Hotel review: Engel Gutach, in the Black Forest–it’s a NO!

| August 11, 2015

I cannot even explain in words, how angry I am at this hotel.  It was honestly the worst customer service I have experienced in recent memory.

Five months ago, I reserved two rooms: a room for a family of 5 that included two children and one baby, and a room for a family of 3: 2 adults and a child. This is all in writing, very specific and without confusion.  My German is not perfect, but it is very clear who the rooms are for.


Wir suchen 2 Zimmern für 29-31 Juli.  Wir brauchen 2 Zimmern: (1) für 5 pp (2 Kind und eine Baby) und (1) für 3 pp (1 Kind) — oder (2) für 4 pp.
Vielen Dank,

The hotel, given the number of adults, children, and babies specifically, reserved us 2 rooms: a “family room” for 5, and a “double + child” for the three of us.  (DZ = double room)

Sehr geehrte Frau Matindale,

wir haben für diesen Zeitraum das Familienzimmer für 5 Personen (106,00 €) inkl. Frühstück, und 1 DZ mit Kind (70,00 €)

Ich freue mich auf Ihre Antwort.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Henry Schmitt

I followed up, in writing, to ensure that there was a crib in the family room with the baby. They assured me there would be.


Ich möchte sicher sein, könnten wir ein Krippe für die Familienzimmer haben?  Die Baby ist 11 Monate alt, also brauchen wir eine Krippe.
Vielen Dank und bis bald!

Hallo Frau Martindale,

wir haben ein Babybett. Das können Sie haben.



To review:

The hotel offered us a family room for the family of 5, including a crib;

the hotel offered my family of 3 a “Double + Child” .

When we arrived, a girl from the hotel restaurant, who apparently only has the authority to distribute the specific keys laid out for each guest, tried to put all 8 of us in the family room for 5. There was one double bed, two twins, a single futon, and no crib. Not sure how she thought that was going to work for the 8 of us.

I went back down several flights of stairs and asked what was up with the rooms. She realized there was another room and issued us the key. It was a double; as with most European hotel rooms, that means two twin beds pushed together. There was no rollaway bed, cot, mattress, or sofa–nothing–for my daughter.  I asked where my daughter was to sleep – the floor? – and the woman said she was just a waitress–she couldn’t help us.

"Double + child" at Engel

“Double + child” at Engel

Meanwhile, I asked about the crib for the family room.  The waitress pulled out a pack ‘n play, then exasperatedly told us that she couldn’t take it up the stairs by herself.  So we, the paying guests, were forced to help carry the crib upstairs and set it up.  We were setting up the room we were paying for.

I reminded her that there was still nowhere for my daughter to sleep.  She placed a call to the manager.  For the next hour, I waited, crankily but civilly.  I didn’t want to unload our bags into the room if it was going to be changed, so we remained in limbo.  After an hour passed, I wanted to know what the hell was happening.  I trudged up and down the stairs periodically to check on the status of our room, each time crankier and louder.  The waitress said the manager wasn’t calling her back.  Over a two-hour period, she called the manager five times.  She then gave us the number; the manager did not answer my call, either.

During the second hour, the waitress attempted to lay blame on us.  First, she asked if I’d really told them about the number of children.  I, consulting my trusty binder and its printouts, read my chain of emails aloud and asked if they were unclear.  She admitted that No, the request was clear.  (In retrospect, if anyone was unclear, it was the hotel in their pricing–they did not specifically mention that the room price was per night and not the total for the two-night timeframe.)

Then the waitress claimed that the crib was for our double + child room, and that we changed that on them.

Remember: the hotel assigned “das Familienzimmer für 5 Personen” and I reserved the crib “für die Familienzimmer.”  That clearly refuted another of their attempts to blame the situation on me.

At that point, I was PISSED.  They were not providing linen, a pillow, a mattress–nothing–and were trying to blame me for their inadequacies.  Now, I was yelling.  Meanwhile, the waitress was making me look unreasonable for expecting that my child have appropriate sleeping conditions.

I checked online, and there were no hotels available within a one-hour radius.  I walked to a nearby hotel, just in case there was a room not listed online.  They were full.  It’s summer break in the Black Forest–last-minute hotel rooms for multiple people were not to be found.  After almost 3 full hours of waiting for the manager, my group decided that we would go out.  After all, our vacation was not meant to be spent on a chair in the corner of a hotel.

When we returned from dinner, the waitress informed us that we had missed the manager.  I asked what he’d done about our situation.  The answer?  He had confirmed that this was our room and said that the crib was supposed to be for our child.  They had nothing for my daughter to sleep on.  It was literally the floor.  Meanwhile, they were continuing to insist that we were the ones who changed the bed situation on them, despite it being clear, in writing.  They were completely incapable of saying, “We fucked up, let’s get some blankets for your kid.”

I was astounded not only because they were flat-out lying about the situation, but I thought, these people could not possibly be telling me that this room could be considered a double + child.  Nowhere in Europe is the floor, without blanket or pillow; or the crack of two twin beds, without blanket or pillow, an 8-year-old child’s sleeping arrangement.  Even using the futon mattress from our friends’ room, there was still no linen provided for her.

Sweet Dreams

Sweet Dreams

Two years ago, when I booked a double in the Netherlands without mentioning my daughter, we ended up in a similarly-sized room.  When the hotel realized the situation, within minutes they provided cushiony blankets for under and over her, along with pillows.  Every other hotel in Europe has provided something for Sequoia to sleep on when she has been booked in the reservation.  In other hotels, when we arrived and the room was not set up for Sequoia despite the reservation being made clear, the hotels have immediately sought a solution, be it to provide a rollaway cot or change our room.

I asked the waitress to call the manager again.  She refused.  Literally refused.  She said that he wouldn’t come back anyway, so she wasn’t going to call him.  She then gave us the address of the other hotel where he worked.

Now, I was beyond pissed: in order to talk to the manager about this situation, we had to drive 10 kilometers.  We, the people whom they tried to blame for their own errors and who had to help set up the other family’s room, had to drive to another town to find out what the fuck was going on with them putting my kid on the floor.  My husband, who is much cooler-tempered than I am, kept shaking his head.  He could not believe that they were really refusing to even provide bedding.

We pulled up to the other hotel and rang the bell. Right next to the sign saying that there were no days off, there was a sign that said it was a day off.  The lights inside were all off.

nightmare at engel gutach


The handwritten sign instructed guests to call a number, but the number was completely blacked out with marker! The whole situation was unbelievable; I began to think we were the victims of a scam.  We had just driven 10 km to a hotel that was locked up.  We rang and rang the bell.

Shortly after, a man pulled up in a car, and it turned out to be the manager.  He ended up offering us a room at that hotel instead.  First we said we would take that room. He asked if we wanted breakfast there, or at Engel. I snapped that we would eat at the first hotel so that we could be with our friends that just flew in the day before, who were now 10 km from us while we had only one car.

I asked if the other family could join us at the new hotel the next day. The manager said no, that would be chaotic, but we could explore options in the morning when I was calmer (so now I’ve been called out for my outrage, which I believe was justified considering the fact that they were not only offering terrible service and expecting my child to sleep directly on the floor, but all the time trying to blame me for the situation). He said maybe they could put us in another room at Engel the next day. I asked why the hell they couldn’t have done that in the first place, or right now, and he said he had no idea.

If the manager has no idea, then who does?

I asked why we couldn’t just have something, even a blanket and pillow, for the child. He said he didn’t know!! The bizarre thing was that he was nice to us, but was clearly incompetent. I could not understand how he could be a manager, let alone of two hotels.

We had left Sequoia with our friends, so we drove back to Engel to pick her up. My husband went up to the room and saw that some (crappy, thin) blankets had magically appeared. We decided that we would rather be with our friends, so we accepted the crappier conditions.

We ourselves took the cushion from the futon in the 5-person family room and put it on the floor in our room for Sequoia.  She was squeezed between the bed and up against a radiator.  In winter, this would have been impossible.

I cannot stress enough: this is one of the Top 3 most incompetent hotel experiences I’ve had out of hundreds of nights sleeping in almost 40 countries. Never has a hotel expected a paying guest with reservation to sleep on the floor.

This experience was doubly frustrating because the hotel truly did not care.  Did.Not.Care. Engel Gutach is by no means representative of a typical German Landgasthof.  Usually you find sweet people running a family B&B.  These were incompetent people running a circus.

When I threw a fit at checkout over being charged full price for the room, the woman working the desk and breakfast buffet informed me that they were not charging me for the child.  Uh, you think?  Still, after spending hours waiting for a call back, after driving to the manager in another town, after setting up our own rooms–I could not believe I was paying anything, let alone not getting a discount.  The woman, who said she was just there for breakfast and had no control over these matters (seems to be the story of each employee at Engel) called the manager.  He authorized a whopping 20Euro discount.  I guess my hours of waiting in limbo, being blamed in multiple ways for the issue they caused, driving between two towns, and watching my kid sleep up against a radiator was worth 20Euro to the manager.

There was no discount to the family of 5 who had to set up their own crib and give up their futon mattress to ensure that Sequoia would not be sleeping directly on the floor.  I mean, seriously.

To review: This is what Engel considers a Double + Child.

Sweet Dreams

Double + Child at Engel Gutach.

I would not stay at this hotel again if it were free.

The good side: location is convenient to multiple Gutach attractions, the setting is pretty, and the family room was large enough and well laid-out for the family of 5.


Tags: , ,

Category: Europe, Family Travel, Germany, Hotels, In Germany A Broad blog, Travel, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. James says:

    I have to agree with Joel. If you wanted a family room for yourself, you should have requested a family room. You asked for a double+child. You got a double bed and the +child is for staff to know the pp/ per a day rate. Usually under 11 or 12 is free, but you must still inform the hotel of all guest. Other hotels are just being accommodating by offering the cot free of charget. Usually that is not a free service. Also, your daughter is young and there is nothing wrong with sleeping on the floor if you feel she is too old to sleep in the bed. It’s sleep on the floor or make arraignments for a family room. I would just take this as a lesson to pay the extra for a family room instead of trying to squeeze a family into a double room.

    • Actually, if you read the post, I did not request a DZ + Kind. I requested a room. They assigned me the DZ + Kind given my description of our travel party: 3 persons, one of which is a child. Nowhere did they say they would not provide bedding. I would have paid for a rollaway. I always do, as yes, most hotels charge for that service. Nowhere did I state that I expected for her to stay for free when making the reservation; in fact, a charge for the child was calculated into the amount they gave me. I expected her to be provided sleeping accommodations. She was not. That is when I expected not to be paying for her: when she was being charged for the floor. I don’t skimp on travel. I am not a bargain traveler. I don’t try to pull one over on the hotel. That’s why I was specific in the reservation: I wanted the hotel to know exactly who was coming. If the hotel was not going to provide bedding, they should have had the courtesy to inform me.

  2. Joey says:

    Sorry but this is another instance of an American demanding American style customer service. Not sure why hotel didn’t follow thru with what was in the emails but I’m German and guess what…families typically have the little ones sleep in the bed with them. Most Europeans only have one child so it’s fairly easy. Even multiple children. Only in France are there issues with more baby bodies than beds. I would’ve just dealt with it in the morning politely but firmly with someone in charge. I’m sure the waitress was just a stand in to hand out keys.

    • I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you. As someone who has slept at over 50 German hotels in the 3 years I have lived in Germany, I did not expect American service. I expected German service for a typical Landgasthof. This was not representative of German hotel service.

      If Engel expected my child to sleep in our bed, 1) they did not say that; 2) they did not even provide her a pillow; 3) they attempted to blame me for either not telling them she was coming, or telling them the crib was for our room. That’s not German hotel service.

      In addition, not all hotel proprietors in Germany agree that an 8-year-old sleeps with the parents. In the second hotel I walked into looking for a new room, the woman asked, “How old is the child?” “Eight,” I responded. She shook her head and said, “So, too old to sleep in your bed. I’m sorry, we don’t have a room.” She, a German hotel proprietor, did not even offer me a room where an 8-year-old would sleep in the crack of two twin beds pushed together.

      I’ve done some research on German hotels and children sleeping in the bed. I’ve seen “6 and under” at a hotel, but never “8 and under” for sleeping in the bed. Also, a hotel should inform you if they are expecting your child to sleep in your bed. And even if she were a 5-year-old, is a pillow too much to ask? I say No.

      I have many pictures of “DZ + Kind” rooms where we’ve stayed in Germany. In all cases, they provided a rollaway or futon or mattress. In all cases, they provided bedding. That’s German hotel service in my personal “American” experience.

    • Actually, if you read the post, I did not request a DZ + Kind. I requested a room. They assigned me the DZ + Kind. Nowhere did they say they would not provide bedding. I also would have paid for a rollaway. I always do. Nowhere did I state that I expected for her to stay for free. I expected her to be provided sleeping accommodations. She was not.

    • JDWOODYARD says:

      “Never has a hotel expected a paying guest with reservation to sleep on the floor.”

      …”Jesus spent his first night in a manger, but I think his parents just took and asked for forgivness laters.” He said in the voice of Bruce from Family Guy

    • Brooke says:

      Sooooooooo, wait. I’m a rude American for wanting my child to have somewhere to sleep other than the (filthy) floor or the mattress crack?!?!?!?! I may be rude in MANY other ways but expecting my child to be safe, comfortable, and warm will NEVER be one of them.

      • Kari says:

        Exactly. And when you keep telling Mama Bear that the floor is fine for her kid, Mama Bear loses her shit.