Thursday, February 23, 2012

F Bomb's Away

We're in our hotel room much later than usual because the, if not usual, then the typical happened. In spite of Joe going to the hotel here in Thunder Bay, personally booking an accessible room, calling to confirm it, we arrived to have it given to someone else. Then, with no where to stay, began the search for a room. Well, after I expressed my upset to a manager that I had called at home and the two front desk clerks.

You know what all of them said when I expressed my anger?

From the clerks - with soft faces, the kind you make at upset children, and soft voices like you use to calm frightened puppies, 'I understand.'

From the manger on the phone, with faux concern from hours of training, 'I understand.'

I told them all to never say that to me. To never say it to anyone with a disability that they swindled out of a room. Nothing me angers me more than to be told that someone who clearly doesn't understand, who cannot understand, who has no will to understand, that 'I understand.' It almost angers me more than the blatant act of disregard which occurs when they, on a whim, move me out of the room I book and give it to someone else - who they admit doesn't have a disability. 'I understand.'

If you fucking understood what that act does to someone with a disability you wouldn't fucking do it.

We were tired from working a full day and then driving five hours on winter roads to get to the hotel. We were hungry from not having had anything to eat the entire way because we wanted to get as far as we could as fast as we could. We were looking forward to arriving, checking in and having a rest. And we weren't worried. Because when we were here in Thunder Bay a few weeks ago, Joe went over to this hotel and personally booked the room. They explained that the bathroom had bars but a narrow door, that works for us, we were grateful they explained, we thought it meant they 'understood.'

They didn't.

They said they did, but they didn't.

They said the mistake was made by the 'new girl'. I wanted to laugh. Every single time this mistake is made they say that it's the 'new girl'. Is that part of the training package too? Say 'I understand' then say, with a kind of 'oh well' tone of voice, 'It's the new girl.'

So we drove around, found a hotel, checked in. An hour was added to our evening. We still haven't eaten, we're too upset to sleep. We're right across the street from the hotel that gave a disabled room to a non disabled person and then made up for it by 'understanding't that I was pissed off.

Joe is telling me to name the hotel. I tend not to do that. I tend not to use the blog that way. But if ten people ask, I'll tell. If most think that's an inappropriate use of the blog, I'm good with that to. Joe virtually never tells me what to write and he's still standing here saying, 'name the hotel, name the hotel.' I'd say Joe's a tad upset.

But my real question .... does the 'I understand' thing piss you off too? Because, man, that made me so freaking fracking fucking mad. On my way out, I said, for the first time ever in my life to another person, 'I curse you, I curse you and I curse this hotel.' And you know, I meant it, that, I think they understood.


Gwen said...

Name the fucking hotel.

Ruti said...

Yes. Don't protect them. Name them.

Anonymous said...


such a gentle man like you using the word "fucking" twice in a post I think means that you were utterly upset.

And yes if it would make you feel better name the fucking hotel.

Maybe if enough people can voice their anger, sorrow and concern something is going to change.

I hope that so much.

There are so many things that sometimes add up to me feeling very inconvenint and being punished because I am diasabeld and can not do anything more to protect myself even if I planned as much ahead as possible and tried to voice my concerns and my opinion.

I may not understand how it is to be in your/ and Joes shoes.

But I know that my anger and my aggression do something very bad to myself. And I dont know yet how to avoid that.

The woman whom I share my working place with does that to me everyday. Saying things like "well your job is safe and nobody would say that your work is not good, because you are disabeld".

And I hate her for that. It is true that I am disabeld. And it is true that I do my work the best way I can, because I feel how worried the people are if they write to us. But I can see too, that sometimes people just overreact and I am very diligant in what I do.

And I forbid that woman inside of me to tell me about how I have to do or feel. It is kind of discriminating and I hate her for that.

But telling it to her upfront is not possible because she would not understand an can make my work hell.
I instead choose to doubt myself sometimes and remain calm and quite.

But I so wish her away and am glad that in a little more than a year she is going in retirment.

Because I have the disability I have so much more to worry, work against, work with or hurt about. And sometimes the anger and the aggression I have towards others are (because there is not other way expect a very drastic and exhausting one) aimed against myself.

I think the hotel clerk does not understand just a tiny little bit how you feel.

But I hope that I understand a it a little and send you and Joe my loving and healing and sympathetic thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm... were you late for your check-in - passed the time they agreed to hold it? If you worked a full day and then drove for 5 hours that would make it on the late side.

Did you cash in on their "understanding" and request that they book your somewhere else?

Was it a whim that gave the room away? Or just business.

What does the disability have to do with it? It would be inconvenient for anyone. As Seinfield said in one of his episodes - "you know how to make a reservation, you just don't know how to keep it". It is infurating to say the least.

I admire you for not releasing the name of the place in your blog - but I would still write a letter to the hotel and ask for a free night to compensate. Doesn't take away the incident but may take away some of the sting. Maybe let them know what groups you are associated with - and their goodwill has been tarnished.

Yikes - cursed them. I hope you cursed the right person...for it probably wasn't the new girl. I imagine you made the fellow's day. You can be sure he is going to be talking about you.

Next time someone says they "understand" - ask them for specifics. You will know quite quickly if it is a line - or they do empathasize with your situation.

You are bigger than this - shown by your self control in not releasing the info. Keep rolling...

CL said...

I am furious for you. I also vote for naming the hotel since being named for bad behavior on the internet often pushes businesses to do the right thing. Especially if the hotel is part of a chain, I imagine someone would address the issue and either try to "make it right" (which you may not be interested in, but at least it's pushing them to realize they screwed up) and/or insist that no employee ever does this again.

However, if you don't feel comfortable naming the hotel, you should do what feels right -- it's easy for everyone to say "name the hotel" because we just want to know. But it should be your decision.

Anonymous, I find your comment pretty offensive -- I don't think Dave would write this story if it happened because he arrived after a deadline. Also, this is absolutely about being disabled because the only room he could take was given to a non-disabled person who could have stayed in any room. It's not something that could "happen to anyone." It's not just about "being inconvenienced." A room switch wouldn't leave an able-bodied person out on the street.

Anonymous said...

After reading the comment of anonymus I thought that he had a very calm approach to the situation and envyed him for being able to look at it that way.

But CL brought up the right question. I think that Dave would not have brought up the post if they did not arrive in time. Since he and Joe plan so much ahead.

Both sides are thoughtfull. But it is not easy to remain calm if your disability is something to consider in an every day thought.

(who can relate to the furiosity and redness and cursing!!!)

Anonymous said...

I have had this happen to me - and I also had made a special request ahead of time, also having "special needs". I requested the confirmation in writing - which I had. Yet - I had failed to call when I realized that I would be arriving after the cut off time. (I didn't want to stop to call, and cell phone was dead - just wanted to get there.) I, unfortunately, assumed that because I had been so clear on the phone repeatedly and also had it in writing there would be no way I would loose the reservation. But I did. Having a handicap did not exclude me from the hotel's business policies. It was a busy time and people standing at the desk were a sure thing compared to someone who had made reservations months ago. Lesson I learned - when on the road, always phone a day or two ahead to confirm the reservation - and always call if going to be later then expected. Unfortunately money always wins over goodwill. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

Pet peeve - someone who says "I know exactly how you feel" without bothering to ask how I feel.

And yes, I will be travelling to Thunder Bay this year and want to be sure I don't patronize a hotel who promises accessibility - and doesn't deliver!

Anonymous said...

Id vote for keeping the name hidden, it would really only provide titillation for the masses. I would however write their head office, that can help as well.

K. H.

Dave Hingsburger said...

For those wondering, Joe and I are very seasoned travellers, we knew we would be arriving a bit late, though 9 o'clock isn't particularly late, so we had specifically requested a late check in - in fact we over estimated and told them between ten and eleven. And, indeed, we did call to confirm the reservation. Because Joe had gone over specifically to make the reservation, spoke at length with someone about the room, called to confirm, was clear about arrival time, we thought there would be no problem. There was. Is this about disability? Well, they had other rooms so any non disabled person would have had a place to stay. And, for the record, I don't want a free future stay, I want the stay I booked.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Julia, if you see this could you send me an email, I think I remember you can't send to hotmail so drop me a line at work, I'd like to talk to you about something.

Joe said...


wheeliecrone said...

I'm with Joe. I don't know if I will ever go to Thunder Bay, but if I ever go to Thunder Bay, I do not want to stay in the hotel that gave the accessible room to a person without a disability, thus reneging on a reservation made by a person with a disability. I don't like to do business with an organisation that I know is dishonourable. That hotel is dishonourable. That's what I understand.

Andrea S. said...

Yes, the "I understand" thing pisses me off too. It's patronizing. It's basically their way of saying, "Oh, you're just a customer who gets angry easily. I don't have to take you seriously. I don't have to acknowledge that you have damn good reason to be very angry with me because I/we really DID do something very seriously wrong. I just have to soothe you until you give up and go away."

It's probably done by people who have been told that angry people "just want to be listened to." Which sometimes even happens to be true. The problem is, many people don't seem able to distinguish a situation where an angry person really *does* just need to be heard and a situation where an angry person is very right to be angry and needs to have their needs accommodated, not soothed away. The latter involves admitting that they're the one that screwed up, not the angry person for getting mad.

I am of two minds whether to name the hotel. I'm tempted to say yes. But I'm also thinking of times in the past when you have tried to give people time to respond to your first letter/email before naming them in public. I haven't finished reading the comments, but I suspect this will put me in the minority: It does seem fair to give them one more chance to learn from their mistake. Maybe an email, and give them a one-week deadline to respond appropriately before announcing? Maybe more than they deserve, but it would show them you tried to give them a chance before hanging them out to dry.

You do seem more angry than usual. Is this because this situation was worse than usual for you? Or might some of this anger be generalized anger at all the many other incidents like this you've experienced put together? Some of the other things you've experienced sounded pretty awful to me also, but maybe this was more so from your perspective. Sometimes I've lost my temper and then had trouble distinguishing afterward whether I really was responding this strongly to this one incident or if I was also partly responding to the 10 more incidents like it that went before. Which is why I raise the question.

If you do name them (whether with the one week notice or not), please do put up their contact information.

Andrea S. said...

OK, now I've read the comments and seen the people who want to know so they know to avoid a hotel they can't count on. Let me reverse myself: Name the hotel. If it were me and I thought I would ever go to Thunder Bay, I wouldn't want to trust them right now either. And I agree that people ought to have this kind of information to protect themselves.

Name them, but still write to them yourself and report back here on the results, so people traveling to Thunder Bay can decide if this changes how they feel about the idea of staying at that hotel.

Andrea S. said...

Sorry to keep coming back here, but I've been thinking a bit more and re-reading the post. I get the sense that Joe doesn't usually get this upset either, so if he's pushing for naming the hotel that says something to me too about how bad it was.

And to "Anonymous" up above: Disability has a LOT to do with it. A non-disabled person can be given any other room in the hotel and the worse that happens is, they might not like the room as much. But at least they have a bed for the night. Do the same to a disabled person and they may be unable to use the new room at all--which is as bad as simply not being given a room in the first place.

If you take away a non-disabled person's room altogether, yes that's still an inconvenience. But unless there's a reason to expect that all hotels in the area are completely filled up (e.g., a major conference or sporting event), they can probably find another hotel in an hour or so. Do the same to a disabled person and it could easily take two or three times longer because it can be hard to find, not just any random hotel with a vacancy, but with a vacancy they can actually get into. Dave and Joe were lucky this time to find something within an hour. But it could have been a lot worse, it could have taken half the night. And that's why they have more reason to be angry than a non-disabled person who experiences the same thing.

In other words ... what CL said, but with more words.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I vote for naming the hotel. If they treat people with such cavalier disrespect then I think they should be named so that people who wish to can avoid them.

I have rarely read a post in which you are so furious - can't say I blame you. Not only did that hotel give your room to someone else who did not need it but they then did nothing to rectify the situation - very very very poor service.

But I do note that you are not naming the hotel out of fury but as a public service requested by Joe and your readers.


jwg said...

Once you guarantee a room with a credit card you have paid for it and they cannot give it away. Name the hotel.

joanne said...

Hi David, your blog really poses an interesting dilemma for me. My daughter has a debilitating mental illness and people either "run away" from you or "understand" there an alternate response we can suggest to the community that people might use instead of the practiced and rehearsed"I understand"? This is so similar to the "how are you?" nicety that we pass along each day when often we (I speak for myself) really don't give a shit.
As for naming the hotel, unless it's a chain, I'm not sure that one hotel in Thunder Bay has much effect on the's not that we could really boycott...after all, how many people travel through northern Ontario anyway? There's a stigma related to living "in the bush" ....which is actually relatively "south" considering the size of our country...Canada you say? doesn't everyone live in igloos? Maybe we all need a change in attitude? I know sometimes I do...

joanne said...

I also wondered why it's always "the new GIRL"...perhaps a bit of stigma there too?

Anonymous said...

Name the hotel. They made no attempt to correct their mistake, and they need to be called out for it.

How hard would it have been to move that person from your room? The manager could have explained nicely that they made a mistake, and that they wanted to offer them a (bigger/fancier/whatever) room at the rock-bottom price. Or for FREE, because they fucked up.

Now if I were that person and understood that A) I had been given a disabled-friendly room by mistake, and B)the disabled person who booked it was there and needed it, and C) I'd get a nicer room for a lower price or FREE, you can bet your ass I'd vacate that room in mere minutes.

Housekeeping could have been summoned and had that room cleaned/changed over in under 20 minutes, and you and Dave could have been in your room with only a small delay.

So why the hell didn't that manager do it? Why didn't he even attempt to make good on his mistake?

That whole situation is just so much bullshit. Mostly because it could have been FIXED, and no one had the brains to try.


Anonymous said...

P.S. Personally, *I* would have vacated the room for only reasons A & B. I just wanted to show how the manager could seal the deal by offering option C.


Alice Fraggle said...

Please name the hotel.
You've encouraged me today to write to the hotel I stayed at nearly a year ago that put my non-disabled in-laws in a "disabled room". I use the quotes because their room, while labeled "Disabled", was NOT disabled friendly.
I DON'T understand! How hard is it REALLY to say "We're sorry - we've made a mistake." and to NOT GIVE THE DAMN RESEVED ROOMS AWAY! It's not like you reserved that specific room because you liked the view!
I am so sorry this happened to you, and I hope that you name the hotel and that they get GOBS of hate mail, and letters stating that they will never have "me" as a guest!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
Name it and let them feel the wrath of your people (and make Joe happy). Also let them feel the only power we have, the power to NOT spend our money on places that do not deliver what was promised.
Hope you both are having a better day

Nan said...

Wow. Name it. While this is totally related to something else, I have a quote above my desk. It reads:
Don't feed it, don't fix it, don't fight it,just name it.
!!Ha!! I know that is not what is meant, but there you go!

clairesmum said...

oy vey! name them, and write to them. you and Joe did everything humanly possible to ensure that you got what you needed, and they made a mistake and made a big error in judgement when deciding they did not have to rectify their mistake. Being nice and polite and patient and thorough did nothing - so it's time to be loud and angry and public - not nice, but so necessary!
i feel badly that this happened to you and joe.

Rachel T said...

I don't know if you should name the hotel or not, There are pro/con arguments, and only you can make the decission.

I do hate the "I understand". It's infuriating because when they do that, they take something very powerful -- true empathy-- and make it into a flimsy shield for themselves, really a mockery of what it should be.

One time, a stranger I was interacting with in a special needs conflict situation surprised me with "I think I can imagine" -- that impressed me as being more honest, as showing an effort on her part to enter into my experience. Coupled with good problem solving to resolve our situation, it was, I think, a good word choice and mindset.

Kim said...

Dave, whatever you choose to write or not write is up to you. I would encourage you, though, to consider sharing your experience on Tripadvisor. There are a lot of people who read the customer reviews, and who may be saved from an experience like yours in the future.

Anonymous said...

I vote that you name the hotel. They really don't "understand".

I hope it is okay to mention a recent post by Candy Harrington on her blog,

It explains the new ADAAG regulations for the United States going into effect on March 15th. Simply put, a U.S. hotel will not be allowed to pull this kind of stunt.

I know this does you no good in Thunder Bay, Canada; but hopefully the new regulations will help make a difference the next time you and Joe travel to America.

Unknown said...

Name it.

Not only is it reasonable to give them bad publicity as a result of not only their error but their utter and complete failure to correct it, it's only fair to your community so everyone else can avoid it.

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that you may also want to submit information to this global "accessibility map" which is meant to help people find hotels (and many other types of businesses) that are accessible as well as identifying ones that aren't. A good carrot/stick mechanism for recognizing the hotels that have "gotten it right" as well as alerting people to the ones that don't:
Contribute to the New Global Accessibility Map

This covers not just wheelchair access but also allows ratings based on accessibility for deaf/hard of hearing people, or people who are blind or have low vision. I imagine they would be open to including accessibility issues for people with other types of disabilities if people were to contact them and communicate that interest.

Louise said...

Name the hotel! So that others can avoid it..... no hate mail, though. My friend has a very good line when dealing with unhelpful folk 'Tell me how you are going to help me'. It almost always works, because the only way it wouldn't would be for the person to reply 'I'm not going to help you' - and most people don't dare to actually say that out loud.

Flemisa said...

Please name the hotel.
-- to make Joe hamppy.
-- to encourage them to recognize that their staff at all levels needs training. "Understanding" is not a solution if it doesn't involve action. It is important that they recognize that it doesn't matter who made the mistake -- FIX IT.
-- so other travellers can have some guidelines and expectations.

And when you write them, I hope you enclose a copy to this post so that they can see that more than you were impacted by their actions.

Anonymous said...

That is terrible, how could they understand if they are not disabled and not on a wheelchair? I dont understand how frustrating is must be to worry about having an acessible room and people ignoring how obviously important that is. I left many hotels because I couldnt stay on them because of my disability, they were to loud or have smells that made me sick, even so I cant imagine the frustration you feel everytime. Why did they gave the room for a non disabled person anyway? Makes no sense.

Princeton Posse said...

I hate it when I hear "I understand", well, if you did, you wouldn't have done it! If you understand, please explain why you thought it was OK to give our room away?
I also hate "Life is not fair" to which I reply, "knowing that, don't you think you should do everything in your power to make it fair?"
I agree with Joe, name the hotel. People need to speak out and be heard!!!

joanne said...

Trip Advisor makes sense to me

Susan said...

We travel to Thunder Bay regularly. I really want to know which hotel...

Malin said...

I guess I also get a bit irritated when people who very clearly don't understand say it... but sometimes people say it to be nice and I think what they really mean is that they want to understand, or that they understand the feeling of being upset over something. I know this clearly wasn't the case in this situation, but you wrote a lot about the "I understand thing". And even thought it can be very irritating I think we have to remeber that some people actually don't mean anything bad and are just trying to be nice and comforting. Sometimes it's hard to know what to say, and I probably also grabbed the "I understand" sometimes, even though I try to avoid it.

That's my view :)

FibroFacialGal said...

Go for it- I agree with Joe- name the hotel!

Their response was dismissive and belittling. Their version of customer service is beyond ineffective.

When you go to such extraordinary lengths it's completely unexpected to have such treatment. Go for it!

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Oh, boy. I'd be pissed, too. I think you're right to NOT name the hotel, but I would be penning a fierce letter and include a link to this blog.

In my previous (before children) life I worked in hotels, even managed a few. The "I understand" is a clerk's way of trying to diffuse the situation and let the guest know that they DO understand that you're frustrated. In defense of the clerk, the manager ought to have made EVERY effort to give you the accessible room, up to and including gently encouraging the other guest to vacate (perhaps offering them a free room upgrade, breakfast etc) and herSELF cleaning the room you'd requested.

If this hotel was part of a chain, I'd be penning letters to both the GM of the hotel AND the head office.

For the record, there's really no excuse for the room not being available because in most reservation systems there are places to write special requests, notes about guest preferences (pillows, floors, etc.) and EVERY agent ought to read them when coming on shift. It may well have been a new employee who screwed up initially, but it's/was up to the managers to make it right. It should/could have been done with quiet grace and little fanfare.

I'm so sorry that your trip went awry this way, Dave. Please let us know what the hotel says or does to compensate. I urge you to let them try - most of us who work/worked in hospitality have a genuine desire to please our guests and I [hope] this property is no different.

P.S. JWG - your c/c is NOT charged before you've arrived. It simply holds your reservation up to a certain time. And you do reserve a specific room (most of the time) you reserve a room TYPE. In Dave's case, the person who made the reservation should have blocked out the accessible room so that it was SPECIFICALLY for Dave and Joe. Barring that, the notes/requests ought to have been noted in several different places so that there was NOT the collosal mess that was this situation. I'm sad for Dave and Joe that this was how they were "welcomed". Hmph.

Jan said...

Dave I vote for naming the hotel. I am from Thunder Bay and would appreciate knowing which hotel did this. It will influence what hotels I recommend in the future to visitors in our city. Sorry to hear about your bad experience and hope that the rest of your trip home was better.

Katie said...

I would like to know the name of the hotel- I travel with the men I support, and after last summer's experience in Niagara Falls of arriving at our hotel only to find the "accessible" room they'd booked for us was on the 2nd floor (no elevator!), I think we should all look out for one another with warnings or recommendations about businesses.

Maggie said...

I'm for naming the hotel.

I'm also for posting your experience on TripAdvisor and any accessibility-travel sites.

When the best they can do is an insincere "I understand" that is manifestly false ...

When the best explanation they can give is to blame the newest staff member ...

When they don't do the very LEAST they could, which would be to have a management person personally drop everything to make phone calls (preferably from the front desk, right in front of you) to neighboring hotels in which the manager says "we screwed up and need an accessible room right now, do you have one?" until one is found ...

They deserve a little boycotting.

I'm glad you finally found a place to sleep but this situation so sucks.

Liz said...

It boggles my mind that they didn't just ask the (non disabled) person to switch rooms!

Anonymous said...

OMG they made a mistake and booked your room! This happens all the time, and you found a room across the street, how about a little stiff upper lip and stoicism for gods sake. you really are the center of your universe, take off your victim T-Shirt for one day please..."Should we name the hotel, i will let you decide"? Sure, why not, you spend 90% of your time finding fault why not go all the way?

Janet said...

anon omg

Does anyone like you?