` Next time, we will seek alternative accommodations, such as a cardboard box under a bridge — imaginary family values

Last update on .

Paul Hanley
President
Ramada Franchise Systems, Inc.
1 Sylvan Way
Parsippany, NJ 07054

Dear Mr. Hanley:

We stayed at the Ramada Inn Lake Shore (4900 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago IL) this past weekend (check-in June 4, out June 6; two adults plus a toddler) for the Gordon-Dumas wedding. We assumed that booking a room at a hotel in a nationally known chain would assure us of a reliable reservation for a clean room that would be reasonably quiet at night. On all three counts, the Ramada failed us.

The mother of the groom checked in on Wednesday, June 2, discovered that the Ramada had lost her reservation, and called to warn us. When we checked our own status, we discovered that the Ramada had two reservations for us, both wrong. The first reservation had been made through hotels.com before we knew of a wedding rate, and was cancelled in May. The hotels.com Web site confirmed that the reservation had been cancelled, but the Ramada Inn Lake Shore knew nothing of the cancellation, and we had to ask hotels.com to fax another notice to the Ramada. The second reservation had been made at the wedding rate by calling the Ramada Inn Lake Shore reservation desk, but when we asked for a faxed confirmation, the reservation in the Ramada’s computer was for only the second of the two nights we had requested. When we arrived, we discovered that the Ramada had lost the reservation for a third family. Since their last name was unique among the wedding attendees, we know that the Ramada did not simply confuse them with the many other “Gordon” and “Dumas” reservations that had been made for that weekend.

When I made the second reservation, I requested a refrigerator for the room—traveling with a toddler is far easier if you can keep food cold and ready for breakfast and snacks. Roxanne, the Ramada’s liaison with the wedding party, told me that the hotel didn’t reserve refrigerators in advance, but there were “quite a few” to go around, and “it shouldn’t be a problem” for us to obtain one. When we checked in, the person at the desk couldn’t tell us whether or not one was available, and said that one would be delivered if it was. Because we had brought refrigerated food for our son, we ended up taking the fridge that the mother of the groom had obtained several nights before. She had been given to understand that the one she had was the last one.

We checked in at the Ramada and were assigned room #340, which smelled like stale urine. The friend who had picked us up at the airport commented that it smelled like a “flophouse.” When we complained about the odor to the registration desk, we were offered room #337 instead, but it smelled even more strongly of urine. Since other relatives had told us that the Ramada was completely booked by then, we decided to keep our original room, asked them to clean it again, and opened the windows. (If we had not been staying at the Ramada for a family wedding taking place there, we would have checked out immediately and moved to the nearest hotel with a room open, regardless of cost.) At that time, we asked for an additional set of towels and toiletries, since the standard two towels, one soap, and one shampoo were not enough for two adults and a child.

When we came back to the Ramada about four hours later, the room still stank of urine, but also had a perfumed odor. We also noticed that our bathroom floor was sticky as we walked on it. Finally, we traced the smell to the bedspread. After this was replaced, the room smelled considerably better, though there was still a strong urine odor in some corners of the room, apparently coming from the carpet. I had call down to the desk again to obtain the additional towels, soap, and shampoo we had asked for several hours before.

(My wife commented, as we waited at O’Hare for our flight home, that the women’s room there smelled far better than the Ramada had. She was not joking. Doesn’t the Ramada wash the bedclothes between guests? I can understand how the housekeeping system could let one stained bedspread through the system by accident, but how could two rooms be cleaned so poorly?)

As we unpacked, we discovered that the bureau and night-table drawers were stained inside with mold, so we could not safely put clothes in them. I need not remind you that urine and mold residue is not merely unaesthetic but a health hazard.

We were told by one of the other wedding attendees that the mother of the bride had checked in late Thursday night, and was placed in a room “with every type of pestilence—mosquitoes, roaches, other bugs.” She had apparently been told there was no other room available, though once the groom came to the Ramada and insisted, she was moved to another room. Since we saw no insects in our room, perhaps we should count our blessings.

Friday night until 6:00 p.m., and Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m., we were treated to loud sounds from men working on the low roof just below our window. We could either close the window and suffer the stench more acutely, or open the window and suffer noise sufficiently loud that we had to raise our voices to be heard across our own room.

The wedding reception was held in the Ramada’s conference center. We would characterize the facilities there—particularly the ladies’ room, with three stalls (one handicapped) serving the guests from two simultaneous weddings—as very poor, and the catering service provided at the wedding as likewise very poor. Wedding guests should not have to use the bathroom to get water glasses refilled. However, complaining about that is the prerogative of the bride and groom.

Saturday night at about 8:00 p.m. we were treated to loud stomping and banging from the room directly overhead. This was particularly disturbing as we were trying to put our child to bed, and he was repeatedly startled from sleep by the loudest thuds. By 9:00 p.m. this had shifted to loud talking, laughter, and cheering, along with music loud enough to vibrate our ceiling. Our neighbors overhead were obviously having a party, not just a loud radio. I went to the Ramada’s desk to complain, and was told it would be dealt with. When after about 20 minutes the music and voices were still incredibly loud, my wife went to the desk to complain and ask for a manager. She was told that there was no night manager, and that they had “called up the room but no one had answered.” Well, of course, she pointed out, the music was too loud for anyone to hear the phone. (They finally sent someone up, and the noise eventually subsided.) I cannot fault the Ramada for having noisy guests, but I expect the desk staff at any hotel to take reasonable and prompt steps to stop unreasonable noise.

At 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, when we checked out of the Ramada, we discovered that there were no luggage carts available. While we weren’t the only ones checking out, there was no general exodus at that hour on a Sunday morning. My wife, who has stayed at hotels for conferences, has never had a problem obtaining a luggage cart, even when many guests were checking out at the same time.

We have slept at many hotels over the years, including youth hostels, no-name motels, and “economy” chains. Our experience at the Ramada is the worst that either of us has ever had. According to the “President’s Letter” on your Web site, “At Ramada, we are committed to providing you with the highest quality of hotels and services, and we have never been more intent on consistently providing comfort and value to each of your accommodation experiences with us.” According to
a_Inn_Lake_Shore_Chicago-Chicago_Illinois.html”>reviews at TripAdvisor.com
, Ramada Inn Lake Shore guests have reported problems similar to ours since at least July 2003. A GoogleTM search for the phrase “Ramada headquarters” did not turn up the address of your corporate headquarters, but did reveal similar complaints regarding Ramada franchisees in California, Florida, Texas, and Virginia. I would say that the Ramada Inn Lakeshore is an embarrassment to your trademark, but it appears to be a true representative of your brand’s quality. We have to wonder if the other hotel brands owned by Cendant have similar problems.

Yours,

Seth Gordon

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    Next time, we will seek alternative accommodations, such as a cardboard box under a bridge — imaginary family values

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