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

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.”

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.

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.”

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • dourdan

    She stayed. that is like eating a pizza then asking for another one because it was not cooked to your standards- you ate it. you have to pay.

    As for her complaints- lack of a walk way, really? if she is disabled then ok, but I once had to park 8 blocks away from a hotel because that garage was the one they co-owned. (there were 2 others closer, but no! In order to get comped I needed to play by their rules.)

    And “numerous code violations”, again- she should have left. I have stayed in a hotel that smelled like dirty sock- for 5 days straight, AND had police in from of the building arresting what looked like prostitutes (4 out of the 7 nights i was there.)

    If i wanted to i could have left, but i shut my door, made sure it was locked and stayed.

    I voted no- she doesn’t deserve a full refund. MAYBE a discount towards a future stay but not a full refund.

  • sdir

    Who owns the walkway? I’m betting it isn’t the hotel, so why blame them for something that isn’t even their property? And I’d like a definition of “shambles”. Were things dirty? Broken? She doesn’t say. Throwing in talk of code violations was a nice touch, but has nothing to do with her specific stay. Kachikis doesn’t actually explain how the hotel fell short or whether she asked them to fix anything. The time to fix a problem is during your stay, not after the fact. I say don’t mediate.

  • http://www.balivillaholidays.com/ Bali Villa Holidays

    Usually, we do have the same experience that Mary had but the difference is that she overreacted about the disappointment that she thought it’s beyond the supposed usual scenario in a hotel stay and assume that the hotel might have mistreated her.

  • Dutchess

    Doesn’t look like the Kachikises did a good job researching their hotel stay. This hotel property has abysmal rating on tripadvisor.


    Also, if you know DC, you know the area BEHIND the train station isn’t the most desirable part of the city. In fact it can be kind of rough at night, so I understand why they might feel it was unsafe.

    However, this doesn’t excuse them from doing a little research on their own. They stayed at the hotel and if they were unhappy, they should have changed accommodations rather than trying to get their money back after the fact.

    Perhaps a voucher for their dissatisfaction, but not a full refund.

  • backprop

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

    As management at Choice Hotels lights candles, burns incense, and prays to their preferred deities to PLEASE make it so..

  • Peddler

    The problem I feel is the franchise operator which in most cases are {comment removed by moderator}. They also have a “I’ll do what I want and you are an interruption of whatever I’m doing” attitude. Choice Hotels as well as Wyndom and the Hilton chain need to retrain their operators and police them a little harder.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    “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.”
    I’ve always wondered that, myself. When my husband and I go on our road trips, we often stay in Quality or Comfort Inns (Choice), but depend very heavily on TripAdvisor to guide us. The “Quality” and “Comfort” are extremely variable, depending on the individual franchisee. I personally don’t think there’s much to mediate here; the Kachikis *did* stay for however many nights. I understand the limitations of trying to find another place to stay within a limited budget (which is why one stays with Choice brands to begin with), but they could have negotiated with the manager on-site during the stay for a reduction of the room rate. One TripAdvisor review says that the motel provides a free shuttle to the metro (thanks, @Dutchess!), so that complaint also could have been mitigated during the stay.

  • BillCCC

    I don’t think that there is anything to mediate. She stayed, she was disappointed, she complained and she is not happy with the response. I don’t think that disappointment is legitimate cause for a refund, especially since she did use the service. If they had not delivered something that was promised it might be a different story. What were the code violations that she mentioned?

  • MarkKelling

    If the property was that bad, I would have slept in the metro.

    So the walk was twice as long, so what? I feel we are talking minutes here not hours. Not sure how this “stole time” from them any more than any other sidewalk being closed in the city. Looking at the map of the area, the walkway would not appear to be owned or maintained by the hotel.

    Numerous code violations? What were they? I’m sure most hotels have some types of violations.

    Were the rooms clean? Did the doors lock? Were any of the problems mentioned to the manger before they checked out? Sorry, but you stayed, you paid. End of story. Just don’t stay there next time.

  • Veronica

    I am not sure if you should mediate this case, Mr. Elliott. I feel that if it was really that bad as they stated, they would have left immediately. However, they stayed and are now asking for a refund? I do not think they should get anything back.

    Curious – they stated they stayed at the property a couple of years ago. Were they not aware that the area could be rough at night despite the fact that they had used the pedestrian walkway prior (maybe that was the reason the walkway was there – I hope not)? Or had that changed in the few years they had been there? I highly doubt it. This sounds more like, “they did not do what I wanted and since I am queen of my own world, I demand a refund”.

  • Pegtoo

    Their COMMITMENT TO SATISFACTION states “please let the front desk know without delay so we can make it right.”…so I’m thinking that waiting till after checkout doesn’t work.

  • y_p_w

    That’s a rather broad brush to paint. I’ve been a coworker to several Indians over the years. Once after I got back from vacation, I was talking to one of these Indian coworkers. He asked me if the owner of the lodging I stayed in was from India, which was the case. He noted that Indians from a specific part of the country have immigrated to the US and bought lodging.

    We actually arrived late, and the night manager was also the owner. He was sleeping in the back when I buzzed the front desk. I apologized for waking him up, but he indicated that late night guests came were part of his responsibility and that he was glad to check us in. We’ve stayed in many Indian owned hotels, and they generally take pride in providing a good experience at a good price. There are exceptions, but I don’t paint a picture of people solely based on their ethnicity.

    Besides that, the recent reviews of the place mention the construction on New York Avenue that blocks access to the Metro.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I voted “Yes” on the poll but to a limit. She did stay at the hotel the entire time. I can’t help but wonder, if she was that unhappy, why did she stay? However, I also feel she’s due a partial refund due to this being a less than desirable stay.

    I sensed some hyperbole in the statement:The longer walking distance stole time from our vacation and put a burden on us physically.

    Also, I’m not sure I see “negligence” in this as much as I see apathy. The courts, however, don’t offer compensation for Intentional Infliction of Apathy.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I voted no. Are the sidewalks the hotel’s responsibility? I think not. That she needs to take up with the Powers that Be in the area.

    If the hotel was really grimy and yucky, why stay there? Why not just check out and find other accommodations? C’mon now…step up and show some personal responsibility, please.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Uhh…how did this make it past the mods? It’s bigoted at best and racist at worst?! I expect a little better, folks.

  • emanon256

    I have always been under the belief that when a hotel, company, manufacturer, etc. has to put the word “Quality” in their title, what I find will be far from what I would consider Quality. In fact, its usually these places that are the poorest quality, or produce the poorest products, etc. If they have to tell people they are quality, then they are not.

    Also, I agree with Chris. If she had refused to stay, she would have a much better case. I voted no.

  • emanon256

    I was thinking the same thing. Wow!

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Wasn’t me!

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Being “less than desirable” is so subjective, though. Most properties tend to get worse over time, not better. She’s obviously not going to stay there again (I hope!) so a future credit wouldn’t be applicable. But then again, I don’t think she deserves any cash back. I’m still trying to figure out what was so bad that she wants a refund. And if she gets one, why wouldn’t ever other guest get one, too? The problems she mentions weren’t specific to her / her stay.

  • http://www.jeffshelby.com/ Jeff Shelby

    I voted no for two reasons. As stated, she actually stayed at the property. As you mentioned, her case would’ve been stronger had she chosen to not stay there. But, also, if the hotel is in such an awful state and they are looking to demolish it, there is absolutely no way the operator will return the funds. There is zero incentive for them to do so. Customer satisfaction is not on their to-do list right now. Is that fair? Probably not. But I think this would be a fruitless mediation.

  • bodega3

    I don’t see anything about the condition of the hotel room in her complaint, just the off property area. So with that alone, I don’t see any reason for a her to request a full refund. IMHO this is another case of someone wanting something for free. They could have checked out and gone to another hotel but my guess is that they wanted cheap and they got it and stayed.

  • http://travelingwinechick.com/ Elizabeth Smith

    The only reason you should mediate her case is written in your final paragraph: 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.”

  • sirwired

    Code violations? Really? Building code violations, verified by an inspector, would have been corrected immediately. Health and Sanitation code? Just about every restaurant in the country has violations of one kind or another every time they get inspected… If you only patronized establishments with zero of those violations, you’d be eating at home pretty much all the time. (And your average home kitchen would utterly flunk a sanitation inspection.)

    Was the walkway something promised to be there, or did she assume it would be there? (I don’t see it mentioned on the website anywhere.) The walkway would have been several blocks from the Hotel, even what it was in operation, so I never would have assumed it was the Hotel’s responsibility. And the hotel is responsible for the neighborhood it sits in, and the presence (or lack of) sidewalks?

    If the place was so sketchy, she should have found alternate lodgings. There is no shortage of hotels near metro stations in DC; surely she could have found another. And did she complain to the manager while she was there? Most managers will adjust the rate some for complaints like this.

  • sirwired

    Looking at Google maps, the walkway would have been owned by the city and used for crossing FL Ave. The hotel is not actually that near the Metro station; it’s already a few blocks away.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    And that is the problem with moderating sites…people actually expect you to do it when you say you will. And now it’s a few hours later and the obviously racist post is STILL here? Makes no sense to me. And I’m thinking back to a post you had banned a few columns ago where Chris said he thought it was okay…yet it still didn’t get posted. I don’t see how the moderation thing has helped anything.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I’m six timezones away, and just saw this. Not sure what to do, since it’s already sparked a discussion. Should I remove the reference to Indian and Pakistani proprietors, delete the post, or delete the post and the discussion?

  • $16635417

    What is a guarantee anyway? Seems like terms like guarantee and commitment get thrown around now with no substance.

    I had a problem with my ISP. Called them and they answered the phone with a script about their guarantee. I asked if they couldn’t fix the problem…what is the compensation. They had no answer. They “guaranteed” to fix my problem, yet I still have the same problem. Can someone tell me what a constitutes a guarantee? I shrug it off as a marketing ploy.

  • Bill___A

    Don’t stay in Quality inns. I’ve seen several of them that were questionable. The last one I was in, I checked out of it within an hour of checking in.
    From what I can tell, they don’t have good standards.

  • emanon256

    I vote for delete post and discussion.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I think you should delete the post and the discussion. The discussion is about the racism, and adds nothing to the discussion about the actual article. If I were a mod I would have deleted it immediately. It’s blatantly racist.

  • Steph55110

    I voted NO. SHe knew the neighborhood from previous visits and she stayed the entire time. I think she is unreasonable.

  • Dutchess

    Can you, just delete the content and write “Content removed by moderator” and keep the replies? If not, the whole thing should be removed.

  • BillCCC

    I am on the fence. While I believe that the poster came off as a bigot and might be one, I don’t find anything in the post to be overtly racist. You should either delete it or leave as-is.

  • deemery

    I agree, the question to investigate is the actual scope & value of a “quality guarantee” by a chain on one of its franchisees. If the property had building code violations that were visible to the guest, that would sure meet a “non-legal” interpretation of a quality guarantee (i.e. a reasonable person would expect a “quality property” to meet relevant building code requirements.)

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Are the sidewalks the hotel’s responsibility? I think not.”

    You think wrong. While the sidewalk may not be the hotel’s responsibility, the content of their web-site IS their responsibility. Saying that this walkway exists, when, in fact, it does not, IS their responsibility.

  • john4868

    I pulled out the offensive comment. At least, that will keep from furthering the discussion

  • Chris Johnson

    Hahaha. You can’t sleep in the metro – it does close at some point, unlike the NYC subways that are 24/7. Anyway, I agree with the rest of what you said. I know where that Quality Inn is and that’s not the greatest part of town anyway – I would have opted for somewhere in the suburbs instead.

  • y_p_w

    Looks like Chris split the difference and just clipped out the objectionable content. While I agree that the post was a bit bigoted, it wasn’t necessarily offensive in a way that I would expect to be censored.

    I think it said more about the poster than anything else.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    True, that’s not much of a guarantee, is it? My personal favorite are how lots of big box scores have price “guarantees” on appliances, TVs, etc., only they have special model numbers put on those items so you’ll never find that exact model for sale anywhere else. Thus, Best Buy is actually telling you that you’ll never find that item on sale for less at another Best Buy.

  • emanon256

    All their website says is that they are walking distance from the metro station. The hotel is still walking distance from the metro station. Their website never mentions the pedestrian walkway. I agree with Raven, that is not the hotels responsibility.

  • y_p_w

    Depends on the location. I got a great rate at the Quality Inn Zion Park in Springdale, Utah. The only issue I had was that they didn’t have late check in, although we managed to arrive before they closed up shop. They indicated that anyone arriving late could pick up their keys left behind and do a morning check in. This was a place that’s actually quite nice, with several buildings, each with interior hallways and entrance to the buildings only with card keys. They were clean with spacious rooms, and a decent breakfast (they take pride in their waffles) hosted by the owners. Even some of the Yelp reviews that only gave 3 stars sounded more like 4/5 star reviews by the actual comments.

    That left me with a good impression of the brand. Then I looked up other properties of the same brand. Mostly motor lodges and motels. Reviews often criticized the maintenance (or lack thereof). A fairly low rent motel near my home rebranded to a Quality Inn. I can understand why many people think the brand is poor, but I think it’s far more about the franchises than about the brand. Best Western is a large brand that varies from cheap motels to moderately upscale hotels.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I disagree with your opinion that one shouldn’t stay in a Quality Inn, but wouldn’t down vote it because I disagreed with you. I stay in Quality Inns from time to time; sometimes they’re the only option when I do my road trips along the more remote areas of a particular state. I do agree that some of them are questionable as to “Quality”. I think that franchisees have way too much latitude in representing a brand and that said latitude is not in the consumer’s favor.

  • JenniferFinger

    Why didn’t she find out what conditions would be like before booking her room, or at least not staying there once she knew what the walk would be like? I think she forfeits her right to a full refund by staying there once she did know.

  • llandyw

    Here’s the problem with Choice. 1. Choice is controlled by a group of Indians (not American). 2. A large number of the franchisees are also Indian. I know someone who has worked for many Indian owned hotels, and without exception, they have all paid minimum or very close to minimum wage and low wages even for their general managers, didn’t keep the properties up, treated their employees like slaves, ignored local, state and Federal laws. I know people who won’t stay at an Indian owned hotel. In the 2 counties in my area there is only one hotel not owned by Indian owners. Seems all they care about is what they can get out of it for the least they can put into it. As an example, the current one had someone leave without paying (an agreement between the GM with the owners also agreeing let them pay after their stay, without a CC on file). The owners decided they would take the over $600 from the walk-out out of the employees salaries. First, it is illegal to take monies out of an employees paychecks at all. If an employee borrows from an employer, they still have to pay the full salary, and have the employee pay them back. You end up with tax and other issues otherwise. Second, if a reduction in pay for any reason takes them below minimum wage, this is also illegal. The DOL board of wages was contacted and they contacted the hotel. Needless to say, the owners weren’t allowed to take it our of the employees wages. The employees would have ended up having to pay since only one knew their rights and actually did something about it. Although she did get retaliated against for a time by having other employees get told to leave her extra work, even though she is disabled. Anyway, this seems to be typical of the majority of Indian hotel owners out there. While there is sure to be some that don’t behave in this manner, I have yet to see it. If you think I’m being prejudicial, so be it, but if you saw someone coming back from work every day is pain, and heard and seen what goes on at these places over the years, you would think the same. And, no it’s not just in this area, we have been in other areas where we stayed at hotels owned by Indians, and except for one, they weren’t kept up at all well, and there were a few issues even with that one.

  • llandyw

    BTW, I made my post prior to reading all the posts here, so was unaware of the other one mentioning anything about ethnicity. However, the post is relating to my and the other person’s experiences. If people can’t discuss the behavior of people they have dealt with, and get called racist or bigoted or whatever, then nothing will ever be resolved. This hiding and PC (AKA circumventing the first amendment by intimidating people to not express their opinion because it “might” offend someone) is why there is still so much intolerance around. Without the dialog, nothing will ever be solved.

  • emanon256

    My own comment got me thinking, what was that line from Tommy Boy? Also, I’m still confused by the down votes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Loudermilk-Tomberlin/1344557368 Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

    I said yes, but not for the sidewalk – that’s not the hotel’s problem. If the hotel has numerous code violations and is scheduled to be demolished, that should have been revealed.

  • y_p_w

    That post made an assumption that the operator was possibly Indian or Pakistani. The rest was pretty much left in place.

    I have stayed in Indian owned hotels including those franchised by Choice. Some were very good. Some were rather poor. I didn’t get any sense that they were any different as a result. The Quality Inn I mentioned that was in Utah was owned by a local family that obviously wasn’t South Asian.

    Frankly one of the most pleasant surprises I experienced was when I couldn’t find another place to stay after an unexpectedly long day hiking in the Lake Tahoe area. I checked into an inexpensive motel. It certainly looked like an older property, but it was nicely remodeled and clean, with new linens and a nice selection of toiletries. The South Asian manager or owner checked me in and treated me really well.

  • y_p_w

    Choice is a public traded company and their executive team doesn’t jibe with your description.


    Or you can check their board of directors:


    Nothing really surprises me, but I don’t paint a broad brush based on ethnicity. Some of the best stays I’ve experienced were at places I could tell were owned or operated by Indians. I also remember a notorious landlord originally from India who was every bit the kind of cheapskate you describe. He in fact brought over maids on H1-Bs. His practices became known after one woman died from a water heater putting out carbon monoxide in an apartment he owned. It also turned out that he and his family used several of the maids for sex.

  • scaredycat’s mom

    To tell you the truth, I think Mary Kay’s complaints are a bit flimsy. And, she did not present her objections in a good light-ie. “The longer walking distance stole time from our vacation and put a burden on us physically.” Really? Six minutes? Now that is just plain crazy unless a person is in a wheelchair or full leg cast in which case, the reservations should have been made for a handicap room. Anyway, the fact I would like to hear is- what is the “guarantee”? What does the Choice Hotel group actually do for their customer in a franchisee? If the response is -” we have no governance over a franchisee then I feel each non -group hotel signage should include the statement “this hotel not protected by the Choice Hotel guarantee”.

  • llandyw

    Don’t go by the names that are given. One of the owners took the name John Matthews. Publicly traded companies don’t mean a thing as far as how and who makes their business decisions. When it comes to franchise owners, certain groups of owners seem to get to do whatever they want, for very long times even with many complaints regarding the property. In the case of John Matthews, he shut the hotel down with no notice, sold it to someone just like him, except maybe worse. The second owner not only ended up shutting the hotel down in about a year, due to foreclosure, but removed just about anything of any kind of value from the place (stripped it). He hadn’t added anything of value to the place since it was bought. Since it was being foreclosed on, the bank was the owner of what was taken. This guy hasn’t been seen or heard from since. When Matthews had it, it was a Choice property. After years, Choice finally told him to fix it up or lose the franchise. He dropped Choice for a much lesser known brand. Maybe there is something about this particular area that’s drawing the bad element, but with hearing the not so nice stuff from people who stay in other places, it seems to be more common than not for hotels owned by this ethnicity to be places people would rather not stay.

  • David F

    Knowing DC as I do, I wouldn’t stay in that area if you paid me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Simon-De-Lao/1432704819 Simon De Lao

    I voted YES because the parent hotels want to have it both ways. They hammer the franchise when it suits their purposes and hides behind them for the exact same reason. Go get them Chris