Best Western Plus White Bear Country Inn
4940 North Highway 61
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
• A reservation was made and paid for at this hotel with a check-in of 20181207 and a check-out of 20181209.
• When we arrived to the hotel and attempted to check in, we were told that the hotel was overbooked and we were one of several people selected to be ‘bumped’ to another hotel. This hotel was three miles away and Best Western would ensure that our stay would be taken care of due to the inconvenience to us. This overbooking was due to there being a wedding party and business conference at this hotel.
• We insisted that we had made and pre-paid for this reservation to this hotel, but kept getting apologized to and told there was nothing they could do – there simply were no rooms to give out.
• We were told that because we did not book this room through the ‘block’ of rooms set aside for the wedding, that caused us to be selected to be bumped. (Note: we booked this room outside the ‘block’ of rooms set aside because we had a significant discount that could be applied for our stay. This discount could not be used if booking the room through this ‘block’ of rooms. We were not willing to pay the higher price (gouging) this hotel was charging for that ‘block’ of rooms set aside and used our discount.)
• We continued to insist that a room be found for us, as promised to us when we reserved and paid for that room. We continued to be apologized to and told there were no rooms available – period. We were expected to stay at that other hotel or find other accommodations on our own.
• At this point, a third person came out to the lobby desk. Her name is Colleen and joined in the conversation and also told us that no rooms were available to give out – period. And oh, by the way, she apologized several times – like the other two staff members had been doing.
• During the conversation, we asked why we were not notified ahead of time of being bumped. We were told that reservations and payments to this hotel are made through a third-party company and that no contact information for us was available to the hotel. (Note: why does any company use a third-party company that they cannot communicate with? We asked that and were told that this third-party company did not provide any personal information to the hotel for security reasons. This is a major flaw in the process! While it is very much appreciated that a company is security conscious, the problem is such that communication to customers is lost.)
• We continued to insist that we get a room at this hotel, explaining that my wife was a part of the wedding preparations with other family members staying at this hotel. For us to be three miles away made it very inconvenient for her to participate in those functions. Also, by being three miles away, the convenience of being with family for visiting and eating meals was lost. We continued to ask employees of this hotel that they find a room for us at this hotel.
• After about 20 minutes of what became an argument between us and Colleen, she finally said she’d try to do something for us. She disappeared to the room behind the lobby for about 10 minutes. When she returned, yet again another apology, and said she had a room for us. She then stood there looking at us, like she wanted a ‘thank-you’ for her efforts. She did not get one! She, the other two staff members and this hotel had now caused us severe aggravation and frustration and took 30-plus minutes from our lives by having to demand a room that was reserved and pre-paid by us. Yes, Colleen stood there waiting for that ‘thank-you’ – for doing her job poorly.
• After Colleen did her job and provided us with a room, we had to abruptly stop the employee standing next to Colleen from charging us a second time for our room. While it is policy for a hotel to take the credit card number for guests at the time of check in – why was there an attempt to charge our credit card for a room we had already paid for. The woman simply apologized to us, stating that she didn’t realize the room was already paid for. Was she not listening to the previous conversation we had with her and with Colleen, where we stated several times that we had already paid for the room?
• Once we arrived to the room and during our stay, here are the things noted that were a problem:
o The building was not built very well, in that the noise level from others was excessive. While we realize that in a hotel there will be noises, we should not have to hear people in adjacent rooms talking or hearing their television sets. We realized that the hotel was aware of this issue, probably from complaints of previous visitors, because on the night table were two small packets. In those packets were ear-plugs. What reputable hotel puts out ear-plugs for their visitors? Well, a hotel that is poorly constructed – like this one.
o That first evening, we could hear a dog barking from a room down the hall. This dog barked on and off for nearly an hour. Does this hotel really allow pets in rooms? Does that mean we are sleeping on a bed, with a top cover that is not washed on a regular basis, that was bounced around on by a dog from a previous guest. Not very reassuring!
o The selection of television stations was extremely poor. When guests pay the kind of money this hotel charges, one should expect a nice selection of channels on the television. At this hotel, if one were to not select all the channels with sports, news and shopping – very few channels were left to choose from.
o One of the stations on the television was one that showed pictures and descriptions of this particular hotel. We have seen this at other hotels and it is a nice feature to have. At this hotel though, there were only five slides in their presentation of this hotel and the descriptions associated with those pictures was brief and generic. No information of value was found on this channel about this hotel. (Note: At other hotels, that use this feature, there are oftentimes a dozen or so slides with pertinent information to go along with those slides.) (Double Note: While at breakfast on Saturday, the manager was making the rounds at tables and asking how things were going for people. When he got to us, he asked if we were staying at the hotel and what we thought of the room. Rather than blast him with the numerous problems and issues we had already encountered – he was told of the poor selection of channels on the television. Specifics, as described above, were provided to him. A woman at the next table overheard our conversation and stated the same about channel selection – that is was quite poor. The manager stated that the contract the hotel had with the cable company was such that only the stations we currently have were available. When asked why a higher level cable package couldn’t be obtained, the manager stated he’d consider it, but this was a third-party company and they couldn’t do anything about better channel selections at this time. Oh, and then he apologized to us and to the woman at the next table.
o The bed was not comfortable. The mattress was lumpy (a sign of it being old) and not easy to sleep on.
o On the rug, there was debris. It was obvious that the rug had either not been vacuumed lately or not done very well.
o The drain in the shower had what looked like strings or bits of toilet paper on it. There was not enough to cause the drain to be plugged, but still more dirt in the hotel that we had to contend with.
o When entering the room for the first time, the heat was quite intense. We found the thermostat on the heater at the window was cranked all the way up. We turned it down, but even after coming back from dinner later (hours after we turned down that thermostat) the temperature was still not acceptable. We finally turned the thermostat all the way down, to 58 degrees, and the room became comfortable the remainder of our stay.
o We always pull the alarm clock from the wall at the beginning of our stay in hotels. This, due to previous stays at other hotels where previous guests in those rooms thought it cute to set the alarm for the middle of the night – causing the next guests to have to get up and turn it off. Before I unplugged this alarm clock I did look at the alarm setting and sure enough, it was set for 4:00am.
o On Saturday, we left the room at 12:45pm and the guy who was cleaning rooms in our section was cleaning the room directly across from us. We even said hello to him on our way out. When returning to our room a little after 8:00pm that same day, it was found that our room had not been cleaned. The bed was not made, towels were not restocked, and garbage cans were not emptied. Is it the policy of the hotel to not clean rooms for guests when people stay more than one night? A complaint was made at the lobby desk about this and all I got was yet another apology, from the young woman who was now on day four of her training – one of the people we initially met when arriving at this hotel the day before. Talking the next day to some family members, who also stayed more than one night, they did not experience that problem of their room not being cleaned. So why was ours not cleaned? The ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign was not on our door. Were we being targeted in some way by the hotel for ‘causing them so many problems’ when we checked in and insisted on getting a room at this hotel, like we reserved and paid for?
o When going to use the coffee pot in the room, that decision was quickly terminated when the coffee pot was found to be disgustingly dirty.
• On Saturday evening, the connection to the Internet slowed to a crawl. I tried reconnecting, using my phone, and discovered that the connection (WiFi) to the hotel was an unsecure connection. I did not proceed because of security reasons. Why does a hotel in a major hotel chain not provide a secure connection – like so many other hotel chains do?
• We met up with other family members for dinner Friday night and were seated at a large round table adjacent to the pool area. We were told that was the only table available for five people (we were expecting two more for a total of seven, but those two never caught up with us). So, all through dinner time and visiting afterwards, we had to talk over the noises of the many kids in the pool. Nice that the hotel has a pool area, but like many other hotels – that pool area could have been enclosed so guests eating and visiting nearby could actually hear what others were saying. Yup, nice and relaxing – NOT!
• On Saturday morning, around 8:00am, a cat could be heard meowing in the hallway. I opened the door to the hall and looked both ways. Sure enough, about half way down the hall was a cat strolling along. Not far from that cat was a room with the door open (I could see the light coming from the room into the hallway) and from that room a baby could be heard crying. After returning to my room, I could hear that baby – at least six doors down the hallway – crying. Yup, the poorly constructed building didn’t afford a sound barrier such to muffle that crying.
• On Sunday morning, the day of our check-out, there was a sheet of paper slid under our door from hotel staff. It contained receipt information and some personal information. Problem was – that sheet didn’t apply to us – it applied to a room directly above us – on the third floor. So, we now had some personal information for another guest – where was our receipt and who now had our personal information? Fortunately for the person on the receipt we received that first, we are honest people and would not have used any of that personal information…and second, it belonged to one of our family members. Later, we mentioned to that family member about getting their receipt under our door. They stated they never got a receipt from the hotel. We explained that we turned in the receipt to the person at the lobby desk (her name was April). Oh, and by the way, when that receipt was turned in at the desk – we got yet another apology.
• Problems and issues from the experiences of other family members:
o The parents of the bride and groom were staying at the hotel. After checking in and getting to their room, they found dirty dishes in the sink and on the floor, the bed not made and clutter about the room. They returned to the hotel lobby and complained about that. They were immediately given another room. (Note: wait a minute – they were given another room immediately? Why were we told there were no rooms available then?) Oh, by the way, they were apologized to by the staff at the lobby desk.
o Another family member stated staff entered the utility room across from their room at an early hour on Saturday (and Sunday), where at least two staff members were heard talking loudly and laughing. So much for being respectful of guests at such an early time in the day. They continued conversing loudly for several minutes, then got some equipment running (wash machines?). When they departed, they left the utility room door open and that/those machines could still be heard by our family members across the hall. Why couldn’t that door be closed when staff members left? Maybe those earplugs should have been used by our family members – since this hotel is so noisy.
o Another family member, in another room, complained that some guy in an adjacent room was snoring so loudly that she could not sleep. There goes those thin walls again! Maybe this family member should have used the earplugs left for her? At 1:30am, she finally got up and went to another family members room and spent the remainder of the night there, sleeping on the chair with ottoman. So, she paid for a room at this hotel and couldn’t even sleep in it because of the noise. She even stated that she thought about those earplugs, but having tried earplugs in the past – she knows they are too uncomfortable for her to use.
• We will never stay at this hotel again due to the many problems and issues encountered not only by us, but also in hearing from some of our family who stayed here as well.
• We will never stay at a Best Western hotel again since the parent hotel chain uses a third-party company that affects all Best Western hotels (the company that does the reservations and accepts payments).
• The hotel doesn’t really care about guests or they would have taken better care of everyone. While we still think we were targeted in some way, because of our ‘causing such a problem at check-in’, the problems and issues at this hotel extended to other family members of ours.
• We firmly believe that in some way, shape or form – the training of staff at this hotel includes how to apologize to guests. In the 46 hours we stayed at this hotel, we were apologized to at least two dozen times and by different staff and management. More than two dozen! Many of these apologies were spit out at the time we were trying to check in and clearly, those apologies were not sincere – they were simply words being used by staff to try and appease a guest expecting what was promised – a room at this hotel that was reserved and paid for.
• Not only with the staff at the front desk during check-in, but the manager talking about the lack of television channels available to guests, it was clearly noticed that excuses were used in ways to blame the ‘third-party’ companies used by this hotel. It is the fault of the company who reserved and took payment for our room that they don’t provide a means for the hotel to contact guests when changes occur. It is the fault of the cable company for not providing a package to the hotel where more channels are available to guests. It seemed that many things were the fault of someone else and not the fault of the hotel.
• As to using third party companies in one’s business, we both believe that as the parent company (Best Western) they are ultimately responsible for the smooth and accurate processes and services provided to guests. I used two examples to Colleen and staff during check-in, when they continued to blame that third-party company for not notifying us of a change in our reservation. They were:
o President Trump has many people working for him in his cabinet, agencies, etc. If someone in those positions doesn’t do their job accurately, who is ultimately responsible for ensuring things are fixed and working for those affected by the actions of one or more people? It is the president who is ultimately responsible!
o Take it down a notch, if a CEO has people working for him/her and one or more people do something that affects their customers – who is ultimately responsible to fix the problems? It is the CEO!
o Now let’s apply this to Best Western. They utilize third-party companies who are not providing services for the benefit of their guests. Is it the responsibility of those third-party companies to ensure guests are taken care of in a positive manner or is it Best Western, the parent company, who is ultimately responsible? It is Best Western, if you hadn’t already surmised. If those third-party companies are not providing services to the good of guests of Best Western, then Best Western should be either working with those current third-party companies to fix things, find other third-party companies to do their jobs correctly, or (wait for it) Best Western should do their own work by employing their own staff and keeping matters in house, where better control can be had.
• Best Western, as a major chain, is represented by individual hotels located across this country. The experiences we (and other family members) had at the hotel in White Bear Lake, Minnesota were bad enough that we will not be staying at a Best Western hotel in the future. Sadly, at this hotel at least, the staff and management must believe that by apologizing for the issues/problems/shortcomings at this location, that will make things all better. Sincere apologies go a long way, but as previously stated, the apologies being spit out by staff and management at this location were simply not acceptable. It was clearly evident that those apologies were nothing more than empty shells of words.
This has been a very long review of the experience we had at this Best Western hotel and on behalf of my wife, we both hope that the information you’ve read here will help you make an informed decision about where your stay should be if you visit White Bear Lake, Minnesota. If you do stay at this particular Best Western, you at least know what you might expect of your visit. You too may experience some of the same things we and our family did on December 7-9, 2018. less