On Friday, May 29, 2009, I stayed overnight at the Homestead Studio Suites Hotel in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC. Homestead is one of a half-dozen brands operated by Extended Stay Hotels. Really, it is not a hotel at all. It is a motel if there ever was one. A large, sprawling two-story building, all rooms with exterior access, no amenities, no lobby. The rooms are small, plain, motel-type rooms with small kitchenettes – hence the "studio" moniker. I booked through AAA, which gave it a 2-star rating. The rate is cheap, however, at about $60, and I would have been satisfied if they hadn't towed my car away, at a cost to me of $175, plus $15 taxi fare to collect it.
How it happened is this. I returned to the place at 1am to find the single strip of parking spaces on my side of the building entirely full except for several unoccupied "handicapped" spaces. My room was on the near end of the building, second storey, and there were no spaces anywhere within sight or reasonable distance. So I parked in one of the handicapped spaces, reasoning that there were several available and it seemed unlikely any handicapped people would be checking in at that hour. Also, I was planning to leave early the next morning. I don't have a handicapped tag, though I am 63 and have bad knees. The sign warned of a possible fine, but not towing. But in the morning, at 7:30, my my car was gone. The desk clerk showed me a post-it note left at the desk – a car fitting the description of mine had been towed, with the name of the towing company.
When I phoned the manager, he claimed that a handicapped person checked in at 2:30 am and complained about my car in the space. He said they had to have the car towed or face a possible lawsuit. The 'hotel' had made no effort to contact me, the reason for this, he said, was they didn't have my car information on file. (It turns out they don't ask for that information, they leave it to the guest to provide it 'voluntarily.') They had other options, however. According to the manager they had a 63 percent occupancy that night, so they could have provided the complaining person with another room close to an unoccupied parking space. Or they could have offered the guest the use of one of three spaces reserved for check-ins, which were right next to the space I occupied. And they could have left a warning note on my car. The manager struck a righteous pose: I, not the hotel, had done wrong; he had been assured by 'corporate' that the hotel was in no way legally liable.
A footnote: At 7:30 Saturday morning when I looked out and saw my car was gone there was no one parked in that space or in any of the spaces nearby. It seems that many of the guests, handicapped or otherwise, are occupying the rooms for very short periods of time.
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- Also Known As:
- Homestead Studio Hotel Fairfax
- Homestead Studio Suites Fairfax