When Luxury Turns Dangerous

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I recently promised my readers to always tell the truth about travel including the good, bad and ugly.   So here it is:

We were flattered when we arrived at our hotel in Old Town Albuquerque and they informed us that they had given us an upgrade. The suite was beautiful.  Located on the 11th floor, it had a fantastic view of Albuquerque.  It was spacious and nicely decorated.  The bed was comfortable.  The first morning we laid in bed and watched the hot air balloons launch from Balloon Park in preparation for the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta that would start on October 1.  The sunrise was beautiful coming over the Sandia Mountains to the east.

View from our suite
View from our suite
Hotel lobby
Hotel lobby

While none of this changed from day to day, the upgrade didn’t seem to be quite what we thought. The room would fill with a noxious smell every morning about 6 A.M.  At first it smelled very much like a very large amount of spoiling onions.  It would fade around 9 A.M. and reappear around 5 P.M.  The 1st day we left the hotel to find breakfast.  We had smelled the odor that morning, but we were gone until midafternoon and we left early to meet a friend for supper.  On the 2nd day, we were preparing to leave when I asked my husband to empty the bag of melted ice in the cooler.   A few seconds after he entered the bathroom I heard a thump and a swear word.  I asked if he was okay. I got no response from him.  He was lying headfirst in the bathtub.  His legs were sprawled out behind him.  He was trying to get up but couldn’t get his balance. There was blood all over the tub.  I assisted him to a kneeling position.  He had a cut across the bridge of his nose and  was bleeding from both nostrils.  We got the bleeding stopped.   I cleaned the cut on his nose and then the tub.  It was clear that he did not need a 911 call but would definitely need to visit the emergency room (ER) for x-rays and concussion/head injury evaluation.

We were on a road trip so luckily we had our car available for the trip to the ER.   On the way out of the hotel, we told the housekeeper about the smell and the accident.  She said she would report it to her supervisor.   We told the gentleman at the desk about the accident and reported the smell in our room to him.  I asked if they could investigate the smell while we were out.  After 4 hours in the ER, we got back to our room.  The housekeeper came to our room to report that she had spoken to her supervisor about the smell.  No one called or came to speak to us about it.

Paddy in the ER
Paddy in the ER

On the third morning, I was up and gone by 4:15 a.m. to photograph the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  My schedule kept me out of the room  most of the morning, but I did report it again to the front desk when I returned.   My husband was on orders to rest due to his head injury.  He said no one came to the room or called.  We had noted that the smell came at the times that the hotel bathrooms would be the busiest.  From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. people were getting ready for the day, using the bathrooms and taking showers.  From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. when they were coming back from their day out exploring, taking showers and using the bathrooms before they went to dinner.  The smell was strongest by the desk area which was located on a short wall by the bathroom and a small soffit wall that most likely was for sewer pipe vents.  That’s when it hit me that  we had been smelling sewer gas.

The fourth day I reported the smell again to front desk personnel and ask that they check it.  Another day went by without anyone checking.  I also reported it to the weekend housekeeper who told me she knew it was reported to her supervisor, but she would report it again.  At 5:55 p.m. I got a call from the expedition leader asking if I was coming with them at 6 p.m.  I lost over an hour when I was in the room.  I still don’t remember what I did in our room during the 2 hr. break.  I told my husband not to spend time in the room until after 7 p.m. when the smell would be less.

The fifth day (Monday) we left for breakfast early. The smell was getting bad when we left. When we returned to the room and opened the door, the smell was so strong we took a step back from the doorway.  I went to the phone and demanded that someone come up immediately to investigate this smell.  NO ONE CAME.  We propped the door open to dissipate the odor.  An hour later a maintenance man walked past the door and knocked on the door next to us.  I said: “I think you are here to investigate this smell.”  He said: “No, we are doing repairs on the room next to you but I can smell that and it’s not good. You should not be in this room. I will call my supervisor and I’ll call the front desk and tell them you have to be put in a different room.  This is sewer gas and very dangerous.”  I explained to him that we had been reporting it since the morning after our arrival and no one had seemed to care.  He told us that they had trouble with the room before.   Before I left for the day with my group, I went to the front desk and asked that they call my cell phone as soon as they had the new room.  I also told them my husband would need assistance with our belongings because of his head injury in their hotel on our 2nd day.  When I got back around 10:00 p.m., I had not received a call so I went to the front desk. We had been moved to the third floor.  My husband told me he waited until 2 p.m. to find out if they were going to move us.  The housekeeper came in at 2 p.m. and asked why he was still there.  He told her he hadn’t been told whether they were moving us.  She called the front desk who sent someone up with the keycard for the new room and a cart.  My husband made 3 trips to move our things. They did not help.  He had stayed in the lobby until 9 p.m. so that he could catch me when I came in.  In the move, he had misplaced his cell phone so couldn’t call me.  The group leader for the expedition came with me to the desk.  I asked if I could go up to the old room to make sure nothing was missed.  In front of a witness, the clerk lied to me.  She stated the 11th floor had been evacuated and was totally closed to guests.  One person from our group was staying across the hall from us on the 11th floor.  I sent her a private message on Facebook and asked her if they had been evacuated.  No, they had not been evacuated.  Why did they not want me to go to that room?  Why tell such an elaborate lie?  These people knew they had let a serious situation go on and on.  They knew my husband had most likely passed out because of the sewer gas leaking into the room and had been injured.  They are so lucky that he did not break his nose, have a concussion or worse.

The Hotel Albuquerque is not what it seems. They pretend to care when you come in, but that’s where it stops.  The housekeepers  cared, but their reports fell on deaf ears.  The maintenance man cared enough to phone the front desk to tell them they had to move us.  The management staff didn’t care at all.  I should have realized sooner that the smell was something that caused my husband’s fall.  I could have asked for blood tests to be taken in the ER. The cooler sat in the corner where the smell was the strongest.  My husband stood there for several minutes while he removed the water bottles from the cooler.  Enough time to have gotten the gas into his system to make him dizzy so when he bent over the tub he passed out.  I had sat at the desk putting on my makeup each morning.  When the smell would get strong,  I would have to finish in the bathroom because it would make me feel dizzy.  In total, I told 8 different employees about the smell.  Of those 8, two were housekeepers who told their supervisor and 1 was the maintenance man who spoke up for us.  What did the housekeeping supervisor have to say to us?  We happened to be riding up to the 3rd floor on our last morning with her.  She asked us if our stay was pleasant.  We said no considering that no one investigated our complaints about the smell in our room for 6 days.  Her response: “There are no gas lines to that room so there couldn’t have been any gas smell.”  I looked at her and said: “Sewer vents go up that wall and are just as dangerous or more dangerous.  Have you ever heard of methane?”  On our way out the hotel, I dropped off all the keycards.  The same gentleman I had told about the smell on the 2nd day asked how our stay was.  I told him we were in room 1118.  I handed him my business card and said:  “Here’s my business card. You can read all about it on my website and Facebook page.”   They called my cell phone twice that day but I was driving and I do not answer my phone when I’m in my car.  I notified the leader of our group about the calls when we stopped for the night.  She said she would try to get them to reimburse us for the cost of the room.  So far I have not heard anything else from the hotel. We stayed 7 nights in this hotel.  We paid for 2 nights out-of-pocket and 5 nights were included in my expedition cost.  There were no other rooms available in the area due to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, but that is not an excuse for not at least talking to us about the problem while it was happening and getting it fixed.

Looking back now I should have done a few things different.   I could have called 911 for my husband. The paramedics would have verified that the sewer gas smell.  I could have called the fire department to report the smell and the negligence of the hotel in not dealing with it.  I will report it to the building inspector so that no other innocent people will suffer through this.  I will write a review on TripAdvisor and any other sites that post reviews.  I will definitely let people know  that this hotel does not take complaints seriously. I was always polite when I reported to them. Maybe that was a mistake.  Maybe I should have screamed and hollered in the lobby for 20 minutes like the woman who couldn’t get a cup of coffee at 4 a.m.  I’m a travel writer.  I am always polite no matter how bad things are but even I have limits.  I will never let something like this happen again.   If you smell an odor like rotten eggs or onions in your home or while staying in a hotel/motel, report it and make someone  check it.

Per Wikipedia:  Prolonged low-level exposure may cause fatigue, pneumonia, loss of appetite, headaches, irritability, poor memory, and dizziness. High concentrations of hydrogen sulfide (>150 ppm) can produce olfactory fatigue, whereby the scent becomes undetectable. At very high concentrations (>300 ppm), hydrogen sulfide can cause loss of consciousness and death. Very high concentrations (>1000 ppm) can result in immediate collapse, occurring after a single breath.

Methane is another product in sewer gas. It is odorless and deadly.

Sewer gas can cause a variety of symptoms that could be confused with other illnesses, such as the flu. Unlike the flu, the presence of sewer gas is an immediate danger that can be catastrophic the longer the victim is exposed to it.

The various symptoms include headaches, nausea, lightheadedness or dizziness, disorientation, depression, hallucinations, convulsions, loss of consciousness and finally death.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/list_7634568_signs-symptoms-sewer-gas.html


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Author: Karen E

I have traveled for much of my life. My plans were always to travel more extensively after retirement. I retired from 20+ years of nursing in 2013. I am currently a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance. I travel both internationally and throughout the United States of America. In 2013, I combined a trip to Miami with an ITWPA workshop, and my husband and I took a cruise to Alaska. In 2014, I did a road trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, flew to LA and then took the Amtrak from Oxnard to San Diego, CA. In 2015, I spent 32 days on the road throughout the western and southwestern states. In March 2015, I traveled to the Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Australia, and New Zealand for 32 days. I took a trip to Iceland in December 2015 to photograph the Nothern Lights. In between the bigger trips, I love to visit cities in Minnesota and neighboring states.

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