Drama at the St. Augustine La Quinta — @LQ

In my 2+ years of perpetual travel around the world, it’s not surprising that I’ve had a few less-than-awesome experiences. Sitting on a snake on the toilet comes immediately to mind, and also that time my plane crashed in Kenya. My Budget Rent-a-Car incident in Hawaii was awful from a customer service perspective, and now I have another service-related travel tale to share. It’s a long story, but it’s a good one, and I bet you’ll be as steaming mad as I was after you read it. I’ve never, ever in my life been treated so poorly by hotel management and I just had to share it with you readers in case you’re ever looking for an inexpensive hotel option in St. Augustine, Fl. I now know where you shouldn’t stay, that’s for sure!

***

Background: my grandparents are involved in a local organization and every year some hodge-podge of cousins and siblings assembles to assist them with parking and hospitality for their annual weekend event in St. Augustine. For purposes of this story, let’s call the organization “The Club.” Each year, the Club reserves a block of hotel rooms at the La Quinta on Highway 16 in St. Augustine to house the helpers. Each year, they provide a list of names of the participants to the hotel, sometimes complete and sometimes not. It never seemed to matter in the past.

This year, my brother, his girlfriend Kristina, his roommate Rick, my sister and I joined our grandpa at the hotel on Saturday night. We had two rooms with 4 beds, which could’ve easily held up to 8 people. Keep that in mind later in the story.

We went to the St. Augustine Rhythm & Ribs Festival but found we were all just too worn out to enjoy it, so we returned to the hotel around 9:30 p.m. We checked the pool hours and decided since there were none posted, we would pop down to the hot tub before bed. We were the only ones there, the 5 of us, so we stayed outside chatting for about an hour before drying off and heading up to the room. Room 218.

It was about 10:45 p.m.  On the way up to our room, I stopped at the front desk to inquire if we could get a rollaway bed, since our grandpa was likely already sleeping down the hall and we’d all rather stay together and watch a movie anyhow. The Manager curtly said no, and I said, “No worries.” We could either squeeze onto one big bed or someone could have the floor. No big deal with this crew.

Apparently, that was the wrong question to ask.

We’d been in the room about 10 minutes and were changing into our PJs when the phone rang. Assuming it was grandpa calling to check on us, my sister answered. The look on her face told us it wasn’t grandpa. After a few minutes, she hung up and said, “It was the front desk. They’re towing your cars and calling the police.”

What?! Why?! We looked at each other incredulously and determined that since they didn’t know which cars were ours anyhow & didn’t provide decals to visitors, there would be no towing.

But what in the world would they call the police for?

The phone rang again minutes later, and this time my brother answered. I could tell from his tone that someone was speaking to him in the wrong way on the other end. Once he hung up and informed us that we were being kicked off the property immediately, Rick & I decided to go to the desk to straighten things out.

I knew it must all just be a big misunderstanding. Surely the management would see reason once I went down to the desk and explained the situation.

“What seems to be the problem,” I said brightly, putting 10 years of dealing with irate & irrational journalists in PR to use.

Immediately, the Manager’s voice was raised and accusing. First, he said we weren’t supposed to be there with 5 people in one room. And I countered, “We actually have two rooms. Our grandfather is down the hall in 207. There is plenty of space for everyone.” Problem solved, right?

He continued shouting that we were taking all the parking spaces and he was going to tow all our cars. I explained that we had two rooms, enough for 8 people, and thus we could’ve had 8 cars and still been within our rights as guests. And once Rick & I explained to him that we were only taking up two spots, the story changed again.

“Well, four of you aren’t supposed to be here. Your names aren’t on the list.” He waved the list provided by the Club in my face.

“I’m sorry the Club didn’t provide all the names, but it’s just a misunderstanding,” I said.  He didn’t believe a word I said, and he wouldn’t budge on his stance. He was convinced we were teenagers there to trash his hotel, apparently. Funny the only teenager in the group – my sister – was the one actually on the list.

I tried to assuage his fears. “I assure you we’re all meant to be here, working for the Club. We’re just trying to go to sleep so we can get up at 5 a.m. to go back to the event.”

“No you’re not! And you’re roughhousing! You’re disturbing everyone! You can’t do that in my hotel!” He waved his finger in my face.

WHAT?!

“First of all, you need to get your hand out of my face. I thought we were being removed from the property because we were taking up too many parking spaces? Or because our names aren’t on the list? Now we’re being too noisy? Which is it? Seems like you’ve got a whole list of ever-changing issues here,” I said, now not being my usually demure PR self. I could tell Rick was about to lose it, too. And he’s like the Hulk. You don’t want to see him angry.

The Owner stood there indignantly as I called him out, while his sniveling henchman Manager stood next to him.

“Were we loud or unruly in the hot tub? Have you received complaints about any noise from us? Have we done anything to disturb your guests?”

The Owner shook his head.

“Then I really fail to see what the issue is, and we are not leaving this hotel.” 

As Owner shook his finger about 3 inches from my face, he said, “Well I already called 911!”

I probably shouldn’t have laughed out loud. But I did. “You called 911? For what? So they’re going to come here and arrest us for trying to go to sleep before 11 p.m. on a Saturday night? For paying for two rooms and then filling them with less than the allotted amount of people? They’re going to laugh in your face.”

“You don’t know how the world works,” the Manager yelled at me, again assuming I was some naïve kid he could push around.

Oh, don’t I? I guess I’ll have to settle for my measly knowledge of TripAdvisor, Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere. Darn.

“Fine,” the Owner shouted in his thick accent. “You go to your room right now and do not come out the rest of the night!”

Am I 7-years-old? “That’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do for the past 45 minutes!”

***

After being treated like a child and not as a guest, disrespected and accused of all manner of things that weren’t actually happening, Rick and I went back upstairs to relay our sentence of being locked in our room to the other three. Rachel was already in bed reading her daily Bible study and Alex & Kristina were preparing to watch Happy Feet. Finally, after we told them about the absurdity of the whole situation with the Manager and the Owner, we were ready for bed. It was 11:40 p.m.

And then there was a forceful pounding at the door. It was the police. Of course it was the police.

I answered the door with a frustrated, “What now?”

Of course, Mr. Cop naturally sided with the management and assumed we were partying it up and tearing the hotel room to bits. He demanded to speak with Rachel since she was on the list, and poor RaeRae, the only teenager in the group, in her pajamas, was summoned to the door for a lecture on good behavior. (May I point out that the lecture we received in the hallway must’ve been much more disturbing to guests than anything we actually did the entire night. Great job, La Quinta.)

“I bet you wouldn’t be too happy if I went down there and woke up your grandpa and told him about all this, would you?” Cop threatened.

“Um, I bet YOU wouldn’t be too happy if you woke him up,” I whispered, knowing my grandpa would be far less diplomatic and we probably would all end up in jail. “We are not here to have fun. We are not here to party. If we wanted to party, we wouldn’t come to the La Quinta Inn next to the Outlet Mall, now would we? We’re just trying to go to bed, and if the management would stop harassing us, we would already be asleep.”

“Oh, I’m sure with all these girls here, you’re not going to party,” Cop said to my brother.

“Dude, THEY’RE MY SISTERS!”

“That’s ok. I’m from Palatka.” Gross, Cop. Just gross.

“Sir, I’m sure on a Saturday night you have actual crimes to deal with and real fun parties to break up,” I said. Cop peeked around the room, saw that our only offenses were eating Girl Scout cookies too late at night, and left with a warning that if he had to come back, we’d all be in serious trouble. 

We stood in the room whispering, again left incredulous that we’d been harassed a 4th time in less than 45 minutes, when all the while we were just trying to GO TO SLEEP. We were shaken and upset, and I for one didn’t sleep a wink because of the stress. I just knew Owner & Manager were glued to their security cams, hoping we’d pop out for a soda from the vending machine so they could tackle us to the ground and accuse us of more made-up nonsense. The whole ordeal was so unsettling.

***

The next day, we had to explain to our grandparents why the cops were called because you know Owner & Manager were going to tattle to the Club… and grandparents tend to automatically side with authority and presume *the kids* were up to no good. But we asked many of the folks staying on the same floor in the Club’s room block if they heard anything at the times we were in the hallway, and no one heard a peep.

Pretty interesting, isn’t it, Owner & Manager?  The only disturbances caused that night were the ones YOU caused to US. So thanks for that.

***

There are dozens of inexpensive chain hotels to choose for your travels, and while I’m not suggesting you skip all La Quinta Inns altogether, I’d wholeheartedly recommend (and practically insist) on skipping the one in St. Augustine unless you want to be screamed at, accused and threatened at all hours of the night, presumably for appearing young and fun. I stay in 4-and-5 star hotels 250 nights a year, and have never been treated with so little respect. And as I told my grandparents, I’ve certainly stayed up later and made more noise in hotels before and never, ever had an issue.

I sure won’t be giving La Quinta another chance. It’s just not worth it to feel so threatened.

***

What’s your worst hotel nightmare story? Have you ever had a run-in like this with management? Do you get treated with less respect because you look younger than you are?

***

An update/recap:

MANAGER ACCUSATION 1: There are too many people staying in one room.

ANSWER: We have two rooms, eight beds and six people. No funny business, no extra people.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 2: There are too many cars for the amount of people and you’re taking up all the parking places.

ANSWER: We only have two cars for the two rooms. The reason there are no parking spaces is because large vans and trucks are taking up multiple spaces.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 3: Your names aren’t on the list provided by the club.

ANSWER: That was an oversight on the club’s part. You could have called the club manager who was staying about 10 doors down the hall from the front desk to remedy the situation, but you wouldn’t. She would’ve confirmed we were meant to be there, but you wouldn’t do it because you didn’t want to be proven wrong, and you’d already called the police.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 4: You were roughhousing in the hallway.

ANSWER: We’ve seen the video, at 10:45 p.m., of the alleged roughhousing. It’s a joke that you’d even have the nerve to send that. The door that Alex knocked into happened to belong to a friend who was in the room at the time, and she heard nothing.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 5: You were in the hot tub after pool hours.

ANSWER: We asked at the desk what the hours were AND your staff gave us pool towels. When we asked if you’d received any complaints about noise in the hot tub, you said no.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 6: Only three people are allowed in the hot tub at one time.

ANSWER: Then why did you give us 5 towels? And why didn’t your staff come out and alert us of the rule, if it was in fact a rule?

MANAGER ACCUSATION 7: We received noise complaints from hotel guests about people beating on their doors after midnight.

ANSWER: We were in bed by 11:45 p.m. once the cop left our room, which I’m sure there is proof of on your security tapes. I would love to see the footage from 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. unless you’re afraid to share it.

MANAGER ACCUSATION 8: We patiently await your next false allegation.

 ***

OUR FINAL STATEMENT: You thought you could alleviate your parking problem by kicking out a group you thought were “unruly children” (verbiage taken from your fake review on TripAdvisor) who’d be unable to defend themselves. When we were able to refute each and every accusation you threw at us, you became irrational and escalated the the non-issue by calling the police, who subsequently laughed that you’d called them at all.

After realizing, upon reading this post, that you weren’t dealing with children at all, you demanded I stop trashing your hotel and cease blogging. While we appreciate the profuse apologies from La Quinta corporate, unfortunately it doesn’t appear the on-site owner shares the remorseful sentiment. I can only infer then that the criticism I’ve levied here is warranted and I would feel uncomfortable as a woman recommending anyone patronize this establishment. Stay at your own risk.

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37 thoughts on “Drama at the St. Augustine La Quinta — @LQ

  1. Amandalee27

    Bahaha. I love when it feels like you are in an episode from SNL. Ok, so I love retelling it later, not in the moment.

    I went to a bachelorette party at the beach a few weeks ago. Being responsible adults, three of us got a hotel room for the night. We are getting dressed, watching BB, laughing at 7:00 pm and the phone rings. It is our neighbors saying we are too loud. Ok, sorry. We weren’t being loud, and especially not for dinner time, but we’re sorry. When we go to leave a few minutes later, the old lady sticks her head out the door and yells at us again! I said well, we’ll be gone most of the night so you won’t have to worry about us (nicely). I then go to leave and she keeps at it and ask if we are partying on spring break! Ummm no. We are 40, 32, and 30. We are not on spring break. That’s episode #1 from that night.

    Episode #2 was when some bouncers wouldn’t let my friend in because she was drunk she couldn’t walk right. I kindly explained she has spina bifida and that is why she doesn’t walk “right” and that we do not generally engage in drinking to that point. The manager then proceeded to ask, with a straight face, if she has some “kind of card that certifies her problem.” Ummm, no. Do you have a card that says you’re an idiot? He did not. We took our business elsewhere.

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      Now THAT is unbelievable. Did you call the manager the next day? That’s just shocking and unacceptable on so many levels.

      And what is with people thinking any young-looking group of people at a hotel is there to burn it to the ground? Good heavens, lighten up!

      Reply
      1. amandalee27

        No, I didn’t bother. It wasn’t worth it. I mean, we aren’t hopping the beach bars every weekend or even every year. We were all shocked. My friend is awesome (why she is my friend) and stated, “My mom says I’m a miracle baby; I wasn’t even supposed to walk. Sorry if I don’t do it right.”

        It is really age discrimination; give me a break how loud can three people be?? AND IT WAS 7pm!

        I feel the St. John’s County Deputy did not have anything better to do, except bust a meth lab, but I’m glad he was there to control your group.

        Also, I did not realize parking at the La Quinta on 16 is at such a premium.

        Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      It was unbelievable to me, too! The next day, as we relayed the story to all the enraptured Club members, we thought perhaps we’d actually been Punk’d or on Candid Camera or something. That’s how nuts the whole experience was!

      Thank you for commenting!

      Reply
  2. Diane

    Wow, I really want to see if someone from LaQuinta follows up with you about this because that is SO out of line. I 100% believe your side of the story and sounds like the manager was cranky, judgmental and really rash in his decisions. Definitely not who you want in charge of your hotel. Eww. So sorry!
    Diane recently posted..We found a house, but there’s a problemMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      So far I haven’t heard a thing from La Quinta. You’d be surprised how many companies just ignore customer service issues like this in the hopes that it will just fade away…

      Honestly, I’ve never had an experience like this in a hotel or anywhere else. I really was flabbergasted. I’ve never done anything worth having the cops called, and certainly this time was no exception. Will keep you posted if anything comes down the line from LQ Corporate.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  3. Maigan

    Hey cuzzo! First I laughed at all of your clever and witty comebacks and then I got really really annoyed that anyone would treat you guys so disrespectfully! Knowing you, Alex, and RaeRae, I know you guys can get a little rowdy at times (dude, it’s in our genetics, it’s fine) but it sounds like you guys were being super chill and peaceful! Sorry you had to deal with such a rude management staff! Love and miss you! x

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      Oh yes, rowdyness on snowy hills, in karaoke bars and at bowling alleys is most acceptable behavior =) But not in hotels! Too bad you weren’t with us to experience the insanity =)

      Reply
  4. Erica

    Wow, what an upsetting incident. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy another minute in the hotel after something like that happening. I hope someone from the La Quinta brand contacts you to make amends, because that is so out of line!
    Erica recently posted..Snorkeling in the Cook IslandsMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      We definitely didn’t enjoy it after that. I was afraid to eat the free breakfast in the morning because I just knew we were going to get in trouble. So I went to Cracker Barrel instead. So far, nothing from La Quinta…

      Reply
  5. Lauren

    This is NUTS! Sounds like you kept your cool, so kudos to you. I was in St. Augustine in Feb, and I swear that I read a story about some sort of misunderstanding with the police shooting a teenager in the leg in the parking lot of that very same La Quinta. Maybe they’ve still all got their panties in a twist over there.
    Lauren recently posted..Settling Down and Fitting InMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      WOW! I also just read that they busted a meth lab at the Days Inn right down the road from this La Quinta. What is going on in St. Augustine?!

      Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      So far, I haven’t heard a word back from La Quinta corporate. It’s possible since it’s a franchise, they don’t really care about individual property issues. It really is too bad because it’s a teachable moment for management…

      Reply
  6. La Quinta Inns & Suites

    Hey Angie – We’ve read about your stay in St. Augustine, FL and apologize for the way you and your family/friends were treated. It certainly was not the experience we strive to provide for our guests. We would like to reach out to you and get some additional information about your stay. Will you please email your contact information to: facebook@LQ.com

    Reply
  7. Samantha DiMaio-Leach

    Count on me for a character witness for Rachel. She just babysat my 11 and 13 year old grandchildren last night and I trust her maturity and good sense completely.

    Angie – you certainly maintained a better control over your temper than I could have done on mine! I hope you get an apology from Corporate because this one bad apple La Quinta ruins the reputation of all these others.

    Reply
  8. Alex

    I’m sorry Angie, because I know this must have been a frustrating and maddening experience for you. Yet I CANNOT stop laughing at the image of the Orth siblings, doing volunteer work, watching Disney movies and completing Bible study having the police called on them. It’s just too good :)

    But on a more serious note, wow. What horrifying customer service. And they messed with the wrong customer.

    Reply
    1. Angie Away Post author

      Hahah, I don’t think the manager realized he was wagging his finger in a travel blogger’s face… there really should be a class on how to recognize us and NOT tick us off ;)

      Reply
  9. Deb

    That’s terrible. I won’t stay there and I want to go to Trip Advisor and put up a review myself. I hate it when companies put up fake reviews. It’s so obvious and yet so many people don’t notice! Thanks for letting us know, they didn’t know the influence that you have. But I bet they do now! :-)
    Deb recently posted..Fly the Flinders to Witness Wilpena PoundMy Profile

    Reply
  10. Pingback: 5 Places to Experience 500 Years of Florida - Angie Away

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