“You recently enjoyed a Dayuse experience, and we thank you for it,” read a cheerful e-mail that popped up in my inbox, referencing a recent hotel stay.
“Enjoyed” is definitely not the word I’d use to describe it.
Dayuse is a third-party site that allows travelers to book hotel rooms for a few hours during the day without staying overnight. The email message referred to a room I booked to use after a recent red-eye flight. I made the reservation more than two weeks in advance to ensure I’d have a place to shower and catch a few z’s before my onward journey.
However, as any savvy traveler knows, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to hotels. My stay was fraught with miscommunications and hassles on the part of the hotel, but I did get a much-needed nap and shower. Was my day-use hotel room worth the initial hiccups I experienced? I’m still not sure. Here’s what happened.
Fresh off a trip to the Galapagos and running on exactly zero hours of sleep, I deplaned in Houston around 6 a.m., cleared customs and took an Uber to the Hilton Garden Inn Houston/Bush Intercontinental Airport for my 7 a.m. check-in. At 7:02, I walked up to the desk, said good morning to the night manager, who was still on duty, and told him I wanted to check in.
He looked confused.
“We don’t have any rooms available,” he replied. “We were fully booked last night, and most day-use reservations don’t start until 9 a.m.”
More than a little delirious from my lack of sleep, I pulled up my confirmation email, which clearly showed my reservation was for the use of a room from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. — one of two blocks of time offered by Dayuse.com. (The other was 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
“I know you’re probably very tired, but day-use rooms are subject to availability,” he said, shrugging his shoulders, and told me I was welcome to wait. “We might be able to have something ready for you by 8:30.”
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I took a deep breath to restrain my frustration and calmly showed him that there was no such stipulation in my confirmation. In fact, the Dayuse e-mail proclaims, “…your room will be up and ready for you.”
On its website, Dayuse’s answer to a frequently asked question about prepayment (which I was not asked to provide) reads, “As soon as you receive your confirmation, the booking number is a guarantee that your booking is firm and final.”
I also told him that I didn’t understand how they could allow someone to book a room that was already spoken for. I know it happens all the time, resulting in guests being walked, but that doesn’t mean it should.
He apologized but said there was nothing he could do and actually went so far as to say, “When we’re fully booked, we have no way of contacting Dayuse customers to let them know.”
That’s a problem.
I stepped away from the desk to call the airport’s on-property Marriott hotel, hoping I might be able to ditch my Hilton reservation and, instead, grab a day room there. No luck.
I pulled my luggage back to the front desk to ask if I could have breakfast in the lobby’s small cafe while I waited. The manager said yes but noted that it wasn’t included in the day-use rate. Because I hadn’t checked in yet, I wasn’t able to charge the cost to my room, so I walked over to the cafe counter to order and pay.
“Oh, our credit card machine is down,” said the woman working the register after I placed my order and held out my card. I grimaced. Given how the morning was going, that shouldn’t have been a surprise. I had used the last of my cash for tips in Ecuador. When I explained my room situation, the woman told me I could wait until I checked in and then return to the counter to give her my room number so I could charge the meal.
Perhaps the only saving grace of the morning was the omelet that came out shortly after I sat down. Frankly, it was delicious. That and a cup of coffee were exactly what I needed to help pass the time, but unfortunately, they did little to stop me from seething.
As I sat at the table, munching on the accompanying English muffin, I decided to Tweet about what had happened.
“Happy #Friday! Showed up @HiltonGardenInn at 7:02 for a confirmed 7 a.m. reservation after five-hour red-eye. No rooms available. Told “most day rooms start at 9.” OK, but you offered me one for 7, sooo….”
I’ve generally found that Twitter can be a fast track to reaching customer service professionals from various major brands. Thankfully that was the case with Hilton Garden Inn, which asked me to send them a direct message with details.
After finishing my breakfast around 8:45, I decided to pull out my laptop to get some work done. Another roadblock: Without a room number, I couldn’t access the Wi-Fi. I walked over to the front desk to ask if there was a password I could use, and they told me they had a room ready and gave me the number.
I packed up my computer, grabbed my bags, gave the woman at the cafe counter my room number and returned to the front desk to finish the check-in process.
“Checkout is at 3 p.m.,” said the woman who was going over the details with me.
By that point, the night manager had left, and a new one was on duty. She overheard my surprise when I asked why the reservation wasn’t being changed to the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. time slot, given that I wasn’t able to check in at 7 a.m., as planned.
“Well, you only booked the room until 3,” said the new manager.
“Yes, but I’m paying for an eight-hour chunk of time, and I lost two hours because there wasn’t a room available,” I said, starting to feel like I was on some hidden camera show.
“We were fully booked last night, and we have to allow time for our girls to get in there to clean,” the manager explained.
I told her I understood the reason for the delay but that I was ultimately being charged the same price for 25% less time. She apologized, told me there was nothing she could do to adjust either the price or the check-out time and told me simply to “try to make the best of it.”
Then, the woman who checked me in thanked me for being a Hilton Honors member. She meant well, of course, but under the circumstances, it felt like she was saying, “We value you so much that we’ve done absolutely nothing to make this right.”
I bit my tongue, but I opened my mouth long enough to utter a quick “Thank you,” grabbed my bags and headed for the elevator.
Ultimately, neither of the two front desk managers at the hotel was able to correct the situation. However, after a few exchanges with Hilton Garden Inn on Twitter, the customer service representative apologized that the experience wasn’t what I expected.
“To help make amends for your room not [being] available at the assigned time and the level of service received, we posted 10,000 points to your Hilton Honors Account, which you’ll see online within 24 hours if not already,” Hilton Garden Inn said in one of the private Twitter messages.
Since I only paid $77 for the room (including taxes and fees), and TPG’s monthly valuations at the time of the incident told me 10,000 Honors points were worth more than $50, I felt that was fair and thanked them for their time. It wasn’t until later that I discovered I was owed more.
Comments from Hilton and Dayuse
Not wanting to publish this article without giving both companies a chance to comment, I reached out directly to the public relations teams at Hilton and Dayuse.
A spokesperson for Hilton told me she couldn’t comment on behalf of the hotel because it’s independently owned and operated. Instead, she contacted the hotel on my behalf, asking its staff for an explanation. They never replied.
However, a representative from Dayuse responded to my inquiry with the following statement.
“Dayuse reservations are guaranteed by the hotel, which is contractually obligated to honor all online bookings. In the event that the hotel is unable to honor a reservation, the hotel is required to provide a transfer for the guest at no additional cost. All hotels listed on Dayuse are committed to honoring their reservations…. We are very surprised that the hotel staff could have told you that reservations were not guaranteed, especially since it is a hotel we have been working with for a long time.
“Check-in time problems are very rare…. Our customer service team closely monitors this type of complaint, and it represents only 0.02% of our bookings in the United States in 2022. However, for the rare times when there is such an issue, our policy involves creating a compensation voucher for the full amount of the reservation to reimburse the customer (starting from 1.5 hours of delay).
“On the hotel side, every time a ‘late check-in’ problem is reported, our customer care team calls the guest and the hotel to understand what happened. Our team then calls the general manager to modify the time slot and to ensure compliance with the rules. In case of recurrence, the hotel is deactivated from the website until Dayuse has solid guarantees of compliance with the contract. We asked [the Hilton Garden Inn Houston/Bush Intercontinental Airport] to modify or remove the 7 a.m. time slot in order to avoid any more problems in the future.”
Although I did not directly receive a reply from the hotel, Dayuse contacted the property for an explanation and then passed that explanation on to me. Interestingly, the account of the incident that the hotel provided to Dayuse was totally inaccurate based on my experience. A hotel representative wrote the following.
“We had a flight cancel, which sold the hotel out the night before [at the] last minute. Our cleaning staff comes in at 6:30 a.m. to start cleaning, and we were delayed a few minutes and couldn’t check the room in immediately. We extended the check-out by half an hour to make up for the half-hour delay. We apologized and explained the situation to the guests. It doesn’t happen often.”
The reason the hotel general manager gave Dayuse for the issue is reasonable, and it’s the same one I was given that day. However, that’s where the accuracies end.
The “few minutes” delay was actually 120 minutes by the time I arrived at the room. Further, both women working the front desk told me a checkout extension wasn’t possible — and that was only after I asked about it — so I didn’t receive one.
I replied to the Dayuse representative to share a more accurate timeline of events. He responded by telling me that, under the hotel’s agreement with Dayuse, I’m owed compensation from the hotel in the form of a voucher for the full amount of my stay if my check-in is delayed more than 1.5 hours.
When I asked Dayuse what a customer would have to do to receive that compensation voucher, the company indicated the process is simple.
“As soon as an incident is [reported] by the guest (delay over 1.5 hours), Dayuse automatically registers a complaint [to the hotel] that triggers a compensation procedure on [the customer’s] behalf. For the moment, the voucher is to be used at the same hotel. However, we have been working for a long time on providing compensation that can be used in any hotel in our portfolio. This new type of compensation will be launched in 2023.”
Because I’ve already received the 10,000 points from Hilton, I’m not pursuing my case further and have told Dayuse I’m not interested in obtaining a voucher.
However, it will be interesting to see if my complaint will automatically prompt the hotel to issue me one, as Dayuse said it would. Regardless, I plan to avoid that property in the future.
With regard to the night manager’s claim that the hotel has no way of alerting Dayuse when rooms are unavailable, I asked Dayuse what they’re doing to improve communication between their service and the hotels offered for bookings on the Dayuse site. I didn’t receive a specific answer, but if overbooking truly only happens in 0.02% of cases, perhaps it’s a moot point (and perhaps I should also play the lottery).
On the plus side, as stated, Dayuse asked the hotel to remove the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot from its offerings due to the incident.
What I’ll do differently next time
I’ve known for a long time that travelers can be bumped from hotels that are oversold for overnight reservations. However, it never occurred to me that the same thing could happen with a day-use room.
The next time I book one, I’m likely to try one or both of these two safeguards, which could help minimize the chances that I’ll find myself without accommodations again:
- Book directly through the hotel. The jury is still out on whether I would book a day room through Dayuse again. It was convenient and affordable, but the situation might have been less of a shock if the site hadn’t purported to be able to guarantee that a room would be available. My expectations weren’t in line with what was delivered. Booking directly through the hotel also would have given me more leeway to demand a refund because there would have been no middleman for the hotel to blame.
- Have a backup option ready. This will be especially important for me if I do decide to book with Dayuse again. Knowing that day-use reservations aren’t always foolproof, I’d either call ahead to a neighboring hotel on the day of my confirmed stay to inquire about day rooms in case my original booking falls through, or I’d book one room at each of two different properties with at least one of them being fully refundable.
I should emphasize that my stay wasn’t a total bust. Most of the hotel staff members I encountered were pleasant and tried to be helpful. The room itself was great — clean and quiet, with a comfortable bed that allowed me to get a couple hours of sleep before continuing on. Also, the woman working the front desk called to make sure everything was OK before I hopped in the shower.
However, I still have questions. If a room is subject to availability, why would Dayuse say it’s guaranteed? Also, why would a hotel allow a room to be booked two weeks in advance without knowing whether it will actually be available?
My situation is far from unique. Overbooking happens all the time, but the practice of allowing guests to reserve more rooms than are available has to stop. That’s especially true if hotels have no way of letting customers know ahead of time.
Day-use rooms are convenient and generally affordable, so they’re a great option for weary travelers who have time to kill. However, that’s only true if the rooms are actually ready for occupancy when guests show up.
Overall, I got some sleep for a reasonable price, particularly after receiving the 10,000 Hilton points. For me, booking the day room was worth the hassles I encountered. However, next time I’ll be sure to have a backup plan in place.