The owner of the Days Inn by Wyndham hotel in Roseburg has apparently made good on his vow to provide refunds to customers after he was accused of price gouging people who were fleeing wildfires last week.
Days Inn owner Devon Kumar came under heavy criticism last week from several customers who said they were charged well over $100 a night — and in one case $289 — for rooms that normally go for as little as $50.
Kumar gave refunds to a number of customers who had complained of being overcharged and also provided free rooms to several of those customers.
Donna Bryan said her friend was charged $300 for a room last week. After complaining, Days Inn gave them a refund and let them stay three nights for free, she said.
“They did the right thing and kudos for that,” Bryan said. “They made it right for my friend.”
Virginia Torrey, who was charged $289 for a room, said Kumar is returning $100 of that to her.
And Trinity Barney, who owns and manages the Idleyld Trading Post and complained last week that several of her workers were overcharged at the Days Inn, said she knows of a woman who was given a refund and a room at a reduced rate.
Kumar said he refunded 10-15 customers and gave four or five of them several nights free stays in the hotel.
“I’m really sorry for the misunderstanding,” he said. “We’re here to help the people. If anyone else complained about the rate I have no problem giving them their money back.”
Kumar, who has owned the hotel at 790 NW Garden Valley Blvd. since 2013, said last week that the main reason for the hefty room charges had to do with the system that Days Inn uses to set prices. That system relies on algorithms that take into account available bed space and automatically sets each room’s rate, he said.
“Our computer system works based on occupancy,” Kumar said last week. “We start the rate at $80 a day. The computer sets the algorithm and as hotel business increases, the rates increase. I have nothing to do with that.”
But two people who have worked for Kumar at the Days Inn said that wasn’t true. They both said Kumar could and often would set the prices for rooms. Whoever is working the front desk can also set the room rates, which can start at about $50 a night, they said.
“He lied about the computer system price change. I know for a fact because we as managers had to control it as Devon called us many times a day to do so,” said one person who has worked for Kumar.
A second person who has worked at the Days Inn said it was a privately owned franchise and corporate had nothing to do with the rates.
“He just wanted to profit off of a tragedy rather than help this community out in this time of need,” they said.
Kumar insisted that the higher rates set last week were due to the algorithms and that he could not change those rates.
“The hotel was so busy with so many people booking so quickly that we couldn’t do that,” he said. “It goes by occupancy. The rates are set automatically.”
Kumar also blamed the criticisms leveled by people who had worked with him on “disgruntled employees” who are not happy with a new manager he put in place at the hotel.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “We always want to help people, that’s what we’re here for.”
The corporate division of Days Inn did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Complaints of price gouging have become more prominent recently as wildfires have burned more than 1 million acres across the state and displaced an estimated 40,000 people.
Last week, Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order to halt such price gouging. Brown declared an “abnormal market disruption” and said she had received reports of abnormal increases in lodging rates for Oregonians forced to evacuate.
On Monday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners issued a statement asking the public to be aware of and report potential acts of price gouging. In an open letter to the public, the commissioners wrote: “It has been brought to the attention of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners that there are individuals and businesses out there that are preying on vulnerable Douglas County residents by attempting to and engaging in price gouging and insurance scams. They are targeting residents and evacuees that have been directly affected by the recent devastating local wildfires. The Commissioners are asking for your help in identifying and reporting those individuals and businesses that have engaged in these fraudulent and unethical activities. “
Reports of price gouging should go to the Oregon Department of Justice’s consumer protection hotline at 877-877-9392.