The worst hotel we've ever stayed in: a cautionary tale

After looking at that featured image, you'd be forgiven for thinking, ''Well, it doesn't look that bad?" but if you get anything from this post, it should be the old cliché of not judging a book by it's cover (or perhaps more accurately here, not judging a hotel by the Instagram filter applied - n.b. we normally go for Valencia!)

The Redbury: Style, but lacking in service (and soundproofing!)

The Redbury: Style, but lacking in service (and soundproofing!)

Another thing that I feel it's important to highlight early in our relationship, dear reader, is that Have Husband, Will Travel is not going to be a place of negativity and scathing reviews of places when David or I didn't get our way.

There's two reasons for this: firstly, most of the time we do get our way, and secondly, we get our way because we plan, research but most of the time drop extremely lucky in the rooms allocated to us! We also very much enjoy and frequent the luxury market of hotels and travel experiences (although we also get great bargains regularly).

Our experience at The Redbury (at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles) in April 2015, perhaps highlights us at our most inexperienced as holiday planners (or examples that it's easy to make one booking mistake when you're planning a wedding and a transcontinental honeymoon). We think it's important to share the cautionary tale of our stay at The Redbury, and more importantly, how we worked to turn things around in order that we didn't feel cheated in the cost of our four-night stay there.

So, why did we book The Redbury in the first place?

David and I (particularly, David) are cinephiles. Prior to our Honeymoon trip we got excited about visiting Hollywood by devouring Mark Cousins's fantastic multipart documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (more than 900 minutes of it!) Although it could be argued that golden-era Hollywood was never beautiful or romantic, in our heads (potentially influenced by lots of Lana Del Rey in our daily playlists), we wanted to stay in the heart of Hollywood and be somewhere that dripped in golden-age nostalgia.

I mean, can you argue with that? Glamour! (The wall, not the husband!)

I mean, can you argue with that? Glamour! (The wall, not the husband!)

No view here apparently!

No view here apparently!

On check-in, it was clearly immediately, that despite the very beautiful surroundings, something wasn't right. It was the staff member on the front desk that started to give us pause for thought, although to begin with, we thought she might have been underselling the room in order to give us more of an impact.

Front Desk: "There isn't much of a view from your room."

David: "It's okay. We've had our share of views over the past week or so. We're happy to see Hollywood on foot."

A view (to a kill) of the Hollywood sign

A view (to a kill) of the Hollywood sign

It was true too; we'd travelled from New Orleans on the Sunset Limited, from green swamps to golden deserts, to the brown and greys of California, over three days. We then hopped on a plane to San Francisco and were treated to a hotel room in Fisherman's Wharf with a phenomenal view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Whilst it was fine to have a standard view, we were paying $329.00 per night at the Redbury, and I have to admit I was a bit miffed, especially as not one "congratulations" had been given to us with us choosing to spend the final leg of our honeymoon with The Redbury.

Like I say, the front desk staffer was either unaware of the room's view, or, as we came to think, just did not care about the customer experience: it turns out we had a cracking view of both the world famous Hollywood sign and the Capitol Records Building.

Even though we were on our honeymoon, we did want some sleep!

Even though we were on our honeymoon, we did want some sleep!

The confusion on the room's view soon became the least of our worries. On our way out to sightsee, we'd asked the front desk to book us on the Paramount Studios tour, as they'd highlighted they could. We wanted to explore Hollywood one day and do a supervised tour the next. On our return to the hotel later that evening, the staff had changed over and it turned out that the front desk staff had not followed looked into our request and we ended up having to sort ourselves later that evening. 

The first evening wasn't a relaxing one at all. Whilst the room was plush and comfortable in decoration, a big problem quickly arose. The Redbury is a hot nightspot, and the glazing on the balcony doors was not created to keep the sound out. It was like trying to get some shut eye in the middle of Studio 54.

Now, I don't mind a bit of noise when I'm trying to sleep. It actually helps me fall asleep, however, David, on the other hand, is a very light sleeper. I sometimes can tell on our approach to a hotel room we're checking into for the first time, I've we're about to turn tail and go back to the front desk to request a new room (usually being next to an elevator is a big clue!)

This was even too noisy for me; it was actually incredible. We made contact with the front desk and they were able to move us (at midnight) to a different room. The hotel claimed that the seal in our balcony door was broken which caused the noise to seep in. On movement to a new room, which meant we had to repack (!), the level of noise from the bar and restaurant below still hadn't changed.

And we do our research; there was no indication, that this place would be a total party hotel. Looking a bit deeper into reviews when we got home, there were a few 2.0s and 3.0s on rating sites indicating noise, but they were totally consumed by the 8.0s - 10.0s that were being dished out left, right and centre.

It wasn't just the noise too, the staff were generally unenthusiastic and crossed the border into downright rude several times during our stay. At one point towards the end of our staff, the General Manager, who we'd been working with to resolve matters, asked us to be his guests in The Library, the hotel's swanky bar and lounge area. It didn't go well and was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I'll let this actual snippet from our complaint email, sent the same evening, tell the rest of the story:

Looking back, we were able to share our feelings with the management, negotiate a considerable refund based on the level of service we thought we had received. It did end our honeymoon on a slightly sour note, and it was a hotel, from the photographs and at the time of booking, we were so excited to try.

However, at least no other travellers will fall into the trap of The Redbury. The chain's Hollywood and Vine location closed in 2017 after it was sold for $41m to Microsoft co-founder turned real-estate developer Paul Allen.

So you won't have to worry about enduring a poor night's sleep from this particular hotel, but there's always a concern that you're not going to get what you expected concerning a holiday booking. Here's some of our tips on how you should deal with it:

  • Be reasonable: Did you book a less expensive garden view, but are a bit annoyed that you didn't get that upgrade to city view? It's unfortunate - we all like an upgrade - but in this instance, the check-in staff have not done anything wrong. Similarly, don't think that just because a small detail was not perfect, that a complaint will get you a free night or an upgrade. Sometimes an apology is just what is needed.
  • Be pinpointed in your complaint: It's much better to be able to be specific. Provide as much detail as you can about why you are not happy. For example, at The Redbury, we advised that the room's features were not capable of keeping the noise out, that we were unhappy that we had to change rooms at midnight on our second evening, that the staff were uncourteous and rude, about the lack of breakfast on one morning etc.
  • Ensure you keep a record of names of staff you've spoken to or who are dealing with your query and be sure to follow-up whilst you're still checked into the hotel. You want to nip this in the bud at the hotel.
  • Follow up your complaint regularly. Yes, they should get back to you, but there's nothing wrong with you highlighting how important the issue is to you by bringing it back to their attention.
  • Ask for a manager if your reasonable requests are not being dealt with by front desk, but don't ask for the manager straight away. In nearly all instances the front desk staff are more than capable of dealing with your issue.
  • Refrain from talking about how much you've spent on this trip, or your loyalty status. Your computerised records will share all this information with the front desk and management you encounter. All guests should be of extreme importance to the hotel.
  • Finally, if you can't sort it at the hotel in question, and the hotel is part of a chain, don't be afraid to escalate. You can do this whilst you're still on the trip or when you get home. I truly believe that our refund was so generous from the team at The Redbury as I'd copied in the General Manager (along with Duty Manager) and even the Regional Manager to my complaint. I would have not done this for a smaller issue, but in this instance, it certainly was warranted. Do some googling for hotel contacts (email addresses are often able to be found for the chain of command - and LinkedIn is great for this!)

Also, the next update will be more positive, honestly! But in the meantime, we'd love to know some of your travel horror stories and how you solved them in the comments!