Hurricane evacuees complain of price gouging

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 9/12/17

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland informed his fellow city council members Monday of reports he received over the weekend of apparent price gouging and alleged unsavory treatment of Hurricane Irma …

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Hurricane evacuees complain of price gouging


Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland informed his fellow city council members Monday of reports he received over the weekend of apparent price gouging and alleged unsavory treatment of Hurricane Irma evacuees by local hotels.

Rowland has informed district and state officials of the reported incidents, and they are being investigated.

The mayor received an email from Shirley Hinds, the mother of some Florida evacuees who were fleeing the catastrophic hurricane which has now been downgraded to a tropical depression. Her son’s name is Brian Booher.

She informed Rowland that the young couple was traveling with their 4-year-old, and are expecting another child. They arrived in Cleveland where they had reservations at the Quality Inn (booked online). She said the facilities were dirty, and they declined to stay there. She said the hotel still charged them for the night.

Hinds said her children, and grandchild, searched for hours before apparently finding another room by calling the La Quinta Inn. She said the clerk at this hotel quoted a price of $199 for the night. When asked if this was the regular price for a room, the clerk reportedly told the couple no, that this was an increase due to the hurricane.

She said a niece also called the hotel, and was told the same thing.

The frustrated mother and mother-in-law said the young couple eventually found what they considered reasonable two nights of lodging at Cleveland’s Douglas Inn and Suites. She said these accommodations had a kitchen and living area, and they were satisfied with the arrangements.

The mother closed her email by saying, “It saddens me that some of the hotels would do that to people who have no other choice, and had to flee from their homes to be safe. I don’t know if there is anything you can do for them, but this is a very sad situation.”

The mayor agreed with the distraught mother in his comments to the council Monday, and had already taken some steps to look into the claims.

The La Quinta Inn was contacted this morning by the Cleveland Daily Banner concerning the complaint, and the mayor’s actions.

The front desk manager, who identified himself as “Dakota,” but who refused to provide his last name, said, “Our rates do change, according to availability. If we have low availability, they will increase.” He added that this is the norm for the La Quinta and other hotels. He also said it was a busy weekend for the hotel.

Rowland said of Hinds’ emailed concerns, “I forwarded these comments to 10th District Attorney Steve Crump, State Rep. Kevin Brooks and Tennessee Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security David Purkey.”

Purkey responded to the mayor, saying he has forwarded the information to Gov. Bill Haslam’s legal counsel.

Of the charges of price gouging forced upon hurricane evacuees, the mayor stressed, “This is not good for Cleveland, or the state. I urge our business owners to consider that these folks are having enough stress and problems anyway, without this to happen.”

The mayor added that he hopes the complaints he received Saturday are isolated and not the normal way of doing business in the Cleveland community. “I assured these guests that this is not the way our folks (normally) do business.”

The district attorney’s office, or the state, have not yet released any information regarding complaints or alleged incidents.


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