What Should My Hotel Do After Ruined Sleep?

Just before 2 a.m. on a recent Thursday night the fire alarm went off at the Park Hyatt Washington. There was substantial smoke near the hotel’s gym. Guests fled the building to the street. And while no actual fire took place, everyone was out of their rooms for a full hour.

In May, on the last night of my stay at the Seabird Resort, the fire alarm went off. My daughter was already asleep. The hotel didn’t communicate at all, either while it was happening (never even telling people when it was ok to go back inside) or afterward (to explain what had occurred).

The Park Hyatt did much better. A staff member was keeping guests standing outside the hotel updated and distributing water. The general manager was assisting everyone back into the hotel once the event had ended. However no explanatory note or apology followed the next day. What you knew about the event depends on what you happened to hear, or what you may have gleamed through the staff grapevine.

I’ve argued that when a hotel is without water it owes compensation to its guests. Even if the hotel isn’t at fault for maintenance or a water main break, they haven’t delivered a fundamental part of what the guest was paying for (e.g. the ability to shower).

Here I was up for two hours in the middle of the night – one of those hours outside. As best I can tell the smoke that made its way into the Park Hyatt may have even come from the building next door. So the hotel may not have been at fault. But all guests were ordered out of the hotel, and the hotel therefore was unable to deliver an even more fundamental part of what a guest is paying for – sleep, at night.

Does a hotel owe anything to guests rousted from their beds for an hour in the middle of the night, and of course also losing however long it takes them to fall back to sleep? I didn’t ask for something, but still felt that a follow up letter of explanation and apology the next day would have been appropriate. What say you?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think that hotels should allow later check outs in order to allow guests to make up the lost sleep.

  2. Sorry about your experience Gary.

    This was as a topic previously at this link: https://www.pointswithacrew.com/should-you-expect-hotel-fire-alarm-compensation/ Similar comments as this thread. Some say yes, some say no. I think both articles bring up important points, regardless of compensation or not. As stated by one reader, “have a “ready-to-go” bag with all of your important items to get out of the hotel in a real emergency. I always have a small travel bag with my passport, cell phone, wallet, and jeans/shirt and jacket if necessary that I can dress fast and grab the bag and leave the hotel without having to think about leaving anything important behind.” I would also add to his ready-to-go items, an N95 mask to protect your lungs from the fine particles due to smoke inhalation. I would also recommend reading the fire escape plan on the back of the hotel door and know ahead of time what to do and where to go. How many of us actually do that?

  3. Good advice.

    Regarding compensation from the hotel. If the hotel is liable, due to something they did consciously, then some form of compensation, is reasonable. I would suggest, a free night on their next stay at the same hotel.

    Many guests, are greedy and look for unreasonable compensation. i.e. How long it takes them to go back to sleep. Does that suggest, more for someone who takes longer to go back to sleep, versus someone, who takes 5 minutes. This can be a can of worms. Especially for those individuals who want something. The mere suggestion of how much time it takes to go back to sleep, is subjective, and it is open to the honesty of the individuals who are looking for something. My suspicion is, they just might, not be totally honest, if they know their compensation is based on TIME.

  4. After consulting with resident attorney, they advised you all look up the term “force majeure”.

    “A force majeure clause allocates the risk of loss if performance is hindered, delayed, or prevented because of an event that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled. It provides a contractual defense, the scope and effect of which will depend on the express terms of a particular contract.” – American Bar Association

    This clause is in every contract or terms of service ever written by a half competent lawyer. The hotel owes you nothing, from a legal standpoint. But they do implicitly guarantee your safety, so they do have an obligation to let you know of potentially unsafe situations, including waking you up with a fire alarm.

    FWIW, no hotel ever, in history, has ever contracted for a good night’s sleep. They contract with you for a room with a particular set of amenities. What you do in it is up to you. They are not going to guarantee a good night’s sleep any more than they’re going to guarantee you can get it up with the escort you sent for.

  5. @C_M: What about the Hampton by Hilton’s new 100% Hampton Guarantee that aims to keep guests Happy@Hampton. I guarantee most guests will be grumpy when they get to celebrate 2 AM with interrupted sleep due to a faulty fire alarm. I agree, however, that Hampton by Hilton and all the other Hilton hotels will not guarantee their hometown hotel escorts.

  6. @Ken A – An advertisement is not a contract. You can argue that it is, you might win, but you’re going to spend thousands trying to collect $50. (Which is why such things become class actions.) There are huge amounts written about this and people in law school study this exact sort of things in Contracts, a 1st Year class. (There are also laws against false advertising and fraudulent advertising, but that is generally something that needs to be enforced.) Consider all advertising as hype and count yourself lucky if they live up to it.

    This is just at the beginning of a long article on this very subject.

    “Can an Advertisement Be a Contract?

    Making an offer is the first step of forming a contract. While offers can come in many forms, an advertisement is usually not considered an offer to enter into a contract. Announcements, brochures, and catalogs also do not reach the level of an offer. Instead of counting as an offer, an advertisement is an invitation for a deal, meaning if the person who published the advertisement decides not to sell the item at the advertised price, this would not count as a breach of contract.”

  7. @C_M: Thanks for the additional information regarding contracts and guarantees. I agree. It is wise to consider all Hilton Hotel advertisements and guarantees as unenforceable hype.

  8. The Hilton escort service, is only for those with Hilton Honors. And, there is a “service” charge, billed to their Hilton Honors account. It’s a special perk, for those in need. Wives of Hilton Honors recipients, are not pleased with this service, offered to their husbands, and a few, have asked if the same service is available to them?

  9. You are way off track regarding the original topic. Now that I looked up Hilton Honors Escorts, I will probably get all kinds of stupid stuff on my computer.

  10. We had a sleepless night owing to fleas in the bed at the Ascot Hyde Park Hotel in London last month. No alternative accommodation or refund was received. We had booked another night there thru booking.com for 152 Euros. When we tried to cancel that we were repeatedly refused a refund.
    Keep away folks.

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