|Byron, Beatrice and Jonathan Ortega,
and Grandmother Annie Kirkwood
Click for larger picture
Our grandson, Jonathan Ortega married Beatrice Alvar, on Saturday November 17th (2001) at 4PM at a Catholic Church in Oak Cliff (Dallas). They had a reception afterwards that lasted until near midnight. After they left the reception they drove across town to Addison to stay at The Intercontinental Hotel, where the groom's father had previously made a hotel reservation. Sometime around 1AM in the morning they enter the hotel and tried to check in. The bride is still in her wedding dress, the groom in his tuxedo. They say they have a reservation and the hotel clerk refuses to give them a room, saying they are too young! Here is a very young Mexican-American couple, that has not only a reservation, but a copy of his dad's drivers license and a permission letter to use his dad's credit card for the room. This was all prearranged with the hotel.
Now their hopes are shattered, they are embarrassed, humiliated, and very disappointed on their once-in-a-lifetime wedding night. They had planned to spend a wonderful night together in what they thought was an excellent hotel. What they had to do instead was to drive back across town at 2:00 in the morning and spend the night at his mother's house. Not the most romantic environment for a wedding night!
Now a little background. Jonathan's father, David, was giving the newlyweds a very special gift. He was renting them a room at a nice hotel and was covering all their expenses for the balance of the weekend. When David called and made the reservation, they said he must show his driver's license to cover the hotel expenses. David was planning on driving all the way from Duncanville to Addison to show the hotel reservationist his drivers license. We happened to drop by to leave our wedding presents, and he mentioned that he was having to go to Addison. Annie and I suggested he handle the matter by phone. He called them and they still insisted that they see his drivers license. Now as a side note, we have a successful company and do business over the Internet. We take credit cards and do not require anyone's drivers license to take their card, its just not done. This is not a requirement of the credit card companies. Anyway, the hotel agrees to accept a copy of the front and back of his drivers license (what's so important on the back on someone's license?), and to have him fax it to them. Now picture thisDavid is home in Duncanville, he has neither a copy machine or fax machine there. He is getting ready for the wedding, preparing to go help get the reception hall ready, and the hotel requires that he go find a store with a copy machine and fax machine on a Saturday afternoon. What's wrong with this picture? Isn't the hotel industry currently begging for guests?
Annie and I didn't know this last part until later. We are both experienced travelers and have never heard of anything like this before. Apparently the hotel agreed to accept a copy of the drivers license when Jonathan checks in. Also, somewhere along the way, David writes a letter authorizing Jonathan to use his credit card. Jonathan had both of these on his person when he and his bride tried to check in.
Now this is a young Mexican-American couple, not experienced in dealing with hotels, the use of credit cards, or how to handle a bad situation. There are things they could, or should, have done; like to ask to speak to the managerbut they didn't know they could do this. Being young and Hispanics they have felt discrimination before and this felt the same to them. They simply accepted that the hotel was not going to allow them in, even though they had a reservation and credit card authorization in his pocket. Their wonderful, planned, wedding night, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was being denied them by an insensitive hotel clerk representing the Intercontinental Hotel in Addison, Texas. No matter what happens, they can not relive this missed opportunity. Even if the hotel offered them a year of free room and board; if a jury of peers awarded them a multi-million dollar judgement, they still can never redo the wrong that was done to them on their wedding night.
The next morning, Sunday, I was watching TV at my parent's home in Oak Cliff and the news is reporting on several college fraternities that held Halloween parties where students dressed up in KKK outfits. They had put pictures on the Internet, including one where a white man (student) was holding a gun the head of a black man. The news media was reporting the outrage this had caused, that this kind of racism shouldn't exists in our society in this day. Shortly after that, I found out my grandson and his new bride had been refused a room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addison. I was outraged and called the hotel. I ask for a manager and a Mr Soren Gensen responded. I told him what I knew and suggested he might want to check it out and contact my stepson David and to make it right with them. He said he would.
After arriving home in Northeastern Oklahoma, we called to see if the hotel had responded. Apparently they had, and had offered the newlyweds a free room and a buffet. Annie and I thought about their offer and felt it was not adequate. The newlyweds already had a "free" room and all expenses being paid (it was free to them, not to David). So we felt this was not an adequate compensation for the humiliation, embarrassment, and disappoint they had felt the night before. So Monday morning I called the head manager, a Mr Michael Spamer, and told him the problem and that I had previously talked with Mr Gensen. Mr Spamer called me back and the only thing they would do is the free room and buffet. This was his final offer! So Annie and I called another hotel, a top rated hotel in downtown Dallas and made a reservation for the kids to spend the next weekend there, all expenses paid, at our's and David's expense. I then called Mr Spamer and declined on their meek, pitiful offer. My grandson was already apprehensive about going back to the hotel to "try again." Can anyone blame him after what they went through?
By the way, when Annie explained to the new hotel what had happened with the Intercontinental and that she didn't want any problems, this hotel was embarrassed about how the newlyweds were treated and offered a free upgrade to a suite, to try to apologize on behalf of the hotel industry for the way they had been treated. This top rated downtown Dallas hotel showed more interest in trying to right the wrong than did Mr Spamer, the manager of the Intercontinental Hotel. What's wrong with this picture and why would any hotel refuse business when the industry is begging people to travel and stay at hotels? What wrong with the Intercontinental? what's wrong with their management?
Just as a comment: while discussing the situation with Mr Spamer I mentioned there might have been some discrimination involved with the refusal to provide a room. Mr Spamer flatly denied that this was the case, but when I asked him if he knew who the clerk was that was on duty that evening, he didn't know. Then how can he truly know there was no discrimination? Also, when I asked who the CEO of the company that owned the hotel, Mr Spamer refused to give me the information, instead referring me to two people in other parts of the country that were gone for the week.
Annie finds it ironic that her grandson and her have a great-great-great grandfather who fought in the Civil War. Three uncles that fought in WW II, and that Jonathan's grandfather was in the army during the Korean conflict, and yet he is denied one night's stay in the country they fought for. Doesn't anyone see the injustice in this?
I hope you can be of some help. I don't even know what help is needed just to try to right the wrong that was done to this young couple starting out on the adventure of married life. It was a shame that their adventure started out so negative. It was also a shame that the Intercontinental didn't make a sincere effort to right this wrong.
We hope that some reasonable action will prompt this to never happen again with the Intercontinental Hotel, whether the couple is young or old; white, black, brown, or any other color of race, creed or national origin.
Byron Kirkwood, MBA
Annie Ortega Kirkwood, author
Our contact information: 700 East Shawntel Smith Blvd. P.O. Box 1376 Muldrow,
Phone 918-427-3600 Fax 918-427-3214
The hotel address is: Inter-Continental Hotel - Dallas, 15201 Dallas Parkway, Addison, TX 75001 phone 972-386-6000.