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The Grunge Report: One Dirty Hotel in Lancaster, Pa.

Scott Vogel

Once upon a time, amid the bucolic splendor of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, there was an awful little hotel called the Days Inn Lancaster. Actually, "awful" is too weak a word. Godawful is more like it. The Days Inn, unlike most others in the hotel chain's stable of properties, was the sort of place where travelers complained of bedbugs and bloodstained mattresses, of sinks clogged with hair, of green water in the algae-infested pool.

Those souls unlucky enough to stay the night in that dreary abode would ordinarily have little recourse. This being a 21st-century fairytale, however, they took their grievances to the Internet, where the complaints eventually led to the hotel being named one of the "Dirtiest Hotels of 2008," a dubious distinction recently conferred on the Days Inn Lancaster by TripAdvisor.com.

And there the matter might have ended if it were not for the aggressive action of Wyndham Hotel Group, the parent company of Days Inn, which, when contacted by Travel Log, informed us in a statement that, "We terminated the independently owned and operated Days Inn Lancaster of Lancaster, Pa., on Feb. 11, 2008, because of its failure to meet quality standards." Pressed to explain what this meant, Rich Roberts, a company spokesman, said that "On the date of termination, the hotel immediately is withdrawn from our reservations and sales systems, and our relationship with the owner officially ends. The owner immediately must cease and desist doing business under our brand name and is given a limited amount of time to remove our signs and logos."

Thanks to the proactive heroics of the hotel's corporate office, therefore, travelers will soon be spared a Days Inn experience that includes, according to TripAdvisor reviews, "filthy carpet," "soiled sheets," and the dreaded "stench that resembled skunk." But don't get the idea that visitors to Amish country will inevitably sleep happily ever after. As Roberts put it, "Typically independently owned and operated hotels that are terminated from a franchise relationship continue to do business as non-branded hotels."

Indeed, a call to the hotel confirmed that business will likely continue as usual, though without the old signage. ("We are in the process of switching franchises," said the employee who answered the phone.) Which leaves us with the following not-very-eloquent moral (apologies to Shakespeare): Beware the hotel at 30 Keller Avenue in Lancaster. That which we call a hotel by any other name would smell as foul.

Anyone out there care to tell share their own dirty hotel horror stories?

By Scott Vogel |  March 5, 2008; 7:14 AM ET  | Category:  Hotels , Scott Vogel , The Odd File , Travel Health
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When I visited Lancaster we got terrible rooms, but very cheap, so they were worth what we paid. Talking to people, they told us of bedbugs and rejecting rooms and hotels. We saw some really great looking places, but were warned off of them by other tourists. Our Menonite tour guide said that city people aren't used to roughing it, but I don't consider renting a hotel room to be roughing it and neither should the hotel operator.

Posted by: DCer | March 5, 2008 9:09 AM

Beware of hotels recommended by scuba divers. Years ago I accompanied two family members on a trip to the Florida Keys. Those two were scuba divers and I just went along for the ride. The hotel (can't recall the name) was 'highly recommended by another diver' was somewhere in the Florida Keys in a strip mall-type arrangement. The blankets were smelly (very much like vomit) and had holes in them. The carpet was cruddy. The woodwork around the door was covered with dirty fingerprints. The trees outside had palmetta bugs as big as clothes pins. Water pressure in the shower was barely a dribble. Obviously a clean, functioning hotel room is not high on a diver's list of priorities.

Then later that night, while I was in bed watching the news, I heard the sound of a key turning in the lock on my door and a strange man came into my room. He said the manager gave him the key to look at a room before he decided to stay there. I told him the room was already occupied, thank you very much.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | March 5, 2008 9:58 AM

I remember as a kid going to visit an aunt outside of NYC. Not wanting to pay high NYC prices but not finding available rooms at mid-range hotels, my dad found a room at the Larchmont Inn (something like that) in, I assume, Larchmont, NY. My mother instructed us not to touch anything. We wore our flip flops in the shower and were regularly awakened by cars coming and going as "patrons" took advantage of the hourly rates - wink, wink. We all get a good laugh out of it now, but it was truly gross then.

Posted by: non frequent flyer | March 5, 2008 10:17 AM

Once found a hotel online in Albany, NY. I was young so I was looking for cheap. The place was disgusting and as soon as my sister and I checked in to our room - someone else unlocked our door! Apparently the desk clerk had booked them in our room. We got the hell out of there and my dad got us a room at a pretty nice Marriot.

Posted by: jEN | March 5, 2008 12:32 PM

Per the first comment, I'm trying to figure out how sleeping in filth and paying for the "privilege" is roughing it.

I don't know of a single Mennonite sect (and I've had more than a passing acquaintance with Mennonites, seeing as they always seem to have farms near dinosaur digs) that thinks filth and the sloth it generally implies is acceptable. One of their buggies or the horse stables sounds cleaner than that Days Inn.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 5, 2008 12:55 PM

Six years ago (pre-Hurricane Katrina) my husband and I went to New Orleans. It was a business trip for him and all the arrangements were made by his company which at that time was based in Europe. When we checked into our room nothing looked quite right. The sheets were messed up under the bedspread; there was lipstick on the glass by the sink; the toilet seat had suspicious small curly hairs; there was used soap in the shower and the top drawer of the dresser was full of food. There was also a little notice proclaiming that the room had been cleaned and prepared "so that our guests will feel at home". Since I never wear lipstick I definitely didn't.

Posted by: ERS | March 5, 2008 2:03 PM

When I was studying in Rome, I went to visit a friend who was studying in London. Since her housing arrangements didn't allow for overnight guests, I found a hotel in Let's Go that I could afford for the two nights I was going to be there. I should have suspected that it would be pretty bad since it was located on the Strand and only cost 40 pounds per night. I did my best not to look at the hair that was clogging the drain of my sink when I brushed my teeth. I was going to be meeting up with friends, so it wasn't like I'd be spending a vast amount of time in the room anyway. The worst part was the shower (shared by the floor). I got in and less than 30 seconds later got back out. The walls were covered with mold and mildew. I wear glasses, so I can only imagine what the floor looked like. I was very grateful to arrive at a very clean, cheap hostel in Bruges the day after I checked out!

Posted by: bgb | March 5, 2008 2:17 PM

For the few times we have bad experiences at motels, we sometimes refer to such places as the "not so Quality Inn."

Posted by: vac | March 5, 2008 4:16 PM

A number of years ago I went home for a short visit. To York PA, just down the road from Lancaster. My mother's house was full with other siblings, so I decided to book a room at a local hotel. At the time I worked for a Ramada, and the going employee rate was a very affordable $25.00 a night. On my way to my room at around 8 PM, I noticed at least 10 room service trays in the hall ( some from breakfast). I opened the door, room hadn't been cleaned. Went to the desk, got another room. Opened that door, something else was wrong. can't remember, possibly another dirty room, or heavy smoke smell in a non-smoking room. Changed rooms again. Only stayed the one night. The hotel is no longer a Ramada, and hopefully since it is now a Sheraton Four Points also has different owners.

As a former hotel manager, food trays in the hall is my #1 pet peeve.

Posted by: rja112 | March 6, 2008 12:28 AM

i went to philadelphia with my Girlfriend for a weekend
on a lark. Bad idea. Turns out U2 was playing, 2 colleges
were doing commencement and there was a regatta
in town.

15 phone calls later, we found a room at the motel 6 by
the Airport. We were told they were down to 2 rooms,
one without A/C, one without a TV. Given the air was
making our eyes water, we opted for the room with A/C.

We checked in, i went to sleep and my GF went to take a shower.
She came to bed complaining about the shower. I told her
it couldn't be that bad and we went to bed.

In the morning i woke up and went to take my shower.
The wall appeared to have rust stains on it, but, I was still
waking up and didn't have my glasses on.

Afterwards while getting shaved, I examined the shower wall.
The rust stains appeared to be blood in the shape of a
gunshot wound splatter.

We got dressed quickly, worrying intensely about the prior
occupants returning for any forgotten items and left the
area.

We now call it the CSI: 6.


Posted by: anon | March 6, 2008 4:14 PM

I wanted to comment as I recently stayed in a Knights Inn in Shelbyville, IN which used to be a Days Inn until recently. We arrived in Indianapolis at the same time as the race fans for the Brickyard 400 and found ourselves unable to secure a room for 7 days. We were moving from California to a rented home in Indiana with a dog and cat in tow. We really didn't have the budget to stay in a high priced hotel. We couldn't find any hotels to take both even if they had occupancy. After scanning the GPS and calling many places we found the Knights Inn in Shelbyville, IN. The gentleman on the phone could not have been any nicer. When we checked in, the lady at the desk was even nicer and they were oh so willing to help us in any way they could. Well, I can see why. The room was okay, but not clean by any stretch of the imagination. Figuring that we really had no choice, we settled in. The first day, a cleaning person asked if we needed anything, we told her clean towels and please vacuum the floor and she left 2 handtowels a washcloth and no clean large towels. She ran the vacuum about 15 seconds and left saying she would be back later. She never returned. The following day it became evident that this place was even more of a dump then it looked from the first glance. People were hanging off the upper railings at all hours, trash was strewn around the back parking are and used condoms were in the parking lot on the ground. When we asked the front desk folks to talk to the "night stalkers" they obliged, not that it changed anything but they said they talked to them. Fleas and bed bugs invested our room and I came away after the experience with bites all over my legs and arms. The room had electrical problems and when I went to pull out the drawer on the desk, the front fell off. The door keys we had worked SOMETIMES and they had said that they would repair it, they never did. The air conditioner screeched night and day at hourly intervals and the pool seemed to be used more by unseedy people using it as a bath area. I have never been so happy to leave anyplace in my life. In our travels we have stayed in some really not so great conditions but this by far is the worst ever. Friendly yes, but nice, NO. This hotel should be fumigated and totally cleaned out or just bulldozed over. It was an experience that I hope never to repeat. When I filled out my survey on line that the Wyndham people sent me, I got nothing back. Not an apology, nothing. POOR Poor health conditions, poor management and even poorer corporate PR. I hope someone at Wyndham reads this and talks to that hotel personally. They will know who I am and frankly, I don't care. This hotel deserves a -8.
Thanks for reading!

Posted by: CJ | August 15, 2008 8:22 AM

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