Econo Lodge Columbus Mississippi
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

Blood Stains, Mold, Rat Trap — Response and Compensation: Do You Think It Is Fair?

What would you have done?

Not long after I checked in to a specific hotel, I eventually spent the night in a rental car instead because the property was revoltingly disgusting — with plenty of photographs of my experience to prove that observation — and also because all of the other lodging options within 25 miles had no vacancy.

Blood Stains, Mold, Rat Trap — Response and Compensation: Do You Think It Is Fair?

Econo Lodge Columbus Mississippi
In addition to the ceiling, mold was also found in crevasses — such as along the bottom of the bath tub where it meets the tile floor; and also along the corners of the tiled shower walls; within the grouted and caulked areas along the bath tub; and other areas of the bathroom as well. Who would want to touch that disgusting plug which rested on the corner of the bath tub? Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

Since this article with photographs of blood stains, mold, hair, rat trap, and other factors was written on Friday, May 13, 2022, a number of readers of The Gate have asked for me to name the hotel property — and I have decided to do so in this article. That hotel property is the Econo Lodge in Columbus, Mississippi.

Yes, I actually included an affiliate link as a joke — unless you actually adventurous enough to want to try out this hotel property for yourself and I can earn a few pennies as a result at your expense.

Changing Rooms

Econo Lodge Columbus Mississippi
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

I had had more than enough of what I saw, as too many potential hazards deemed the first room uninhabitable, in my opinion — so I went to the front desk to let the agent know. When he came out from the back office, I explained to him what I saw — as well as showed him several of the photographs. He shook his head in disgust and acted extremely embarrassed, as he explained to me that he only had two full-time employees in housekeeping due to the current shortage of labor in the United States; and a couple more employees were in training.

“I appreciate your situation; but these conditions are still unacceptable,” I replied politely. “I am not staying in this room.”

He agreed — and shortly thereafter, he gave me the plastic keys to a room on the second floor. I walked in to immediately inspect that room — and after noticing that the entrance door to the room could not be properly secured, I saw that this room was definitely better than the first room and was actually considering getting settled in this room…

…until I noticed the multiple holes from cigarette burns on the cover and sheet on the king size bed — as well as multiple hairs on the bed itself; strands of hair in some of the towels; and unsightly stains in the bath tub.

I went to the front desk again and let the agent know that even though the second room was much better than the first room, it still did not meet the basic requirements of a reasonably clean place to spend the night. I then showed him more photographs; and he once again appeared to be mortified. He downloaded all of the photographs from my mobile telephone while simultaneously agreeing with my assessments of both hotel rooms.

“I just want a reasonably clean hotel room in which I can work, shower, shave, and brush my teeth” is what I responded when he asked me what he could do to make things right. He tried to book me a room at a Quality Inn property nearby; but it was sold out.

He then did something which I thought was strange: he said that one guest still had not shown up; so he did not know if he could release that room to me yet. He even attempted to contact the guest but was unsuccessful — so he offered for me to wait until that guest called back before he could release the room to me. I was not about to waste an inordinate amount of time waiting for some guest to call back; and I was already there. Why not release the room to me at that moment?

Contacting Choice Hotels International, Incorporated

Econo Lodge Columbus Mississippi
The swimming pool — which was covered with tarp, as it apparently was not yet open for the year — was the view outside of the room, with Military Road on the other side of the far wall. Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

I told him I would let Choice Hotels International, Incorporated — which is the parent company of Econo Lodge — know about my experience; that my night was already ruined; and that at that point, I would rather spend the night in the rental car than stay in that hotel property with its current conditions…

…which I did. The time was after 12:30 in the morning at that point when I left the lobby, got into the rental car, and drove miles away from this Econo Lodge property as fast as I can; and after I got settled into the rental car in the expansive parking lot of a major discount retail store, I contacted the customer relations telephone number of Choice Hotels International, Incorporated at 1-800-300-8800 and reported to the customer service agent as to my experience.

After going through a maze of prompts — one of which advised to contact the employee behind the front desk if a problem was with a current stay — I finally got through to a customer service agent to whom I relayed my experience and asked if he can do anything for me.

“I’m sorry, sir; but as long as you are still technically considered checked in at the hotel, there is nothing I can do except document your experience and record your comments,” he replied. He then gave me a case number and informed me that compensation will be discussed with me within three to five days.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “I am currently sitting in a rental car with no place to stay. Can you please find another hotel where I can stay so that I can sleep, take a shower, shave, and brush my teeth?”

He repeated apologetically that “as long as you are still technically considered checked in at the hotel, there is nothing I can do except document your experience and record your comments.”

“So what am I supposed to do right now?!?”

He replied that there is nothing he can do for me about that; but he gave me a case number and said that I will hear from someone in three to five days. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” he asked again.

“You cannot seem to help me with what I need right now,” I said, “so please stop asking me that question.”

Stunned, I said “please add to your report that I am staying in a rental car tonight without a shower and without brushing my teeth” and hung up the telephone, knowing that we were going round for round in circles and that I was not going to get anywhere with him; and I prepared to spend the rest of the night in the rental vehicle.

Click here to see the rental vehicle in which I spent that night.

Follow Up — or Lack Thereof

Econo Lodge Columbus Mississippi
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

I stayed in the rental vehicle for the entire night and did not get any sleep.

Fast forward to one week later. I checked my Choice Privileges membership account. Nothing had changed. I redeemed 8,000 Choice Privileges points to pay for the room for the night — which, of course, I did not use due to what I considered to be abhorrent conditions — but those points had still not been returned to my membership account…

a white background with black text
Source: Choice Privileges.

…although my reservation did show that my stay was considered canceled.

I did receive a survey to complete; and I gave the hotel property the worst ratings possible — along with an explanation as to the reasons why I did so. A few days later, I received this response:

Dear Brian,

Thank you for taking the time to complete our online survey regarding your recent stay at our hotel.

On behalf of our entire team, I would like to apologize for failing to exceed your expectations. Your satisfaction is important to us and we will be using the feedback you provided to make improvements to ensure we offer an exceptional experience for our guests in the future.

I hope that you will consider staying with us again so that we can have another chance to provide you with a superior experience.


Customer Care

Oh, yeah. Sure. That response will get me to stay at that hotel property again.

Fed up without having heard from Choice Hotels International within seven days — never mind three to five days — I decided to contact the company via its official Twitter account: “I was given case number XXXXXXXX for an absolutely inexcusable experience one week ago and yet I have heard nothing from Choice Hotels. Nothing has been done. Could you please give me an update?”

An automated response instructed me to send more detailed information, which I did.

I received the following response almost four hours later:

Hello, Brian. Thank you so much for taking the time to alert us about these issues. I’m so disappointed after knowing the conditions of the room where you stayed. Certainly, this is not the experience we aim to deliver to our guests. Everyone deserves a clean and comfortable room to have a good night’s rest. As a valued guest, you always deserve top-notch accommodations. However, we have made sure to send all your concerns to the hotel owner so that they can take the necessary measures to avoid this type of situation in the future. Nevertheless, we made a deposit of 8,000 Choice Privileges points in your reward account to help make that up. Kindly know that our members earn 10 points for every $1 spent at Choice Hotels, so 8,000 points are equivalent to what you would earn after spending $800 at the property. Rest assured that this feedback has been shared with the hotel’s management to make them aware of your dissatisfaction. This important comment will help us to identify which improvements are necessary. If my team can be of any additional assistance, please let us know. -Debbie.

“…so essentially, you are refunding me the 8,000 points which I spent to have this unacceptable experience in the first place” was my response. “You do understand that the conditions of this hotel property were so bad that I did not even stay there. I left and spent the night in my rental car.”

Just for reference, to stay at the Econo Lodge property in Columbus in Mississippi for tonight, Friday, May 20, 2022, the least expensive rate is the member rate of $72.75 for the night plus $6.55 for a sales tax of nine percent, which means that the total cost for the night is $79.30. Why spend $800.00 to earn enough points to stay at this hotel property when I could have spent $79.30 for the same bad experience?

Three hours later, I received the following response:

We completely understand your point of view about this experience, Brian. It’s important to mention that our compensation is based on the number of rewards that the Econo Lodge was requesting on 05/12/22, which was 8,000 per night. However, our main objective is to recover your trust back in us and continue to have the pleasure to have you as a valued member. For that reason, as a gesture of goodwill, we have made a deposit of 4,000 points. That’s bringing your account balance to 13,020 points. Please know that by adding those points, the case is closed; however, we understand the importance of having a comfortable room, so your experience and concerns have been sent to the hotel so improvements can be made where necessary. Once again, thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to rectify this situation. -Debbie.

Do you believe that I received ample and appropriate compensation for my experience? Was this compensation fair? Would you accept this as the final resolution?

Final Boarding Call

I waited to reveal the name of the hotel property because I first wanted to give Choice Hotels International a chance to respond. I do not believe that they handled responding to my experience well at all. In fact, they handled it rather poorly, in my opinion.

I do not expect absolute perfection; but I do not believe that the hotel property in question would pass a routine health inspection. It should be closed down until it is cleaned up and meets the basic standards of cleanliness, in my opinion.

In the meantime, the only recommendation I give for this Econo Lodge property in Columbus in Mississippi is to avoid it at all costs — unless you like the idea of cohabitating for at least one night with mold, blood stains, hair, at least one rat trap, and other things which simply should not be in a hotel room or in plain view around a hotel property.

Econo Lodge in Columbus, Mississippi
2015 Military Road
Columbus, Mississippi 39701
United States

Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

Please note that I receive compensation for affiliate links posted at The Gate With Brian Cohen effective as of Sunday, January 1, 2017. You are not required to use these affiliate links; but if you do use them, your support of The Gate With Brian Cohen is greatly appreciated — and using affiliate links will not cost you any extra time or money.
  1. Tough one. It’s one thing if you went to a mid or high-end property.

    However, in Econo Lodge’s eyes, they gave you a “mint” in terms of compensation.

    Given how lousy their customer service was, take those points and never go back. I don’t see how you can squeeze any more blood out of this turnip.

    1. One part of me thinks that I was lucky to get as much blood out of this turnip as I already got, John L.

      I completely agree with everything that you wrote.

  2. Total bummer what you experienced, but what do you honestly expect them to do? Do you think the two rooms you were given at that EconoLodge were the only rooms that were horrid? There’s probably not a room in the whole place that wasn’t/isn’t a pit. And why do you think that was the only place within 25 miles to have any vacancies?

    Your compensation was obviously token and unsatisfactory, but there’s the question of scale. If Choice Hotels gave you a bigger refund than they did, what happens if/when every other guest seeks compensation for their trouble also? This hotel has a 6.2/10 rating on, which should have been a huge warning sign. IMO, any rating less than 8.0 is a yellow flag, and anything under 7.0/10.0 should have a DANGER sign. Under 6.0, probably a skull and crossbones sign.

    1. I checked with not only Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Hyatt, Choice and other lodging companies, Luke Vader; but I also checked with online travel agencies like as well…

      …and there was some motel of which I have never heard that was beyond that limit that had a vacancy — but driving to it was not worth it at that point.

      I cannot argue with anything that you wrote — but I felt that writing this series of reviews would potentially be helpful to readers of The Gate

  3. Based on the detailed confirmation of your experience (and apparent lack of meaningful corporate concern), anything short of yanking the franchise should result in the avoidance of Choice brands.

  4. I primarily stay at Hilton and Choice Hotels. I used to travel a lot so I accumulated a lot of points in all the programs but in recent years I’ve cut back to two. If there’s a good property that isn’t a Hilton or Choice, I will stay there.

    Run down and less than clean hotels in the Choice Hotel chain includes Rodeway Inn and Econolodge. Not all are like that but quite a few are. Lots of them are beat up but not dirty like that. It’s also not a guarantee it won’t be like that at other Choice Hotels but that’s less common.

    In NYC, there used to be the Park 79 Hotel, not belonging to a chain and located on the Upper West Side on, like the name implies, W. 79th St. They had to close down because they had a permit for only for low income housing but was operating as a moderately priced hotel. That’s an opposite example. A building is supposed to be a run down housing project but is actually a decent hotel. I stayed there a few times, including a month before it was shut down by the city.

  5. Your expectations of Econolodge properties are unreasonable. Econolodge is the gross run-down flag for Choice hotels – it’s where they put the not nice properties that are either bargain priced or are the last ones in the area to sell to people who don’t want to sleep in their rental car. They won’t kick out this hotel because they earn royalties and because it meets their minimum standards. Just never stay at an Econolodge ever again. You now know what you will get.

    1. While you are likely correct with the rest of your comment, Carl, I must vehemently disagree with the statement “Your expectations of Econolodge properties are unreasonable.”

      Whether I pay with money or points, I may not expect the most comfortable bed or the latest in conveniences — but I do expect basic livable conditions and reasonable cleanliness…

      …especially from a hotel property which is part of a multinational lodging corporation. The conditions with which I was presented were unhealthy and inexcusable as well as unacceptable.

  6. Your expectations are totally reasonable, and in conditions at that property is totally unacceptable.

    But the economy chains, especially Wyndham and Choice, are basically a revolving door of low quality properties. Short of being shut down by the cops the only guaranteed way to lose your license is to stop paying royalties. It’s clear from review responses thst they just don’t care. It’s been like that for years and it doesn’t seem to hurt the brands. I guess there just aren’t better options at the price range.

    As a side note, what compensation were you hoping for? A second free night at an EconoLodge?

    1. The sad part is that I was not hoping for compensation, Peter.

      All I wanted was for them to resolve the issue at the time that I was experiencing it — and they failed colossally at that.

  7. They should have hired you as their quality control inspector for all their properties.

    1. They could not pay me enough to do that, Not an Econolodge kinda gal

      …’cause I’m Not an Econolodge kinda guy myself.

  8. Revisiting this classic post for the memories after recently resolving a points crediting debacle with Choice Rewards. It is time to avoid Choice Hotels entirely. To wit:

    1. Attempted to resolve points issue by online form submission through rewards account in May. Was told in email reply to wait eight weeks “per terms and conditions” even though it was obvious nothing would happen.
    2. Waited the eight weeks. Resubmitted via online form in account – BUT NO, form is not working, for immediate assistance, call this number.
    3. Called the number. Navigated bizarre sequence of phone voice menus that wound up in infinite loop (Q: Describe what you are calling about. A: Missing points. Q: “Do you want two factor verification?”) and finally transferred to random rep.
    4. Hold for 5 minutes even though “there are ZERO callers ahead of you in the queue.” But at least I got through.
    5. Somewhat competent rep, after several long holds, adjusts the points to proper amount.
    6. At the end of call, says I can listen to a special offer for 250 points. I figure I won the battle so why not.
    7. “Special Offer” is literally a timeshare-style boiler room in Orlando where they try to get you to prepay for 4 days/3 nights at an Ascend property in their portfolio, supposedly at a time TBD by you in the next 12 months. Textbook high pressure sales tactics, offer sounds too good to be true (and it is), “let me get my supervisor for the elite level offers,” – RIIIIGHT! – bottom line you have to give them the money up front and take some sort of 2 hour tour of the property when you get there, along with some other catches that I tuned out but which would probably be annoying to deal with. I never got to the fine print stage.

    Obviously the “Special Offer” boiler room shows Choice’s true shady colors. It is exactly who they are. Hedge fund managers + timeshare salespeople + subcontinent Indian owners who do zero maintenance? Sounds like paradise – or a night in the parking lot. After my last points redemption I am done. In this next downturn, quality is going to become important, and I don’t mean “Quality Inn”. I’m thinking more like my World of Hyatt, especially if they do another “2,02x” year promotion next year.

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