    Lets face it, sometimes things break down, sometimes things don’t work, and sometimes the shit completely hits the fan. I still remember when Motley Crue had a showing in Victoria a couple years back. It was a nightmare and I was working the desk alone, it was impossible to keep up to the sheer quantity of stupid in the hotel after the concert, moral of the story is that you will, sooner or later, not get what you paid for when you’re staying at a hotel, it’ll happen, so be prepared.

    1 > Report things right away, don’t wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow I can’t prove that the people next door were keeping you up last night or that you didn’t have any hot water, or that your cable TV wasn’t working at 11PM. I need to know right now so I can fix it, and if I can’t fix it, I should either be making some sort of concession or I should be noting your file so that someone with the authority can. (Hint : The night auditor usually has MOD power, you’ll get farther with him than you will with the underpaid college girl at the desk at 8:00AM)

    2 > If you want something, please tell me what you want. If you wan’t a reduction in your nightly stay, if you want free breakfast, if you want to be moved to another room, if your pillow’s too lumpy. I can make these things change, but unless I know you want them changed, I’m just going to assume you’re whining, some guests will complain about every single thing in the hotel, please understand that although we’re there for your comfort, complaining about how much noisier it is here in the city compared to when you’re at home in the country… well… I can’t really go outside with a sign and ask traffic to stop. (But if you complain politely at 11PM, I might be able to move your party to a quieter room if there’s one available, so ask me?)

    3 > Don’t scream at us, you’ll get a lot more accomplished if you come down to the desk and quietly discuss your problem, I’ve done a lot of things for people because they’ve asked nicely. I’ve brewed coffee in the restaurant four hours before it opens, I’ve brought down the security system and opened the bar to get someone ice for a hurt ankle. I’ve spent an hour calling limo companies because someone’s midnight reservation crapped out. I’ve -pulled- a spare cot up a flight of stairs because the elevator was out of service… But I’ve done these things because someone came to me and politely but adamantly complained.

    4 > If you don’t manage to get it resolved right now, call during normal business hours in the middle of the week. Ask to speak with the manager on duty, explain the situation, tell them who you brought it up with, tell them what you asked for, and ask that the situation be rectified. If necessary, escalate one manager at a time until you get to the person in charge of that location, then go to head office. Each step of the way make your demand a little steeper, each step of the way explain that the person under this person couldn’t or wouldn’t make it happen…

    5 > C/C chargeback is god.

  14. EJXD2 says:

    @astruc: Holiday Inn has REALLY gone down hill for me the past few years. I rarely stay there anymore unless it’s really a bargain relative to other properties in the area, or it’s the only choice.

    Accor has done a much better job with its Red Roof brand than intercontinental has done with Holiday Inn.

  15. kityglitr says:

    As a Choice Hotels employee and front desk manager, I can tell you that a brand name does not guarantee good service. The hotel I work at is very clean, but everyday something breaks around here. Some days, our maintenance men are on site and can usually fix any problem, but if it’s their day off, too bad! Also, the people who own the hotel are more responsible for the state it’s in than the corporate chain managers. Every single complaint I get regarding the quality of our linens, the bad hot water heaters, the broken ice machines, the missing coffee pots or TV remotes are because of one reason and one reason only. Cheap owners. If they don’t want to spend the money it takes to fix broken equipment, or if they don’t want to pay their desk agents and housekeepers decent wages, you the customer has to suffer. If you really want to make an impact after receiving poor treatment from a hotel, calmly ask the General Manager for names and addresses of the hotel owners. That will perk ears up right away. Whenever complaints come from corporate, we shrug it off, offer a discount or refund, and forget all about it.

  16. loueloui says:

    I think a lot of the hotel chains are loath to lose a franchisee unless things really get bad. I believe one of the reason for this is that they get to collect all of those juicy franchise fees for slumming a little bit here and there. I for one have stayed in some dingy Best Westerns. Ditto for HoJos.

    Also, if you are a smaller chain turning away franchisees is more of a consideration if you don’t have many to begin with.

  17. REPTILE-DYSFUNCTION says:

    Customer: “We don’t like our crappy room or your crappy hotel. What about your 100% satisfaction guarantee?”

    Hotel Staff: “Sorry about all of the problems, sir. To make sure you’re satisfied, we’ll let you stay here an extra night FOR FREE!”

    Customer: “Wow, even more crappiness? Sure!”

  18. shor0814 says:

    @bdgbill:
    Comfort in, not Quality Inn
    $99-$179 / night, not $50-$60 / night
    His case, $93 / night.

    One night, it is a place to crash, a week, it becomes more than a place to crash.

  19. vonvand says:

    I has a similar problem with a Comfort Suites hotel. I got up in the morning and found there was no hot water – so I had a really nice ice cold shower. I called the desk and was told that the water heater was out and there would be no hot water until later in the day.
    When I went to check out I told them I was not statisficed and I did not expect to pay for the nights stay. The clerk said, “How about a 50% discount on the room, as you did get to use it?” I said “No – the sign says 100% – not 50%. Are you going to stand behind that or not.” She was pissed – but I got the room at no charge.
    I think you have to do “something” before you leave the hotel or you are going to be out of luck.

    All that being said – Choice Hotels are really iffy. I stayed at some nice ones and paid very little, and some dumps and paid more.

  20. yikz says:

    I travel a lot. I have platinum, gold, and silver status on 3 different hotel chains. I’m in 30 different cities throughout the year. The first rule of thumb is to apply for the frequent traveller’s club at these hotels. Holiday Inn’s “Priority Club” points never expire. Whether you travel much, or hardly at all, it means you’re more important than just some schmuck who just stepped off the bus. They have no idea whether you’re going to be staying 2 nights this year, or 100 nights. They will treat you better.
    By becoming a member, you get a better chance of complaining and actually reaching someone who can do something for you, and they have a good way to compensate you without really costing them a lot of money. You can exchange points for free stays, discounted stays, or free merchandise. I picked up a $1500 camera this year based on 18 months’ worth of points at one hotel chain.
    If something happens during your stay, make sure you let the front desk know. And at least get the name off the person’s name tag.
    I’ve stayed at a hotel and found fresh blood on the towels. I’ve had cockroaches running around. I’ve been issued room keys and walked in on someone ELSE in the room. I’ve walked on broken glass in a room that was supposed to be clean. I have checked in and had construction going on all weekend on a vacation stay. In each instance, I reported it (politely) to the front desk. If they don’t do anything about it, then I log in to my account on the hotel’s points website, and then send an email with a polite but firm complaint, and I include the facts, and who I talked to.
    If it’s business travel, I usually indicate that my employer pays my expenses, but I choose where I stay. This means I’m not locked into one particular brand of hotel. And it means I usually won’t get $5 knocked off my hotel bill. If it’s leisure travel, I make sure tha tell them I paid for the room out of my own pocket.

    I’ve had fruit baskets, dinner for 2, gift baskets for my kids, 50,000 points (good for roughly $500 in retail merchandise or about $500 worth of hotel stays). I’ve been comp’d a weekend stay with no-charge room service. One hotel comp’d me Gold status after staying just a few nights. While that’s not the greatest thing to have, it’s better than nothing. It gave me free upgrades to king size beds for the rest of that year at that hotel. You have to learn to work the system, or you’ll just be angry and discouraged.

  21. yikz says:

    @Snarkysnake: Courtyard is my favorite. Then Fairfield Inn and Holiday Inn Express.
    I try to find out when the Holiday Inn Express was built. If it’s recent, they’re usually fantastic. Springhill Suites, Staybridge, and Residence Inn’s are nice for longer stays.

  22. Canoehead says:

    @missdona: I am assuming you were writing the bar exam?

    I can’t believe they can call that place a Ramada – more like flop house beside the bus station.

  23. Kishi says:

    I worked at Comfort Inns for a couple of years, and it really comes down to the manager. My first manager was of the opinion that we were there to take care of the customers, and, to quote him, “I don’t want you to automatically give them a free room, but do what you need to do to make the customer happy, just let me know.”

    I moved, switched hotels, and my new manager wanted me to tell people that the manager wasn’t there (even if she was) and the best I could do was 10% off the room, no matter what- they’d have to talk to her if they wanted better.

    Yeah, guess which one had much happier customers- and happier employees.

  24. by 67alecto at 02:41 PM on 03/25/08
    I actually used to work at Choice Hotels for a few years and had to explain the guarantee to lots of people. Unfortuntely, there are a lot of scammers who would not complain about the room until checkout and then ask for it to be comp’d. Not going to happen.

    I work at a hotel that also has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and according to our last training session, for every dollar you give away with the guarantee nine will come back.

  25. lanshark says:

    Howard Johnson, Comfort Inn, Ramada. These franchisers do not keep close tabs on their franchisees. With these franchisees, the price you pay per night does not correspond to the room quality. It is purely supply vs. demand vs. your own tolerance.

    Hampton Inn and Disney World’s All Star value resort were the only decent, clean hotels with impeccable service in which I stayed during my entire 4-week vacation.

    Every other place was filthy and had indifferent attitudes to clients. They were really much worse than the basements I lived in during my college days.