Tweets about maggot-ridden room prompt social media backlash

A disgruntled guest horrified to allegedly find maggots crawling through her $400-a-night US motel room has caused a storm on social media in a cautionary tale for all accom providers.

Make-up artist Hayley Johnsen was so disgusted by her experience that she called for her 71,000 Instagram and 14,000 Twitter followers to “avenge” her by flooding the company with complaints.

She took to Twitter to share a blow-by-blow account of what happened at the Palo Alto Inn in California, including the posts:

“We check in around 9-930. We nap, he orders food, food arrives. I decide I need to take a bath cause ya girl has cramps. So I go and get into the bathtub…

“As I’m sitting there, I see something… I’m like what is this tic tac on the floor…

[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”27469″ align=”left” padding=”10″]“I say … ‘babe … babe. Get the f**k in here now’. He comes running in and crunches on like 10 of them. I’m screaming naked in the tub. He looks at me and says get your f**king clothes on, we’re getting out of here.

“As he does that I look at the floor. Maggots crawling from the bathroom all over the hardwood towards the bed.”

She says a representative of the property refused to offer a refund, but instead offered to relocate the couple – a request they declined.

“TEN MINUTES GO BY. a disgruntled older man storms out of the front office and comes over. I immediately start pointing to the maggots all over the place. He tells me he can’t see them. HE SAYS HE CANNOT SEE MAGGOTS COMING OUT OF THE WALL”, tweeted Johnsen.

When a quarrel ensued, the couple were asked to leave and they called the police.

The Palo Alto Inn has since apologised and issued a refund – while at the same time disparaging Johnsen as “high-maintenance” and saying she was just trying to get famous.

Meanwhile, the storm of negative reviews posted about the 20-room motel on social media by her followers  caused Yelp and Google to enter “clean-up” modes to remove and prevent reviews from users who were posting about the make-up artist’s experience with the business, not their own.

“Thank you for sharing your experience with us. We are shocked to hear about your stay and hope you will accept our sincerest apology,” the motel’s email apology reads.

“We are a family-owned, local hotel and have recently renovated all rooms to offer an excellent experience to all our guests.”

The email states that the motel employees usually do “a wonderful job” checking and preparing guest rooms and that they take cleanliness “extremely seriously,” saying that the maggot infestation was “not at all acceptable.”

“When you brought this to our staff’s attention the night of your stay, our staff offered you another room to ensure you would have a good rest of stay,” it states.

“However, our night staff does not have authority to issue refunds which is why they had to wait until morning to share the experience with management and go through the appropriate channels to resolve the issue appropriately.”

Palo Alto Inn spokesperson Issabella Shields told local media the employee had thought Johnsen was making a bogus claim when she told him there were maggots in her room because of the motel’s regular pest control and because she had “showed up late and she was high-maintenance.”

Shields said the front desk had been overwhelmed with angry calls since the incident.

“It just feels like they’re using this as a way to get more publicity. This woman is, like, power-hungry or wants to get famous. It’s totally unacceptable. It’s just insane,” she said.

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5 years ago

Something needs to be done about the misuse of review forums/social media.Reading between the lines & given the bad language used by the guest, I think there is a fair chance the guest is the problem & not the property.
As an accommodation owner I have found 9 times out of 10 bad reviews only come from guests that behave badly & have had to be spoken to or asked to leave the property. They use the review system as a means of retribution & nearly always over exaggerate & often tell down rite lies. Something needs to happen to make the providers of these forums accountable for malicious reviews & comments.

Andrew North
Andrew North
5 years ago

In my experience no customer ever has just 1 complaint. Once something isn’t to their liking they go on a justification crusade so that they can build a case. This usually takes the form of 5 items, be that physical, location or interaction with the operator.
You can try writing to the relevant ministers like I did and get the “lodge a complaint with ASIC or ACCC” response like I did. Those organisations do diddly squat, just look at the millions of complaints they get yearly against T3lstra!
Pure and simple, the politicians could not care less because accommodation operators won’t all band together and mount a lobby campaign about the review sites and how biased they are.

5 years ago

“her $400-a-night US motel room”
you meant $40 a night ?!
A whinger is always a whinger, doesn’t matter if it is blue sky & the sun is shining !!!

5 years ago

I agree with Donna.b and Andrew North.
There is one area in which Airbnb is superior to the OTAs: as well as the guest being able to review the accommodation provider, the accom. provider can review the guest.
What about it, Priceline, Expedia, Agoda et al? Wouldn’t that lead to a fairer system?

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