Monday, 31 August 2015

Our ordeal at The Royal York Hotel

Swearing never again
With my friend visiting from Germany for a week, we decided on making a tourist trip into Yorkshire, stopping over in Leeds to see an old and even taller German friend of his before spending the night in York.
As we boarded the tour bus in York the following morning we were regaled with the legendary yarn that when Queen Victoria visited York in September 1854 on her way to Balmoral, she was entertained in the banqueting rooms of the railway station where after dispensing with those pleasantries of pomp and pageantry she was presented with the bill. As the story is told, she felt insulted that she swore never to visit York again.
One Queen in the 19th Century having a rotten experience in York and then to find our imperial selves on the end of another rotten York experience was turning out to be more than a coincidence, we were literally sworn to never return.
As we left
However, for the quick thinking of the Operations Manager of The Royal York Hotel which backs onto the York railway station yesterday morning, that would have been the case. We received a 50% refund on the cost of our room for the night as a sort of compensation for the ordeal we suffered in the narrative that follows.
The way I had planned the weekend was to stopover in Leeds for an hour and then arrive in York in the later afternoon to visiting some interesting places before continuing our tourism the next morning.
However, we spent over four hours in Leeds and by the time we arrived in the York, we were literally exhausted. We had booked a superior twin room and were promptly checked-in for Room 504.
A nightmare in York
The room was on the fifth floor, but the installed elevator only covered the first three floor and then we had to climb stairs in what might have been an annex of the original building to get to the fifth floor.
On entering our room, we took off our jackets and I made to open the window which I found would not yield, the rolled screen-blind itself was damaged as the string stays that were to work on both ends of the blind when the drawstring was being pulled had broken on one end. I did a quick fix of it and I drew up the blind.
The window had the older wooden sash window on the outside lifted just about 10 centimetres, but the inner double-glazing window was sealed shut, meaning there was no ventilation in the room. I then looked around to see if the room had air-conditioning and there was none.
No ventilation or draught
For a room of this standard and quite an exorbitant price, it was quite strange to realise that it had not air-conditioning installed. At which point I was beginning to feel stuffy and out-of-breath that we returned to the reception to have something done about it.
Apparently, the hotel was fully booked, so they could not move us, but they offered to install two fans in the room and we sat in the lobby until they had taken care of the matter along with the unconvincing spiel the Operations Manager delivered us about safety, noise and whatever else.
We caught a nap for a few hours, freshened up and went out for dinner. My friend wanted something quintessentially English and with the help of a couple that took a liking to my mode of dressing we found a garden restaurant where we tucked into servings of steak and ale pie with peas and chips.
Of sleep that didn’t last
Back at the hotel we planned out what we were going to do in the morning and settled down to sleep, only that we really could not sleep, there was something not right with the room and it was the window not open to help dissipate the summer heat in our room.
After hours of tossing and turning, I had another look at the window completely screwed shut and had no way of remedying the situation. My friend also woke up complete unrelaxed and displeased that we were going through such an ordeal. At which point I was ready to write my review of this stay long before we had even checked out, that option did not seem to be available as I tweeted about what was looking like the worse hotel stay in my life.
At the lobby in the dead of the night
I told my friend I was going to the lobby with the hope of getting a better wireless internet signal, donning the hotel-supplied bathrobe and slippers I made for the lobby and sat in one of the seats. The feeling of air blowing through my legs was more than refreshing, I could have spent the rest of the night there.
I then called my friend to come downstairs and sit with me before we decided whether to return to our room for the night. After about 20 minutes, I walked over to the reception desk to remonstrate with of the witching-hour ferocity I could find about the unsuitability of our room for habitation.
It transpired that they were aware of problems with that room even when they all assumed the double-glazing window could be lifted a bit to let air in. The manager could not find us another room and so sent his colleague up with us to have a look at the problem.
A temporary fix
This time they decided to undo the screws holding the window down for which he acquired a screwdriver over a foot long.
On unfastening the screws, the window was still stuck and in that was a revelation that rather than fix the window, they screwed it shut and tried to use health and safety reasons to justify it.
Eventually, the window was forced open but it would not stay up, the long screwdriver became the means to hold it up and with that the refreshing influx of fresh air and the escaping of built up mustiness and humidity that condensed on the inward facing part of the sash window for about an hour.
Checking out
We finally got some sleep but were too displeased to stay for breakfast that we made to check-out as soon as we could. I asked to speak to the manager, but the manager having been informed of our ordeal had asked the staff to inform him of when we were checking out because he wanted to chat to us.
He took notes as I related our experience and I categorically stated the room should never have been on the market and definitely not at the rate we paid. He offered a complimentary stay which I declined, there was no way I would be visiting that hotel again. Then he offered compensation and I retorted, we could afford the room that is why we paid the asking price, we would have rather had a good room than an ordeal assuaged with compensation.
I left him the options of what he thought would be the best way to help banish the thought of ever visiting York as a result of our staying at The Royal York Hotel. He made an offer of a 25% refund and then I asked my friend for an opinion.
He said the matter of percentages was neither here nor there, our ordeal was unacceptable, the least he would consider in relation to our experience would be at least a 50% refund. We agreed on that and the cost was refunded to my credit card and we left the hotel to embark on a bus tour of York amongst other things.
And so …
On reflection, I noted that when we returned to the reception the first time, it was right for us to sit in the lobby rather than return to our room to wait for the first solution to be put in place. When we returned to the lobby the second time in the middle of the night, sitting down for a while in our bath robes before lodging a strenuous complaint meant that the staff were obliged to visit the room with us to see the problem and implement a quick fix.
It also meant they had to report the issue to the day manager for some sort of resolution to be presented to us when we were checking out.
I have always had an issue with the tendency to default to compensation immediately after a poor service has been reported. I always make it a point to stress that I could afford the service in the first place and I would rather have the service than have pennies thrown back at me to assuage to my discomfort.
I accepted the 50% refund not to appear completely implacable because I would never have been persuaded to revisit The Royal York Hotel under any circumstances, they had failed at making a good first impression and it could not be redeemed.
Finally, they have promised to close Room 504 to business and take it off the books until they could the window, the ventilation or implement a scheme that will make the room more habitable than we found it. With the ‘royal’ name, we felt like being on the top floor we had returned to the 21st Century version of the old use of the Tower of London. We might return to York, but not to that hotel.

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