During Hurricane Harvey, hundreds of thousands of families have lost their homes, livelihood and are struggling to survive. Some of the families have gone to Hotels to spend a few days or weeks before they can decide where to start again. However, a story about a family went viral after Holiday Inn reportedly refused to offer shelter to them because they have a cat.
Animal lovers all over the country are furious and have expressed their outrage with the hotel chain. According to the report, there were also several families who were forced to sit inside their car with their pets because the hotel refused to let them in.
Cyndi Lombardi, a resident from Sugar Land, Texas, claimed that she left her home in fear of flooding to a nearby Holiday Inn hotel in Wharton when the manager kicked her out because she has two cats.
Catington Post contacted Lombardi to get his story.
This is part of the letter Lombardi sent to the publishing company:
“We were told that the evacuation route was University Blvd to 59 south, to the 10 Spur and head west.
We all got in our vehicles with kids, pets, and limited luggage in a matter of minutes.
When you are told to evacuate quickly, you take the things that are most important.
For me those were my documents, cell phone, cash, credit cards, my two kitties, a floating flash light, protein bar, lip gloss and diet coke.
Oh, and cat food and litter.”
“I headed south on rt 59, to Wharton, Texas and found a Holiday Inn Express, and parked.
I waited in the lobby, praying for a cancellation , and finally got a room.
No towels, carpets wet, roof leaking, but I didn’t care, as my plan was to just get a few hours’ sleep and leave at day break and head west.
When the manager saw my cat carrier, she yelled and was very rude. Said I was being evicted, and being charged a $ 500.00 fine, also.”
“She was so mean, it shocked me, considering the hurricane usually brings out the kindness in people, not a mean streak.
I offered to pay extra, and keep the cats in the carrier as I had nowhere else to go. I was tired, hungry, and water dripping off me, and shivering , and at that point felt the tears welling up.
The manager came to the room I had just entered, with some sort of “ goon “ , disguised as security.”
“I was shocked . I asked if he was security, but he said no, he was just following the lady manager. Still can’t figure out why he was with her.
I’m 69 years old and certainly not the type that looks threatening, or needing an escort out the door. He may have been her “ friend”.
She could have said “ we’ll keep the carrier in the storage room while you get some sleep “
She could have said you can sit in the lobby with the carrier until the sun comes up.
Instead I was escorted out the door.”
“By then it was pitch dark, pouring rain, roads flooding, rivers overflowing onto route 59 and I had nowhere to go.
I headed back up 59 north, with both windows open the whole way, and a “ get along tire “ on my car , mind you.
I clutched the steering wheel with my left hand, and the kitty carrier with my right hand the whole way.
My daughters took turns staying on the phone via blue tooth the whole way, so I could still talk on the phone, hands free.”
“That was a life saver.
It took hours on flooded roads, stopping so many times, and no lights or other cars in sight.
Every time I drove in the high water I prayed the car would not sink and that I could get out with the kitties, via the windows I had left totally open, if I had to.
Hours later, I made it back to Sugar Land, and was able to get up Highway 6 back to my community.”
“I parked blocks away from the complex as the front was flooded and I carried the kitties in the carrier over my head to get back in my apartment.
Luckily, I live on the 3rd floor and it had not flooded, even though it was under mandatory evacuation.
Once inside, I sponge bathed the kitties, took a bath, we all ate, and then collapsed on my bed around 3:30 am.”
“The next day I thought about it, and concluded that the manager could have made some sort of compromise, due to the catastrophic situation.
Did the Holiday Inn Express, in Wharton, TX, need to put my life , and my pets’ lives In such extreme danger, just so the manager could exert her authority and enforce the rules????
She could have let me sleep in the lobby for a few hours, instead of coming at me with some fake escort, and escorting me out the door in torrential rains and high winds.”
“I’ll never forget her extreme rudeness as opposed to the extreme kindness from the two good Samaritans that changed my tire.
All I can say is that a catastrophic hurricane brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others.
As for me, I’ll never stay at a Holiday Inn express again, as long I live.
They can take their points and “ shove it “.
In the meantime, our Pet rescue group is busy making plans to help resume pet adoptions and fostering.
That’s my idea of bringing out the best during a bad situation.
Too bad Holiday Inn Express ,in Wharton Texas , could not have done better in a bad situation.
Shame on them!!!!!”
Lombardi’s daughter also said that she tried to contact the manager of the said hotel but she would not speak to her.
“I asked [my mother] to wait in the car while I tried to speak to them on the phone. I called the onsite manager first and she would not talk to me. Instead, I was told she “left” and that there was no one of authority for me to speak to. The young woman on the phone sympathized with us but had her hands tied by the authority of her manager. I was then able to locate the General Manager’s private cell phone and called him next. I pleaded and begged and cried for him to let my mom stay. He said, ‘Our hotel does not accommodate pets. Your mother can stay but the cats cannot,’ and then he hung up the phone on me.”
“My mom? She’s unstoppable. Already back to her old tricks, helping rescue pets in the wake of Harvey, working as much as she can without Wi-Fi and staying dry. She may be 69, but she has the spirit and energy of a 20 year old.”
The management of the hotel reached out to Catington Post with the following letter:
“We are very sorry that Ms. Lombardi and her cats had this experience, and we are in the process of trying to connect with her to personally express our apology. Providing the highest level of hospitality is at the core of everything we do and we simply fell well short of our expectation in this instance — no ifs, ands or buts about it.
A big thank you to CatingtonPost.com for bringing this matter to light because we were able to quickly identify and get in touch with the franchisee — who is now accommodating guests with pets. When these isolated issues occur, we work to expedite a resolution. We have also been hyper-proactive in communicating with our franchisees in the impacted areas to underscore the importance of accommodating guests with pets.”
Mrs. Lombardi said that she was able to speak with the company’s VP Michael Torres and the latter is said to be very apologetic about what happened. Holidy Express Inn offered Lombardi several compensations including upgraded rooms, free stays, and reward points.
However, Instead of accepting Mr. Torres’ offer, Lombardi asked for a modest donation to the animal rescue group she works with instead. The VP immediately donated $1000 to the Mutts n Meows rescue group.
“I thought that was very kind and generous. I’m so glad that something good came from my horrible experience,” Lombardi said.
Since that incident, Holiday Inn Express announced that they will be accepting guests with pets affected by the Hurricane free of charge.
“Many of IHG’s brands, including Hotel Indigo®, EVEN® Hotels, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®, and many individual Holiday Inn Express® hotels, already are pet friendly. As IHG hotels continue to shelter individuals and families displaced by Hurricane Harvey, IHG has mandated that all its branded hotels in impacted and surrounding areas welcome pets free of charge during disasters. We have and continue to communicate this requirement to all hotels.”
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H/T: Catington Post