One couple’s good deed to help out a homeless pair stay out of the winter cold was soured by a hotel’s policy.
When George and Joyce Gruss bought a room in an Ohio Super 8, they thought they were providing a homeless couple with the chance to stay out of the winter cold on Valentine’s Day.
“We thought maybe more than a night would be good if we can do that,” he told reporters at ThinkProgress.
It all started when the couple stopped at a roadside Wendy’s on their way to Dayton to get out of the winter weather. They saw a woman crying in a booth and figured that it was simply a “Valentine’s Day gone wrong.” However, upon questioning them, the two learned that the couple were on their way to Michigan and were left stranded here. The Gruss’s offered to buy them a stay for three nights after hearing that the pair had missed the curfew to stay at the local shelter.
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“They said they’d be willing to do anything, whatever help we were willing to offer, they were happy to accept it,” George said.
Temperatures in Columbus, Ohio, that night were dipping to the single digits, and the blustering winds would drop the wind chill below that. To stay anywhere but indoors would surely have been a death sentence. Last year alone, over 2,000 homeless people died on the streets due to the cold and exposure to the elements.
Since homeless people often lack ID's, many hotels will refuse service to them even if they have the money. So when they arrived at the Super 8, George presented his own ID and credit cards and was given the keys to a room.
After taking the couple to their new home for three days, the two bid them farewell and hit the road to be on their way to Dayton. However, an hour later they were dismayed to hear that the hotel had checked on the room and discovered the couple staying there did not have ID’s, so they kicked the two out.
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Talking to the security guard, George tried to fight for his case.
“We argued with them,” he said. “I told him we paid for the room.”
The guard told George that since guests have to be over 21 to stay in the rooms and the couple had no way to prove they were of age, the hotel had to kick them out.
“He ended the conversation by saying, ‘Oh by the way, your repayment is not refundable,'” George recalled. “I felt like I was robbed.”
By that time the Gruss’s were an hour away. “We got to Dayton so frustrated and so sad,” he said. “We missed the opportunity to help someone.”
Taking to social media to voice his anger, George posted the story on Facebook and Twitter. Eventually they created a petition that reached 15,000 signatures to address the issue with the hotel chain.
“We’re not trying to bash Super 8,” George explained. “We’re just frustrated with one hotel.”
The Gruss’s drove back to the area on Monday and searched all the fast food restaurants but could not find the couple.
“We never found them. So that’s where we are,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Wyndham Hotel Group emailed a statement addressing the frustration, saying: “As a hotel franchisor, we consider guest safety and security to be of the upmost importance and as such, require each of the independently owned and operated hotels in our portfolio to comply with not only our own brand standards but also all local, state and federal laws. Please know that we take seriously the concerns that have been shared and are investigating at this time.”
They also went on to say that they “would try to make this right,” and refunded the couple’s money. This isn’t enough for George, however, who said: “The opportunity to make this right has passed. This poor couple got put out in the cold.”
He went on to say that when the company sends him his refund, he’s going to give all the money to an organization in Columbus that helps the homeless.
“We’re just going to donate it directly to that group and let them help other homeless people, because that’s what was intended to happen,” he said.