What does a hotel owe me for construction noise?

Sculpies/Shutterstock
Sculpies/Shutterstock
All Robin Rosner wanted was a little peace and quiet when she checked into the Sheraton Centre in Toronto recently.

All she got was chaos and noise — lots of noise.

“I awoke to find my message light blinking about 3 a.m. and learned that they would be power-washing the exterior of the building starting the next day,” she says. “They were suggesting people keep their blinds closed for privacy.”

And that wasn’t all.

“They also pointed out some construction work on one of the main streets might result in a detour,” she says. But the hotel failed to tell her that its garden wasn’t open, even though it was the middle of the summer, which was a problem for Rosner, because she was traveling with her dog.
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Help, my Hotwire hotel was a construction zone

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.
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Why won’t RIU extend my hotel voucher?

Guido Akster/Shutterstock
When Dave Mootz checked into the RIU Playacar two years ago, he was greeted by trucks and construction workers where there should have been a quiet beach. The area was undergoing a much-needed beach restoration project — during his much-needed Mexico vacation.

Mootz was unhappy with the view and the incessant noise. So he complained to RIU, and after a lengthy back-and-forth, the hotel agreed to send him a two-night voucher, valid between Aug. 1, 2010 and Aug. 30, 2011. That made him a little more happy, but not by much. He’d asked for a partial refund, arguing that he couldn’t return to Mexico until 2013.
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Driving home for the holidays? You’ll get there — eventually

There’s good news and bad news for motorists this holiday season.

America’s roads have never been safer, statistics show. But, depending where you live, they may never be slower.

“The big new trend this year is the construction,” said Carol White, co-author of “Live Your Road Trip Dream.” “With all the TARP funds rolling out on highway projects, last summer was a mess, and I think it is going to continue into the winter months in areas where weather permits.”

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government has spent $27 billion for highway and bridge construction in the last two years.
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Deconstructing my honeymoon in Aruba

Question: My fiance and I booked our honeymoon at the Westin Aruba through a travel agent. At the time we made our reservations, we knew the hotel was undergoing some renovations in its lobby. I spoke with our agent, and e-mailed the hotel directly to find out if there would still be construction during our honeymoon several months later. I was emphatically told no, and even have an e-mail saying so from a Westin guest services manager.

Now, only a few weeks before the trip, I have been notified that the pool area of the hotel will be undergoing construction and will be unavailable to guests during our stay. The pool at a smaller, less expensive, hotel will be available for use. We have travel insurance, so we can get all of our money back, less the insurance fee of $258. But we’d still have to book another hotel at the last minute, at a much higher rate.

The Westin has apologized but has not offered any sort of discount or other compensation. Is there anything we can do, other than simply cancel our reservation? — Stefanie Rasimowicz, Princeton, N.J.

Answer: Westin should do more than apologize for the construction. After all, this is only the most important vacation of your life, and it ought to be perfect. Besides, it promised the construction would be done.

The hotel’s pool is one of its best amenities. It’s a free-form pool with three terraced spa tubs that extend 150 yards along the Caribbean. The hotel proudly displays pictures of the pool on its Website, but I could find no correspondingly prominent warnings that it would be unavailable.

No one is judging Westin for closing its pool. Hotels are in an almost constant state of renovation, and as anyone with a pool in the back yard can probably tell you, they require a lot of maintenance. The problem is that Westin wasn’t as upfront about the construction as they could be or as accommodating to your special needs.

Fortunately, you booked your honeymoon through a travel agent. A competent travel adviser should be able to fix a problem like this. After all, you’re paying the agent a booking fee in exchange for the expertise. The agent should, at least theoretically, be working for you.

I might have leaned on your travel agent a little more. When Westin’s “sorry” was unacceptable, your agent should have figured out a way of saving your honeymoon at no additional cost. Otherwise, you could have just booked your honeymoon online — which, by the way, I certainly do not recommend.

What else could Westin do? Under these circumstances, anything from upgrading your room to sending you to a comparable property without making you pay extra. Hotels often transfer guests — called “walking” in lodging industry parlance — to another property when they’re oversold.

I contacted Westin on your behalf. It offered you a $20 per day hotel credit and two drink tickets for the duration of your stay, as well as an upgrade to a suite. It also credited your rewards account with enough points for a one-night stay. A generous offer — but still, no pool. You canceled your reservation and rebooked at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino without having to pay more. Your honeymoon is saved.

By the way, as of Feb. 15, 2009, the pool was open again.