Man books room at Holiday Inn -- finds hotel isn't there

Byby Renee Koury and Michael Finney via KGO logo
Friday, October 12, 2018
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Fremont man books room at Holiday Inn -- finds hotel isn't there

FREMONT, Calif. -- When you book a hotel far from home you may wonder about the rooms, the amenities, even the neighborhood. You probably don't stop to think whether the hotel is really there.

It certainly never occurred to Lorne Johnson of Fremont, California -- though he might think about it from now on.

Johnson says his hotel literally vanished overnight. He had booked a room at a Holiday Inn Express in the tiny town of Oneonta, New York for himself and his 12-year-old son, Ryan, over the summer.

They drove from New York City through the rain and pulled up to the hotel late at night to find -- it wasn't there.

"I was wondering if my navigation system took me to the wrong address,'' Johnson said. "It was the correct address. It just wasn't Holiday Inn."

Instead, when he looked up, the giant hotel sign said "Quality Inn."

It threw Johnson off completely since Holiday Inn had just texted him a confirmation the day before, welcoming him to the hotel.

So he went inside and gave his name at the desk.

"I said, 'I have a reservation, and they said 'no we don't have you in our system,'' Johnson recalls. "I said I have the paperwork and I already paid."

Indeed, Johnson had already paid for a week's stay at the Holiday Inn using reward points and cash. He figured his reservation should have transferred to the new owners. It didn't.

"They said they were not affiliated with Holiday Inn and they had no information about my reservation,'' Johnson recalls.

"I was getting upset. My son's there with me, he's seeing me getting upset."

Quality Inn said he could book a room there -- at $129 per night -- twice what he'd already paid Holiday Inn for a room in that very building.

"We needed a place to stay. Here we are we just traveled all the way across the country,'' Johnson said. And the main reason for staying in Oneonta? It was near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, where Ryan and his baseball team were to compete in a kids' tournament the next morning.

So he paid.

He now paid two hotels for one room and his outlay was three times his original booking.

"It was really nerve-racking because I had so many other things going on,'' Johnson said. "We had to get to the baseball field early the next day, I was trying to be there for my son and now it was costing all this money I didn't expect to pay."

It was an extra $1,000 out of pocket to pay Quality Inn.

"I was trying to enjoy the week but it was always in the back of my mind,'' Johnson said. "We had a good time but did bring a damper on the trip."

When he returned home he contacted both hotels. Neither gave him a refund.

"I got so frustrated. I was getting nowhere and that's when I contacted 7 On Your Side."

7 On Your Side contacted both hotel companies. Choice Hotels, parent company of Quality Inn, said it was up to the Holiday Inn Express to change his reservation, saying:

"In these instances, it is typically the responsibility of the previous hotel brand to contact guests and re-accommodate reservations to other hotels in their system or cancel the reservation. Please know that all guest information is only accessible to the hotel company that reservations are made. We do not have any guest information from the previous hotel company. Unfortunately, when the guest arrived, the hotel was not able to accommodate the stay that was booked with points from a competing hotel company."

Holiday Inn said:

"In instances where an independently owned and operated hotel leaves the IHG system, every effort is made to contact guests with existing reservations to notify them of the change and offer assistance in making alternative reservations. We are very sorry that we were not able to reach Mr. Johnson in advance of his stay, personally apologized to him and refunded his original reservation."

Not only did Holiday Inn refund his money, Quality Inn gave him a full refund as well.

"It feels very good,'' Johnson said, adding he didn't expect two refunds -- just wanted the hotels to give his original deal. "Thanks to 7 On Your Side, the situation was righted."