Aurora Ho(Jo)Down


Last week I had the displeasure of staying at the Howard Johnson's on Yonge St here in Aurora while we were waiting for the keys to our new house.

If you think the hotel looks bad from the outside you won't be disappointed to know that the inside is in keeping with the overall theme that Howard Johnson's is going after : neglect.

The hotel is over 40 years old and never been renovated.  It needs it desperately, or it needs to have a date with a wrecking ball.

The experience was off-putting even before entering the hotel as the automatic entrance door was not functioning.  Too bad for those needing such accessibility.  I noticed upon my exit that the solution to this was to simply prop the door open.  How ingenious.

Once inside the front desk experience was horrible.

There was no bell, so I patiently waited 5 minutes before being acknowledged.  This was during a lull, the young girl that was manning the desk was busy at a computer terminal in behind the desk.  It was hard to tell if she was doing work, or Facebooking, either way she could have torn herself away to acknowledge my presence.

The hotel doesn't have a Queen & pullout couch combo common to most hotel chains so instead I had to settle on 2 double beds.

Once off the elevator the smell of sweat and desperation hit you like a wave as you head down the hallway with unusually low ceilings. 

No surprise, the room keys were not properly programmed and required a trip back downstairs to be re-done. 

Once in the room the disappointment only grew.  No-frills is an understatement.  From single-ply toilet paper to the chintziest toiletries.   The room was not overly clean, I doubt that objects are moved during the vacuuming of the rooms which must be done after every other visit.

Water damage was evident in the wall paper which leads one to suspect that mold has set in.  Public Health should investigate as the potential for spores could pose a serious health risk to guests.

Wireless internet was unnecessarily confusing.  After fiddling with it for some time I sought help.  The young man at the front desk explained that connection issues were related to the specific room I was in.  Apparently the owner has been notified of the issue but the same young man mentioned that owner is 83 years old and followed up with the "you know how it is" and then shrugged his shoulders. 

He seemed more interested in sucking face with another member of the staff, as I noticed when making a visit to retrieve items from the car later at night, than looking after guests.

In the morning we found that running the shower for 10 minutes produced enough steam to set of the smoke alarm.  When I was able to deactivate it I was surprised to find the device was a) a residential unit operating on a 9V battery, not wired into the electrical system as per code b) manufactured in 1992 and c) obviously not monitored by the hotel staff, as no one seemed to inquire as to the alarm, or even care.

I will be bringing this to the attention of the local Fire Department as I'm sure they will enjoy a visit, provided of course that it isn't overnight.

Given the condition of the room there was absolutely no way I was going to "treat" my family to the complimentary breakfast.

In returning the room keys I received my $105 bill, which will serve as a permanent reminder never to return.

I found that on the TripAdvisor site : my negative experience is just one of many. 

In fact 86% of travelers do not recommend this hotel.


Which just begs the following questions :

1.) How is this hotel still in operation? 

If they aren't able to capitalize on repeat business, where does new business come from?  It's hard to believe there's enough local business or tourist attractions around to sustain it.

2.) Are all Howard Johnson's like this?  or does Howard Johnson's not check up on their locations? You would think that even once in 20 years would be a good idea.  You know just incase the place is delapedated to the point it may be tarnishing your brand.

3.)  how is it that the ONLY hotel operating in Aurora is allowed to operate under these conditions.

The town of Aurora's website boasts "urban amenities".  Does this extend to the HoJo?

I noticed that the recent announcement for RibFest included the following endorsement :

"The Howard Johnson Hotel in Aurora would love to provide accommodation during your visit to Aurora’s Ribfest."

I couldn't think of a worse place to encourage people to stay while visiting Aurora.

If you are looking for a place to stay I would highly recommend the Holiday Inn Express suites up in Newmarket.  The hotel is only 1 year old, the staff are fantastic and you feel welcome and refreshed.  The difference in distance and cost is minimal, the experience is phenomenal.

As a community Aurora should be very ashamed, and if the town is going to continue to use the slogan "You're in good company" then it should be forced to add the caveat "if you like cockroaches."


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