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So You'd Like A Room On The First Floor......

........ at a hotel which has no elevator?

During our last trip we spent two days in Bonn, (we wanted to see Beethoven's birthplace) and my wife was having knee problems, so an elevator or a 1st floor room was important.

Well, rude awakening time: We had to go up 2 flights of stairs to get to the "First Floor" where the proprietor's office was. Then another 2 flights to get to our room.

We were assured when we booked that we could be accomodated and when I complained, the manager stuck out his hand and asked for his key back. Since we were tired and didn't want to walk to another hotel, we decided to "grin and bear it" and stayed there. There was no workable television, but since we had already had the one major disappointment we decided to let that one go as well.

This was a 4 Star Hotel, but the award was 5 years old, so we wrote to the agency which governs awarding stars and complained. Don't know if it helped, but I thought y'all might want to keep our experience in mind if you have the same circumstances we did.

Thanks

Bill

Posted by
9110 posts

The first floor is the first one above ground/street level. Somebody forgot to clue you in.

Posted by
5817 posts

I think this might have been a communication breakdown rather than a "scam".
I am not sure about how it works in Germany but in the UK the floors start with Ground floor( the one at street level) and then go 1,2,3 etc. So by asking for a room on the first floor you are asking to staying on a higher level. Under the ground floor you have a basement or what is often called " lower ground".

In some older buildings in the UK and particularly many smaller " converted" hotels in London the ground floor is actually a half floor up so you will have to use a small flight of stairs to enter the building. The kitchens are traditionally underneath on the lower ground floor.

I do feel your wife's pain, though. I often walk with a stick, and stairs especially when you are not expecting them, can make life difficult!

Posted by
20599 posts

Besides not understanding how floors are number, you might not under the star system either. Stars are not a designation of quality but rather facilities/services provided. Have been in hotel where the climb to the first floor was closer to two stories since the businesses on the ground floor had very high ceilings.

Posted by
4468 posts

Yes in Germany the first floor is what Americans would consider to be the second floor. You needed to ask for the ground floor (Erdgeschoss). Mind you, from the description you might as well have asked for the 4th floor.

Posted by
242 posts

In a roundabout way, we did ask for the bottom floor explaining in great detail that my wife couldn't climb ANY stairs. We would have been okay had the floor the check-in been the first floor (misunderstanding on my part), but then having to climb the additional stairs was a little too much for both of us. She because of her ailment and me because of the smarmy way we were handled.

Still, you're right: we should have made ourselves clearer.

Regarding the 4 star designation: One of my friends is an attorney who represents the organization awarding the stars and advised us the time had elapsed for the stars to be valid.

Thanks

PS: Yeah, I was a little hesitant calling this a scam, which is why I asked for one of the mods to check in with this one. Thanks.

Posted by
6752 posts

Your description was clear that they put you on the second floor (3rd US) after telling you you'd be on the lowest floor. Proprietor sounds like a jerk to be avoided.

Posted by
11411 posts

I have stayed in very nice two and three star hotels that I have researched thoroughly , and read reviews.. I bet if you had read reviews of this hotel you would have been aware of the stairs.. as others would have commented on it.. I think you trusted either some other person or website to you your homework. and that is always risky.

Posted by
796 posts

Bill, this is very typical in Europe. The first floor is never the "ground floor". I have never stayed in a hotel that didn't have elevators but have friends who have. Likely the people at the agency that governs the awarding of stars will have a good laugh over the complaint as this is the situation anywhere you go in Germany (or elsewhere in Europe) and it is not any scam at all. I can't imagine what your attorney friend is talking about because no website or agency awarding stars is legally liable for ratings and certainly not for something that is standard in Europe. Always check to be sure there is an elevator.

Posted by
16766 posts

I'm afraid that anyone with mobility issues must be diligent and precise to get the real scoop on how many stairs they may encounter. I have been to many nice hotels that had an elevator, but a half- or full-flight of stairs to get to the reception and/or elevator. I've also stayed in many pensions where reception and breakfast were on a higher floor than my room (e.g. in a multi-use building or apartment building), or the elevator doesn't run to the basement breakfast room, or there's an odd "bridge" of stairs between two parts of the same floor. The manager's attitude does NOT sound warranted, however.

Posted by
20 posts

And hotels sometimes have elevators that don't go all the way to the top, either. I stayed at a hostel in Amsterdam with five floors, but the elevator only went to the fourth floor, requiring me to carry my stuff up another flight. (Under ordinary circumstances it would have been no big deal, but I had to be careful not to overexert myself in this situation - no fault involved here.)

Posted by
20599 posts

And the reverse can be true. Stayed in a hotel that advertised elevator service to all rooms. Which was true -- BUT the reception/check in was located on the first floor over a restaurant and you had to claim nearly a story and a half of stairs to get to the first floor and the elevator to all of the rooms.

Posted by
12091 posts

One characteristic of a B&B in London is that the building has no elevator. You drag your roller suitcase up 4-5 floors (US definition here) up a staircase so narrow that you hope no one is coming down at the same time.

Don't expect elevators in Germany in Pensionen, 2 star hotels or even 4 star ones. With the 4 star there is more of chance of an elevator but still not a certainty. Their first room floor could be the 3rd floor with the ground floor (Erdgeschoss) as the check in and offices, the 2nd floor (US def) the restaurant or breakfast room, the 3rd floor (2. Etage/Stock ) as the first floor of guest rooms.

Posted by
17648 posts

You say it had four stars? Who gave the star rating? The official star awarding organization in Germany is Dehoga (Deutscher Hotel- und Gastättenverband = German Hotel and Restaurant Association). Dehoga has an extensive, 20 page spreadsheet listing hotel characteristics, award points, and what is required for numbers of stars. It says that a lift is required for a four or five star hotel IF it's a "hotel with more than 3 floors, including the ground floor". Note, it does not say including the proprietor's office. So, if the proprietor's office was on the 2nd floor (3rd including ground floor), and it has another floor, it needs to have an elevator. This requirement dates to at least 2010. If they don't currently have the star rating, they shouldn't be claiming it.

NOW, I have seen hotels built on a hill, where the reception is at street level for the higher street that the hotel is on, but there is another entrance 2 stories down, on the other side. I guess they could call it a basement (2. Untergeschoss). But this hotel had an elevator, so the issue was moot.

Was Dehoga the agency to which you wrote?

BTW, I just checked the standards for 2005-2009, and it should have had an elevator then to qualify for four stars.

Posted by
3249 posts

When I look for lodgings, I never pay any attention to the stars. I read the description, look at the pictures, and pay very close attention to the reviews. I always bug the owner/manager by email with the questions I inevitably have.

When I lived in Germany, my apartment was on the top floor of the building. There were 99 steps from the ground floor to my place. I was in my 30's and never thought about it, but when my mother who was in her 60's came to visit, she counted them.

Now I'm in my late 60's with knee issues myself. The only time I get shots for them is before I travel to Europe. But I do pay close attention to the elevator thing and the supposed floor number.

We have encountered all the options others have mentioned in any number of combinations. Oddly, one of the easiest places for me to go up and down was in Amsterdam with its notoriously narrow and steep stairs. I found that I could manage them very well by putting one hand on the stair rail (there was usually only one) and putting the other hand up a couple of steps on the actual stairs to steady and pull myself going up. Going down was a little trickier, but at my age and with the help of my orthopedist, I'm learning lots of tricks for remaining mobile.

We have also experienced lodging situations that weren't exactly what we signed up for, but what happened to you was the worst I've heard of -- so far anyway.

Posted by
17648 posts

I also don't pay attention to stars, not in Germany, because I find that most of the small family run hotels and Privathäuser where I stay don't bother with stars. That's not a problem in Germany, because virtually everyone, regardless of stars or not, adheres to a high cultural standard of cleanliness and maintenance.

I think one big reason for hotels foregoing stars is that, according to Dehoga (German Hotel and Restaurant Association), which awards stars, to have more than a one star rating, you must accept credit cards. I find that aside from big chains, most places eschew credit cards and the fees they entail. Since without taking credit cards, no matter how nice the place is, they can only have one more than no stars, they just don't bother.

Posted by
2860 posts

We learned the hard way about ratings when we lived in England for a year. (The British Tourist Authority uses crowns, I think; but the idea is the same.) A place can be iffy on cleanliness and have indifferent to bad service; but if they have a restaurant (no matter how good or bad), fitness center or a business center, they get a higher rating than a wonderful place without those. BTW, I think the same is true in the U.S.

Posted by
17648 posts

As I said, in Germany, any hotel with a star rating has to meet the same standards or cleanliness and maintenance, and I find non-starred hotel meet them too. It's a cultural thing.

There are criteria for size of rooms and size of beds according to star rating, but in general, stars seem to depend on a lot of "fluff" like heated towel racks and shoe shine equipment on every floor. In high star hotels you might have a reception desk manned 24 hours/day; in lower starred places they might give you a key to the back door and you let yourself in. I think for most people, higher star rating does not really translate to higher value. Americans seem to think they have to have 4 or 5 star hotels, but that, in my experience, is not true.

Posted by
5487 posts

Re stars: Do an internet/web search for "hotel star ratings foreign countries". One hit is http://goeurope.about.com/cs/hotels/a/hotel_stars.htm

Which says in part:

So you're wandering around Europe and notice stars prominently displayed in front of every hotel. Say you find one that has three stars. *What does it mean?**
The short answer is: just about anything, but probably not what you're thinking. Let's get one thing straight, there is no unified definition of a three-star hotel across Europe. And another thing: most of the ratings are provided by the government (or in some cases, like Switzerland, by a volunteer organization), and will be a quantitative measure used to determine the price range (and sometimes the tax obligation) of a hotel. The ranges will overlap, so don't even look for that much consistency in price; a three star hotel may be more expensive than a four star, even in the same city. It depends.*

Posted by
6752 posts

We just checked into a hotel today which had the reception up one flight. They called that floor 0. The rooms started on 1, what we'd call 3. It is only two stars but has an elevator which begins on the recetion floor, up the first flight of stairs. I think you had a misunderstanding. When someone is in physical pain, it exacerbates the situation.