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Why I Won’t Return to This Pricey Hotel that Failed to Live Up to Its Marketing

Unrealistic images that don’t live up to a hotel’s reality can lead to dissatisfied guests who feel they were duped into paying a steep price for a budget hotel.

When I had to book a last-minute trip to Sedona, Arizona, last spring, I knew I’d have to pay a fairly high nightly rate for a hotel or an Airbnb rental. I didn’t have much of a choice, though, since the friends I was staying with in Phoenix had an emergency and needed some space to themselves for a couple of nights.

So, I searched online for a hotel that I could afford, with a nightly rate of up to $300. The pickings were slim, with many hotels charging higher rates than that, and many others charging up to at least a couple hundred dollars more per night than my budget could afford.

Available Airbnbs were the same story, charging more than I was willing to pay, even with such short notice. So, I limited my search to hotels.

I finally found a hotel with around a $300 nightly rate, which I booked for two nights. This hotel was less expensive than most of the hotels in Sedona but looked nice and boasted incredible views of the red rock formations for which Sedona is famous from the room and an upstairs viewing area.

According to the hotel’s website photos, the views were incredible And the photos showed a comfortable viewing area where I planned to watch nightly sunsets.

I was excited about my stay and couldn’t wait to gaze out my room window at the famous red rock formations and desert landscape. When I pulled into the parking lot, however, I was in for a surprise.

The “hotel” looked more like a budget motel, with only a parking lot and no grounds to walk or explore. The rooms, which looked luxurious (for the price) on the hotel website’s photos, also fit the old motel model. Just the basics, with cheap laminate flooring, inexpensive bedding, and a mattress that had slept so many people that it was uncomfortable.

When I gazed out my window at the “view,” I looked instead at a cement pillar blocking much of the beauty. Yes, there were magnificent views — but I had to look across a busy highway, a traffic circle, and over a bustling gas station to take them in.

The “viewing area” was nothing but two small tables crammed together in a tiny area that could hold only a few people. It overlooked the parking lot, along with the busy highway, traffic circle, and gas station.

I chalked my poor hotel choice up to experience, vowing to read the one- and two-star reviews the next time I searched for a hotel in Sedona, or any city, for that matter.

If I had done so before booking, I’d have seen all the reviews that rated the hotel as terrible and equal to a basic, budget motel for an inflated price. Instead, I only read the top reviews, most of which called the hotel good for the price.

The hotel had other drawbacks, too, such as an office that closed early and no breakfast of any kind, just a pot of coffee and disposable cups. I wasn’t the only guest who felt this way, either. As I returned from the gas station where I’d purchased a decent cup of coffee, a man outside the hotel struck up a conversation.

“We’re kind of disappointed in this hotel,” he told me. “It doesn’t look anything like the pictures.”
Despite my disappointment, I made the most of my stay, venturing out to areas near Sedona where I could take in the incredible views while hiking or strolling in nature areas.”

But next time I visit Sedona, this hotel will be scratched off the list of possibilities before I even begin my search. I felt that their photos were deceptive, which made me think that all the owners care about is one-off bookings. If their website images were more honest, I might have booked again.

Now that I know better, I have no desire to return. I won’t get back the $300 a night I spent at this hotel that relied on images that made it look better than it was. However, I’ll know better next time — when I book one of its competitors for my Sedona vacation.