In early April of this year, I sought a place to stay for the night while my house was under renovation. I recalled that the general manager of the infamous Maspeth Holiday Inn Express had given an interview to a local newspaper explaining that the hotel was looking to make amends with the community and was therefore offering a “Good Neighbor Rate” to local residents if they could pro-vide proof of residence. Well, I had that covered, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to see the place for myself, so I could answer with confidence the next time a resident expressed a suspicion that the hotel was still being used as a homeless shelter.

I inquired about the discounted rate and was told by the desk manager on duty that I could book it on the hotel’s webpage. I did not see the rate listed on the page so I booked my room under a different, higher rate and inquired at check-in about the Good Neighbor Rate. But, alas, the staff said they had never heard of it despite me showing them the email from the desk manager and the article from the paper. This was the beginning of quite a frustrating experience at the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express. Looking for guidance, the staff called Francisco Victoria, the general manager, who had been interviewed by the paper. The story then changed. He communicated to me through them that the rate was available, but not for the night I was staying. Why, I wasn’t sure, since it was a Tuesday night with absolutely nothing going on in NYC due to the pandemic. But I figured I would contact corporate customer service and get it corrected later.

I had pre-paid for the room on the hotel’s website but was told there would be an additional unexpected charge of $50 for “incidentals” such as if I smoked or had pets in the room. But instead of this $50 charge, the entire cost of the room was charged a second time, and that over-drew my debit account, which had more than enough to pay for a one-night stay, but not enough to pay for two nights. Ugh.

After paying with a different card, I was given a room at the back of the hotel overlooking the parking lot. I didn’t exactly expect a stellar view, nor did I care if there was one, but I couldn’t overlook the fact that present in the parking lot stood a gigantic uncovered pile of trash taller than I am. The back gate was also broken with caution tape around it which made me wonder about security. I wanted to charge my phone, so I plugged the cord into the bedside USB port only to discover that there was no juice. The lamp on the desk also had a charging port in it so I tried that instead, but when I touched it, the entire lamp flopped over as it wasn’t secured to the base. Yikes.

I opened the window to allow some fresh early spring air into the room and was instead hit in the face with the pungent smell of marijuana emanating from the cab of an idling commercial box truck bearing NJ plates. I reported these issues to the front desk and was told that the men had the right to smoke marijuana in the hotel parking lot because it was now legal and that was the hotel’s policy. They are giving smokers the green light to affect their other guests by encouraging smoking underneath windows instead of directing them to puff outside the gate. Great.

After inspecting the broken lamp, the front desk agent moved me to a suite on the other side of the building overlooking the BP gas station and LIE. I unpacked and soon left to eat a delicious dinner at Patrizia’s where I was treated like a queen. That was a welcome change.

Upon my return to the hotel, I notified JPCA President Tony Nunziato about my experience thus far, and he stopped by to observe some of the issues I had reported. He also discovered that 3 of the 4 lights in the elevator were out and some of the childproof outlets in my room had no covers. Oh boy.

After Tony left, I was watching TV and relaxing when unprofessional and downright nasty gaslighting emails started coming from Mr. Victoria, the general manager of the hotel. You see, it was apparently my fault for reading his interview in the paper and thinking that there was actually a rate for local residents. He explained that the Good Neighbor Rate had expired in January and he wasn’t responsible for what the paper had printed. The rodent-friendly mountain of trash was also not his responsibility as the contractor working on the renovation of the hotel had left it behind and also broke the parking lot gate that was causing a security hazard. (Google Street View dated November 2020 shows the same trash pile.) Then he had the audacity to say I could negotiate a group hotel rate for my organization. What organization? The one I volunteer for? I was staying in a hotel because there was work being done to my house…

Based on the principle that the HIE was the one that approached the newspaper to advertise their discount to the community, I pressed him on it. I reminded him that his desk manager had said that the dis-count was currently available and he himself had told the front desk that the rate was still available, just not for the night I checked in. The adjustment to my bill would have been for a whopping $16, and they were currently offering the same 15% discount to parents of Martin Luther students. After receiving nothing but BS from him, I sent my last response, “Instead of all this back and forth, you could have just apologized for the confusion and adjusted my bill, but maybe customer service isn’t your thing.” The angry missives thankfully then stopped.

I had a good night’s sleep but I couldn’t wait to get out of there in the morning, so I skipped the free hotel breakfast. Upon checkout I told the desk manager about my experience and she said she didn’t understand what had happened since she had left a note about applying the Good Neighbor Rate to my bill. Ha!

With my overnight bag slung across my shoulder, I headed over to City Diner for breakfast, where I was treated with courtesy, respect and a tasty meal. I reported all that had happened to the hotel’s corporate HQ but never received a response. I had signed up as a “rewards member” prior to this stay but thanks to this experience, I don’t anticipate ever staying at another Holiday Inn Express again. Looking on the bright side, I at least can report with certainty that this place is no longer a homeless shelter. Yet they don’t exactly roll out the red carpet for their paid guests, either, which will probably not be a very successful business model in the long run.