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.
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.