In the five years I’ve been writing for Consumerist, I’ve read plenty of hotel horror stories and complaints, but this is a new one. Using the “Favorites” option on his HolidayInn.com account, reader Andy booked a stay at a Holiday Inn Express that he had gone to before and enjoyed. When he arrived at the same location, it was now a “Mission Inn.” They told him the Holiday Inn had moved down the road. The new facility was sub-par compared to what it had been previously and he complained to Holiday Inn corporate, they basically said “tough noogies.” Which is how Holiday Inn just lost a life-long customer.
Back in August 2010, my wife and I visited San Diego, CA and stayed in the Holiday Inn Express Old Town. It was a great location within walking distance of the Old Town district, which is where we like to stay. It was a nice facility too–good pool, good staff, and spacious rooms.
We decided to visit again over Independence Day weekend, so I went to Holiday Inn’s website to book the same hotel using my Priority Club account. The hotel was in my “Favorites”–score! I booked a room for three nights.
When we arrived in Old Town and rolled up at the hotel, I knew something was wrong right away: the signage outside read “Mission Inn”. I asked my wife to Google Holiday Inn Express and she confirmed we were at the correct address and I had not completely lost my faculties. I knew I was at the same place we had stayed at the last time. I walked in and asked a desk clerk, meanwhile noting that there was no Holiday Inn branding anywhere in the lobby. He confirmed what I already suspected: the Holiday Inn Express Old Town had… moved. This hotel was now something else.
We drove a 1/2 mile or so to where he directed us, and I saw a building I recognized. This “new” Holiday Inn Express had once been a Comfort Inn, and a crappy one at that. We had stayed there before on a Priceline bid and hated everything about the facility. Cramped rooms, freeway and airport noise, and in the middle of a deserted industrial zone. Holiday Inn apparently decided to buy that facility and brand it as the Holiday Inn Express Old Town/Airport. Notice the clever addition of the word “Airport” in the title–because the new location is closer to the airport than it is to Old Town. It’s not within walking distance, and it’s sure not what I thought I was booking.
We asked to at least not be facing the expressway, so they stuck us in a tiny room opening to the pool area. This ensured that every time we opened the door, delicious cancer from people smoking at the pool wafted in. The room was so small that we couldn’t find an area on the floor to set down our suitcases or even walk past the desk to the far bed. I guess we were supposed to vault off the first bed on to the second bed in a gymnastics-like way. The whole place reeked of carpet glue and other chemicals from a recent remodel; my wife and kids started sneezing after we had been in the room for 30 seconds.
Not happening. The front desk staff was actually very nice, but there was nothing they could do other than move us from one crappy room to another. The manager wrote down my concerns and we checked out after being there for less than an hour.
I emailed the corporate office to tell them about my issue: If I book a hotel on their web site from my Favorites, I have a reasonable expectation that it will be the same hotel. If it has moved since my last stay, especially to a crap location, I should be notified and not be expected to notice that the street address was different. Renaming it from “Holiday Inn Express Old Town” to “Holiday Inn Express Old Town/Airport” is not going to trigger any realization. They first gave me a canned response that indicated the rep had read the first sentence of my email and decided I was complaining about the Mission Inn, informing me that they are not responsible for that hotel any more. I emailed back asking them to actually read my concern, and got another canned response that my concerns were forwarded to the hotel manager to keep on file.
Yay, whatever. They have lost a lifetime customer. All I wanted is an acknowledgment that they screwed up this move by not making it clear on their web site–and I couldn’t get that or even a personal response.
Bad move, Holiday Inn. You could have saved this one by admitting your mistake, saying sorry, we’ll fix that, and maybe tossing this guy a free upgrade on his next stay. Instead you only looked at the situation in terms of short-term costs and ended up losing out in the long-run. A simple human gesture can go miles.