TV ad denigrates Wigwam motels

A new television commercial by the Microtel motel chain conveys an unflattering light on the three surviving Frank Redford-designed wigwam-style motels, including two on Route 66, says at least one of their owners.

The manager of the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, Calif., is considering a defamation suit or other legal action against the chain, and the owner of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Ariz., is investigating action for a possible trademark violation. Both motels are on Route 66.

The 30-second ad starts with a photo of desolate, deserted-looking motel office, then an image of one of the Wigwam Motels. A voiceover says “With some hotels, you’ll never know what you’ll get” over the segment. The rest of the ad then explains the benefits of Microtel hotels.

See it for yourself:

A close examination of the Wigwam Motel photo indicates it came from the Holbrook site. The wigwams are aligned in a row, while the other wigwams in Rialto and Cave City, Ky., are arranged more in a semi-circle. Also, the image indicates a gravel or concrete lot in front of the wigwams, like in Holbrook. The other two motels have green lawns in front of them.

The “Hotel Office” sign appears to have been digitally added. No such sign exists at the motels in that configuration.

Greg Gaszak, who lives in St. Clair, Mo., said in a telephone interview he first saw the commercial last Monday on a St. Louis television affiliate. He used his TiVo to record the ad, then sent a cellphone image of the Wigwam Motel footage to Kumar Patel, manager of the Rialto motel.

Patel, whose family has owned the motel since 2003, found the same commercial posted on YouTube. Wyndham Hotel Group owns Microtel and more than a dozen other motel brands, including Super 8, Travelodge, Knights Inn, Ramada, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Baymont, and Wingate.

“Wyndham is a big corporation, and I was shocked, because it is going after mom-and-pop motel owners,” Patel said during a phone interview.

The Microtel ad went live on YouTube on May 22, according to the account of “shanewelter1,” who uploaded it. It’s the only video on that account. Attempt to reach the account-holder were unsuccessful.

To date, the YouTube video has just one “like” and 18 “dislikes” from viewers. Most of the dislikes came from Route 66 fans who were alerted by Patel.

Patel said he contacted Wyndham’s legal department Tuesday. He said he received little response from the person on the other line, except “I’ll have to get back to you.”

Clifton Lewis, owner of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, said during a telephone interview Sunday night he wasn’t previously aware of the ad. Upon being informed of its content, he said he would consult with his brother on possible legal action — especially with a possible trademark violation.

“I haven’t given anyone permission to use the image (of the motel),” Lewis said of the ad.

Attempts to reach the owner of the Wigwam Village Inn in Cave City, Ky., were not successful. However, a housekeeper who answered the phone said she wasn’t made aware of the commercial.

Wyndham’s media contacts didn’t respond to emails from Route 66 News.

Patel acknowledged he’s reluctant to pursue a lawsuit. But, at the least, he says he wants the ad removed from the airwaves. He says its financial impact could be more pernicious than just to his property.

“When people are traveling Route 66 and see that commercial, they may stay at a non-66 motel,” he said. “It’s not just the Wigwam Motel that could be affected.”

Wyndham may argue that the ad’s prologue is somewhat ambiguous. However, there seems little doubt Microtel is trying to portray the a Wigwam Motel negatively.

If the Wigwams were marginal properties, the ad might be excusable. However, both of the Wigwam properties on Route 66 consistently receive positive reviews from users of TripAdvisor and Yelp. Even the lesser-known Wigwam Village Inn in Cave City earns above-average ratings.

Also, all three properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So they have official cachet, too.

At the least, it seems Wyndham may owe the Wigwam owners an apology. Barring that, Emily Priddy (aka Redforkhippie) is urging a campaign against Wyndham.

14 thoughts on “TV ad denigrates Wigwam motels

  1. Go get’em Kumar, Cliff and Cave City !!!! I have stayed at both Rialto & Holbrook and after seeing this ad I will not patronize Microtel EVER !!!! In my opinion this ad takes so much away from the image of Rt.66 that ALL of the Rt.66 fans & travelers from all over the world are trying to promote, myself included !!!!!!

  2. BOOOO! I’ll be leaving a comment on the YouTube video. We just stayed at the one in Holbrook, and it was super clean, historic, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. This is very misleading and insulting to a great place!

  3. Wyndham IS NOT a very big hotel company, in fact it’s a past huge failure, once gobbled up by Blackstone because of financial troubles, pieced out for their good properties, then what was left was thrown back together with the absolute dregs of today’s hotel chain world, including Microtel themselves! Microtel, Ramada, Ho-Jo – seriously – they’ve reached a whole new low, to stoop to the level of going after good old fashioned mom & pops.

    Absolutely – GO AFTER THEM!!! They’re obviously weak and hurting pretty bad, to have stooped to this level. The funniest part is they don’t even know their own customers, most of which would be too cheap to ever stay in a nice legitimate mom & pop anyway! Wigwam in Rialto – 32″ flat panel TV’s, pillowtop mattresses, beautifully landscaped with palm trees and a pool – Microtel – NOT!

    Maybe a new one in a TV commercial, but speaking of not knowing what you’ll get, most Microtels, Travelodge’s, Super 8’s and the rest of Wyndham’s chains I’ve seen or experienced are nasty, filthy, worn, ill-maintained and outdated? Come on – Ramada, Ho-Jo, Travelodge – they’ve all been dead since the 80’s, how desperate have you become Wyndham??? It’s obvious they can’t compete with what’s supposed to be their real competitors – Marriott, Intercontinental, Hilton, Starwood – so now they’re scratching at the bottom of the barrel, because we’re even beating them…

  4. I’m thinking the Wigwams get $1 million a piece, and restart an old franchise of their own! lol Are you kidding Kumar, any 1/2 way decent lawyer, would stand in line to get this Wigwam case, and won’t charge you a dime, other than out of the winnings…

  5. San Bernardino, CA.

    Wigwam ranked #2 w/235 reviews and on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Oops no Microtel (must have failed), next Wyndham brands:

    Super 8 #4 – 31 reviews
    Days Inn #9 – 12 reviews
    Travelodge #10 – 8 reviews
    Knights Inn #21 – 12 reviews
    Other than in the new commercial, find me a Microtel that looks like that?

    Nuff said…

  6. It’s in poor taste, no doubt. Inaccurate, and wrong. I’m not at all sure what it’s impact will be. I think those of us who are enamored with the idea of staying at a Wigwam would not be swayed by such commercials. Actually, I had not heard of the ad until reading about it at a Rte. 66 site, and have only now seen it because it was posted here.

    When we went south on vacation a couple of years ago (2009), and planned on staying at the Wigwam in Cave City. That is, until my wife found some on-line reviews. Mold, water leaks, ineffective HVAC, inattentive ownership, reviews from those who liked staying in smaller places, and could put up with a lot, but even they would not go back….we ended up canceling our reservation and staying elsewhere. At least at that time, it was (according to the reviews) NOT above average. And with one of the three Wigwam locations being poorly rated, would be the very definition of not knowing what you are going to get. We were interested because of the glowing reviews we’d read about the other two sites.

    Should they have pictured the clean, well run, well reviewed location that they did? Certainly not. Does Wyndham have plenty of poorly run facilities in it’s portfolio? Oh yes. I can send you a link to some show goers who just stayed at the Days Inn in Carlisle, PA. 2 weeks ago, paying $150 a night for an awful room. It makes the ad laughable if you have any experience with their chain. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    In the end, seeing a large chain attack a well run family owned business leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and would leave me inclined to avoid Wyndham properties in the future, not the Wigwams.

  7. Have stayed in the Wigwam in Holbrook, AZ and found it to be a lovely, clean, charming motel. It was just what these Southeastern folks wanted when visiting the Southwest….one of the highlights of our road trip on Route 66. We support the mom and pop motels when possible and will now make sure we stay away from the Wyndham Microtels!

  8. I stayed at the Rialto, Ca. Wigwam less than a year ago.
    The grounds were well maintained, the room was wonderful, the staff friendly. Was it perfect? No. But then I didn’t expect perfection.
    Great place. Great price. Would definately stay there again.

  9. I remember Howard Johnson’s in the 1970’s; an orange roof under which was a good, inexpensive sit-down restaurant (not a fast-food stand) named for a lad whose drugstore soda fountain once sold 28 flavours of ice cream. Most were attached to good-quality motels with large swimming pools which could’ve held their own against the original Kemmons Wilson Holiday Inn motel chain. Not now… Holiday Inn has moved up-market to be a midprice hotel with indoor pools while HoJo is just being used as a “conversion” brand to be stuck on any non-notable existing motel willing to pay the franchise fee and meet the barest minimum of standards. The HoJo name which used to point to what was a good new waterfront hotel locally in 1980 now points to some random motel in a mediocre location with no pool, no restaurant and no real amenities. The 28 flavours haven’t been seen in decades.

    The decline didn’t start under Cendant (now Wyndham) but that chain did take a good but declining brand and run it very thoroughly into the ground instead of rebuilding it.

    The same could be said of other brands which have declined under Wyndham after use as dumping grounds for “conversions” of existing properties which were really nothing special… Knights Inn as somewhere to dump any old property not good enough to be a Days Inn being the obvious example (Wyndham owns both).

    “With some hotels, you never know what you’ll get”… indeed, one chain certainly comes to mind. Give me my 28 flavours back or I’m going to the Cozy Cone Motel. Sheesh.

  10. You said it Carl – Wyndham Hotels – “The Dumping Grounds!”

    Maybe all 3 Wigwams should get together and make a commercial? Come sleep in a Wigwam, because you never know what you’ll get at the dumping grounds! lol

    Show the Wigwams at their very best in photos, and the Microtels and other Wyndham brands just as they really are in everyday life – DUMPS!

  11. The last time that I stayed at the Wigwam in Holbrook, the office was in a building at the front, not in a wigwam. It was a great place to stay as is the one in Rialto. They even gave me a nice discount for paying in cash, try that at a Microtel. If you haven’t stayed at either of these you should give them a try. There are a hoot!

  12. Everyone pass the word and keep posting EVERYWHERE! Not just this youtube video, but click on every single microtel video on youtube you can find, and say something about the dump they are.

    Microtel – you have directly attacked and offended Route 66, and you deserve a direct attack back from all the citizens of Route 66 around the world! Spread it throughout the globe, where ever there’s a Microtel, let’em have it…

    Yep, you got it Microtel, you never know what you’re gonna get!!!

  13. We stayed at both the Holbrook and the Rialto and found them both very satisfactory! The Rialto location had just been redone by the Patels and was in WONDERFUL condition. The Holbrook location was unique in the fact it still had the original (or similar) furniture; bed, dressing table, chairs, etc. Everything historical is lost on a big chain brand, and that is why Route 66 fans keep going to the mom and pop locations. Yay for Holbrook and Rialto and THANK YOU to the owners who work hard to keep these properties up. One other thing, if you like pools, I have not seen any cleaner pool than the one in Rialto. Wow. It is a beauty, just like the rest of the property there. The Patels and the Lewis’ have worked Hard to maintain these properties and it shows. I, for one, along with my husband, will definitely be going back and spend time in these lovely motels.

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