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My son got sick in our hotel room. Do I have to pay for the cleanup?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Consumer reporter and ombudsman

During a family trip, Anna Eardley’s son got sick in their hotel room. Really sick – all over the room. After spending the rest of the night cleaning up the mess, she left a hefty tip and drove home at dawn. So why did she later receive an angry call from the manager telling her that she must pay for the extensive damage to the room — including all new carpet? 


We were spending just one night at the hotel. In the middle of the night, my eight-year-old woke up with projectile vomiting. He did not make it to the bathroom.

Despite both of us cleaning until the wee hours and leaving what I thought was a generous tip, I received a phone call from the general manager of the hotel this morning. He said they have not been able to rent out the room since then and they want me to pay for the damage. He told me they are holding me liable for at least the cost of a new carpet.

Although I am angry at the situation, I know I am responsible and scared. I am not sure how to handle this. I am a single mom and tried to call around to find an attorney; no one would take the case (not that I can afford it!). One said to call the hotel manager back and offer to pay for professional cleanup of the room.

I am not sure what to do and need help handling this ASAP. The manager sounded threatening.

I would like to resolve this diplomatically with as little financial liability on my part while still taking responsibility for what happened (I checked; my renters’ insurance would not cover me on this).

Maybe they could charge me for rug cleaning? I feel that without an advocate, who knows what can happen? The hotel could sue me and make me pay for recovery of the losses. I want to pay the hotel for the cleanup of the room, but I’m concerned. Please help me, I have no one else. I need experienced help. Anna Eardley


When I read your email, my heart went out to you. Being a mom myself, I have a similar story in my mommy files. 

When my youngest daughter was three years old, I was staying at a hotel in Sicily when the same scenario struck. My child was happily toddling around the room when to my horror, she was suddenly hit by an illness that caused quite a mess. All over the place. Yikes!

In that situation, I went straight to the front desk. In my broken Italian, I told my troubling tale. The management took pity on me and quickly dispatched a team of equally sympathetic housekeeping employees who cleaned the room and coddled my sickly daughter. I was very grateful.

Grazie. Mi Dispiace!

How much is this hotel room cleanup going to cost?

Cultural differences aside, I was amazed by the lack of understanding and concern that you said this hotel manager had for your situation and the stress that you were experiencing over your child’s illness.

I asked you to send me the manager’s complaint and demands. You told me that he had not put anything in writing yet, but had called you “in an irritable manner.” He mentioned many charges that would soon be coming your way. You were understandably upset and nervous as to the bill the hotel was about to send you.

In fact, you put the potential value of your case at $10,000 after the call from the manager. You were afraid that he might want to renovate the entire hotel room at your expense.

Things took a different turn when you told the manager that you would be “represented” by a consumer advocate. He asked for proof.

As in other cases in which a hotel claims a guest caused expensive damage to a room, I contacted the manager and asked for an incident report and an official estimate of the cleanup.

I am still waiting for his response.

You did find a miscellaneous charge on your credit card from the Sheraton for $50. This appears to be the cleaning fee, and you are perfectly happy to pay it.

If your child gets sick in the hotel room, ask for help

You are pleased to put this “incident” behind you. However, it’s important to figure out where things went wrong here.

If I compare our two situations, there is a significant difference. When my daughter got sick in our hotel room, I went straight to the front desk and asked for help. I explained the problem and gave the hotel an opportunity to assist me — which they did.

In your situation, your embarrassment caused you to suffer in silence – and to sneak out in the wee hours of the morning.

To your credit, you tried to clean up the room yourself. But without the proper tools to cleanup vomit, you couldn’t. After you left, the maids found quite a mess in your room with no explanation. They didn’t know anything about you or your son. They had no idea what caused this biological hazard.

The hotel manager might have approached the situation in an entirely different way if a frazzled mom had appeared at the front desk pleading for assistance for her sick child. Because you didn’t give the hotel the opportunity to help, this led to confusion and even anger from the staff. This failure to communicate is what ultimately led to the (perceived) lack of empathy and the unhelpful way that the Sheraton staff handled your problem.

I am pleased that your child is fine and that I was able to have helped — one (sometimes frazzled) mom to another. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)

Consumer Rescue provides free mediation assistance to consumers in need. If you find yourself in a battle with a company that you can fix on your own, send your request to our helpline and we’ll be happy to rescue you, too.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle Couch-Friedman is the founder and CEO of Consumer Rescue. She is a consumer advocate, ombudsman columnist, mediator, writer, and licensed psychotherapist. Michelle is a public speaker, and her expert guidance has been cited in MarketWatch, Consumer Reports, Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Popular Science, CNN, CNBC, Boston Globe, CBS News, National Geographic, Travel Weekly, Reader's Digest and more. You might even catch Michelle on TV reporting on a situation. :) Michelle is also the travel ombudsman columnist for The Points Guy and is the former executive director of the nonprofit Elliott Advocacy. During her six years in that position, she resolved thousands of cases for troubled travelers and other consumers. You can read hundreds of 5-star reviews Michelle earned during her service to the nonprofit since 2016 here on Great Nonprofits. She is also a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Today, she continues to spend as much time as possible fiercely defending consumers and traveling the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Couch-Friedman or on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook.
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Sorry for mom and the little one BUT mom is absolutely responsible. Imagine being the next guest to check into this room if an appropriate Bio Hazard clean up is not done. And yes new carpet and full bedding could well be involved. A $50 few surely won’t cover the actual damage. And Damage is what it is…. Sneaking out at the crack of dawn only made it worse.
If you were able to meditate the expense she is a very lucky mom.


Not sure what being a single mom has to do with sneaking out and not advising the front desk.


Great advice, Michelle. With no communication when she checked out, this mom definitely appeared as ‘sneaky’ to the hotel. You can’t just make a mess like this and ignore it!


Wow… that could have been bad for her, but glad it all worked out!

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