We drove from Ontario, Canada to Galveston for an extended vacation on the Gulf coast, but since we were not sure exactly when we would arrive, we did not make any reservation. As it wasn't the busy tourist season, we did not expect to have any problem finding a room. The hotel was easy to find, since most of the streets in Galveston were laid out in a grid, with lettered avenues running east-west and numbered streets running north-south. We arrived at the Country Inn & Suites on a Monday evening and had no trouble getting a room with a king-sized bed. We did some research on the internet beforehand, and chose this hotel because it was a non-smoking facility and a relatively new building (only about 6 months old), at a central location close to the beach.
We got the room at a lower rate than what was posted online, with a CAA/AAA discount. The staff was very friendly and personable in general, and check-in was efficient.
The room itself was pretty clean and spacious and nicely decorated. The bathroom fixtures were clean. There was a coffee-maker, a microwave and mini-fridge. The carpet and the bathroom floor were also pretty clean. (We always take our shoes off when inside the room and walked around in sock feet, and my white socks stayed relatively white considering it was a hotel room floor after all.) It also helped that both the carpet and the tile floor were in light colour. It shows right away if the floor is dirty.
One major complaint about the room was the air-conditioning unit. It was quite noisy and blasted cold air into the room when it was running. You would freeze if you stood directly in front of it. Even though we set the thermostat at 77F, it didn't kick in until the temperature reached 78F, sometimes even 80F. The temperature fluctuation is a bit more than we are used to.
We stayed for a total of 10 days, and except for the first 2 days, the housekeeping staff did not sweep or vacuum the floors or clean the bathroom fixtures until the second-to-last day of our stay. Luckily we had tidy habits and the condition did not reach an intolerable level. We didn't raise this issue with the management right away because when we got back to our room, we just wanted to relax and did not want housekeeping to come and clean at that time. We just hoped it was an oversight and the room would be cleaned the next day, but it seldom happened, so we were a bit disappointed by that. Also, not every towel/facecloth was clean. Quite a few had stains on them. Most days we could find enough clean ones for our use, so we didn't complain about that either. But re-stocking of towels was kind of hit-and-miss. One day we actually had to go to the front desk to ask for clean facecloths because none of the "fresh" ones in our room was clean, and another day we had to ask for coffee because they forgot to re-stock in our room or re-stocked with decaf coffee instead of the real thing. However, the people at the front desk were always friendly and gave us what we asked for right away.
Nonetheless, these were minor glitches and we could put up with that, considering the price we paid for the room (below $60/night for the first 4 days -- Monday to Thursday, and $65/night for Sunday - Wednesday, but the rate went up to $159/night for Friday and Saturday nights). Breakfast was included and there were hot items including sausages and eggs, which were constantly replenished.
Overall, we were quite satisfied with our experience at the hotel, and that's why we kept extending our stay from the initial 3 nights to 10. HOWEVER, we were shocked to find at check-out that we were slapped with a $150 smoking fee because housekeeping apparently smelled smoke in our room one day. Rather than confirming with us whether we had indeed smoked in our room or not as soon as that was reported to the management, we were never made aware of that. The most insulting point was that my husband was asthmatic, and we chose this hotel explicitly because it was a non-smoking facility. When we raised our objection to this charge, we were initially told that there was nothing they could do to correct it because the manager was not going to be on duty until the afternoon, way past check-out time, and we had a long drive ahead of us to get home and couldn't afford to hang around to wait for the manager to show up. But we knew that if we had left then, we would never be able to get our money back over long distance negotiations. So we insisted on staying to wait for the manager. When she did finally appear, her attitude was too confrontational for my liking, and her tone of voice gave the impression that she believed we were guilty and her staff was never wrong. It was a case of "he said, she said", especially when we didn't even know when the smell of smoke in our room was reported. There was no way for us to counter-argue that, even if they couldn't smell any smoke in the room that day. The manager then said that she would wait for the head-housekeeper to show up for work and ask for a detail report of the incident, so we waited some more while refusing to pay the extra charge. Finally the manager relented and reversed the charge rather than having us wait any longer. She sounded more conciliatory at the end, since it was obvious that we would not back down until the matter had been resolved to our satisfaction. She even apologized for the agitation that it had caused us. I sincerely hope that this is a case of honest misunderstanding, and not an excuse to fleece the guests at this hotel.
As to the way this incident was handled, I have the following issues:
1. When a hotel guest was suspected of violating the rules of the premises, he/she was not confronted right away to confirm if this indeed had happened. Instead, the guest was just quietly charged a fine. If indeed the hotel's concern is to maintain a smoke-free environment, the first thing to do is to dissuade the guest from smoking in the room, if this were indeed the case, and not just to impose a fine at the end of the stay. This gives the impression that the hotel is more interested in collecting money from the guests than actually keeping the place clean and smoke-free.
2. There was not a manager on duty at all times at this hotel. At the time of this unhappy incident, there was apparently no one on the premises that could have the authority to make the decision to reverse the unreasonable charge. If there was ever any time where disputes needed to be resolved, it would be during check-out. A person-in-charge would also be required to handle any emergency that may arise at any time of the day or night.
3. As a hotel is a service-oriented business, the guests' satisfaction should be the utmost priority. To accuse a guest of any violations to the rules of the hotel is a serious matter and should not be undertaken lightly, without first checking and double-checking the facts.
4. During this confrontation, I had also called the corporate head office of Country Inn (Carlson) and asked them to help resolve this matter. However, I just got the typical brush-off, claiming no responsibility on the part of the corporate office because it is a matter between the individual franchisees and their guests. The tone of the "customer service" rep was on the verge of being rude and she was almost yelling at me for complaining to them! This does not bode well for the corporate image of Carlson at all, and I would hesitate to patronize any of their hotel chains from now on.
Pros: friendly front-desk, overall clean premise, bathroom amenities, reasonable rate, convenient location, free hot breakfast, well-equipped exercise room, view of beach from room, balcony for sitting outside
Cons: inconsistent housekeeping, free but unsecured wireless internet, suspicious extra charge
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- Also Known As:
- Country Inn Galveston Beach Hotel Galveston