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No Room At The Inn

Working as a desk clerk at a budget motel, I probably have hundreds of stories, but this one stands out the most.

First let me set the scene. Every year there is a major bicycle ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC, and we’re right in the middle where they break for the night. The whole town sells out and when these guests check out in the morning, they often make their reservations for the next year. The bike ride is in August, and we’re usually sold out before December the previous year, and it’s like this ALL over town. I actually suggest to people who call later in the year trying to get rooms for that date to adjust their travel itinerary if possible to avoid the need to stay here that night, because that’s how sold-out our town is.

On this particular weekend in 2006, I was working the evening shift. All of my reservations had checked in and each room in our motel was physically occupied, so when I saw this middle-aged man approach my desk, I prepared to send him elsewhere.

He walks up and throws down his ID and credit card on the desk and says,  “Single, nonsmoking.” I explained to him that I was sorry, but we were sold out. He gave me a blank stare before he started to speak in a sarcastic, snobby tone. “But you’re a motel, aren’t you? You have rooms. That’s what you sell, isn’t it?”  I told him yes, but they were all sold out. Then he started getting very irate.  “So why don’t you have a ‘No Vacancy’ sign?”

I explained that our corporate office (in their infinite wisdom) had decided to remove the sign because part of our customer service policy was to find accommodations elsewhere for the guest when we couldn’t provide them.

This man is shouting at me now. “Great! So where are you gonna send me?” I referred him to a hotel in the next county south of us, about a half hour drive away. He gave me an exaggerated, shocked look. “Unacceptable!” he exclaims, “I want a motel here in town!” I told him every single place in town that I had called was sold out, and I didn’t know of any more places to call, and that I strongly recommended he take a room at this motel because that town was now starting to fill up with our overflow. This guy wouldn’t hear it. He shouted, “Look out there! There are no cars in the parking lot; how can you be sold out?” I told him about the event, that everyone was on bicycles which they took into the rooms with them (so there wouldn’t be many cars), and that it was like this all over town.

“No! This isn’t acceptable!” The man is just about screaming at me now. “I want a room! I’ll pay you double if you pick up that phone and kick someone out! Do it! Do it now!” In my mind, I likened him to a little kid throwing a tantrum because his mommy wouldn’t give him the candy he wanted.

I told him no way would I kick out one of my guests (who reserved their room almost a year in advance), and if he didn’t leave my lobby and get off this property immediately I was going to call the police. He took his credit card and ID and stormed out. I could hear him outside screaming and swearing at the top of his lungs as he walked back to his car.

Moral of the story: Always make sure you have hotel reservations before you leave on your road trip.  08-04-08


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alexis July 23, 2009, 9:03 pm

    People who are rude to hotel clerks, waitstaff, retail employees, or anyone else who they know cannot respond and just have to put up with it are not just jerks, but bullies. Bullying stops working after high school. By then you have to learn manners, or pay the consequences for having failed to have done so.

  • Mary Bernard August 15, 2009, 12:06 pm


    But this desk clerk did have a way to respond – he/she threatened to call the police, and the man promptly left. I once went to a hotel where I had a reservation and found out they had no room for me. They said that there was a big convention there, involving hundreds of rooms, and the hotel employees had thought that the convention people were supposed to leave that morning, but the convention people said oh no, we’re leaving tomorrow morning, so hundreds of people like me, who had made a reservation for that night, were told “Too bad! No room for you!” So having a reservation doesn’t mean a thing.

  • Ling October 21, 2009, 11:31 am

    About the convention. How can the employees “think” that they are leaving. Don’t the convention people make reservations like everyone else? If you make a reservation for two nights, that is what you get, right? You can’t come later and say “nooo, I need three nights”, if the room is already booked.

  • geekgirl February 25, 2010, 4:56 pm

    The company policy of removing the ‘No Vacancy’ sign peeves me. I think it must be the same as the ‘we never say no’ policy many compnaies have. If you ask them a straight question ‘do you have such-and-such’ instead if a straight forward yes or no answer, you get a long rambling monologue about how they can source such an item for you, they do have it, they can get it for you in a few days etc etc. I’d far rather hear ‘No, we don’t have it’ or see a straightforward ‘No Vacancy’ sign than have to go through all the rigmarole. And it’s the poor front-line staff who have to take the anger from the people who take the time to pull up and walk in, only to find there is no space for them. Having said that, this man’s entire attitude was frankly obnoxious.

  • livvy April 28, 2010, 4:34 pm

    @Mary: I imagine that the convention thing was a result of someone’s collosal mistake – that the conventioneers and the booking agent got their wires crossed, and that when it was discovered, some hotel exec decided that keeping 100 people for another night was more profit conscious than trying to boot them in favor of the few individuals who might not show up for the night. Regardless, upon discovering the mistake, the hotel should have a)informed people with a reservation about the mistke, b)moved heaven and earth to get them accomodations nearby c)paid for those nearby rooms. Terrible mistake followed by more terrible mistakes. Horrible hotel.
    @OP – horrible man, no excuse.