So, you book a hotel in one city and the hotel chain puts you in another because of “technical problems” at the hotel. Has it ever happened to you?

In all my years of traveling, this was a first. I’d always thought the company would offer identical, similar or better accommodations. That isn’t always the case, as we discovered this month. 

Bait and Switch

We’d planned a relaxing weekend in Normandy and looked forward to staying in Honfleur, France. We booked a room at the Campanile Hotel in La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur, France. It was minutes away from shops and a quick trek to the harbor and tourist area.

This is the hotel we expected. Campanile switched us to a hotel about 15 km away and miles apart in quality and service.

While we were enjoying dinner at a quaint restaurant in Rouen the night before our arrival, the phone rang. It was the Campanile hotel. There was some bad news.

What to do?

The hotel staff informed us that due to a technical problem, they had to cancel our reservation. This wouldn’t have been a huge problem as other hotels would usually be available. But this was a long holiday weekend in France, and there wasn’t much availability. We were stuck!

The staff kindly assured us that they had another room for us in a nearby Campanile hotel. Although it was miles from where we wanted to be, we reluctantly agreed.

This was not the hotel we were expected or promised. From a distance, it looked the same, but it wasn’t.  

A Bridge Too Far

We hoped we could still stay in the area and drove to our original hotel in La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur. Wishful thinking? Maybe a room opened up? Nope. The hotel apparently had some flooding and an air conditioning problem that took 20 rooms out of operation. We were being transferred to a Campanile hotel near La Havre. It was about 15 km away and across a high bridge. Did I mention that my friend who was driving hates bridges?

Before making the trek to Le Havre, we spent the day in Honfleur as we suspected there wouldn’t be much to do near the new hotel. Boy, we were right. We arrived at Hotel Campanile Le Havre Est – Gonfreville at the end of the day hoping to at least find the same level of accommodations. As we neared the address, our concern mounted.

Where Are We?

Instead of being near shops and the Honfleur harbor, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere near a sort of warehouse district. No houses, no restaurants, and nothing scenic. Aargh. Why would a hotel chain put a hotel here?

The hotel itself was worn and in need of maintenance, repairs and painting. The stairs were dirty, old green carpeting on the walkway was buckled and not particularly safe looking.

There was a little restaurant in the original hotel. Our jaws dropped when we saw the restaurant in the new hotel. Teal crepe paper draped the walls in the restaurant. A corner was filled with sand to give it a beach feel. There were even plastic flamingos, a fake tiki bar and fringed umbrellas that hit your head when you sat at the tables for dinner. I might have been able to accept this if there was a sign prominently stating that the design was the result of a contest at the local elementary school and the winning entry was going to be on display for the week. Who came up with this idea, I wondered.

The hotel had a beach-theme restaurant, complete with a tiki bar, fake palm umbrellas and plastic flamingos.

Now that we had scouted out the property, we checked in and slowly walked to our room, examining everything along the way. Exterior blinds were dirty, wood at the bottom of the exterior wall was rotted in several places and concrete steps leading up to the first floor were littered with cigarette butts and dirt. I wondered when the stairs were last swept. Clearly, the maintenance and cleaning team must have been on a summer vacation.

Some Good News

Not everything was a total disaster. The room was clean, although the pillows were wafer-thin and extremely uncomfortable. 

The bathroom got a C+ rating. It was clean and the shower had good pressure. But we didn’t have hand towels. Also, the light to the bathroom is on the outside of the door. If you miss it and use the switch inside, you activate a heater for seven minutes. Discover your mistake and try to turn it off and your heater is activated for an additional seven minutes. Don’t think the air conditioning will help you. While there was a unit above the wardrobe, it didn’t work well, and we slept with the windows open.

The bathroom had a shower with adequate water pressure.

Our bathroom heating unit looked like it had caught on fire as there were pieces of blackened material on it. The vent inside the shower was covered in dark lint and in desperate need of a cleaning.

Chef Saves the Day

The restaurant doesn’t have much atmosphere, but the food was better than expected. Steamed fish with tomatoes and beans was quite tasty. It was a special recipe by the hotel chef and scored well with me. There was also a selection of wines. Breakfast offered a nice assortment of pastries, yogurt, juices, fruit and cereals.

Hotel Review: This Is One to Miss for Now

While the hotel was cheaper than the original one booked, the massive reduction in quality did not make up for the $25 we saved. The only word I have for our visit is a disappointment. I am hoping the hotel owners upgrade the property so it better fits with the brand standard. If their other hotels are like this, I may be crossing this chain off my list.

What Can You Do?

  1. If you are traveling in a foreign country, the front-desk staff doesn’t always speak English. Try to get someone who is fluent in the language to assist. Google Translate or a similar translation app can help.
  2. Once you realize the hotel is not what was promised, request a discount on your room rate. Not all staff is accommodating, but it’s worth a try.
  3. Contact the hotel chain directly. If itis a franchise hotel, the company will want to know. Brand standards need to maintained to protect the integrity of the chain.
  4. If you booked through a travel agent, ask them for assistance. If you booked the hotel directly, request a refund by mail.
  5. If all else fails, chalk it up to experience. Next time, book with a hotel group that can better ensure quality standards will be met.