Saturday up and down the Mid-Atlantic region was a nightmare of power outages and stifling heat. Over one million residences in the DC/Baltimore region were without power and countless more in other states from Friday evenings derecho storm, which basically a no notice hurricane. Once the reality of an extended outage dawned on people they began flocking to hotels. By Saturday night you couldn’t find a vacant room for 150 miles in any direction from Washington, DC.
Into this abyss I journeyed – pre-paid reservation in hand to the Motel 6 in Ashland, Virginia. Ashland exists, apparently, solely to bunk interstate travelers and guest at the popular Kings Dominion amusement park nearby. It was a 2 hour drive to get to this remote outpost, but the beacon of an air-conditioned room was strong for my youngest son. My wife and the older boys were having a slumber party in the basement, but our youngest was having no part of it. Every time we returned to the house Saturday he had a fit. I can’t say I blame him, there was no power and it was over 100 degrees outside. The top floor of the house was 90 degrees according to the thermostat. The basement was still comfortable, in the 70’s, and the main floor was hot, but not as bad as the upstairs rooms.
He and I set out for the hotel as a father-son adventure. It turned into a nightmare, at least for me. He enjoyed the whole trip…
When we got to the Motel 6 around 10pm I went to the check-in desk and gave my name and confirmation. Hmmm, no record. “Did you book on Expedia?” the overmatched manager Sam asked. Not only had I booked via Expedia I had already paid. Seemed like a slam dunk.
“No, we cancel all Expedia reservations.” he said in is broken English. “We are all sold out and they keep sending. I tried to call them to stop sending, but I don’t get through.”
Now if you’re like me you’re thinking that this is a Seinfeld-esqe moment…
We most definitely had some conversations about them knowing how to take reservations, but not hold a reservation. But when you book a room and the hotel doesn’t honor it, but keeps selling rooms you’re kind of screwed. This being Motel 6 and Expedia’s problem – not mine – I spent an hour on the phone with Expedia while they looked all over the East Coast for a room for me. That’s pretty much how I know there were no rooms available – the poor Expedia supervisor was reduced to calling hotels while I was on hold as the online systems that Expedia and Hotels.com used had pretty clearly been overcome by events.
Eventually a room was found in Newport News, Virginia which was an hour farther south. We rolled in there after midnight by that point wishing we’d stuck in out at the slumber party.
What was shocking to me was the number of people who came to the Motel 6 while I was on the phone looking for a room. Do people really do this any more? I guess some people do, but Saturday those people were totally out of luck. I have to imagine that there were a lot of people sleeping in cars Saturday night.
That night I booked the entire family into a Springhill Suites room near our house through Friday. I can cancel the extra days when power comes back, so it really is the best situation for us. The kids are enjoying free breakfast, an indoor pool, and air-conditioned room.
As for Motel 6, they can take their “light” and shove it up their ass… They’re now on my “do not patronize under any circumstances” list.