When Being Cheap Backfires – My Hotel Mistake

When Being Cheap Backfires - My Hotel MistakeWe are currently on another road trip to Colorado. We are attempting to climb and summit a few mountains, but we also want to explore different areas we may want to move to.

Since we have been going on so many trips lately, I have been looking for different ways to save money. I am a personal finance blogger after all, so that only makes sense.

So, I found a place the other day. We have been booking everything as we go, and since it was Labor Day weekend, nearly everything was already sold out or extremely overpriced. I found a hotel for $80 a night, and we only wanted to stay there for two nights. Our total damage was $160.

It was a great price when compared to the other places I found in the area for Labor Day weekend.

However, the cheap price was the only good thing about this place. Below are some of the bad things about this place:

  • The room smelled very bad. Like a dead person… I wish I was exaggerating but it is the truth. We couldn’t breathe because it was so bad and at one point I even had to put my shirt over my nose.
  • The room next door had their door wide open. My dog almost ran inside, so I peaked in and I was horrified. It was filled almost to the ceiling with trash bags and garbage. There was also a crazy pile of shoes that was around four feet high and six feet wide.
  • There was a blood stain and splatters about a foot wide on the carpet right in the middle of our room. It was impossible to miss.
  • There were multiple hairs all over the bed and on the pillows. This means nothing was washed or cleaned when we went in.
  • There were BIG stains all over the bed. Talk about wanting to barf everywhere.
  • The fridge in the room had food stains all over it. It was absolutely disgusting.
  • The pillows were stained yellow.
  • There were multiple brown stains on the wall.
  • The door and window both did not lock. This was scary considering I would be working from the room a lot alone since Wes had plans to do other things.
  • We saw several other people enter their room, only to leave seconds later and not come back.
  • They claimed they had good wifi, but there was not a single person at the hotel and I still couldn’t get a single thing to load. Keep in mind this is important because I work from my laptop.
  • They also claimed they were pet friendly, but when we arrived I noticed that there was no grass. When I asked the person at the front desk, she said there was a park just right around the corner that we could go to with no problem. Well, it turned out the park was four looooong blocks down a busy street and there was no sidewalk there. This meant I had to walk four blocks down a busy street with two dogs and then cross this busy street where there were no sidewalks (not even a curb), streetlights, stop signs, or anything. That is just too dangerous and mean for me to do to my dogs multiple times a day.
  • Lastly, someone claimed they saw a ghost in their room and they panicked. Haha this still makes me laugh but it made me wonder what kind of crazy people were at this hotel.

Wow, it’s just scary writing about everything we saw in the one hour we were there.

We checked in, left to grab something to eat, got back to the room and immediately started finding another place to stay.

At first, I was extremely upset that I prepaid for this place. However, since this was a “vacation,” staying in a place where we literally wanted to throw up just wasn’t going to work.

When Being Cheap Backfires - My Hotel Mistake

Imagine something similar to this, except the bed was “made.”

I found another hotel and booked it as soon as I could. I then walked into the front desk to the gross hotel we were at and checked out immediately.

And this is how being cheap backfired on me. I didn’t want to spend an extra $50 a day in order to stay somewhere “normal” and instead I ended up wasting $160 and a few hours because we couldn’t bare to stay in that hotel for more than a few hours.

I know there are others who are fine with staying anywhere and they only care about having a place to sleep, but I just could not do it. I thought about it for a slight second just because of the money I’d be wasting, but then I realized how crazy that sounded.

Luckily enough, the person checking me in at the next hotel asked where we just came from and how our day was. I explained our horrific story and how I was so glad that they had room for us at their much better hotel. He said he could NOT BELIEVE where we came from and that he knew we must have been horrified because we were actually not the first person who did the exact same thing we did (check in at the bad hotel, only to leave and go to his hotel). He then said he added a discount to our stay and that it was no problem. I told him he didn’t need to but he insisted. Isn’t that awesome?!

Anyway, here are my tips to avoid making a costly mistake like I just did:

 

Read the reviews.

I am a serial review reader, so I can honestly say that I read numerous reviews about this hotel. The reviews weren’t the greatest, but it sounded like a lot of people were just used to luxury hotels so I ignored them.

OH MY GOD was that a huge mistake.

From now on, I will always trust bad reviews, especially when there are a ton of them.

 

Compare the pricing.

The other hotels in the area were about $50 more per night. I thought I didn’t want to spend that, so that was the main reason we booked the BAD BAD BAD hotel.

In the end, the $50 extra per night was well worth it.

We received a clean room, a fantastic dog walking area and even a trail along a river to walk our dogs, fast wi-fi, breakfast in the mornings that was actually good, good customer service, and more. We also feel much safer here.

 

Think about how badly you want to save money.

I thought that since it was only two days, that I wouldn’t really care about how cheap the place was. I thought for $80, that the hotel couldn’t possibly be THAT bad, because $80 still isn’t dirt cheap. Considering I’ve stayed in nice hotels in the Caribbean and Florida for around $100 a night, I thought an $80 hotel would be somewhere near average.

Nope, I was wrong. I couldn’t make it an hour so there was no way I would have been able to make it two days.

I didn’t want the savings that bad and I realized that once we arrived at the hotel. This hotel should have been no where near $80 a night. I think it should have been one of those $29.95 highway motels that I often see.

 

Has being cheap backfired on you recently? How much money did you lose?

 

Images via Flickr by TaxRebate.org.uk and Nitram242

Comments

    • Michelle S. says

      Yeah, I plan on disputing it. The person at the hotel said “no refunds” even though it was absolutely unfit for anyone to sleep in and we were there for less than an hour.

          • Kristen says

            Even over Labor Day weekend $80 should still get you an okay hotel especially if you pre-pay. You don’t need to stay at fancy places. Rustic is fine but that place is unacceptable. I would definitely start with the credit card company and if that didn’t work move on to the BBB or the state attorney general. Or, call the hotel and let them know that they can give you a refund or you will call the police and let them know of the drug activity you saw there. Frankly it sounds like a place fit to lose their occupancy permit/business license.

            We once ended up stuck at a hotel where the hot tub was private and you had to reserve it by the hour. Online reviews are so hard because there are the people who lose their marbles if for $80 they don’t get The Ritz. The upside is that it’s a hell of an entertaining story you’ll laugh about for years to come.

  1. EarlyRetirementGuy says

    Ahh what a terrible experience!

    Being cheap has occasionally backfired for me, usually in the form of transportation. A few times I’ve opted for the mega-cheap coach option instead of flying or getting the train.It seems like a good idea to save £20 on the travel at first but very quickly being stuck on an uncomfortable coach for an extra 6 hours just isnt worth the saved cash.
    EarlyRetirementGuy recently posted..Cash or Comfort?My Profile

  2. Cari @ A Thrifty Yankee says

    Oh this reminds me of a similar experience in NJ that I had many years ago; think Charles Manson look alike running the hotel, stains, torn curtains, smells and termites. Ugh. I’m so glad that you were able to find another place to stay!
    Cari @ A Thrifty Yankee recently posted..Hello SeptemberMy Profile

  3. Deb @ Saving the Crumbs says

    Agreed, going cheap definitely has its risks. But I would be sad if experiences like this scared people away from ever trying to save money (some of my spender friends would use this as an excuse to stay in 5 star hotels!). It’s good to set boundaries so you don’t spend too much, but likewise your story probably also shows that it may be beneficial to also set boundaries on minimums? For example, some minimums might be not to compromise safety (if a hotel is located in a dangerous area of town) or not to disregard terrible reviews like you mentioned (a few bad ones might be OK but the majority should be positive)? Glad you were safe and comfortable in the end! :-)
    Deb @ Saving the Crumbs recently posted..How to Never Pay Full Price for Anything (Almost) : CardpoolMy Profile

    • Michelle S. says

      Yeah, I definitely would not be against an $80 hotel is the future. There are other things to think about though. I should have been more realistic than thinking I could get an $80 liveable hotel in a mountain town!

  4. Cami says

    That sounds horrible! With sites like Trip Advisor how do those places stay in business? I love when people take pictures and leave blunt reviews so I know what I’m getting into.

  5. Shannon @ Financially Blonde says

    Ugh!!! This sounds awful!! I worked for a hedge fund a few years back that owned a hotel and I learned a lot about the hotel industry during those years and I thoroughly examine all of my choices before I make them because of that. I find that Trip Advisor has great feedback on most places. They certainly had honest feedback on my former hotel.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted..Music Mondays – Ready Set RollMy Profile

    • Michelle S. says

      Yeah, I religiously read TripAdvisor, but there weren’t that many reviews so I didn’t really know what to expect. Surprisingly, it was about 50/50 when it came to bad reviews and good ones.

  6. kammi says

    Yuck. This looks TERRIBLE! I’m so sorry you guys had to go through this experience. Would DEF give these guys a bad write-up, also. I think my worst experience was choosing a cheaper airline. It was late, disorganized, and just a huge pain in the butt. Needless to say, that airline never got a penny from us after that! Hope this doesn’t ruin your entire trip and you are both back to having a blast soon!

  7. Nicole says

    I would have done the same thing. The money would be the least of my worries at that point. What I like to do before booking a hotel is pull their address up in Google Maps and switch to street view to scope out the neighborhood. It won’t help determine the condition of the room but I think you’ll find it useful since the creepier hotels are usually in the more run down neighborhoods (and in this case you’d at least see whether there’s any dog friendly areas nearby).

  8. Christine Berry - Wealth Way Online says

    Wow, horrible! I had a funny being cheap backfire the other night.

    We were waiting for a taxi in downtown Singapore, by the famous Marina Bay Sands… Of course, in Singapore most people don’t owe cars and it was after midnight so there was a long queue for taxis. Like the longest line I’ve seen in my whole life.

    We had the option of taking a non-official taxi immediately or waiting for an official taxi. Price for unofficial taxi $40, unknown price of the official tax, but I guessed around $20. My boyfriend wanted to leave immediately but I thought the line wasn’t “too bad” and there were plenty of taxis so we waited.

    And we waited.

    And we waited.

    For 45 mins before we got in the taxi…. and it ended up being $10 to get home, which wasn’t bad. But was it worth saving $30 to stand in line for 45 minutes? I think not!
    Christine Berry – Wealth Way Online recently posted..Company Reputations: Making Sure You’re In the KnowMy Profile

  9. vinu nair says

    We had a similar experience in our visit to Niagara Falls and I have wrote about this on my blog as well. You are a better person than I for not mentioning the bad hotels name in your post. I always research my hotels nowadays prior to booking. It is true that sometimes even though the hotel is cheap they can be pretty decent, you just need to spend some time online reading reviews. I find google reviews to be more accurate.
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  10. DC @ Young Adult Money says

    I read all the reviews for a recent hotel stay, and they were pretty positive. Unfortunately there were very few options in the town we were staying in (about two hours south of the Twin Cities). Despite the fairly positive reviews, I wasn’t impressed with the room and was a bit appalled by a few things (size of the beds, obvious former smoking room, price!). I’m just glad I had credit card rewards so it didn’t come straight out of my pocket.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Is Public Transit Worth the Hassle?My Profile

    • Michelle S. says

      Yeah, I wish we had more credit card rewards right now, but we don’t. I won’t complain though, we’ve been going on a lot of trips so it would be hard to have enough rewards points for the amount of traveling we are doing.

  11. Gary @ SuperSavingTips says

    Wow that’s sounds unbelievably bad. I would definitely dispute the charges. I am a compulsive review reader, and I pay special attention to the bad reviews, and how recent the reviews are. I’ve seen some ridiculously silly complaints, for example: no kids allowed (at a couples-only resort, what did they expect?) or complaints about the weather as if the hotel was responsible for that. But I pay close attention when it sounds like the reviewer has a legitimate issue. Noticing that all the other hotels in the area were more expensive is a good indicator as well, and I’ll have to remember that for the future.
    Gary @ SuperSavingTips recently posted..How to deal with customer service when you’re dissatisfiedMy Profile

  12. Kristina says

    Hotels are one of the only things that I will splurge on when it comes to price.
    I always look at reviews, and then I also google map the area to see if it looks like a good area as well.
    i’ve never had an issue myself with a hotel room, but have known way too many people who’ve had!
    Sounds like that hotel needs to be reported to the health department.

  13. Jason B says

    Sounds like you booked the hotel from hell. I haven’t had a situation where being cheap backfired on me in a couple years. It has happened to me twice. I booked a terrible room in Daytona one year. It was so bad that I slept on top of the covers. My other mistake was booking a cheap room in Savannah. The room was dirty and the TV didn’t work. Both times I sucked it up though. I didn’t have any other options.
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  14. Jennifer Speed says

    Yea I definitely would have done the same thing. That’s why I am always hesitant when I see that one commercial where they asked if you would pay for a hotel without seeing it first but it would be a 3-4star hotel. That may be why I usually pay a little more to stay in a place.

  15. Cece @Pink Sunshine says

    I always wonder why this has to happen to people with Trip Advisor around. I’m on that site like it’s my job when we plan a trip. They have extensive reviews and I do trust them especially when it’s a lot of them. If there are not enough reviews for me to get a feel for it then I pass. I was all over that site for our Europe trip and out of the 3 hotels I had to book I wasn’t disappointed once. If it seems to be too good to be true it probably is and I’d rather err on the side of slightly more expensive then jeopardize my experience. It’s just not worth it!! Some people are okay with staying in a dump but not me. I’d rather stay home where at least I know everything is clean!!
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  16. Melissa says

    Oh my gosh, that is so gross! I have not stayed at a hotel that disgusting, but my parents did once. No blood stains, but roaches everywhere. It was because there was a conference in town and there was literally no other place to stay. This happened several years ago, and I think my Mom is STILL traumatized!
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  17. M.Clark says

    This is a hilarious story, I could not stop laughing….Yes, my advice is always read the reviews and never ignore reviews, I don’t. Thank you for sharing this post.

  18. Meghan says

    Dude! (That’s all I have; I am that horrified.)

    I hope the experience didn’t impact your view of Colorado! If there was blood and a hoarder living next door, you may want to notify the state.

  19. Rob @ MoneyNomad says

    My wife and I ended up in a similar experience while moving across the country. Fortunately, however, our room lacked the blood stained spots that yours seemed to be endowed with.

    Lodging is one of those areas that’s difficult because prices can vary so significantly. And, after staying in a few nice places, it seems that a place $50 cheaper couldn’t be THAT bad. Somehow, it is!

    Thanks for sharing and congrats on becoming fully self-employed!
    Rob @ MoneyNomad recently posted..How to Live Like a King on a Pauper’s BudgetMy Profile

  20. Victoria@ The British Berliner says

    Has being cheap backfired on you recently? Sure. Haven’t we all! I wanted to go to Prague for New Years’ Eve a few years ago and decided to book with a Czech company as I like to support local initiatives. What a big mistake!

    When I got there, my reservation that I had made in Berlin, was missing and this was Boxing Day (December 26th)! They had no reservation or booking on their database and even though I had a print-out apparantly, it was all “fully booked” and there was no point in arguing, as there was a long queue of people who had a similar problem!

    Since I used to live in Prague, I knew a few places. I checked around. Too late. It was a busy period and I could see myself being stuck with nowhere to sleep or having to go back to Berlin! So I went to the university hostel. Same thing. However, one of the girls there said she might be able to squeeze me into a mixed hostel. The price?A couple of dollars, which I agreed to.

    It was a hostel so I spent more time outdoors than indoors, but when I got back, someone else was sleeping in my bed AND he or she, wasn’t alone!
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  21. Thomas @ i need money ASAP! says

    That sucks. I’ve done this exact thing before, its easy to do, especially when there aren’t many hotels to choose from. We once stayed in upstate New York at a hotel that sounded very much like this. The funny thing is that we still remember that night, even now years later, but other nicer rooms on that trip no longer linger in our memory.
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  22. Adam says

    My wife and I were making a trip back to Ohio from Florida and we decided to stop in Alabama for the night around 3 AM because I had been driving all day. So we settled for someplace cheap and found a motel that looked “Ok-ish” from the outside but when we went to the reception desk we were in for all kinds of surprises.

    The reception area smelled of rotting trash but again 3 AM I was just ready to sleep so we checked in anyway despite a big red lettered sign behind the cashier that said “Absolutely no refunds!”

    We went to our first room and opened the door and were hit with the overpowering smell of smoke. Not fire damage smoke but like someone decided to have a smoking convention in the room. Neither of us are smokers so it was really strong. Everything just stunk of stale old smoke. Pillows were dirty, the bed sheets had some black unidentifiable stains, and it was just gross.

    I went to the front desk and said I wanted another room as that room wouldn’t do. We were accommodated with a new room that smelled of previously being flooded and mold. I went into the bathroom to see if at least the shower was usable but instead the entire upper ceiling had black mold clinging to the ceiling tiles and walls. My wife looked at me and said we’re leaving and that she’d drive till the sun came up but she wasn’t going to stay at that motel.

    We grabbed our bags and went back to the front desk and demanded a refund. I told him we were not going to stay in a room that has black mold and neither would a health inspector. We were refunded immediately.

    We drove for about 30 miles until we came across a Holiday Inn and dropped a $120 on a room without a second thought.

    This was almost 6 years ago and we still remember that nasty place to this day.
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  23. Kendal @HassleFreeSaver says

    OMG that sounds horrible!! I’ve definitely been bitten by the cheap hotel bug, but after several bad experiences I’ve decided the extra cost is worth it. The conditions you found were far worse than anything I ever encountered, but I, too, learned the hard way that hotels are not just places for you to sleep. Now I try to look for B&Bs because they seem comparable or even cheaper than chain hotels, plus the breakfast is a great bonus!
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  24. Andrew @ Budgetopolis says

    Yikes! That sounds freakishly bad. I’m cheap, and look for cheap hotels. I have even slept in my car many times when traveling, but I don’t think I would have stayed there either.

    Too bad you didn’t think to get photos. That would definitely help get your money back. If it is a hotel chain, I think I would email them a link to the reviews page, and to this blog page, and let them know how many people read your site. If it is a local place, I would definitely add this story to the review page.

    Wowzers! Glad you found a better place to stay.
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    • Michelle S. says

      Yeah I definitely should have taken photos. We didn’t open anything though, and the camera was in one of our bags. We didn’t want any of our things to smell like the room LOL

  25. femmefrugality says

    Oh, man! That sounds out right scary! I’ve never had a hotel experience that bad, but have made consumer purchases based on price, only to have it give out and get the better quality one anyways. Used to happen a lot, but I’ve lived and learned. :)

  26. Ashley Busse says

    I am a HORRIBLE cheap-skate. Even after reading this, I won’t lie, I’ll probably go the cheapest route humanly possible. I HATE spending money.

  27. Xmasdolly says

    My experience wasn’t exactly like yours, but similar. I had back surgery at this hospital, and the physical therapy was full and they said I could go to another place, and I chose a place close to home. So because I picked the place closer to home & less expensive they brought me to a place that was an assisted living place with CNA’s and a couple of therapists. Not only was this place filled with old people 90 and up.. okay 80 & up… the place smelled like old people, and it wasn’t all that clean either with old furniture. My bed had a permanent slope in it where a body was in the middle and so low it was practically next to the floor. I did not want to stay, but husband said I had too. That evening I did some investigating, and found out it was an old folks home, and that I was there first physical therapy patient because they were going to change over to half & half to get more income coming in. OKAY NOT HAPPY! Then I wanted a shower and the nurse finally said come on and I went in there she says, “Okay clothes off and there were no stalls just a few shower heads and a hose and she started to hose me down, nurses walking in and out like it was Grand Central and even a male nurse and that’s when I called it quits. I called husband and said NOW! And told him if he didn’t come get me I’d take a cab and I signed myself out of that hell. It was horrible and I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

  28. Sarah Vegetabile says

    I have had something simalar happen. I learned from that mistake real fast. Sorry you went thru this but boy does it teach us in the end!!

  29. Victoria @thefrugaltrial says

    That sucks. There is a fine line when booking hotels for paying a decent price for a decent room and being cheap and lumbered with a terrible hotel. It is very difficult to gage.

    I am also a serial tripadvisor reviewer, as I tend to take a lot of reviews with a pinch of salt (anyone who complains hotel staff in foreign countries don’t speak english have their reviews discounted!) I am generally happy to stay at places with mediocre reviews.

    In 2006 I had a very cheap holiday to Greece (£160 for a week!!), it was an absolute dive. Room only made up for two (there were three of us), there were drool marks on the pillows, no spare blankets, only one toilet roll for the week, staff that were racist to my jamaican friend. The only advantage was that it was away from the bars.
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  30. Myles Money says

    I’m sorry, but I laughed so hard when I read this. We stayed in a hotel a few years ago and it sounds as though it could be part of the same group. Awful! Recently I bought a bunch of lightbulbs on special offer thinking I was getting a bargain: 75% off. The problem is, they’re such poor quality they “pop” after a week and they need replacing. Cheap is good, but quality counts too.
    Myles Money recently posted..Make Do & Mend >> #FrugalFridayMy Profile

  31. Dana says

    I will pay extra for things like hotel rooms because I had a few experiences where the cheapest room ended up being like this story-or was in a really unsafe part of town or cost us more to get to the touristy parts

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