Sleeping with the Dogs
Sleeping with the Dogs
Each day we are bombarded by questions of staggering importance: health care reform, bank failures, global warming, distressing unemployment rates and what motivates former congressman Tom Delay to become a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. It makes me feel guilty to raise an issue of infinitesimally smaller proportion. But, I consider it relevant to all travelers so raise it I will:
Why does the hotel/motel industry welcome pets and then not segregate them into specifically designated rooms?
I invite your wrath, accord or all comments in between on this issue. Even more, I’d welcome a reasonable answer by someone with authority to speak for the hotel/motel industry or even some small segment of it.
Before you send PETA my e-mail address asking them to spam me, let me assure you I love animals. I was the kid who brought home every stray dog that crossed my path. To this day I can’t resist a kitten and I walk our pier daily to check on the status of our swan family. But I take exception with motel owners who invite animals into their rooms and refuse to designate specific rooms as pet-friendly. There are many travelers who have allergies and should not be exposed to pet dander. I must confess, however, that this did not become one of my top 1000 social issues for the noble reason of protecting those with asthma.
Let me tell you a dirty story: My husband and I enjoy driving from our home in Michigan to our condo in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a perfect opportunity to see this gorgeous country, and my tolerant spouse has no choice but to listen to my incessant chatter. On a recent trip we checked into a well-known chain motel. This was before I had ever considered the fact that a dog might have occupied that room before us. Why would I care? We were exhausted and just wanted a clean bed and a continental breakfast. The room was a clone of standard motel rooms everywhere: gaudy floral bedspread, 25” TV with Pay for View, cheap mass-produced wall art, wifi for a fee, plastic ice bucket, Gideon Bible in the nightstand and menus from local restaurants.
I tossed my purse on the floor beside the dresser, noticing as I did something that looked like an unwrapped tootsie roll. I picked it up and will spare you the additional details except to say that the soft, squishy object was definitely not candy!
I let out a blood-curdling scream worthy of a slasher movie turned to full volume. My husband rushed from the bathroom. In twenty years of marriage I never saw him move so fast. In twenty years of marriage he had never heard me spew so many four letter expletives in a constant stream. Undoubtedly he thought my life was in jeopardy and I would have been touched by his concern if I hadn’t been so repulsed by what I flung in the waste basket. To his credit he was smart enough to offer sympathy without cracking a smile as I compulsively began washing my hands until the last speck of motel mini-soap dissolved.
We then grabbed our belongings and headed to the front desk where I voiced my outrage. The clerk meekly offered us another room. She said she would mention the incident to the manager in the morning. I figured she should comp us the room and give us a million dollars for my mental anguish but I knew she’d disagree so I kept those thoughts to myself. I imagined her sharing the story with her co-employees and getting quite a laugh at my expense. The good news was that I would never see her again.
The next night when we stepped into a motel lobby to secure our sleeping accommodations I asked a clearly disinterested clerk for a room that had never harbored pets. I was amazed to find the motel did not set apart pet rooms.
“You have specific non-smoking rooms don’t you?” I asked. The clerk nodded and I continued, “That’s because you want to spare unwitting guests the dangers of second hand smoke?” She must have had a glimmer of where this was going and didn’t offer me a second nod.
I barreled forward, “My children have pet allergies and my mother has asthma, don’t you care about them?” (Of course she could see that neither my mother nor children were traveling with us.) I was becoming an annoyance and she knew there was no way to appease me. She pretended I was invisible and absently flipped through her reservations file as though it held the key to an illustrious future far from this bland lobby.
Days later we arrived in San Francisco but my irritation had not dissipated. I was on a mission. I called several nationally advertised chains to see if they segregated pet rooms. I swore the first one that convinced me they had such a policy earned my customer loyalty. Apparently they didn’t care. It was calmly, although I would argue illogically, explained to me that chains leave the decision of whether to allow pets to the individual franchisee who usually permits them unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting all but service dogs in rooms. I don’t blame motel/hotel owners for wanting to appeal to the widest consumer base possible. I have many friends who travel with pets and I’m glad they can all get a good night’s sleep.
The point everyone seemed to be missing was that I took no exception with the policy of permitting pets, only with failing to restrict animals to certain rooms.
After a dozen calls not one customer service representative articulated a rational reason for that lack of good sense. Call thirteen was the charm. The representative insisted their national policy was to set apart pet rooms. Should I believe him? I wasn’t sure, so I persisted, “So, you can guarantee that if I come to one of your properties and request a room that hasn’t had pets in it you can accommodate me?”
“Absolutely,” he told me without hedging in the slightest.
I’m a firm believer that if something sounds suspicious, it probably is. So, I decided to confirm that promise. I called a second time, got a different representative and was told, equally unequivocally, that no such segregation policy existed. It seemed the answer I got depended upon whether I said I was traveling with Fido or my asthmatic mother.
Number fourteen admitted to me they did not set apart pet rooms, but guessing that wasn’t what I wanted to hear, the rep quickly offered, “Our rooms are, however, deep cleaned after each pet occupancy. That is why we charge a $25. pet fee.” Since this was the same chain where I’d picked up the phony tootsie roll I was more than a bit skeptical and felt justified asking, “How could deep cleaning have missed dog _ _ _ _?” He hung up. Call me a cynic but the $25.00 seems no more than a way to pad the profits.
Another motel representative insisted that as a courtesy, some of their hotels did segregate pet-rooms. I was on a roll so I asked, “So your locations that don’t bother to separate out those rooms are intentionally being discourteous to their guests?” It was obvious I was developing an attitude and the folks talking to me were becoming less pleasant. Maybe it was because they didn’t have a good answer.
After all of those calls I have only two suggestions: Never walk barefoot in a motel/hotel room and NEVER, EVER pick up funny looking objects in a room that allows pets.
Julie Royce is the Travel Adventures Editor for Wandering Educators.