Beset by bedbugs, tourist fights to get refund from South Loop hotel
If the walls in Room 1117 of the Travelodge on East Harrison Street could talk, they'd probably have told Stephanie De Verges to get out.
If the walls in Room 1117 of the Travelodge on East Harrison Street could talk, they’d probably have told Stephanie De Verges to get out.
But the horrors that occurred inside the South Loop hotel room came without warning, leaving the Tulsa resident and her two friends from college at the mercy of some very hungry bedbugs.
De Verges said a few bites showed up almost immediately, but the full extent of the damage was not apparent until she boarded a plane home Nov. 9. By then, red welts were popping up all over her body. The itching was unbearable.
“I stopped counting at about 47 bites,” she said. “It’s like having your body on fire in certain places.”
Days later, with the bites still throbbing, De Verges visited her doctor, who confirmed her suspicions: the “pruritic papules on her neck and extremities,” as well as the ones on the rest of her body, he wrote, “would certainly be consistent with bedbug bites.”
De Verges called the hotel’s manager who, when pressed, admitted room 1117 had been sprayed for bedbugs just weeks before De Verges and her friends stayed there.
De Verges sent him a copy of her doctor’s letter, along with photos of her bites. She requested a full refund of $482.41, the cost of the three-night stay.
When she heard nothing back, she contacted the hotel’s corporate owners, Wyndham Hotel Group, and Hotels.com, where her friend had booked the room.
At one point, the hotel offered to refund half of the money. De Verges declined.
Seeking a full refund, she e-mailed What’s Your Problem? on Feb. 26.
“We were trying to be very budget-conscious, but it kind of bit us in the behind,” De Verges said. “You just get to the end of your rope and you’re like, ‘What else am I going to do?’ ”
De Verges said neither of her friends who stayed with her in the room developed verifiable bedbug bites.
Her bites have since cleared and it does not appear any of the insects followed her home. She spent the first few nights back in Tulsa sleeping with a flashlight, terrified she would see the bugs.
“It’s worse at night. You wake yourself up scratching,” she said. “It was very nerve-racking. It was uncomfortable both physically and emotionally.”
The Problem Solver called the hotel’s general manager, Minas Gorguis. On Monday, Gorguis admitted there had been bedbugs in room 1117.
“When Ms. De Verges first brought her possible contact with bedbugs to our attention, I attempted to respond in the way I felt was proper,” he said. “I explained to Ms. De Verges, out of good faith and full disclosure, that the room had an issue before and that all available options [of] elimination had been utilized.”
Gorguis said the hotel, at 65 E. Harrison St., has a policy that at the first sign of infestation, mattresses from the room in question are disposed of. The hotel then has a pest-control professional treat the room. After the treatment is complete, the hotel keeps the room off the market for a minimum of one week, he said.
A hotel staff member said room 1117 was closed for three weeks before De Verges’ stay.
“After careful evaluations by our staff and the staff of the pest-control company, we felt that room was safe to return to service,” Gorguis said.
On Tuesday, the manager refunded the full amount of the stay to Hotels.com. Maureen Carrig, a spokeswoman for Hotels.com, said the refund was processed Wednesday and a $482.21 credit will appear on De Verges’ friend’s next credit card statement, and the online site will give her $100 in “hotel bucks” for a future booking.
Gorguis also offered De Verges a free night’s stay.
De Verges said she feels fortunate to have gotten the money back, but even better that Gorguis admitted there was a bedbug problem at the hotel.
“That’s so professional. I’m thrilled,” she said. “That’s the exact response I was hoping for. … I just cringe for all the guests who go there.”
As for Gorguis’ offer of a free night’s stay, De Verges said no thank you.
“That’s very gracious and very professional,” she said. “But we wish to decline that offer.”