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ON THE SPOT By Catharine Hamm

What a treat

December 30, 2007|Catharine Hamm

Question: On our 25th wedding anniversary, we decided to splurge and stay at a luxury hotel in Paris. Unfortunately, we were given a room next to a building under construction. The hammering and drilling began at 7 and lasted all day. After speaking to the front desk (which offered to buy us a drink for our inconvenience), we asked to speak to the manager, who finally returned our call at 9 p.m. He offered to move us to another room the next day. This made no sense because we were leaving the next day, so we suggested he adjust the bill or buy our dinner in the hotel restaurant. He said no. We were paying $1,000 a night, by the way. What should we have done?

Victoria Newell

Brentwood

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Answer: We keep hearing that the euro buys a whole lot of nothing these days, which is exactly what the Newells got.

Actually, that's not quite true. They also got a whole lot of attitude: "We could have put up with the aloof staff, the arrogant attitude of the management and the exorbitant prices if, in any way, our visit felt special," Newell wrote.

If you think a grand a night entitles you to special treatment, think again. In the 2007 North America Guest Satisfaction Index Study, J.D. Power & Associates of Westlake Village said luxury-hotel guests frequently complained about "staff attitude and staff service."

As infuriating as that is, you can't really make a claim because someone has a bad attitude. But you can if someone breaks a contract.

And that's what's happened here, says Al Anolik, a travel lawyer who is co-author of "The Frequent Traveler's Guide."

The room had to be habitable, and if it wasn't, the hotel should have let the guests know before they left the U.S., Anolik says. "If it's not a proper room, you have to compensate them."

Anolik believes -- although others disagree -- that travelers have recourse in Small Claims Court in our state, thanks to the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act that, he says, "allows a Californian who has been injured to serve and sue anyone overseas."

To prove your case, he suggests, you could have used a cellphone to call your home answering machine and used the call to capture the racket so you'd have some kind of record.

Here's my solution instead: If I had $1,000 to spend on a hotel room, I wouldn't. I'm still annoyed at the six luxury hotels in Paris that were fined for price fixing in 2005, so I'd take my 10 C notes and stay at Hotel de l'Universite Saint-Germain, where you can get a nice double with a terrace for about $300 a night. Then I'd take that other $700 and spend it on something silly and extravagant because, frankly, if you've been married 25 years, you deserve that -- and much more.

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Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@ latimes.com.

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