Whilst living in Europe and Asia I was lucky enough to stay in some of the finest hotels in the world such as the Kempinski and Hyatt hotels. If you've been lucky then you will have experienced some of the loveliest resorts such as the Indigo Pearl Resort in Phuket which is like something out of a dream. Not only is it in a stunning location at Naiyang beach in Phuket but the accommodations, decor and service are second to none and it definitely deserves it's 5 star rating. I have also experienced 3 Star hotels in cities like Beijing, China and Krakow in Poland which were clean and adequate but reasonably priced and had everything you need for a good night's rest and good accommodation and breakfast included.
These days travel agents are not as popular as before and there are so many internet travel and leisure sites such as Travelocity, Booking.com and Expedia or Hotwire.com that you can look any hotel up before you book, see it's location, what people's experiences are and photos before you decide whether to book the hotel Well last summer I discovered why it's so important to read the reviews and comments closely and diligently that are offered by websites because I was not paying attention to what I was doing and ended up having an experience with the hotel from Hell!
We had to go to New York to drop my daughter off at university so I set my husband and daughter on the task of getting us a hotel. Initially we were to be there for 7 days when the 3 of us would need accommodation till my daughter was settled in her dorm room. I very negligently lost track of what was going on out of laziness or maybe complacency rather than disinterest. All I knew was my daughter was off on the adventure of a lifetime living and studying in New York City and I wanted her to have the best start possible.
On the plane I couldn't stop thinking about a comfortable bed and nice hotel that was awaiting me at the end of my journey. I kept asking my daughter if the booking was ok and sure enough she said she booked through Booking.com and showed me a photo of our room and confirmation of the reservation. We had to have at least 2 beds because my husband was coming to join us and that's what the confirmation and reservation print out showed so that is what I expected. The other thing to remember was the university is located in one area of Manhattan and our hotel was booked on the Upper East Side. At that time I had no idea what that really meant.
When we entered there was a small shabby office and an equally dowdy girl sitting there. We introduced ourselves and she looked at the booking confirmation and to my utmost dismay she said "We don't have that room but we have another room for you". We said that won't work and I wondered why they didn't have the room we had reserved. Wasn't the piece of paper our "confirmation"? I said "Just a minute if you book a room and promise to pay almost $2000 for 7 nights shouldn't the hotel "reserve that specific room for you"? Her reply was "No". They had clearly given our room to some one else!
I was so tired from the journey I couldn't think straight and asked her to show us the room which was on the first floor and when I saw the room I nearly had a heart attack! $2000 for a room that looked like a dirty old kitchen with a bed in it! All I could think of was "what a disaster this was!"It was already 8pm and I was about to drop from exhaustion. I went out again and tried to speak to the girl at the reception but she said we would have to speak to the Manager and gave us the phone number. We left our things in the room and went to a local Pizza restaurant because by this time we were pretty hungry.
Whilst we were eating I called my husband and told him what a disaster it was and although we'd clearly booked a room with two double beds for 3 people as was evidenced by the booking confirmation in our possession the hotel had given the room to someone else! We were left with one double bed in a horrible room. How could we possibly stay there and be cheated out of all our money and not get the hotel room we were promised?
|Outside the New York Palace Hotel|
We phoned my husband again and this was his suggestion. He had also read the reviews for the Hotel which we will call the "Lacy Inn Hotel". He had researched it and the reviews were, not surprisingly, mostly terrible ! He told me to phone the credit card company and tell them that we were not getting what we paid for and there is a provision in the law to protect the consumer and dispute the charge if you do not get the goods you are paying for. We also called Booking.com and told them our situation. They agreed we should get what we paid for but were not up for helping us right there. I did not realize I could have actually made them help us get another hotel right then but I only found out later that this was an option.
When we were trying to sleep in the room things just went from bad to worse. The bathroom was filthy and had human hairs all over and the bath wouldn't drain. My daughter and I sat on the bed and cried! People kept knocking on our room door all night because no one was at the reception so they thought that was the office. This was one of the worst nightmarish nights I have ever had. I did not want to be mean to my daughter but I had put a huge responsibility in the hands of an inexperienced teenaged girl so it was all my fault and I had to own up to my failure.
The next morning we went for breakfast and I called my credit card company and I will be grateful to them for the rest of my life. They said we were to go back to the hotel, pack up our luggage, go to another hotel and they would refund our money and launch a dispute because by law you have to receive the goods you were promised if you pay for something in advance! I breathed a huge sigh of relief, went back to the hotel and packed.
We went to the front desk and they were finally there and we told them we were leaving! The rude manager guy said I had to sign some papers and he had spoken to Booking.com and we would still have to pay and Booking.com thought the room was fine and that we were not getting the room from the confirmation. As I knew the credit card company and the law were on my side I very calmly signed the papers and left the hotel and taxied to another part of Manhattan.
We got another deal through Booking.com and went to a hotel called the New York Palace on Madison Avenue and 50th about 10 blocks from Central Park and across from St. Patrick's Cathedral. I wasn't aware at the time but this hotel is very famous because it was used as the residence of the main actress Blake Lively in her character as Serena Van der Woodsen or Gossip Girl. We were greeted by a fantastic employee who worked for the hotel and also happened to come from Bangladesh. It was about the same price as the "Lacy Inn Hotel"but worlds apart in location, service and the room was like heaven with two massive comfortable beds and a clean, beautiful bathroom and the views were amazing!
The rest of our trip was really smooth and when we mentioned to the hotel staff that my daughter was an NYU student we were treated like two princesses! The staff was courteous, helpful and beyond any reproach. We were able to transition our daughter comfortably in to her new university life and enjoy our stay in New York City.
After the trip was over I reviewed the two hotels on Booking .com and Trip advisor as they actually ask you to do this if they know you stayed at the hotel. I said the "Lacy Inn" was the Hotel from Hell, that is to be avoided at all cost and the New York Palace was amazing! I got a reply from the Manger of the New York Place thanking me for the review and all I can say is I don't have to lie about how well we were treated and what a great hotel it was because it speaks for itself!
I have read online reviews of the hellish hotel on all the travel websites and out of a possible 10 points it receives a 5.5 which is pretty bad. The good hotels have rating of between 7.5 to above 8. I had to wait till November to get final word from the credit card company that my money was definitely refunded from the dispute with the "Lacy Inn" and we could keep it as they hadn't even replied to the letter from the credit card company to defend themselves!
What lesson is learned from this almost disastrous trip? I found out that in popular destinations hotels often double book rooms. Do your research before you set off and check and double check the hotel, check the booking and phone the hotel before you leave for your destination to make sure your reservation is confirmed! Also call the booking company and make sure they stand by the booking because they take your credit card number and should help you get what you are paying for. The law is on your side so you make sure you get the best deal you can and get what you paid for. I will definitely be more careful next time I book a trip and make hotel reservations!