Consumer Wise: Tips on how to complain at a hotel

By Angie Moreschi, Consumer Wise Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 09, 2018, 5:14 AM EST

The rush of holiday travel is over, but memories of bad hotel stays don’t fade quite so fast. Several travelers at Tampa International Airport shared their stories of hotel nightmares.

“We had wet carpet. Moldy smelling,” Lisa Elrod said scrunching up her nose. “We had to move rooms.”

Sherif Kamel says he’s had to deal with several problems over the years, including a dirty swimming pool, a bathroom exhaust fan not working and no temperature control in his room.

“The thermostat was not working,” Kamel said. “They say, ‘we’re gonna send the maintenance guy to fix it,’ but they didn’t show up.”

And Karen Reuter experienced some unwelcome guests in her beach hotel room.

“There were bugs in the shower,” she said making a face, “cockroach-type bugs!”

Yikes! That’s when it pays to snap a picture.  Whether it’s cockroaches, no internet, or no food at the “free breakfast,” showing a picture can speak volumes when you complain.

How to complain

Whatever your problem, following these tips can help you get results when you complain.

  • Always go in person to the front desk, rather than calling on the phone
  • Get the name of the person you talk to
  • Calmly explain the problem
  • Show your picture - to make your point
  • Give them a chance

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  Like in the case of Lisa Elrod, who had the moldy smelling room.

“He moved us quickly. It was no problem,” she said.

And sometimes, like in Kamel’s case, it’s not so easy. When a hotel employee tells you they’ll do something about it and then doesn’t fix the problem, it gets very frustrating.

“Actually, they ruin your trip, especially if it’s a vacation” he said.

Time to escalate

That’s when it’s time to escalate the matter and talk to the manager.

“Usually the manager comes out, and you explain to him your problem, and they’re very apologetic,” said Reuter, who ended up talking to the manager about the cockroaches.

Follow these tips if you have to talk to a manager, after an employee paid you lip service and didn’t fix the problem:

  • Be polite, but also firm and direct
  • Explain the problem again and that the employee didn’t fulfill their promise
  • This is important:  Don’t be bashful about asking for some compensation
  • Say something like—“This has been very frustrating and disappointing, and there needs to be some accommodation for my inconvenience.”

Most hotel managers will offer something—a free meal voucher or even comping a night or two of your stay, depending on what the problem was.

It worked for Reuter. The hotel gave her two nights of her stay for free.

“Most of the time, managers try their hardest to fix your problem,” she said. “It’s good practice, because they don’t want me leaving and saying, ‘Oh, don’t stay there!’”

Getting Results

If you think it’s not worth complaining, remember, you’re paying for that room and the services at the hotel, so you deserve to get your money’s worth.

Kamel says it actually helps everyone when you complain.

“If you don’t complain, there’s no pressure. They just keep doing what they’re doing,” he said.

And best of all, it feels good to get results.

“It makes me feel important,” Reuter said.

“You feel like the system works,” added Kamel.

Your Power as a Consumer

At the end of your stay, if they handled the problem well, be sure to say thank you when you check out.

If they didn’t, take time to write a review on websites like or TripAdvisor.  Social media matters.

Don’t make it a long rant—just a clear, concise explanation of what when wrong and how the hotel staff responded.  Your greatest power as a consumer is not only refusing to give a hotel your business again, but also warning others about problems there.