Red Roof Inn charged a cleaning fee for smoking. But I don’t smoke.

charged a cleaning fee

Red Roof Inn charged a cleaning fee to Mindy Haggerty. But she doesn’t smoke. Can she get a refund or does she have to pay?

Question

My husband and I recently stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Gallup, N.M. The hotel charged a cleaning fee, and we need your help getting it off our bill.

We checked in late in the evening. We asked if they had any first floor rooms because we are senior citizens, and they accommodated us. I thought this was very nice.

When we got to the room it had an awful odor but we didn’t want to complain because they put us on the ground floor and we were tired and didn’t want to move. So we opened the door and tried to air it out the best we could.

After returning from our trip I checked the credit card activity and noticed that there was a charge of $100 for a smoking fee. This was just half the normal smoking fee. I called a manager at the Red Roof Inn. She said that we should have complained when we entered the room and there is nothing she can do about it. She said we were lucky they only charged us half the fee.

I told her we requested a nonsmoking room because we do not smoke. Why would we then smoke in the room? She said the cleaning lady said the room smelled of smoke and so we were guilty of smoking.

We are very puzzled about why we would get this charge. I’ve stayed in the same room before and never had any problems. We are more upset about being falsely accused of something that we did not do and have no recourse. I am starting to think that this is some sort of scam. Please help us. — Mindy Haggerty, Pueblo West, Colo.

Answer

You didn’t smoke in your room at the Red Roof Inn. Therefore, you should not have to pay a smoking fee — or half a smoking fee. Goes without saying, right?

So what went wrong here? Easy. I think you were too polite. When you checked into a room that smelled like smoke, you should have said something. You were still being polite when you complained to me. You referred to it as an “odor.” It was cigarette smoke. Why not call it that?

I think I know why you’re being reluctant. The last time I wrote about smoking fees in hotels, I had the audacity to say that if you smoke in your room, you should pay the cleaning fee. Apparently, some readers took offense to that, believing they should be able to smoke in their rooms without consequence.

But that’s the world we live in.

You quickly found your voice after Red Roof charged a cleaning fee to your credit card. When the hotel refused to reverse the charge, you complained to anyone who would listen. You posted warnings on several websites and filed a BBB complaint. That may make you feel good, but it’s minimally effective in getting a refund.

This is yet another in a long line of cases involving a cleaning fee for smoking in a hotel room.

If Red Roof Inn charged a cleaning fee, here’s what to do

You could have appealed to one of the Red Roof Inn company contacts I list on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

Red Roof did, however, respond to you in writing about your complaint. It said when its housekeeper opened the room to clean it, “there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke.” The housekeeper contacted a front desk representative, who then accompanied the housekeeper to the room and verified that there was indeed a strong smell of smoke.

The hotel had to close your room for a few days for cleaning. Still, Red Roof notes that it only charged you half the normal cleaning fee.

You rejected that explanation because you do not smoke. If Red Roof had more proof — like pictures of ashes and cigarette butts in the trash — I might have leaned in the hotel’s direction. But it didn’t.

I contacted Red Roof on your behalf. Separately, you disputed the charges on your credit card. Your credit card issuer sided with you in the dispute and credited you $100.

Posted in The Travel Troubleshooter Tagged , , , , ,

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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