• Action 9 investigates controversial hotel websites


    ORLANDO, Fla. - If you're booking a vacation getaway soon, be careful with unfamiliar hotel websites. An Orlando woman thought she booked a dream getaway near Disney then spent weeks fighting to get her money back.

    Action 9's Todd Ulrich exposes controversial hotel websites that hide what you really need to know.

    Michelle Clark thought she found a perfect escape at Toscana Suites near Disney's doorstep. Its website boasts a luxury boutique hotel with suites, a sparkling resort pool and manicured courtyards and pictures to match.

    “I'm thinking this is going to be a great vacation,” said Clark, who arrived with a prepaid reservation.

    "I get there and it’s anything but luxury. It’s basically condemned," she said.

    That was Clark's first impression when she saw the Toscana buildings. As it turned out, they are not condemned but partially abandoned behind construction fences.

    “No windows, no doors, just empty,” said Clark.

    The main office is a converted hotel room in one of just two buildings that had windows and doors.

    Inside her "suite," conditions weren’t as bad but Clark claimed no flat screen TV as claimed or hot water.

    When she called management to cancel she said the guy told her if it were up to him he would refund the money, but that didn't happen.

    Hotel websites that exaggerate, mislead or lie are such an industry problem that travel websites like Oyster now send employees for actual pictures to expose the online fantasy.

    “We have seen several hotels that we have called out now changing their marketing or changing their hotel website,” said Kelsey Blodget with Oyster.

    Action 9 found dozens of complaints about Toscana Suites online. It has an F rating at the Better Business Bureau.

    Ulrich went to ask about its luxury website compared to the actual condition of the property.

    “This is not what they expected,” said Ulrich. 

    “You need to stop the camera and talk to the owner,” replied the supervisor.

    Later, a property owner told Ulrich the hotel is in foreclosure, which is why all renovations stopped. He also said there are hundreds of happy customers.

    “Did you feel like this was a bait and switch?” asked Ulrich.  

    “I did afterwards,” replied Clark.

    Clark did not stay at the hotel and got her money back, although the hotel charged a $100 cancelation fee.

    Toscana Suite owners said the nightly rate is discounted to make up for the current conditions.

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    Action 9 investigates controversial hotel websites