My latest poll is now closed, and it seems the overwhelming “worst part of travel” is gross hotel rooms! Thankfully, I’ve rarely come across a truly horrible hotel, but I do have all kinds of quirky lodging stories – some nastier than others. I’ll avoid naming names since some of these are just minor, onetime complaints!
Not What It’s Cracked Up to Be …
There was the nice, rustic-looking Radford (Virginia) lodge, in a bucolic setting, that turned out to be poorly lit and somewhat dirty on the inside. The real killer for me was the low showerhead, which forced me to do all kinds of uncomfortable stooping and bending. When the water suddenly went freezing cold out of nowhere, I thought it was time to demand a refund! (My father, who laughed uproariously as I angrily rinsed shampoo out of my hair in the sink, apparently thought differently – he booked another stay there later!)
Then there was the high-rise Manhattan hotel (is there any other kind?) that promised a luxurious two-bedroom suite at a bargain price. We should have understood that “bargain” is a bad word in NYC. After walking through the dingy, darkly lit hallways to find our “suite,” we entered two cramped bedrooms joined by a tiny, slimy, slightly hairy bathroom. My bedroom doubled as the living room, with a twin bed covered in rough sheets and pillowcases. My parents’ double bed took up most of the space in their room and was jammed against the door to the outside. They also had the privilege of having the sink in their room, since there definitely wasn’t enough room for it in the bathroom.
What about when it’s not the room that is a problem? Staying at a large resort and casino in Atlantic City, my friends and I went in search of a good pool to swim in. The rooftop pool we’d heard so much about was drained and closed off. The courtyard pool had dirt and feathers floating in it, and the pavement under one chaise lounge displayed a pile of orange vomit. My best friend and I hopped in anyway, joking about catching a disease. We stopped laughing when a HAZ-MAT team showed up and began spraying down the deck. We wound up going to the luxurious rooftop pool and hot tub complex at the resort next door!
When It’s Good for a Laugh …
The Embassy Suites (a chain I always highly recommend, although it’s rather pricey!) in Raleigh gave my coworker, Donald, and I a good laugh when we stayed there last June. After flying in from New Orleans, we were exhausted and went straight to our neighboring suites to unpack, then dashed downstairs to enjoy the free dinner and happy hour. Heading upstairs, we were both ready to sleep off the jet lag (or, in my case, ready to do work all night on my laptop). Not too seconds after I’d shut my suite door, Donald banged on it. “Come over here,” he hollered from the hall. I ran out and he pointed into his open suite. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with this picture?” he asked. I peered in and saw the TV, which he’d just channel-surfed on not 45 minutes before, was missing! He called the front desk to report it — it turned out maintenance had taken it and was getting ready to come back with a new one, but they’d failed to leave a note. We had a great laugh about that one!
The One That Takes the Cake …
But, by far, the worst hotel story I have is about the Holiday Inn Express in Hillsborough, North Carolina. I’m going to go ahead and put a name to this one because it was that bad. We wound up complaining to both the HIE president and to AAA.
We stayed there on the way back from Lake Martin, Alabama, where we enjoyed a one week vacation with my aunt and uncle at their summer home. We had three rooms, and as soon as we walked in we noticed the walls were banged up and dented, and that the corners were all dirty. My sister and brother-in-law’s room stank of mildew and had ladybugs, my father’s room wouldn’t lock properly, and the bathroom door in my room (shared with my aunt) wouldn’t shut at all unless we shoved a trashcan in front of it. We were both a little irritated also that the notepads in the room had been used, with coffee cup rings on them, and that only one of our rooms had a microwave when it was specifically stated that all rooms did. But, no matter, we figured we’d go off to the pool and get a swim and forget about it … except the pool was worse. Our first clues were the large ant colony living amid old pieces of food, and the cracked, dirty pool furniture. Our second clues were the pieces of dirt, debris, and feathers floating on the water, and the paint peeling off the bottom! My sister and I, seasoned swimmers who have entered all kinds of water (remember the gross Atlantic City pool?), hopped in, but had to leave when night approached since the lights around the pool were all burned out. Unfortunately, we found the pool’s towel supply was also completely depleted and we had no way to dry off.
Dripping wet, we dropped by the exercise room so my dad could get a good look. We found a small room with three machines wedged in — and a paper requiring guests to sign over all responsibility for the machines’ condition. I’ve never seen this anywhere. What if the machine breaks through no fault of your own? Are you then responsible for paying to replace a crappy treadmill? We went back upstairs to enjoy watching TV and lounging around — and to wrestle with two of the toilets. My dad’s didn’t really flush at all, but when he complained, he was told it couldn’t be fixed! My brother-in-law’s got clogged. When he complained, he was handed a plunger and told to go fix it himself and then leave the dirty plunger out in the hall!
All of this was bad, but the real killer came at 3 AM. The phone rang loudly in our room, and my aunt picked it up to find a wake-up call that we of course didn’t request. Two hours later, it went off again — with yet another wake-up call! My aunt stormed downstairs and was told someone had failed to de-program previous guests’ wake-up call requests. It appears someone also failed to remove previous’ guests dirt and hire appropriate maintenance!
The Bottom Line …
The best you can hope for is to do your research — and hope what you find is correct. Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.com) is always a good place to read “real people” ratings and reviews. The AAA guidebook is generally trustworthy, but not always — we chose the Hillsborough hotel because they had given it three diamonds!
What are some of your “Worst Stay Ever!” stories? Please share so we can all feel revolted 🙂