HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) — The Grand Strand welcomes thousands of visitors every year, and while many have good experiences with where they choose to spend the night, it doesn’t always work out that way.
“It was just, it was disgusting,” Marjorie Neal said of her stay at a hotel in Conway. “It was all just awful. The whole thing.”
WMBF Investigates periodically receives tips from viewers and visitors regarding bad stays in the area, and after speaking with a few people with bad experiences, we decided to take a look at the protections available to consumers.
We checked with several state agencies to see who might be holding dirty parts accountable. Come and discover, from the point of view of the state, that there really is no authority.
“I don’t feel safe at any hotel in the area because no one is watching the chicken coop,” Neal said.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it does not conduct general inspections of hotels or motels.
“If a hotel or motel holds a retail food establishment license, has a public swimming pool, is undergoing renovation or demolition (asbestos), has an underground tank (petroleum products), has a septic tank, etc., those aspects of the operation would be under the regulatory authority of DHEC,” a department spokesperson explained.
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the Department of Consumer Affairs said they also lacked the capacity to inspect.
“We refer complaints to DHEC about hotels if there is a restaurant in the hotel or a swimming pool, as they look into these issues,” a spokesperson for the Department of Consumer Affairs said. An example of this would be if a complainant cites a bug issue, and there is also a restaurant at the hotel.
Ultimately, according to the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, “there is no state regulatory agency to inspect hotels/motels.”
This does not mean that the inspections are not carried out by private companies or a franchisor. The SCPRT said nearly every hotel in the chain has cleanliness training. But that didn’t seem to detract from the experiences of two different women we spoke with.
Neal flew in from Florida for the funerals of her ex-husband and her daughter’s father in June.
She checked what people had said online about the Quality Inn in Conway near Highway 501, finding the reviews okay with an occasional bad image. She quickly booked it on a third party site.
But when she entered the room, she immediately went back to reception to tell them it was dirty.
“In the bathroom, my daughter had to remove things from the toilet seat before anyone could sit on it and sanitize it. The tub and shower had rows of grime, just grime everywhere. There were bugs,” Neal explained. “The bathroom had a roach catcher installed on the coffee maker and it was flipped over and had all kinds of hairs and debris on it.”
Neal had prepaid the hotel. She said the hotel told her they would not be able to issue a refund because she made her purchase through a third-party website. She said they offered to have a cleaner come and clean it when they arrived, but that never happened.
Neal said they got stuck and stayed.
“The girls put on caps over their ears so they didn’t get bugs in their ears, and I tucked my hair in really tight so nothing would seep through. I had a CPAP so I knew nothing was going to go into my mouth or my nose,” Neal said. “It’s almost like they take turns sleeping to make sure everyone is okay.”
We contacted the Quality Inn several times, even showing up in the lobby, to get some sort of statement or response from the hotel manager or owner. Our messages and emails have never been returned.
Choice Hotels International, the parent company, responded to our request via email.
We are sorry to learn of this incident regarding Mrs. Neal’s recent stay at one of our Quality Inn properties. Please be aware that we are reviewing this matter further in consultation with the hotel and hope to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
Pennsylvania resident Vicky Howard was also unhappy with her vacation rental in Garden City Beach, while on a trip to visit family.
“When we walked in it was awful,” Howard said. “The front door blind was broken, there were dead bugs, live bugs. Rodent droppings.
Howard said the property management company, Coastline Beach Rentals, told her they would send a cleaning crew, but she didn’t stay to find out if they were taking care of it. She wanted a full refund and received around $200 in return. But she said the company told her the remaining $500 and more would not be returned.
“This place needs more than a cleaning crew. It needs to be exterminated,” Howard said. “The hold hangs. There was an exposed pipe in the bathroom. Someone used the toilet and left him in there.
Coastline Beach Rentals declined to comment for this story.
Renee Wikstrom of the Better Business Bureau said that while you have the right to expect a clean and safe room, there’s essentially no law in South Carolina to guarantee that.
That means you have to be your own advocate, according to Bailey Parker of SC’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Wikstrom said if you experience a bad room, you can request housekeeping, a room change, and if those aren’t available or up to snuff: a refund. But the fine print in the contract you signed for your room is ultimately what can keep you from getting your money back. Always read it carefully in advance, before finalizing the reservation of your stay.
If you are unhappy with your room when you first enter, do not use its facilities. Take lots of photos and show them to management. Also try to get them to take a guided tour with you, Wikstrom said.
If you don’t stay in the room, you may have to give up the first night.
“That’s typical in most booking deals you do,” Wikstrom said. “But you may be able to get the rest of your refund if the hotel or condo association rebooks that room.”
Large online purchases should be made with a credit card, not a debit card, to protect you in case something goes wrong, Parker said.
“The debit card is a straight line in your checking account, isn’t it? Once that money is gone, it’s most likely gone. It’s a lot harder to get back,” she said. declared.
Also consider getting travel insurance and be sure to research reviews on a room.
Besides Google, third-party and hotel websites, the BBB and SC Department of Consumer Affairs websites also provide good methods for reviewing previous guest experiences.
If you’re having a bad stay yourself, help the next person out by reporting your experience on either site as well.
“I always tell consumers when they tell me because they’ll call me and be like, ‘Well, why should I file a complaint if you can’t force the company to do anything?’ It’s a valid question,” Parker said. “And my response is always, ‘Because if you don’t file a complaint, the other consumer who might be looking to do business with this company won’t know there was a bad outcome. “”
You can file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs via this link, and the BBB here.
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