Is this enough compensation? A discount on an icy hotel room

When the power went out in Jeri Kellerman’s hotel room at the Holiday Inn Express in Poulsbo, Wash., she and her husband spent the night in pitch black and freezing cold.

They assumed they’d get a refund for their room — others affected by the blackout in the area did. But they assumed wrong.

Their case raises bigger questions. Is there ever a time when a hotel should offer a full refund for a room? What about an act of God, like a natural disaster? Is a partial refund, or even just an apology, ever sufficient?

The couple checked into the Holiday Inn Express on Nov. 22, just as a powerful winter storm hit the region. Kellerman picks up the story:

At 6:45 p.m. the lights went out. My husband was in the middle of his Chargers game! We thought that the power would come back on soon, and seeing that the power was off as far as we could see, we hunkered down.

No one from the hotel came to our room (the phones were out) to give us any information.

After a very cold night — it was about 17 degrees outside — we waited until sun up to gather our things. The window sill in our room had ice on it. (that’s how cold it was). We had no heat, no hot water, no electricity and no hot breakfast as promised. When we checked out, a representative told us that he had no power to adjust our bill, but when the manager came in, and the power returned they would take care of it.

Holiday Inn offered a 25 percent discount on the room. They refused. The hotel bumped the offer up to 50 percent, but they said it wasn’t enough, and asked to speak with a manager.

He again offered only 50 percent, and said that it was the highest he was giving. He also told us that when the power went out, we could have left. Where would we have gone? The power was out!

His attitude has been horrible and unwilling to consider good customer service. We told him that we were going to complain to the head office, and he said “go ahead and call”.

Holiday Inn corporate hasn’t responded to the Kellerman’s pleas. Did it do enough?

A survey of more than 1,000 readers this morning suggests Holiday Inn could have done better.

Holiday Inn corporate has offered to pay the other half of the Kellerman’s hotel bill.

(Photo: Moby/Flickr Creative Commons)

Update (9 a.m.): I’ve clarified this post to reflect that Holiday Inn offered a 50 percent discount on the Kellerman’s current reservation, not a future room. Their initial email to me seemed to indicate that they were being offered a discount for a new reservation, but a follow-up note established that the hotel had offered to refund part of their current bill.

Update (12/5): From Jeri Kellerman:

Just thought I’d let you know that we have received a check from Holiday Inn corporate office, so they have finally paid for our entire room the night of the snow storm.

This however, does not mean we have goodwill towards them. Even if they had offered 50% off the room and 50% for a “future” stay we would have been pleased. It would have cost them nothing if we never went back, but the “good will” that would have been extended would have made a positive impression.

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 . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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