Everyone else has “brushed us off” — should I, too?

By | October 29th, 2012

Usually, when multiple parties tell you that you don’t have a case, there’s something to it. So when Mary Kay Kachikis wrote to me about a Quality Inn in Washington that she claims “negligently” misrepresented itself, I have to admit — I was a little skeptical.

I still am.

Here’s the crux of her complaint: When she checked into the Quality Inn on New York Avenue, it wasn’t what she expected. And although she stayed in the hotel, she wants a full refund.

A cursory read of the Quality Inn “guarantee” might lead you to believe you are entitled to one. But a closer looks suggests that it’s a long shot. Read it yourself if you have any doubts.

But let’s get to the details.

The pedestrian walkway from the metro to the hotel was closed and had been for over a year.

There was no notice on the website or given to me when I booked with a representative of Choice Hotels (six weeks in advance) at the Choice Privileges special member number.

The walk was twice as long and through a dangerous commercial area — dangerous during the day due to having to walk down the middle of the street where two-way traffic took turns with pedestrians, and dangerous in the evening due to being an unsafe, deserted area.

The longer walking distance stole time from our vacation and put a burden on us physically.

What’s more, the property was in shambles.

“They have numerous code violations from the city inspector,” she says. “The hotel has applied for a permit to demolish the structure so they can expand.”

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Kachikis says she knows this property — she had stayed in it three years before.

“These were not the conditions when we stayed at this property three years ago,” she told me.

An email requesting a refund from the property was met with a rejection. The hotel’s general manager sent her a letter saying that the issues she raised were “being addressed” and thanking her for bringing the hotel’s shortcomings to his attention. It appears to be a form letter.

Kachikis appealed to Choice Hotels, Quality Inn’s parent company, at the corporate level. Another rejection. Its reason? Choice couldn’t tell a franchisee what to do, and besides, its guarantee didn’t really apply to this situation.

So she disputed the charge with Chase, her credit card. That, too, was rejected.

Kachikis is unhappy with the string of “nos” and is questioning her loyalty to Choice Hotels.

The entire experience with all the corporations is troubling. But especially with Choice Hotels.

Their new TV commercial promotion does not state — nor is there any very, very fine print that states — “Stay at one of our hotels, but we are not responsible because they are all independently owned and operated.”

I know they will attempt to claim that they are not responsible for the acts or omissions of their franchisees.

I think Kachikis would have a much stronger case if : 1) she hadn’t actually stayed at the property, and 2) If the hotel had made some kind of explicit guarantee about the state of the sidewalks near the property. As far as I can tell, none of those things happened.

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I’m sympathetic to Kachikis’ case, though, and I’ve always wondered what the franchise agreement between Choice and a Quality Inn franchisee says. It appears the Choice hotel can do whatever it pleases, under the agreement.

Still, I’m tempted to pursue this case. Looking at the correspondence, it’s clear she’s being jerked around by the franchisee, the chain, and her credit card. I think she’s entitled to more than a form letter that’s signed, “Yours in hospitality.”

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