Never Again, Howard Johnson

I'm not a very picky person. I can deal with a lot of things that are thrown my way and I'm not often one to complain. That said, the service and quality of the Howard Johnson I stayed in in Swift Current, Saskatchewan was so poor that I feel the need to forewarn anyone who might be tempted in going there or to any Howard Johnson in the near future. First up, let me please state that I had a wonderful time doing my show in Swift Current and do not blame the festival in anyway for the poor quality of the accommodations. I know that the rooms were probably heavily subsidized for the performers and, as a small festival with a small budget, I can see how you would take what is offered to you. Howard Johnson is a recognized brand and, after watching a Mad Men episode, I was pretty excited to go there myself.

Let's start with my arrival: I arrived at the HoJo at around 1 a.m. The Festival Producer showed up with my performer package and my confirmation number for the motel. I am given a key to my room and the producer leaves. As I'm heading towards the room, the desk clerk comes running out telling me he gave me the wrong room, as someone is already in that one. 15 minutes later, he realizes that they do not have a room for me as the entire place is booked. He then spends the next 30 minutes calling every motel nearby to set me up with a room that he says the HoJo will pay for as it was their mistake. He also pays for a cab and gives me a free breakfast voucher for the morning. This guy was awesome and I appreciate the extra effort and initiative he put in. That said, he informed me that they would have a room available for me the next day and I would have too come back.

I was set up in the brand spanking new Motel 6 across the street. So new that it had only opened a few days prior and I was the first person to stay in my room. This place was great: shiny, new and clean.

Back to the HoJo the next day, I enjoy my complimentary breakfast and speak to the manager about the great service I got the night before as I wait for a room to clear. Timing was tight as I had to rush off to my tech rehearsal and I asked the daytime desk clerk if it would be possible for me to get a late check out tomorrow at 2 p.m. No problem was the response I got. I dropped my bags in the room, noticed a sunflower seed shell on the floor, figured someone missed a spot and headed to the theatre, not returning until very late that night.

At this point, after a tech rehearsal, a performance, a few drinks and very little sleep, I just want to go to bed. There are two of them in my room. As I lifted the covers of the first one, I immediately noticed that these sheets had not been cleaned. There were crumbs of some sort under the covers. Feeling frustrated, I tried the other bed. It was better though I only noticed in the morning that there was no fitted sheet on the bed, only a regular sheet they had put down instead on top of the mattress. In addition, I found ants in the bathroom and killed a few of them before finally going to sleep.

In the morning, slightly put off, I went to the front desk to get my free breakfast voucher, since it clearly states that guests receive a free breakfast for each nights stay. The man at the front desk, the same one that confirmed my late check out time, refused to give me one stating that you don't get a free breakfast if your room is comped. I don't know why I didn't mention the bed situation then and there. I think I just didn't want to make a fuss. Besides the omelet I paid for was better than the free breakfast special. I should note that the staff at the restaurant also thought it was weird that an overnight guest was not getting the free breakfast.

Back in my room, I decide to work out to my roller derby training video. I lay down on the floor to do sit ups and leg lifts and such, quickly realizing that the sunflower seed shell I previously mentioned wasn't just a case of one spot that was missed. Crumbs and small rocks started sticking to my body as I sweated. The carpeted floors probably had not been vacuumed in days.  After my work out, I hopped in the shower, only to have to climb right back out as a male staff member was trying to get in to clean (finally?) my room. He rudely asked me if I was leaving as I stood there dripping wet in a towel. I explained to him that I had asked for a later checkout time. He asked when and mumbled an apology as he left.  Back in the shower, I quickly noticed hair of various colours stuck to the shower walls. My roommate will tell you that if there is one thing that really grosses me out, it's other people's hair once it has shed from their bodies. Ugh.

I packed up my things and went to check out. I waited a good 15 minutes as no one was around the front desk. At this point, my ride has arrived and I just want to get the hell out of there. Plus, when someone finally did show up, it was the same unhelpful guy from before, so I just left.

After this experience, you can be sure that I will never again go to a Howard Johnson in the future if I can in any way help it.  If you've had any experience with this chain, please feel free to leave your comments below.