Friday, 2 June 2017

Edinburgh: Then I found a hotel that shouldn't be in this business

I’m a sleeping dog, let me lie
As a tourist to a city, a guest in a hotel or a customer in a restaurant or any establishment that provides a service, I am a quiet unassuming, disinterested and unperturbed person, quite so if everything is just as it should be. I am rarely effusive with praise and loath to excoriate.
However, shift out of the standard deviation of expected service and I have a broad tolerance of excellence to incompetence and you will for posterity become a search result on the Internet, my perspective of my experience.
Having worked in Edinburgh for 5 weeks, I have found myself in a variation of the theme of The Frog Prince, I have already stayed in 5 hotels and have proverbially kissed just as many frogs seeking a prince. Now in my sixth hotel, I seem to have kissed a toad, maybe even something as dreadful as a lamprey.
Why were they advertised?
This Centre Townhouse is anything but what it purports to be. From the next day after I booked the place on Hotels.com, it has been an ever-increasing debilitating nightmare. The warning signs were there, I gamely ignored them and considering the booking was made late at night, I probably was not alert enough to the little troublesome elements this establishment and that word I use under advisement.
I had booked a room with an en-suite bathroom and it was one of those instances where I decided not to pay up-front but pay at the hotel, the first clue being there were no reviews of the place yet. Hotels.com as the broker of the transaction guarantees my booking and acts as an escrow service, my booking was confirmed through my credit card.
The next morning, I received an email from the hotel, suggesting my card had been declined and that I should offer another means of payment. That should never have happened and so I contacted Hotels.com to inquire as to how my card that was accepted through my booking on the website could now be declined by an establishment that was only to get paid on my arrival.
Hotels dot incomprehensible
Hotels.com informed me that my booking had been cancelled by the establishment and that the issue of my declined card was being investigated by their internal transactions team, they had no other information for me, however, someone from the team would call me in under three hours.
The status of my confirmed booking did not change on the Hotels.com website through to the next morning when I called to remonstrate about the unsatisfactory customer service and unnecessary distress about having a declined credit card, a long way from home.
The staff then called the hotel directly, gave them assurances that the booking will be paid for on arrival and reconfirmed to me that everything was fine. Not an hour after that call, I received another email from the hotel still asking for a guaranteed and alternative means of payment.
A dishonest ruse
I then called Centre Townhouse directly to determine what the problem really was and as it transpired, they did not have a means to take credit/debit card payments. So, rather than come clean that they were unready for modern hotelier business they set up the ruse that my card had been declined to prompt me to contact them to agree to pay cash on arrival. Dishonest does not begin to describe my view of that behaviour that I called Hotels.com the next morning to complain about this underhand business practice.
Hotels.com did not help ameliorate the situation and had I not accrued a loyalty reward scheme over 4 years of being a customer, I would have immediately transferred my loyalties to a rival hotel booking site. The agent at the other end of the phone, probably in an outsourced location completely oblivious of typically first-world problems and angst could not for the want of trying comprehend the distress of having a card declined and the risk of carrying around hundreds of pounds in a society that is progressively a cashless society.
My feedback to Hotels.com on this situation has not garnered a response yet. The Hotels.com agent seemed to have taken the side of the hotelier and their cock and bull story. I was none too pleased when I learnt that the hotel would hopefully by the weekend have a card machine, it was not going to happen, these people were chancers, they got by, by bending the truth without scruples.
Is this the hotel?
I arrived at the ‘hotel’ by taxi and there was no signpost outside, the main door which was ajar and the cab driver was a tad suspicious and concerned that I might have arrived at the wrong place, but that was the address I had. I walked in and I was welcomed into what seemed to have been a big townhouse converted into a number of apartments. The self-contained living quarters on the ground floor had been rejigged into a configuration with a big bedroom accessed by a keycode lock which became my room.
The living room had a split function as my sitting room and the hotel reception, with access to a kitchen where I could use the microwave oven but not the gas stove or the oven. The combined toilet and bathroom was not en-suite, the lock insecure, the toilet brush broken, and the toilet was exclusively mine to use except when others came to use the living room to entertain guests and their cacophony became my disturbance.
On my first morning there, I had a face full of shaving foam only to find that the shower was not working. I sent an SMS text message to the hotelier to have it fixed which was sorted whilst I was at work.
There were no towels in my room and when I asked for towels, I was told I had to pay £2 for the use of a towel. My room does not even qualify as a bed and breakfast arrangement, but for the perfunctory wireless internet complimentary service, I am at loss as to how to class this rip-off.
These are bounders on the make
The £400 for my 5-night stay I had already withdrawn from the bank and put in an envelope that I gave the albeit pleasant hotelier with whom I had a long friendly conversation, but the truth of the matter cannot be lost to pleasantries.
At the very minimum, an establishment masquerading as a hotel or at the very least aspiring to the standard of a bed and breakfast would have a signpost outside, a reception, the room and bed as advertised, a chair and table, a television, tea making facilities, a hair dryer (not that I need one), toiletries including a towel, probably ironing facilities and everyday housekeeping. I was not aware my bed would not be made every day.
Close this travesty
The setup as it stands at the Centre Townhouse is probably best suited for a motel for a night or a brothel by the hour, going by the charge for towels. This is no hotel, these people though pleasant, have no business being in the hospitality business, it is disastrously amateurish with a money-grabbing hand absent of understanding what it takes to run any semblance of a hotel facility. To suggest I am appalled is to be effusive with praise.
I should have at the first opportunity cancelled this booking, I will endure the 5 nights, it is not the end of the world, but the end of this charade running in the hospitality industry and having a berth on a hotel booking website cannot come soon enough. One is not by terms impressed.
This is a review of my own personal experience of staying at Centre Townhouse for five nights at the end of May into the beginning of June. It is written honestly, without prejudice and truthfully, each individual experience in a hotel establishment varies, I cannot speak for others, I speak for myself.
Centre Townhouse
70 Gilmore Place
Edinburgh
EH3 9NX


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