What Should My Hotel Do After Ruined Sleep?

Just before 2 a.m. on a recent Thursday night the fire alarm went off at the Park Hyatt Washington. There was substantial smoke near the hotel’s gym. Guests fled the building to the street. And while no actual fire took place, everyone was out of their rooms for a full hour.

In May, on the last night of my stay at the Seabird Resort, the fire alarm went off. My daughter was already asleep. The hotel didn’t communicate at all, either while it was happening (never even telling people when it was ok to go back inside) or afterward (to explain what had occurred).

The Park Hyatt did much better. A staff member was keeping guests standing outside the hotel updated and distributing water. The general manager was assisting everyone back into the hotel once the event had ended. However no explanatory note or apology followed the next day. What you knew about the event depends on what you happened to hear, or what you may have gleamed through the staff grapevine.

I’ve argued that when a hotel is without water it owes compensation to its guests. Even if the hotel isn’t at fault for maintenance or a water main break, they haven’t delivered a fundamental part of what the guest was paying for (e.g. the ability to shower).

Here I was up for two hours in the middle of the night – one of those hours outside. As best I can tell the smoke that made its way into the Park Hyatt may have even come from the building next door. So the hotel may not have been at fault. But all guests were ordered out of the hotel, and the hotel therefore was unable to deliver an even more fundamental part of what a guest is paying for – sleep, at night.

Does a hotel owe anything to guests rousted from their beds for an hour in the middle of the night, and of course also losing however long it takes them to fall back to sleep? I didn’t ask for something, but still felt that a follow up letter of explanation and apology the next day would have been appropriate. What say you?

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