Rude hotel workers, racist motorists and rotten cops.
For Russell Jarrett and his friend Helena Haggins of Detroit, a visit to Houston was the holiday from hell.
So much so, in fact, that the two are now suing their hotel, several HPD officers and the City of Houston in federal court.
According to Jarrett, 27, and Haggins, 22, the trouble started shortly after flying to Houston in April 2009 for a week of vacation and checking into a Marriott Courtyard hotel in northwest Houston just outside the 610 Loop. Jarrett used a debit card to pay for the room, knowing the hotel would immediately take out the entire amount owed plus place a hold on an additional amount to cover "incidentals." However, says Jarrett, the clerk overcharged Jarrett twice the total amount, plus additional charges for using the Internet.
When Jarrett complained, he says the clerk was rude but did agree to correct the charges. However, it would take nearly a week for the money to be placed back in Jarrett's debit account. Jarrett says he needed the money during his vacation and that Haggins asked the clerk to call the corporate offices to get the issue straightened out. In response, Jarrett claims, the clerk threw a book of matches at them.
Before retiring to their room for the night, Haggins says she told the clerk that she was going to complain.
The next day, Jarrett and Haggins rented a car, but they soon became lost just outside of Houston. That's when, according to the lawsuit, they ran into a truckload of racists.
"Before reentering the city limits," the lawsuit states, Jarrett and Haggins, both of whom are African-American, "were subjected to the racially motivated taunts and harassment, by a truck full of young white males."
Unnerved, Jarrett says he called the hotel asking if someone could direct him to the nearest police station, or if someone at the hotel could call the cops and tell them where Jarrett was located. The person working the desk allegedly told Jarrett that the hotel could not get involved. Jarrett then called the police and was told to meet up with officers at the hotel. After filling out a police report, Jarrett says he began to feel ill, so he and Haggins went to their room and watched TV until falling asleep.
The next morning, Jarrett and Haggins were awakened by the sound of fists pounding on their hotel room door. Wearing his boxers, Jarrett cracked the door open. It was the police, allegedly demanding that Jarrett and Haggins gather their belongings and leave at once. A hotel staff member was also there, supposedly telling the two vacationers they had been loud for two nights in a row, causing other customers to complain, that they had made and received "excessive" phone calls, and that they had threatened and harassed the hotel staff.
Jarrett and Haggins say all three accusations were completely untrue.
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Jarrett says that when he asked for a few minutes of privacy to get dressed, the officers refused, repeatedly threatening to arrest them if they did not get out. That's when Jarrett says he called his dad, a lawyer in Detroit, to try to reason with the police.
At one point, according the lawsuit, an officer began to "taunt and mock" Jarrett, saying, "Still need your Daddy to take care of your business - huh?" and "you go on back to Dee-troit and don't come back to Texas until you're a grown man."
In the end, claims Jarrett, he and Haggins were removed from the hotel, and "with limited cash on hand, improperly depleted funds available on debit cards, Jarrett's illness, and in an unfamiliar city, both [Jarrett and Haggins] experienced severe emotional distress and anxiety ...."
Much to the chagrin of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, we suspect the only way Jarrett and Haggins will be coming back to Houston is to collect a check if they win in court.