Sunday, 28 November 2010

Not having your toast or eating it

I have no problem with a hotel wanting to make best use of its facilities, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the guests. After all, surely the key priority for a hotel is its paying guests?

This would not appear to be the case for the Mercure in Salisbury. It appears to have its eye solely focused on bringing in extra money, even if it is at the expense of its guests.

This morning was an eye opener to truly bad planning and poor customer service.

The hotel was being the venue for a “Holistic and Psychic Fair” which meant that the bar and restaurant area was being used for that so there was nowhere to offer breakfast. This wasn’t going to be a problem as they were going to offer free room service to all the guests.

In theory this should all work fine with no problems, and if this were the only event taking place then it would probably have all worked fine.

Unfortunately, the hotel had also taken a booking for a pretty large wedding on the Saturday evening, and strangely, if you have a large wedding party in a hotel, it was full to capacity with guests.

All of whom needed breakfast, all of whom would have to have breakfast through room service, all of whom would probably want breakfast around a similar time.

Now if I were the manager in this instance I would spot that there was a potential problem here. If 50 rooms all want room service in a very short period of time it’s either not going to work, or you are going to have to draft in lots of extra staff.

The hotel just didn’t appear to think that there would be a problem, and consequently by the time my breakfast was due at 09:30 they were already running over an hour behind.

I wouldn’t have minded breakfast at 11:00, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to check out by then.

The added problem was that I had already pre-paid for breakfast and this is where the really poor management came into its own.

By now the hotel realised they had a problem, they were phoning guests to let them know their breakfast would be “a little late” which in itself is pretty poor, if you’ve messed up, put your hands up to it, don’t try and make it look like it’s only a minor mistake.

So, you would have thought that they might put some plans in place for the inevitable when a guest who hadn’t had the breakfast came down to ask for a refund.

But no, instead I was met with a “that isn’t possible, if you’ve paid for breakfast you’ll just have to wait for it to arrive, we won’t give a refund”

I decided not to take the receptionist up on her offer of getting me the duty manager (which she only offered when I said I’d be writing a formal complaint) as by now I was in a pretty bad mood and I doubt I could have kept my language civil.

So, I’ve documented it all, I’ve written it all down and sent a letter to the manager, to ask what they think of the service their hotel offers.

Let’s see what the response will be. Although I can already predict, some pleasantries, a gentle denial of any liability or inability to manage and an apology that company policy doesn’t permit refunds.

I’m hoping I’m going to be wrong. If I am, I’ll review the rating I’ve given the hotel, if I’m right then perhaps it might have to be a letter direct to Accor Hotels.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Pack it in

I think I generally pack quite a few things into each of my days when I’m visiting places. But today, I saw a group who have taken it to an extreme.

By the time I was wandering around the Cathedral at 10:30 they were finishing off their tour and were about to head on to Stonehenge. The tour guide was recapping what their itinerary for the day was and it was pretty packed.

From Salisbury they were due to head out to Stonehenge, then onto Bath, before finally finishing the day at the theatre in Cardiff.

Assuming they had started the day in Salisbury that’s a pretty packed tour, but I got the impression that Salisbury may not have been the starting location, it may not even have been the first stop of the morning.

It’s probably a very good (if exhausting) way to see large parts of the UK in limited time, but it does appear to be collapsing an awful lot of the country into a very small period of time.

In one day they were going to do what’s taken me more than a week (Bath 2 days, Salisbury 2 days and Cardiff 4 days) and that’s ignoring Bristol in the middle, which itself is worth a couple of days.

But then, there are people who do Edinburgh as a day trip from London, so on that basis perhaps they are on the slow tour.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Just to be sure

The train I caught down to Salisbury was made up of six carriages. The rear three terminated at Salisbury, the front three continued on to Gillingham.

This isn’t particularly rare, it happens all the time all over the UK

And what happened just outside Andover is also pretty familiar.

I was sitting in the middle of the front carriage and just after Andover the guard broadcast a reminder message that at Salisbury the train would be splitting.

About 2 minutes later at least three people walked down the carriage and tried to get through the locked door at the end, into the drivers cab.

They started to panic that they couldn’t get through, until someone told them this was the front carriage.

They asked if they were absolutely sure it was the front carriage as they wanted to go to Gillingham, and they took a fair amount of persuading that they were in fact well into the front, so far into the front three carriages that if they went any further they would no longer be in the train.

I know people want to be certain, but when the guard has mentioned that the train is six carriages long, and you’ve walked through four, basic maths must come into play?