If a hot tub’s not

Question: Several times I have looked forward to sitting in a motel hot tub only to find out that it isn’t working. No one told me this at check-in. I’ve asked for a discount and have been told that it wasn’t possible. Of course, now when I book I ask whether these things are working, but what should I do in the future if no on tells me upfront? What recourse do I have?

Gordon Fuller


Answer: You have the three magic words at your disposal. Your mother may have taught you that those words were “please” and “thank you,” but Al Anolik, a Bay Area attorney and author of “Traveler’s Rights,” has taught me that in travel the magic words are “breach of contract” (although being polite might help too).


“If it was advertised as having a hot tub and it was misrepresented, they owe him the difference,” Anolik said. What is the difference? That sum is something you can discuss with the general manager (not the desk clerk). It may be a certain percentage off your bill, or it may be some extra amenity such as breakfast, but the traveler should be compensated in some way.

As with most things in life, the timing of your complaint is critical. Lara Weiss, managing director of K Hotels who has logged more than two decades in the hospitality business, said, “Discussing these issues once you are settled in the room or upon checking out is not the right choice. By addressing the issue instantly, you are showing the hotel that this is not something they can easily overlook.”

The resolution may come down to how well you handle the negotiation. As chief executive of HyperQuality, Chris Coles knows quite a bit about customer complaints because he deals with them all day. His company collects and analyzes how those gripes are handled. (You know the line you often hear, “This call may be monitored for quality assurance”? That’s what HyperQuality does.)

He hears the back and forth between customer service and the customer and knows what works. “Take emotion out of it,” Coles said. “State clearly what your concern is.” If you still don’t get results, don’t be afraid to say you just are not satisfied your issue has been given fair consideration, he said. And be sure to take names and notes.


It may help if you’re a traveler who has preferred status with a hotel chain. But Coles also noted that the rotten economy may help your case.

“The value of a traveler has gone up,” Coles said, “and they [companies] are fighting for the travel dollar more than two or three years ago.”

So you can turn up the heat a little. Just don’t let your temper flare and get yourself in any hot water other than in that tub.

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