Photo courtesy Michael Weaver

Photo courtesy Michael Weaver

To say Michael Weaver was unhappy about the hotel he booked through Hotwire recently might be an understatement. He paid for a 4.5-star hotel in South Beach, but instead checked into a construction site.

For those of you just joining us, Hotwire lets you book a type of hotel in a general geographic location, and only reveals the name of the property after you’ve paid for a nonrefundable reservation.

After Weaver made his booking, he found out he’d be staying at The Perry South Beach.

“Once the name of the hotel was given, we were also informed that the hotel was under construction,” he says. “When we arrived, we were greeted by a hotel that was shrouded in scaffolding.”

The experience was beyond bad, he says. A musty odor emanated from his room, and construction dust covered his window. The hotel staff came to the room and sprayed air freshener, which aggravated his asthma.

“I requested a different room and the second one smelled worse than the first,” Weaver adds. “Finally, they found a room without odor problems, but still with the filthy windows and mold in the shower.”

Weaver took pictures of everything.

Then it got worse.

He explains,

After settling in, we went to the pool bar for a before dinner drink. Because of the construction, to get to the pool area, we had to walk down a guest room hallway, under a tarp covered walkway bridge and finally to the pool area.

The view of the hotel from the pool deck was awful. Partially demolished room balconies adorned with room numbers spray painted in safety orange greeted us in every direction.

Weaver spoke with a front desk manager and expressed his disappointment with Hotwire for claiming that The Perry was a 4.5 star hotel. The manager agreed, but insisted it would be a 4.5 star property — after the renovations were done.

“She also stated that, due to complaints from Hotwire customers, they get several calls per week from Hotwire asking about the condition of the hotel,” he says.

In other words, Hotwire was aware of the condition of The Perry. It continued to send guests there, knowing full well that some of them might be unhappy. At least that’s how Weaver interpreted the situation.

But Hotwire didn’t see it that way, he adds.

When I contacted Hotwire, they informed me that since there was no construction noise during the evening and night that they have fulfilled their part of the contract.

They offered a $25 future credit.

It was my feeling that a $25 credit was a poor offer on a room that cost $370.

Later, Hotwire offered a refund if we checked out immediately and got a different room through them at a different hotel. All the other places they offered were of a lower star rating and higher price.

Considering that we already had dinner and a couple glasses of wine, checking out and driving to a different hotel was not a realistic option.

I asked Hotwire to review his case. Here’s how it responded:

As you know, it’s very common for hotels to stay open to serve customers while renovation projects both large and small are taking place, and the hotel still has a responsibility to provide the appropriate level of comfort and service to all guests regardless of any construction.

For the most part, hotel managers are very good at delivering positive customer experiences while simultaneously updating other parts of their property, but unfortunately, it looks like that didn’t happen in the case of the Perry South Beach.

At Hotwire, we rely on our business partners to update us when changes happen to their properties, as would any other travel agency. We also monitor post-stay surveys to take customer feedback into account. Unfortunately, the Perry South Beach did not inform us that they had already begun significant renovations that would impact our customers during this timeframe; we found out by hearing from Michael.

Because of this experience, we offered to re-accommodate his booking, but he declined that option and decided to stay. This is understandable, but it limits our ability to seek compensation from the property on the customer’s behalf.

Beyond re-booking, our rep was also willing to issue a $25 HotDollar credit for our site, even though the hotel receives the vast majority of the booking price that was paid. In looking closely at the details of Michael’s case, we also feel like it’s appropriate to add an additional $75 in compensation as a show of good faith, for a total of $100 in HotDollar credits.

This hotel’s inventory was also suspended from our site to prevent similar situations from happening again, and we will revisit its status once the renovations are more complete.

OK, that sounds better. But Weaver still spent good money on a hotel that didn’t live up to its 4.5-star billing. When I asked what he thought of Hotwire’s response, here’s what he had to say:

The response from Hotwire tells me that either they are unscrupulous or that their right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

First, Hotwire says below that the Perry South beach did not inform them of significant renovations that would impact customers and that they found out about the issue from me. I find this hard to believe. When speaking with the front desk manager, she told me that they get about a half dozen calls from Hotwire a day asking about the construction due to complaints from guests that are surprised when they arrive and find the hotel in such sad shape. So someone at Hotwire knew of the problem.

Second, Hotwire says that they offered to re-accommodate my booking. They offered to refund my booking if I were to check out immediately and move to a different hotel at my expense. I fail to see how this was a realistic option considering it was late in the evening, after dinner, on a Saturday, and during the holidays. This was after we had dinner in the hotel with wine, and I don’t believe driving after drinking because Hotwire failed to deliver the room they promised is an appropriate solution.

Regardless, I am glad that they have suspended The Perry from their inventory so others don’t have the issue that I had. After I use the HotDollar credits they provided, I vow to never give them my business again.

There’s not much more I can do here. Weaver wants a full refund, but Hotwire won’t do that.

Looks like we’re stuck.

Did Hotwire offer Michael Weaver enough compensation?

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