I travel quite a bit for business and leisure purposes, and in my travels, I’ve written several positive hotel reviews, but I’ve never felt strongly compelled to write a negative one…until now. So strap in, kids, because beyond this place there be dragons.
To start, I've spent many years working in different hotel line and management roles, and I understand firsthand many of the challenges with upkeep when hosting hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people a day, so I’m very sympathetic to the aspect that sometimes “stuff happens” outside of a hotelier’s control. That said, there are some things that are well within normal controls if one is paying the slightest bit of attention to the grossest of details.
And gross is one of the more polite words I can use to describe our rooms at the Best Western Mineola Inn, in Mineola, Texas.
On this trip, we were traveling to attend a family funeral. I booked two rooms at this hotel so we could be close to support family. There were a few other local options, but I thought I’d give Best Western our first try. It’s a solid brand, and the hotel looked good from the outside.
We arrived well after midnight, after a 1.5 hour drive from DFW airport, with a difficult couple of days ahead of us.
On arrival, the Front Desk Clerk took a photocopy of my driver’s license, then made an imprint of my credit card on that same paper, clipped it to my signed registration card, and placed it all in the “bucket” file on the desk within view and easy reach of anyone at the desk. Wow! The data security violations here are staggering. For a moment, I was tempted to check the calendar and make sure I wasn’t checking in to 1991. This is an identity theft nightmare waiting to happen. The lone Front Desk clerk is apparently away from sight of the desk so often that the hotel actually has a sign on the desk stating that the desk clerk is in the breakfast room across the lobby. Anyone could just walk past the desk, easily reach over and grab the entire bucket of guest information and the desk clerk wouldn’t know until later. By that point, the thief would have all of the hotel guests’ names, photos, addresses, birth dates, credit card numbers and signature, among other valuable information like room number. The identify theft possibilities aside, imagine the criminal possibilities of someone with that information flipping through the list of guest registration cards at 0200 looking for, say, female travelers listing only one occupant in the room. Based on that amazing negligence to guest safety alone, I would never recommend anyone stay at this hotel.
This concerned me greatly, but when I politely mentioned the PII and PCI issues to the front desk clerk, I was told this was hotel policy. Understanding that policy isn’t the desk clerk’s fault, and it being well past the point of being able to cancel without being charged, we chose to just deal with it and go to our rooms.
But oh, if only the guest data concerns were the sole problem. In one room, the air conditioner was completely shut off. The very musty room was 84 degrees, and reeked of smoke. The other room was another adventure altogether. Upon opening the door to my room, we were immediately hit with the strong smell of warm, humid mold. The air conditioning was not on, and it was over 80 degrees in the room (keep in mind, it was around 1:30am). It was very obvious that Housekeeping hadn’t vacuumed the room, or that if they did, it was completely ineffective as the carpet was dirty and even had a few dead beetles laying in the middle of the living area. There was also an odd white film over many of the chrome fixtures in the room. I opened the mini-fridge and discovered that it was warm inside and covered in black mold. I could easily see behind the entertainment center, that the fridge was unplugged, and the plug was laying on the floor.
And then there was the Jacuzzi tub in the corner of the room. The desk clerk had excitedly told us of this wonderful room feature at check-in. In reality, this dingy and stained tub, with mold growing on it, and in an obvious state of disrepair, is a perfect example of how quickly it’s possible for an amenity to turn into an abomination.
Overall, rather than experiencing the confidence of checking into a solid brand hotel, based on the condition of the room, I half-expected to find a beat-up and tarnished “Magic Fingers” coin box next to the bed.
In all seriousness though, this was not what I expected from a major brand like Best Western, especially at the $115+ per night price point which we paid at the time. Both the policies and the room were something that I would expect from an interstate Knights Inn, or a local dive motel proudly offering “Color TV” (as if one could still buy something other than color). There are many amenities that hotels use today to try and differentiate themselves (breakfast, wifi, exercise rooms), but if the core offering doesn’t make a guest feel safe and clean, the rest is just useless fluff.
We had originally booked two rooms for a four-night stay, but we chose to spend the remaining nights at a hotel in Rockwall, and made the 90-minute drive out and back each day, rather than remain at the Best Western Inn, Mineola.
Worst of all, when I attempted to bring these issues to the attention of Best Western, I received a cookie-cutter email response from the hotel’s GM, with a generic apology for not “exceeding your expectations” (as if they had remotely met them), and asking me to stay with them again. Seriously? I have to assume that they either didn’t even read the email, or just don’t really care about customer service. Either way, that management response was about as close to “yeah, yeah, whatever” as one could get without actually coming right out and saying they don’t care about our experience and think I’m stupid enough to return under the same conditions.
I know that in the franchise model, many hotels are independently owned and operated, but at the end of the day, it’s the corporate flag on the front of the building. Our experience at this hotel is an unfortunate black eye on the Best Western brand, and by extension, reflected poorly on me for choosing it for my family’s stay during this challenging time. While I know it’s not altogether fair to judge other hotels in the chain by this one location, the reality is that there are so many other choices out there, I would hesitate to choose it again, and roll the dice on my personal reputation, and more importantly, my family’s health and safety. less