Smoked out of the Days Inn

Debbie Rosenkranz books a nonsmoking room at a Days Inn hotel. But when she arrives, she's offered a smoking room. Does the hotel owe her anything?

Q: I have a concern that I tried addressing with a specific Days Inn and with Wyndham, which owns Days Inn, but have not received a response. I recently stayed at the Days Inn in Fernandina Beach, Fla. I made a reservation for a nonsmoking room and was given a smoking room when I checked it.

I spoke with a manager, who told me he was sorry he couldn't offer me a nonsmoking room. The only rooms the hotel had left to sell were smoking rooms.

So, my question to Wyndham is: Is it their policy to accept a reservation for a nonsmoking room when no such room exists? I wrote to Wyndham, but after several emails, it stopped answering.

I understand that a hotel cannot always guarantee a nonsmoking room. But, the manager admits none were available when I made my reservation. I never would have completed the reservation had I known that. They would have charged me a day's stay had I not shown up; they should compensate me a day's stay for not having the room.

I do feel Wyndham and Days Inn should somehow be accountable for this misleading action. -- Debbie Rosenkranz, Miami

A: Let me state my bias up front: Smoking should not be allowed in a hotel room. Ever. Unfortunately, at the time you stayed in your hotel, Florida state law permitted smoking. But a look at the Days Inn site also showed that the room type you booked also said your room would be "nonsmoking," which led you to conclude you wouldn't have to inhale trace amounts of carcinogens as you slept.

This is a clear-cut case of a hotel offering a product and failing to deliver. But things aren't always so defined. I checked into a Hampton Inn in Van Buren, Ark., recently, and had a nonsmoking room, but it was on a smoking floor. When my kids walked into the bathroom, they were met with the strong odor of cigarettes. Complaints to the management were shrugged off -- after all, we were technically staying in a nonsmoking room.

By the way, if you've made a lifestyle choice to smoke, I'm not judging you. But please don't do it anywhere near my kids. Their right to breathe clean air trumps your right to smoke.

Looking back, I would have said something to the Days Inn manager as soon as you checked in. If you couldn't be accommodated in one of its nonsmoking rooms, it might have sent you to another Wyndham-owned property close by, at its expense (that's called "walking" in hotel lingo). But once you unpacked your belongings and decided to stay, the hotel more or less assumes the room is acceptable and that you've agreed to pay for it.

Wyndham shouldn't have dropped the matter when you contacted it. It owed you an explanation, at the very least, if not an apology for giving you a smoking room. As far as I can tell, it didn't give you either.

I contacted Wyndham on your behalf, and it offered you a free room night to make up for the room mix-up.

(Christopher Elliott is the author of "Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" (Wiley). He's also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the co-founder of the Consumer Travel Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for travelers. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org. Christopher Elliott receives a great deal of reader mail, and though he answers them as quickly as possible, your story may not be published for several months because of a backlog of cases.)

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