Motels are not always what they seem

As you set off on your much deserved Christmas holiday, possibly at the beach or at a lovely scenic location, I want to give you a little word of warning. You used to be able to go to motels quite happily, and the only thing you might have to worry about was noisy and over-excited children and possibly, people getting up too early to either move on to the next place or get on with their holiday.

I confess that I hadn’t stayed in motels for years, but my memories of them were mostly pretty good. Yes, a lot of them are a bit tired these days, but they are convenient, they offer slightly better facilities than hotels (if you want to do anything for yourself, like cooking or laundry), and they are generally reasonably priced. But a recent five-day trip staying in motels has changed my attitude towards them forever, and I warn you all that you need to be careful too.

This trip involved 5 nights, all staying at different places, and all booked through a well-known travel site. I had used this travel site many times, and it had always been excellent. And 4 of the motels were fine. Some were a bit run down, one was a bit small, one was absolutely excellent but all were comfortable, reasonable and in good locations. And, it will interest you to know that ALL of the motels were roughly the same price per night.

But one of the motels was not ‘fine’ at all.

We knew it as soon as we drove into the place. We had driven past it 3 times, thinking the GPS must have got it wrong. But no. This place looked like a doss house. And as it turned out, first impressions proved correct.

I guess we have all read about how MSD now puts up homeless people in motels… but I never thought for one second that the same places would be charging a market nightly rental to tourists. In other words, they fill up their rooms with alcoholics, druggies and otherwise homeless people, and the rooms they cannot let to the government are rented out to tourists as if the place was a lovely tourist venue.

I met a lovely, drugged out guy close to the reception area. To be fair to him, he was pleasant enough. Then there were all these unruly children, playing in the courtyard.

I know what you are going to say. Why didn’t you check the reviews? Well, first of all, the reviews at the top of the page, which you see when you first open the page, were good ones. Yes, there were TERRIBLE reviews further down, but the mistake I made was to trust the booking site. I had assumed – erroneously, as it turns out – that any establishments that they included on their site had been vetted as suitable for tourists and travellers. How wrong can you be?

We didn’t stay there, of course. I had spotted another motel across the road, which was sporting a Vacancy’ sign. We shot across there, took their last available room and breathed a sigh of relief. The funny thing was that this motel seemed to do quite well out of its neighbour across the road. The proprietor readily admitted that people do what we had done on a regular basis. Who needs to advertise when there is a doss house across the road?

I make light of it now, but it was disgraceful at the time. The place was disgusting. It was easy for us to just go and find another place, but I wonder how an international tourist would feel about booking into a place like that. And this was at a popular beach resort. At peak times, the motel across the road would be full as well.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I found this?article?to read after I got home. quote.

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) housed vulnerable families at two motels used to accommodate?child sex offenders, despite making assurances it wouldn’t, a?Stuff?investigation has found.

When the botch-up was discovered the Department of Corrections hired security to stand guard at the motels overnight to keep the families safe until alternative lodgings?could be arranged. end quote.

Don’t imagine for one second that tourists might not be staying at the same motel. After all, if there is a spare room, what is stopping them from offering it to a bona fide traveller? So what if there is a sex offender in the next room? Meh. Business is business after all.