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The Monday Rant: If the Hotel's a Rockin' . . .

Scott Vogel

Not a week goes by, it seems, when we in Travel don't hear from some poor soul whose vacation was ruined by a bad hotel stay. The question is, what to do about it?

Case in point: I recently stayed at the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center in preparation for an upcoming Travel story. Coincidentally, the hotel was also being visited by a large group from an organization called Student Ventures, which according to its Web site, is "the high school and junior high ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International."

In other words, the hotel was besieged by teens from all over the southeastern United States, and as you might expect, things got rowdy. Door slamming well into the wee hours, people running down the halls, loud talking in the corridors -- you know the drill.

So what do you do in that situation? Well, if you're like me, first you try to reason with the kids, telling them that no one in your room can sleep. Next, when that doesn't work, you call the front desk and complain. And when that proves ineffective, you visit the front desk and ask for another room, only to be told that there are no other rooms. Eventually, the police are called, at which point the corridor suddenly goes deathly silent, and everyone finally gets to sleep around 1:00 a.m.

"It's up to the hotel to quiet things," said Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, an industry group. "And the way to do that is to empower the people at the front desk to do the right thing. The last thing you want to hear is, 'I have to call the general manager and he doesn't come in until 8 o'clock in the morning.'"

In the Sheraton's case, after an initial period of confusion, the front desk personnel reacted well, offering to comp us for a night's stay and giving us a few complimentary breakfast coupons. But we -- and a few other parties -- lost a vacation night that we can never get back, which raises the question of whether you can ever be adequately compensated for a nightmare hotel stay.

One thing that McInerney was adamant about, however: "Always have the hotel handle the situation," he told me. "The last thing a guest needs to do is confront another guest. You don't know what kind of built-up rage the other person might have."

On the off chance that some of you have found yourselves in situations similar to mine, I'm wondering how you were able to defuse them (or not). What, if anything, was just compensation?

By Scott Vogel |  June 16, 2008; 6:18 AM ET  | Category:  Hotels , Monday Rants , Scott Vogel
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Who called the police - you, the front desk, another guest?

Posted by: h3 | June 16, 2008 7:35 AM

In answer to the above question, the front desk did the calling, although I would have done so myself if the bedlam had gone on much longer.

Posted by: Scott Vogel | June 16, 2008 9:50 AM

Got it. And glad to hear that they did eventually take care of the situation.

Posted by: h3 | June 16, 2008 9:59 AM

Ideally, you should ask about any large groups at the time you book your room, so that you can avoid the problem at the outset.

Posted by: M Street | June 16, 2008 10:30 AM

I had to stay at the Omni Hotel in Richmond, VA, one night to visit a friend. Unfortunately, there was also a wedding party that went into the wee hours and had a large number of guests booked in rooms where they thought it appropriate to continue being as loud. I called the front desk and complained about the noise. However, they did nothing. I e-mailed the GM and got a reply a few days later offering a comped night's stay.

Just compensation isn't being given a comped breakfast or future night's stay. Just compensation is having the hotel quickly quiet their guests so that I feel I'm staying at a competent property and chalk it up to rude guests.

So I have yet to go back to that Omni, or any other one.

Posted by: Chris L. | June 16, 2008 11:30 AM

My worst night of sleep at a hotel in recent memory was when Willy Nelson's tour bus parked outside my window. Apparently, Willy's roadies stay in hotels, but he sleeps in his bus, and he had to run his generator all night. I called the front desk asking them to have the bus move away from the hotel or something. They later called me back to tell me it was Willy, and he didn't feel comfortable anywhere else. The hotel offered to comp my night, but I was on buisness. They offered to move my room, but it was alreday 11pm and I was 10 nights into a 14 night stay. They offered me free breakfast, but I had to be out by 5am. In short, there was no solution that could make me happy. To this day, whenever I say the name "Willy Nelson" I preceed it with an adjective I cannot type on a family page.

Was it really Willy Nelson? I'm not totally sure. It was a tour bus of some sort, the roadies were definitely concert roadies, and he was playing a nearby casino.

Posted by: RT | June 16, 2008 12:52 PM

That's "Willie."

Posted by: Nitpicker | June 16, 2008 2:21 PM

Not a hotel but a state campground, where neighbors stayed up drinking and partying till all hours. We arose at 6 AM, went over to the campground woodpile and began chopping firewood (even more than we actually needed for our breakfast campfire), loudly talking all the while. Eventually we spotted stirring in the partiers' tents, and hoped we'd made their hangovers worse!

Posted by: No name | June 16, 2008 2:23 PM

Well it's a youth group! I would have done my darndest to locate the chaperones, and let them know that it's time to chaperone them!

(Perhaps they didn't know that there were guests not with their group on the floor.)

I actually told some pre-teens that they were being disrespectful, and rude when they were running, screaming down a hotel hallway. They reacted like they had no idea that they were keeping us up.

Even when I have my kids with me, they are told to keep it down in the room and hallways. We also check with the neighbors when we see them to make sure they aren't disturbed.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2008 4:56 PM

Wait, things quieted down at 1am after multiple steps that probably took a couple of hours?

How early are you going to sleep in a vacation spot?? You're in a resort, maybe give the "I'm not working 9-5 while I'm here" a chance... let the kids be your excuse to step a little outside of the maze of your personal rat race.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 16, 2008 7:46 PM

Yep, we had the same problem in a Holiday Inn in Indiana. 2 kids hockey teams and the parents were as noisy and rude as their kids. Complained to management, several times over a 2 hour period..............finally called the police and things quieted down but it took a while. The night desk crew was too young and inexperienced to deal with it . We were comped but that didn'r make up for the next day's 500 mile drive and aspirin!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 6:55 AM

Willy, Willie... shows how much respect I have for him after he kept me up all night. LOL

Posted by: RT | June 17, 2008 8:52 AM

Hey Anon June 16, 7:46pm, if it was my vacation and I was forced to stay up until 1am by noisy rude people, I'd be pretty upset about it! I'm a morning person by nature: on weekends, when I'm wound down from my so-not-stressful job, I'm asleep by 10pm and up at the decadent hour of 7:30am. Just because you're a night-owl doesn't mean I should have to be, too, nor does my early bedtime mean that I'm some sort of workaholic drone who doesn't know how to have a good time. And if you keep me up until 1am, I hope you like hearing CNN at full volume at 7:30am (except when it's drowned out by my hair dryer), because I'll be up anyway and I owe you one.

Posted by: BxNY | June 17, 2008 9:45 AM

And another thing - we just spent the past week in Arizona. When working, my husband has to be up at 4 to be at the jobsite by 6:15am. There is only so much adjusting to the time zones that we can do and still be functional when we get home. So yeah, even on vacation we were in bed by 9 or 10 and up no later than 7. And we had a great vacation anyway

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 9:58 AM

"How early are you going to sleep in a vacation spot?? You're in a resort, maybe give the "I'm not working 9-5 while I'm here" a chance... let the kids be your excuse to step a little outside of the maze of your personal rat race.

Posted by: | June 16, 2008 7:46 PM "

Did it ever occur to you that some people like to catch up on sleep when they're on vacation? Or that some people, oh I don't know, do lots of things during the day when they're on vacation (like, say, hike up a mountain or walk across an entire city) expecting to crash when they get back that night?

Posted by: Andy | June 17, 2008 10:24 AM

Not to jump on the bandwagon here, but I neglected to mention in my original post that I was traveling with my young son. I happen enjoy late nights, but keeping him up until 1 am meant that not only did all of the adults lose a night of sleep but the kid was cranky all the next day. In my case at least, kids don't tend to "sleep in" the next morning when they go to bed late the night before, unlike adults.

Posted by: Scott Vogel | June 17, 2008 10:36 AM

M Street, that's a nice idea, but sometimes you book ahead of tour groups (or other large groups) and won't get notice. And if you book through a nationwide hotel's 1-800 number, they might not be able to tell you whether there's a large group booked for the same time period anyway.

Posted by: sergio georgini | June 17, 2008 10:54 AM

For crying out loud. Let's make a mountain out of a molehill. Or, even better, as an American, maybe you should sue!

Earplugs weren't invented for nothing.

Posted by: Beges | June 17, 2008 2:10 PM

I ran into a similar situation at a motel in Tampa about 10 yeras ago with rowdy kids partying all night. The front desk not only was useless, but they also told the kids which room had complained and then the kids kept calling our room. There was no manager available either that night or the next morning, and we had to pay for the room in spite of getting no sleep. I did report the motel to AAA since they gave it a high rating, and I later wrote a letter to the motel and got a credit for the room, but the next day of our vacation was ruined.

Posted by: Jerry | June 17, 2008 2:30 PM

There's no excuse for that kind of behavior from the kids on a group trip like that - and the chaperones bear the brunt of that responsibility. Having gone on several team trips with my husband, a high school coach, you can bet those kids know what behavior is expected before they even set foot in the hotel. And then there is always at least one chaperone that gets night duty just in case. However, we've definitely seen some less than stellar behavior from some other teams during those trips.

Posted by: Anon | June 17, 2008 3:01 PM

We had hookers and gang members outside our hotel in Ft. Meyers, Fl our first night (Howard Johnsons). We didn't know it until we opened the door to ask the rowdies to keep it down. For the next 2 hours, we had people jiggling our doorknob and walking by our door while our several calls to the front desk went unheeded. We were afraid to leave until first light the next morning. The front desk clerk said they had no record of our complaint. After several weeks of back and forth with Howard Johnson's corporate headquarters, we got our money back. The vacation was salvaged by the good folks at the Sannibel Island Chamber of Commerce. I highly recommend them! Never stay at the HoJos in Ft. Meyer!!!

Posted by: DW | June 17, 2008 3:27 PM

I used to work for a youth group like the one described in the story - we, the adults, were posted on hallway watch to keep the kids under control during early evening hours, and then we had chaperones that sat in the hall all night to make sure it stayed that way. Curfew at 11pm meant doors closed with only the room occupants in each room - and there were checks to make sure of that, too. We promised as much to the parents who signed permission slips for those kids to be under our supervision. Responsible groups know how to manage their charges so that everyone can enjoy shared spaces like hotels, museums, parks. I'm surprised to hear that it took police to get Christian Crusaders under control. Love thy neighbor.

Posted by: CDJ | June 17, 2008 3:42 PM

Um, 3:27, you should never stay in a HoJo anywhere. Who would be surprised to see hookers and gang bangers hanging around one? You get what you pay for...

Posted by: Arlington | June 17, 2008 4:37 PM

Actually, the sort of thing that annoys me most is the kind of thing I feel I can't complain about. I have no problem complaining about obvious things like teenagers running up and down the hallway, gosh!

But if there's something that I know the hotel can't do much about, like people perfectly within their rights watching TV or enjoying the pool or having a conversation at a normal volume, but the hotel just has a terrible lack of soundproofing? I can't very well complain ("please don't talk in your hotel room!!"?!?!), but it disturbs me and keeps me awake when I want to sleep anyway...I hate that.

Posted by: meara | June 18, 2008 12:22 AM

What are the so-called young Crusaders For Christ doing at 1 a.m. except for carrying on, drinking, and fornicating?


Posted by: Just wondering | June 18, 2008 9:08 AM

The point is, you paid for the room, it is your vacation. You should be able to have certain expectations while in your room, including some peace and quiet. I understand that folks not used to multi-story buildings (and there are still some of us rubes out there) don't realize how loud their footsteps are, especially kids running down the hallway. However, there seem to be fewer and fewer folks who are aware of how loud or thoughtless they are behaving. I know it is an uncomfortable situation, but they shouldn't be allowed to disturb other guests.

Posted by: kimnkiitties | June 18, 2008 12:31 PM

Try getting a good nights sleep when there is a number of hockey teams staying at the same hotel. There was a large tournament in Belfast,Ireland and I was unfortunate enough to be at the same hotel with several of the teams (from Edinburgh, Liverpool, etc). They lit toilet paper and threw it out the windows, sprayed halls with shaving cream and water and raised all kinds of ruckus. Hotel refused to do anything, they said the teams warned them they would destroy the place if the Garda were called. I was on a guided tour, and we all suffered through the night. I was never so glad to see a tour bus in my life.

Posted by: Judith | June 18, 2008 1:22 PM

Everything you say is right ... and if you have earplugs with you maybe you can get some sleep.


Posted by: chrisviking | June 18, 2008 2:14 PM

I was stuck in a motel (not part of a chain) in Indiana some years ago where nearly everyone else in the motel had been attending a wedding. The drunken noise in the parking lot was not to be believed. I complained to "management", who more or less said, what did I expect. I finally turned up the airconditioner fan and the TV, and put in my ever-present help in time of travel, the foam earplugs, and survived the night. I found that someone had vomited on the hood of my rental car, but it could have been worse.

Posted by: dcbyday | June 18, 2008 3:23 PM

Our nightmare experience was in Northfield, MN home to St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges during a February of a few years ago. We woke to taxis dropping off well dressed young adults who kept up the noise...pounding on doors, yelling, running down hallways, etc. from 1 am to 3-4 am. Called the desk twice. Inexperieced student in charge could do nothing but apoligize. Police came twice at least leading to the tossing of beer, alcohol and themselves out the two story building to escape into the 15 inches of snow. Beer was still there in the morning. Walls, windows, doors, etc were damaged throughout the AmericInn which was new and would undergo a corporate visit in the near future. The party people were a group of 35-40 friends from nearby towns (not the local college students) who yearly celebrated Fat Tuesday on the weekend before at a different town and motel of their choice. The next morning they were discussing their great night at the continental breakfast! We were not charged for our room.

Posted by: Polly4 | June 18, 2008 4:28 PM

A girls' basketball team from a state college disturbed my sleep in a hotel. I noted their school name on team jerseys. Complained to the students in the hall. By coincidence was seated on a plane next to an administrative v-p of their school on another trip soon after. Told her of my experience & she assured me she would take some action. In such a case, maybe it's a good idea to contact the school later. They will surely want to know about their students, especially when said students are wearing the school name.

Posted by: LJM | June 18, 2008 5:01 PM

Before I book any hotel anywhere I always check out TripAdvisor. No, I don't work for them but you can search through hotels world-wide and find out the best and worst of them. The folks who write in and blog about the hotels have actually stayed there and are not shy about commenting on everything from closet space in the room to how the front desk clerks and management handle situations. They've saved me from rooms with paper-thin walls, bad food and even told me which rooms to avoid! While it can't predict kids group and badly behaved wedding guests, at least you know how they hotel manages other complaints. Besides, no amount of comps can make up for a hotel that ruins your vacation.

Posted by: Know Before You go | June 18, 2008 5:01 PM

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