I recently read a story about a Scottish couple who stayed at a hotel that they compared to Fawlty Towers. Fawlty Towers was a 1970s era British TV sitcom. From Wikipedia:
The series is set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay on the ‘English Riviera.” The plots centre on the tense, rude and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty, his bossy wife Sybil, the sensible chambermaid Polly, who often is the peacemaker and voice of reason, and the hapless and English-challenged Spanish waiter Manuel, showing their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests and tradespeople.
The couple, Amanda Lam and her partner, stayed at the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool, England, in mid-July. They were there for their annual trip to visit friends in the seaside town. They found the hotel horrible, and described it as “dirty” and “run down,” and showed photos of ripped furniture, moldy windows and stained walls.
“We tried to make good of the situation we were in and approached the receptionist about changing to another room, speaking to manager or getting a discount as I said the condition of room was unacceptable,” Lam told LancsLive. “I was just told to email customer service and was told the hotel was full so we couldn’t move rooms.”
Lam had made the reservation on Booking.com. She said the reviews for the hotel on the site suggested it was dated but clean, and “the pictures looked fine.”
And this is why you need to research thoroughly before booking a hotel.
If you search for reviews of Booking.com (which is owned by Priceline), you’ll already see there are issues. As a booking site, it tends to get 1.5 stars (of out 5). Most complaints have to do with customer service. Of course, no one ever expects to have customer service issues, but if there are any, I would rather have booked with a site where I might have a fighting chance for them to help me out.
And then there’s the hotel itself. If you stay in a chain, you figure (or at least hope LOL) that they’re going to keep to some level of quality. You don’t expect a La Quinta to be on par with a Waldorf=Astoria, but you figure chances are good that it’ll be about like any other La Quinta out there. When it’s a non-chain hotel, you really should do a lot more homework.
Lam had said the hotel got 3 stars (out of 5) on Booking.com and the main complaints were that it was dated. I searched for that hotel on Booking.com and saw a whole lot more complaints that should have been red flags:
- Light switches didn’t work in the room and the bathroom main light had to be switch a few times to get it to work.
- A family of four (2 kids aged 4 and 11), were allocated a smoking room and it smelled so bad. We asked to change to a non-smoking room but were told we couldn’t.
- Our car was also covered in beer the next day and smashed glass bottles out on the patio area which I had to move to the side so my 1 year old wouldn’t pick it up.
- The room was not clean windows so dirty you could not see through them and curtains was hanging off.
- No soap.
- Facility lacking hose and shower head.
- The decor was dirty, marked and furniture was in bad repair.
- The room wasn’t as clean as it could have been. The windows were dirty and there were lots of cobwebs around the framework. Extra attention to cleaning would solve this. The reception staff were not very friendly upon check in. A smile at least goes a long way.
- No towels in room.
- Old, blood stains on the walls, plaster falling off & lift not working.
But let’s leave Booking.com for a minute.
If she had looked at Trip Advisor, she would have seen the hotel only averaged 2.5 stars and ranked #72 of 79 hotels in Blackpool. Of its 4,645 reviews, it got 473 saying it was excellent, 766 very good, 822 average, 708 poor and a whopping 1,877 reviews that said it was terrible. There were plenty of pictures on Trip Advisor that showed the place was not “fine,” as Lam said they were on Booking.com.
The hotel got a 2.8 (out of 5) rating on Expedia. Of its 879 reviews, 192 said the Metropole was “poor” and 161 said it was “mediocre” (232 said OK, 203 said Good and 91 said excellent). Negative reviews were similar to what I quoted from Booking.com.
Hotels.com gave it an average rating of 5.6 out of 10. The reviews were exactly the same as Expedia’s.
A Google search for metropole hotel blackpool room reviews also would have shown photos of cracked walls, filthy, stained furniture and urinals that didn’t flush.
If you’re planning on giving an unknown entity your money, you should make sure to look at all the reviews and photos you can find, from as many sites as you can. A few bad reviews will always be there if someone was having a bad day or an unfortunate situation developed. But when so many people remark about the same sorts of things, where it’s an obvious pattern, that should be a red flag.
It’s a shame that Amanda Lam didn’t search further before making her reservation.
Incidentally, it’s also a shame that this grand seafront hotel, originally built in 1776, has been allowed to run down so badly. 🙁
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary