Escape from the Garden Gate


Q: We had a room reservation at the Garden Gate Bed & Breakfast in West Maui, Hawaii, in August. The inn offered to book us a rental car through, as part of its package. So we called the hotel and inquired about a car. The proprietor, Ms. Mosley, offered to make the reservation for us through Budget.

When we arrived at Kapalua airport and called Budget, the car rental company could not find a reservation under either of our names. They were sold out and would not release a car unless they had a confirmation number. We called the Garden Gate, but Ms. Mosley was not at home and could not access the confirmation number.

We called Budget again several times and tried all different name combinations and phone numbers, to no avail. So we took a taxi to the hotel. Mr. Mosley was aware of what had happened somehow, and offered to give us a ride into town and to then pick us up.

I told him we thought the fair thing was for them to pay for our taxi ride from the airport ($17 including the tip), and that we’d accept the ride into town but that we planned on staying out late and therefore would not want the hassle of having to call them for a ride back, that we wanted them to pay for the taxi back (about $8 to $10 including the tip). He agreed, but when Ms. Mosley arrived, she overruled him, and stated that since the car rental was a courtesy, they were not responsible for it.

The conversation got heated and my boyfriend and I then decided afterwards to ask them for a refund for the last two nights of our reservation, that we’d find a different place. But when he went into their office to ask them this, they screamed at him and threw him out. The bad feelings continued to escalate over the next few hours, including Mr. Mosley hanging up on me when I called him to talk from the restaurant in town where we were having dinner.

When we returned to our room, the air conditioning went out several times that night and we had to call them to turn the switch on, so we did not even get a good night’s sleep. We felt that we had to leave. We found a room at the Marriott and checked in there the next morning, even though we had paid the hotel a full stay. Budget says that a reservation was never made on the day we arrived. The one that had been made was on the next day.

We believe that $27 was not a lot to ask for when we had to end up without a car our first afternoon and night in Hawaii, and for the inconvenience of having to go the next morning to pick up a different car. But the situation escalated because of their attitude and failure to take responsibility and we want them to refund us the nights we did not sleep at their establishment, $258 plus taxes.

— Claudine Motto

A: This is a classic “he said/she said” case, and I should note that I only reluctantly accepted it after being repeatedly contacted by you.

I asked Jaime Mosley tell me her version of the story, and here’s what she had to say:

“Bill and I didn’t perceive it like that,” she responded. “We never yelled at them. If anything, they were screaming at us.”

Mosley agrees that she promised to drop you off and pick you up several times, because of what she termed the “rental car mishap.” She admits that the reservation had been made for the wrong day, but says you eventually got your car and were able to get around town in the meantime, because the Mosleys gave you a ride.

“When the air conditioner went out, Bill immediately switched the breaker switch back on,” she adds. “They were more than welcome to continue staying in their $119-a-night room.”

Mosley says she runs an inn that’s on the up-and-up. “Garden Gate is an established, clean and comfortable place to stay for a moderate price,” she told me. “I do not feel we are responsible to pay their hotel bill.”

So who do I believe? Both of you.

There’s no doubt you had a terrible time at the Garden Gate Bed and Breakfast. You didn’t get the car you expected, didn’t click with the owners (at a small inn, that’s really important) and didn’t have a good night’s sleep. You did the right thing by checking out early.

I also believe Jaime – I have to take her word for it – that she was professional, that she did everything to help you get around when she discovered the booking error and that her husband tried to make your stay as comfortable as possible, even when your air conditioning failed.

I also believe you made some mistakes. For example, you should have confirmed the rental car for yourself. Anytime someone makes a reservation on your behalf, you need a confirmation – preferably something in writing from the company with which you have the booking. You shouldn’t have taken Mosley’s word for it.

You also assumed that you would be entitled to some kind of compensation or refund if you switched hotels. But that’s not the way the system works – not when a malfunctioning air conditioner and a few frayed nerves are involved.

Mosley needs to get her act together, too. She can’t offer to make a car-rental reservation and then not follow through. Giving you a ride was the right thing to do, but she should have also refunded you for the cab, no questions asked, and allowed you to take a taxi back to the hotel. I mean, what’s $8 in the overall scheme of things when a guest has been inconvenienced?

The further I investigated your grievance – we’re talking multiple phone calls and e-mails over a six-month period – the less I could escape this conclusion: Your stay at Garden Gate Bed was like a bad episode of Fawlty Towers, the John Cleese sitcom. They claim you were impossible-to-please guests; you claim they were couldn’t-care-less hosts. (And again, I think both of you are telling me the truth as you see it.)

Next time, I would strongly suggest you stay at a large chain hotel. I also think the Garden Gate should stop offering rental car reservations and instead focus their efforts on running a bed and breakfast.