A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The creepiest hotel experience ever... (NEVER STAY AT THE STINSON BEACH MOTEL!!!!!)

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, Paul and I were supposed to stay at the Stinson Beach Motel. It was at an extremely convenient location, right where the start/finish of my race would be on Saturday morning. From the pictures online, it definitely looked like a budget motel, but it looked cute! We normally try to save money and stay at  non fancy places when we are on vacations in which we spend most of our time outdoors and away from the hotel we are staying at. 

(Note: If you clicked on the link above to see pictures from their website, be advised that the actual hotel was WAY MORE of a dump than depicted in the pictures.)

We never had a bad experience with a budget motel. The worst is that the bedspread may be stiff, the walls can be thin, there may be a stray hair or something in the bathroom, the fixtures are outdated, and the in room coffee is not very good. But none of those things I listed are creepy, unsafe, or unclean. I've never felt UNSAFE or UNEASY at any of the hotels we have stayed at until Thursday night when we checked in at the Stinson Beach Motel.

(Note: We sometimes stay at nice places. I don't want you to think we never spring for something nicer, because we do!)

I know, you want me to get to the good stuff, right?

We pulled up to the Stinson Beach Motel on Thursday night around 7:30pm. We were so hungry and tired from driving all day. Paul told me that once we were checked in, that I could go to our room and eat my sandwich while he unloaded ALL of our stuff. What a guy! I was so excited to eat, shower, get cozy, and at 9pm, watch Big Brother with Paul. It was EVICTION NIGHT ON BIG BROTHER!

I grabbed my purse and went up to the motel office, which was right next to where we parked. I turned the doorknob but it was locked. But suddenly the door swung open... halfway... and a man appeared. He was slight, probably in his 50s, tan, and had about three teeth. The door only opened halfway because there was a counter in the way.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Hi, I am checking in," I said.

"Do you have a reservation?" he asked. 

"Yes, I do."

"Okay, meet me around back and I will show you the room," he said and shut the door.

The man creeped me out. It was a combination of the man's demeanor and the tone of his voice. Paul heard the whole exchange go down and just left our luggage in the lot. "You're not going back there alone," Paul said and followed me into the courtyard. I didn't want to go back there alone!

The man appeared out of nowhere and opened a cottage for us. It looked very low budget and small, but that was okay. I honestly didn't look around closely. I just assumed that if this was a business with a license, it would be safe.

"This is okay," I told the man.

We went back to the office (him through the back and me through the half opened door out front. Paul went back to the car to unload.

"Okay, so one night is $121," he told me.

"Wait, I reserved three nights!" I said.

"What?" he asked confused. "Aren't you Peg?"

"No, I'm Megan," I said.

"Oh, oh, oh... okay, well I showed you the wrong room. I showed you room 7. Your room 3. You can go back and look at it, it's open.

Hmmm. This was strange. I grabbed Paul and we went back to look at room 3. Again, the cottage was very small and outdated, but we didn't look very closely. It seemed pretty dingy but the location was great and it was cheaper than anything else around. And it's not like we'd be spending lots of time in our room. It seemed adequate. I still had a really weird feeling though...

I went back to the office and told the man the room was fine.

"Yeah, there is no doorknob on the bathroom door, I'm sure you saw that, right?" he asked.

"Oh, no I didn't see that," I said.

"It's no big deal, just don't shut the door from the outside or it will lock on you. No big deal," he said nonchalantly.

This was weird...

"You can only pay for one night at a time," the man told me.

"Really?" I asked, surprised.

"Well, unless you pay cash, but..."

"Oh no, I'm not paying cash," I told him.

"Okay, then just pay for one night then," he said.

He ran my credit card. "Would you like extra pillows? he asked.

"Sure!" I said. Finally, some good news. Paul and I love lots of pillows. "I'll just wait here?"

He stared at me with the weirdest, blank look on his face, and in monotone, he said, "I have to get them from the back, Megan."


Now listen, I know there are any number of reasons someone might act strange. I deal with students all the time who are on the spectrum or who have other mental or emotional problems. I know many adults who are like this. But these people I have dealt with never EVER give me a weird feeling in my stomach or creeped me out. 

This guy was different. I just really need to convey to you how I am not overreacting. ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR INTUITION. But follow it before you pay someone $121....

I decided to help Paul carry our things to our room since neither of use wanted to be walking outside alone. Once we got everything inside, we realized the weird guy never gave us a key. Paul went to get it while I locked myself in the room. Luckily Paul came back within just a couple minutes. We looked around the room and got the lay of the land...

There was no air conditioning or heat. Just an electric radiator you could plug in for warmth. All of the windows were open. The bathroom window didn't have a screen, so it was wide open, which explained why there were mosquitoes in our room. Indeed, the bathroom door did not have a doorknob, but there was a note taped on the door that said not to shut the door at ALL (from the inside or the outside) or it would be locked.

"How the hell are you allowed to have a door like this that could lock on you?" Paul asked.

"I have no idea," I said. "I can't imagine it's that expensive to replace a doorknob..."

Paul needed a shower and I needed to eat. As he showered, I ate a couple bites of my sandwich and searched for CBS on the TV. Surprisingly, the TV was a big flat screen with HD. The wifi was working pretty well too...

But I still could not get that horrible feeling out of my stomach. I Googled reviews for the motel and was horrified by what I found. I will post some of them for you to read. They are from the Trip Advisor website...

Manager very unprofessional, rude. The room was full of spiders. I killed at least 5. I have stayed here many times over the years. The owners have let it go to hell. Never again. I got my money back and split.

Unfortunately not a very good impression, poorly furnished a very small room and very much in need of refurbishment. We actually asked for our money back we were so unimpressed. The towels were not washed and the impression was shabby to say the least.

I am only giving this motel one star for the location, if it wasn't for the walking distance to beach and restaurants, it would be a zero rating. I arrived with my family to be greeted by a grouchy front desk representative/live-in manager who was unprofessional and rude. The entire property smelled like propane, almost as though it would blow up at any moment. We were told that was just how it was. The cottages were filthy, so much I wouldn't let my young child touch the ground and the bathrooms were gross. The second night we were there, there was no hot water, as well as the following morning. I went and ask the front desk and was told, "yeah, we are out of propane." UNBELIEVEABLE! 

The proprietor left the door open to the room/shack after showing it and when I came back there was loud breathing and movement behind the dresser. I bolted as it was quite late and didn't stay in the room. I think it was a raccoon as there was a number of them all over the area. WORST STAY EVER. Also, proprietor said they don't "do refunds".

My husband and I are pretty adventurous and understand that you get what you pay for within a certain price point for lodging. However, this hotel was very poorly maintained - screens missing from windows, carpet stains, shower curtain was disgusting, to name a few. The manager was awkward and made me feel very uncomfortable by asking if I'd 'like to look at the room first' when we checked in... Is there a reason I should look at the room first? Overall, if you were in the situation we were in, where there weren't any other vacancies in town, it's a place to sleep, but if you have any choice at all, don't stay here. It's not worth half of what they charge.

Now, I know what you are thinking, "Megan, why didn't you read these reviews BEFORE you booked the hotel!!!!???"

I really don't know why! There was a website and the rooms looked fine! It looked like a legit place! BELIEVE ME, I HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON!!!!!

After reading the reviews, the sick feeling in my stomach got worse and I got very homesick. My eyes wandered around the room. I wondered if the room had a smoke alarm. I looked on the ceiling and it did... but there were NO BATTERIES IN IT!

This was the last straw. I didn't feel comfortable ever since that weird man opened the office door halfway.

"Paul, we have to go," I told him. "We can't stay here tonight. There are no batteries in the smoke alarm."

Paul agreed right away. We both didn't feel good about it. We grabbed all of our stuff in just one trip and jammed it into the car. Since Paul was THE MAN (I know I am a feminist but in this situation I was glad to be the woman and wait in the car!!!!) he went into the office to demand our money back. He was able to get $90.

We took pictures of all the stuff that was wrong with our room, and Paul got a picture of the business license for the hotel. I called the Marin County Department of Health the next day and I'm still waiting for a call back. I need to follow up because this motel can NOT be open. It is unclean and unsafe.

No knob on bathroom door.

Note on bathroom door.

Wide open bathroom window.

No batteries in the smoke alarm.

We made the decision to leave just in time, because our only option for finding a place to stay was in Mill Valley. And since Route 1 was closed after Stinson Beach, our only route there was driving over Mt. Tamalpais... which is winding, has steep cliffs, and NO STREET LIGHTS. I'm not even sure if you're supposed to drive over it in the dark!

The story ends happily... sort of. We made it to America's Best Value Inn in Mill Valley and got a room from a RUDE clerk (more on her later). With tax, the room was $175(ish) for the night. But at least we were in a safe, clean room.

Have you ever demanded your money back from a hotel?

Did you ever have a horribly creepy/sick feeling like I did?

I'm sure you all have stories for me... PLEASE SHARE!


  1. That is a great story! I always say listen to your gut - it's never wrong! I live by that. That story that I sent you about my experience was very much like yours. Glad you were not alone! Glad you guys got most of your money back. crazy! Kristen

    1. I know when I read your story it reminded me of what Paul and I experienced. I am so glad Paul was there with me!

  2. HOLY CRAP! Don't you ever worry about bed bugs? I am a germaphobe and hate staying in ANY hotel even if it's expensive and fancy! One time me and my friend and all our kids took a road trip and stayed in a decent hotel but there was a fire in the kitchen at 6am and the whole hotel had to evacuate THAT EARLY. It was awful.

    1. You know what, I don't ever worry about bed bugs! I am more afraid of fires. I want to know my escape routes. So I prefer a room on the ground floor, for sure.

  3. Ugh..that is awful! Just awful. I am glad you got your money back. I don't think we have ever stayed in a horrible place like that. I always try to book chain hotels. Not that we don't want to try to save money but we aren't into the budget hotel. Hotels are bad enough when you think about all the people that sleep there before you. I want it as on the "up and up" as possible. I am so glad you got your money back (most of it). Yikes.

    1. I try not to think about all the people that are in hotels before me... I think the older Paul and I get, the more we will spring for the NON budget places. It just sometimes doesn't seem worth it when we really don't spend much time in our room on vacation. BUT there is a line. It has to be safe and clean.

  4. I too would be worried about bed bugs (btw, there is a registry online of hotels where you can check if they have a history). We always check yelp reviews before booking places but sometimes reviews can be deceiving because people tend to only review their bad experiences and not the good. Still, this place just looks creepy from the pics and I can't believe how the man treated you!

    1. I think from now on I will definitely research the hotel more. I just never had an experience like this. I learned a lesson for sure.

  5. OMG, I'd be out of there and flying down the road. Intuition exists for a reason!

    1. Yes! One of my favorite books is by Gavin DeBecker and it's called The Gift of Fear.

    2. Love that book too!! I saw him on Oprah once and what he said has always stuck with me. Kristen

  6. Yikes! I had an odd experience at an AirBNB before...the door to the apartment wouldn't lock, but the guy was like I don't go downstairs and the lady upstairs won't bother you. At least the lock to the bedroom had a working lock... I made it out alive but I was up half the night with every creaking noise. I made a note about the door on the review. All the other reviews were on a positive note, no one mentioned the door. A super cheap place to spend the night, so I got what I paid for...

    1. Man, it just seems like certain things are deal breakers... like locks and smoke alarms! I am glad it turned out okay and that at least there was a lock on the bedroom door. I always forget about AirBnB. I guess I could've looked at that. I will have to research it more though because I know nothing about it!

  7. Oh my, that's a nightmare. I can see how you went budget (the Bay area is soooo expensive!), but yes, ALWAYS read the Tripadvisor reviews (they're usually spot on!) and just suck it up and pay a little more... it'll be worth it. At least you have a good story to tell your kids? ;)

    1. Haha I know, I think this is one of those instances where I learned a very good lesson!

      Holy crap CA is expensive. Just EVERYTHING about it is expensive...

    2. I've long stopped trying to compare our expenses (like food, etc.) with other people's expenses in other states LOL

  8. Oh man!!!! That place gives me the creeps. Alan and I did stay at a shady cheap hotel one time on a ski trip and it was the worst. It grosses me out just to think about it, but it was the last room available in the town. That was pre-internet days. I'm not sure how we even traveled before the internet and online reviews/pictures. Glad you got some money back!!!

    1. I know, how did we travel before the internet!? At least you only had to spend one night there. I guess these are the "interesting" experiences that teach us a lesson and give us a story to tell!

  9. So creepy!! I'm glad you trusted your gut. Did it seem like there was anyone else staying there? Cars in the parking lot? Or were you guys all alone?!

    1. We saw one other room... their door was wide open and they were laying in bed drinking beer. I wanted to inform them to check their smoke alarms but they honestly didn't look like they would have cared!

  10. I really don't know how the place was allowed to be open and operating!

    I suppose if the man had been nice, mayyyyyyybe we would've stayed one night? I don't know. No batteries in the smoke alarm seems like a dealbreaker to me!

  11. OMG! What a horror story!! I always STUDY the reviews on TripAdvisor. And only $90 back?? I have learned from Max - you need to be a huge dick and threaten that you are going to file a written complaint with the Better Business Bureau, the Health Dept, etc. I just got an $80 coupon from AirBnB for doing that ;)

    1. Go girl! Believe me, I learned my lesson. Normally I book right off of hotels.com, which has reviews... but this one I did directly from the website and it looked nice! I was so stupid. Never again.

  12. HOLY COW! I cant believe they were just totally skirting regulation by not having batteries in the smoke alarm or anything. I'm glad you left!

    When Adam and I went to Chicago for the marathon I had the worst hotel experience. I didn't look up reviews of the hotel we stayed at because 1.) it was the host hotel for TEAM PAWS and I assumed they wouldn't send me to a shit hole 2.) the hotel was literally right across from the starting line in prime Chicago location and 3.) The hotel was like $250 per night so I assumed it must be fairly decent for that price.

    Little did I know what we were getting into. The location was AMAZING and the first floor of the hotel was newly renovated or really nice. Upstairs by the actual hotel rooms it was dirty, dingy, moldy and totally falling apart. Plus had a distinct haunted feeling. In the middle of the night Adam and I heard something in the bathroom that woke us both up. I asked "did you hear that?" and Adam said "yes but i'm not looking. let's just go back to sleep." It was too creepy.

    On our way to the airport I finally looked up the hotel in TripAdvisor and came to find out it's like the most haunted hotel in Chicago (if you believe in that)! I am not surprised!!!! I can't believe Team Paws recommends people stay there and I can't believe they charge so much for each room during race weekend when it's a dump. I would never stay there again!

    1. WOW I am also surprised that Team PAWS would recommend that hotel! I don't believe in haunted stuff, but I do believe places can be creepy... What is the name of the hotel? I want to look at the reviews!

    2. I can only imagine that they recommended the hotel because it is literally in the most prime location that one can stay for the marathon. You literally walk directly across the street and you're at the start/finish area.

      It's called The Congress Plaza Hotel:

  13. Oh no! I am surprised too that you didn't read reviews ahead of time but in your defense the website did look legit and it looked perfectly fine. i am glad you took pictures of the room. The guy alone sounded creepy and I would have been worried that he would just randomly enter the room. I don't want to sound like a cheapskate but I'm surprised they charge as much as they do. Heck, you can get a room at the Holiday Inn for only $99.

    I am weird about staying away from home. My motto is I don't stay anywhere that isn't as nice as my house. But then again, where I stay is usually apart of the entire vacation experience. Except one time we stayed at this hotel in Miami just one night before we boarded a cruise. I don't know if I looked up reviews or not because it was over 10 years ago. I don't even remember the name but it wasn't a chain. It was bad enough that we were on like the 20th floor, it was very old, and reminded me of something from Stephen King's The Shining! To make it worse, I may have accidentally left my favorite pair of jeans there. Scott and I still joke about that till this day.

    1. Well the Bay Area and Marin county are very expensive. So to give you an example, in Mill Valley, where we ended up staying that night, the Holiday Inn Express was $214 for a Thursday night!

      Since hotels are part of your vacation experience, it totally makes sense you would want it to be as nice or better than your house. Sometime, I swear Paul and I are going to go on a warm, sunny, RELAXING tropical vacation at a resort, and you better believe we will want the nicest, adults only hotel with a balcony!!! :)

  14. What a story! What cracked me up was that the smoke alarm without batteries was the deciding factor ! I am not so sure I would have made it past checking out the room!