How not to run a hotel chain

Last night I tried to book a hotel room for our next outing. I won’t tell you the name of the hotel just yet but will say that it is a national – and for all I know, an international – chain whose name begins with ‘T’ and ends with ‘e’.

Their Web site gives no hint of a phone number and the only way you can contact them is by email. Normally, this would make me suspicious but surely there’s no problem with such a big company? Even if you do find a phone number by sniffing around, when it answers it tells you you cannot book with a hotel directly. Not only that: it charges you 10p a minute for the call! Skinflints or what?

I entered our requirements on the booking form on the Web site and then proceeded to the payments page. Everything seemed to go as it should. My credit card company put up a verification form for me to enter my password, and I did so.

I was taken back to the booking form. “Sorry but your transaction failed.” Eh? Why? Oh, OK, maybe I mistyped the password for the credit card verification; that’s easy enough to do. So I tried again.

I might also say that this site is not easy to use. If you make a mistake, you are taken back to the beginning and often this blanks the entire form so you have to start all over again. Patience, tiger, patience.

I went through the whole thing again, verified my credit card and… “transaction failed”.

I won’t tell you how annoyed I was becoming, as you can probably guess. But we really wanted to go to this town so I tried again.

“Transaction failed”.

Despite my anger and against my better judgement, I tried a fourth time and… yes, you guessed… “transaction failed”.

So we booked a room in another town with Premier Inn, the company we stayed with in Telford. I phoned the hotel direct, spoke to a polite and friendly woman who booked the room, explained what needed to be explained and sent a confirmatory email. A model of how this should be done.

Now you probably think that that is the end of the story but, alas, it is not. I received a phone call this afternoon just as I was about to go out. It was a recorded message from the credit card company. “Please do not ignore this message. Please get in touch”.

When I did get in touch, they asked me to confirm certain transactions on my card. In particular, they were worried about the fact that I had booked a hotel room, not once, but four times, to the tune of over one thousand pounds. Imagine my reaction. On second thoughts, do not imagine my reaction: it was ugly.

I was told I would have to contact T——–e myself to obtain a refund and only if that did not work should I enter a dispute procedure. I was in no mood to write my complaint in an email so I hunted around until I found a phone number for T——–e and called it. The young man I spoke to was sympathetic. He immediately said that they do not publish the phone number “or they would be inundated with complaints”. Yes, he agreed, “there are issues with the Web site”.

In fact, he was so honest that despite my anger I couldn’t help laughing. I told him I was not angry with him personally and thanked him for his help. His help, unfortunately, was not as much use as I had hoped. He told me that the only way to contact customer services was by email. I would just have to swallow my bile and accept this.

But, “They will refund your money,” he said.

So I fired off an email. I told them the story. I told them I wanted my money back. I told them I was not going to do this by email and that they must phone me. I told them that if they do not, I will enter a claim of fraud with the credit card company.

By the time I had done all this, it was nearly 5 pm and on a Friday, so I do not expect an answer any time soon. I will have to be patient I suppose. But they are going to hear from me and in no uncertain tones.

I will let you know the outcome and, in the meantime, I would advise you, dear reader, never to use this skinflint chain of hotels whose Web site empties your wallet while telling you it hasn’t managed to complete your transaction. You don’t know which chain I mean? No, of course not. Then again, you might be able to guess.

Copyright © 2010 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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6 Responses to How not to run a hotel chain

  1. The Sheriff says:

    Trust House Forte….nope…they are long gone.I can only think of “Thistle” Hotels…..maybe thats wrong too.Anyway…good luck with your claim.

  2. I have ‘issues’ with the hotel industry in general, it always seems to me that they treat customers as a passing inconvenience, the guests are transient, the staff are transient; is anybody really acountable for the service a customer receives? Except a website.

    • SilverTiger says:

      The inveterate traveller has little option but to trust himself to hotels. We have found that the small private establishments are variable in quality from excellent to poor with pokey little “bathrooms” where you can barely turn around.

      With the chains, you at least get a consistent standard and know what to expect. We have been favourably impressed by Premier Inn who do seem to make an effort. Price, though, depends on location, time of year, etc. so you have to choose carefully in order to get the best deal.

  3. Reluctant Blogger says:

    Oh gosh, that is terrible. I always get annoyed when I end up having to fuss about or get diddled because of the ineptitude of others, particularly chain type others. It is so frustrating not to be able to talk to real people. Makes me very annoyed.

    I don’t often stay in hotels – not really practical with so many children – and tend to take private apartments if we are not staying with friends or family. So far we have always been lucky and have had no problems.

    I am not up on hotel chains and someone already mentioned Thistle. The only other one I can think of is Travelodge. You should let us know though so we can be sure to avoid the same experience.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I will certainly name the hotel chain once the matter is settled because then I will be able to say whether or not they did their best to put things right, whereas at the moment, the story is purely negative.

      In the meantime, anyone who books online and is told that the transaction has failed should beware. I would also advise people not to book online (or even to book at all) with a hotel or hotel chain that does not supply a phone number and does not allow you to contact the individual hotel direct.

      Another point is this. Many online booking systems try to discourage you from using your credit card for payment and encourage you to use your debit card instead by charging a fee for credit card use. Before going along with this, however, you should bear in mind that if you pay by credit card and there are problems that the vendor will not resolve, the credit card company is legally obliged to refund your money. This does not apply to payment by debit card. If you are cheated or the company goes bust and you have paid by debit card, you simply lose your money.

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