Check Out These Business Travel Horror Stories


Business Travel

Each month SurePayroll produces its SurePayroll Small Business Score Card. And this month the company was kind enough to allow Small Business Trends to add some questions posed to small business owners and managers about their practices and policies for business travel.

One of the questions was:

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“Do you have any business travel horror stories you can share?”

The answers were interesting, to say the least. No, they weren’t “Snakes on a plane” horrible … but how bad do bugs in the bed or floods in the rental car sound?



If you subscribe to the theory that what can go wrong will go wrong, the small business owners who responded can certainly testify. On a small business travel trip, it seems horror lurks around every corner (or under the mattress).

Here are their true business travel horror stories. Names, brands and identities have been changed to protect the guilty.

Hotel Cleanliness

Think your hotel room smelling of cigarette smoke or last Wednesday is bad? One small business owner reminds us that the discount hotel you’ve picked may very well be able to offer that price because they simply don’t fumigate:

“Sometimes off the beaten path hotels can have cleanliness issues. I laid down in a hotel bed once and my wife saw bed bugs crawling on my back and sucking my blood.”

That’s enough to put you off your morning scone (donut), right?

Stuck on the Side of the Road

No one needs an explanation of the frustrations vehicular mechanical problems can cause. It’s happened to everyone, whether on business or personal travel. One small business owner had one moment, in particular, stand out:

“A fuse kept going out on our large box truck that caused it to completely not move, which was dangerous on the highway. The dealership couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and the mechanic was confused. So our owner, being a mechanic, also messed around with some wires and fixed the problem.”

You Will Pay For Lack of Planning

When you plan ahead, you can avoid much of the unexpected. But when you wait until the last minute to make any plans or you’re forced into only one desperate option, know that your travel expenses are going to go up. A small business owner shared this horror story that unfolded when last-minute plans busted:

“We had a truck driver who drives a day cab get stuck on the road overnight. We called for a taxi cab driver pick up one of our truck drivers who needed transportation from the truck stop to a hotel. (approx. 5 miles).

“The cab company charged $85 each way to and from the hotel. Then, the hotel was way over priced as well. This is all due to last-minute reservations.

“When people know you don’t have any other choice but to choose what’s available; which for us it was that cab company and that hotel, they feel entitled to increase their prices because they know they will get it. This was highway robbery!”

Small Business Trends reached out to Melissa McLain, the office manager and HR representative at SouthQuest Transportation. The company has five employees and is responsible for removing containers from ships at the nearby port in Charleston, South Carolina. They haul those containers to a local warehouse and sometimes as far as neighboring states but don’t do any long hauling, McLain explains.

She is the source of that comment and the wound, she says, still stings:

“I feel hurt just looking at the receipt. Even now. And this was only back in May, so it’s still fresh. It really does pay to plan ahead when you travel and this is just another example of why.”

… And It’s Ruined

One small business traveler learned the hard way that you can’t judge the proverbial book by its cover. In this case, it was likely a four-door sedan. It seems his rental car got an extra cleaning, courtesy of one careless employee whose job it was to clean it before it left the lot:

“Rented a car that had just been washed and had a flooded front passenger area that I unknowingly set my computer into and caused an equipment soaking.”

Club Med or Club Dread?

Every hotel or motel these days has a website specific to its location. It’s convenient to be able to check out the accommodations before you arrive. Of course, if the lodging has the wherewithal to build its own website with photos,chances are the owners know about the Crop tool, too. One small business owner found that out and unknowingly sent team members into a harrowing situation:

“Some of our staff stayed in a motel in Los Angeles. The pictures on the website were gorgeous. When our people arrived, there was bullet proof glass protecting staff in the lobby registration, a coffee pot and box of donuts for continental breakfast and gang fights in the parking lot at night. Oh yes … they were bitten by something in their room — not bed bugs, but some kind of rash from the soap or small biting bugs. NO REFUND sign greeted you at check in. There was no savings in this trip!!!”

Your Flight Has Been Delayed …

You’ve rushed to the airport to make your flight. You get to the gate only to realize the flight’s been delayed or worse, canceled. Flight troubles like these can ruin your day, your itinerary, and taint your overall trip.

But not all such changes are for the worst. As one small business owner explained:

“Other than being cancelled — bumped to first class-cancelled … no horror stories!”

But there is one story where a business traveler got to see a good portion of the U.S. from 30,000 feet above — more than he wanted to! SurePayroll General Manager Andy Roe had a story to share with Small Business Trends that fit this bill.

He recalled:

“I remember during Snowmageddon back in 2011, I was trying to get from Chicago to Dallas. Just about everything was shut down, but they said I could fly to Indianapolis and go to Dallas from there. That didn’t work, I had to fly back to Chicago, then to Newark. This took about three days, and at this point I’m buying sweatshirts from the gift shop because I’ve been sleeping on the floor and my clothes are filthy. Finally I fly into Dallas at 1 a.m., and everything is covered in ice. It took me about five hours driving in the middle of the night to get where I needed to go. I can’t tell you how many meetings and calls I had to miss.”

Assuming There Was Nothing on Cable That Night

One small business traveler was hoping the accounting team was in a rubber stamping kind of mood when they reviewed the expense report.

“No horror stories … unless you count employees expensing adult channels on their hotel bill.”

Apparently, the company’s reimbursement policy wasn’t that liberal.

Of course, there are more business travel horror stories out there — you can search social media for some, too. Check out #stuckonplane or #travelhorror on Twitter to name just a couple.

SurePayroll, a Paychex company based in Illinois, provides a system allowing small businesses to do payroll and make other payments including tax filings and reimbursement of travel expenses.

Zombie Photo via Shutterstock, remixed by Small Business Trends

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Joshua Sophy


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Assistant Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 17 years of experience in traditional and online media, Joshua got his start in the newspaper business in Pennsylvania. His experience includes being a beat reporter covering daily news. He eventually founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown. Joshua supervises the day-to-day operations of Small Business Trends' busy editorial department including the editorial calendar and outgoing assignments.

One Reaction

  1. Aira Bongco

    Bad things happen all the time regardless if you are traveling or not. And even if you make plans to prevent them, there are just some days that things will not come your way. The solution is just to adjust along the way. You’ll eventually pull through anyway.

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