Sunday, 22 November 2015

The tale of a real life Fawlty Towers..

Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but there was too much to tweet.

This post has been a long time in the making and there have been times when I've been unsure whether to even post it. However, I've been asked so many times for an update on the incident where we were burgled in Brighton, so here are the facts for those who have asked. The first part of my account is the review I wrote for the Tripadvisor website, after my requests for the company's complaints procedure went completely ignored.

***Posted to Tripadvisor on 8th Sept*** We arrived at the Mercure Brighton Seafront Hotel, having booked a two night (Fri to Sun) stay as one of those "secret hotel" deals on a last minute website. Upon arrival, we found that the room was a little tired (small to medium issues like loose tiles on the bathroom floor meaning that after the first shower of the weekend, water seeped under the tiles and the floor stayed wet for the rest of the stay, no coffee in the room, etc). 

We didn't have a lot of contact with the staff, as we chose to breakfast elsewhere on Saturday morning, and after checking in and dropping our bags in the room on Friday night, we decided to go out and explore the city due to a noisy party being in full swing in the bar and function room downstairs (looked like a wedding, perhaps, which wasn't a problem, but there wasn't really a table free to sit down for a drink).

On Saturday night, having left the room around 8pm, we arrived close to midnight to find that our room had been burgled. The sash window had been forced open from the fire escape outside. 
We headed downstairs and made the front desk staff aware of the issue as soon as we had established what items had been taken. The staff member on the front desk did not seem at all sympathetic, or really at all surprised. He eventually agreed to call the police and then handed the telephone over to me in order that I could provide the operator with more details. I was asked by the operator about CCTV to the hotel, and was told by the front desk that there is no CCTV to the back of the hotel. 

Once the crime was recorded, we were told by the operator that the police would attend within the next hour, so after being told that we would not be able to move rooms, had little option but to return to the room to wait for the police. When they arrived, they took details and gave us crime reference information and pointed out that the security level of the sash window was inadequate. We aren't aware of whether any other guests had problems in other rooms, or whether this is a common occurrence for this hotel. At no point did any member of the hotel staff ask if we needed anything or show any interest in the issue. 

Unhappy, but having been unable to move rooms, we spent our second night in the hotel unable to sleep, checking out at 7.30 the next morning. The girl on the front desk when we checked out asked if we'd enjoyed our stay, to which I explained "not really, due to our room being burgled the night before". 
She, unlike the staff member the night before, did at least have the decency to look sympathetic, telling me that although the manager was not available at the time, she would ensure she made the manager aware of the situation. 

I was told that a manager would be on duty on Monday morning, so called then to discuss the issues. In fact, the Hotel Manager was not (and still has not been) available to speak to, but the Acting Manager told me that the hotel had been in contact with the police about the incident and that they did in fact have CCTV to the hotel, so would be providing the police with that information. I was told that I would be kept updated with any progress and given details about their insurance policy procedures if I made a request for the information by email, but as yet have had no updates, nor replies to my email asking on progress. 

Having also been in contact with Accor, who are the parent company, I have found it nigh on impossible to find a copy of the complaint procedure as I am very unhappy about the way in which we were treated by a hotel which calls itself four star. 

Of course, I will be happy to update this review should the hotel get in contact, but it's a sad reflection of the facts so far.
What happened next?

7 Sept:
I was sent the details of the hotel's insurance policy in order that I could begin a claim for the items stolen from our room. I submitted this and waited several weeks to hear anything from the insurance company, who advised me that the hotel would be protected by the Hotel Proprietor's Act 1956, which limits the total amount of any one person's claim for property lost or damaged to £100. Whilst there is an exception to this law where items have been left in a safe deposit box, this wouldn't apply to us as the hotel room was not equipped with a safe and we were advised on check-in that there was no safe facility at reception. So, that's the first annoying thing.

11 Sept:
When the General Manager of the hotel returned from his holiday, he did reply to my email outlining my disappointment about our stay. His email was full of gems such as this: "I would also expect them to show sympathy, put you at ease and perhaps offer a complimentary refreshment whilst you were waiting for the police. This training will certainly be discussed with the nights team highlighting your comments as an example." in response to my disappointment about the way we were treated by the reception staff. General Manager was unable to assist me with finding a complaints policy for Mercure.

Overall, I found all of his emails frustratingly weak and disinterested in resolving anything. I asked about a refund of my stay and was told that the hotel wouldn't be able to offer me a refund for our stay until the police had closed the case although I failed to see how those two things could be related. I asked for a refund on the basis that the service provided was sub-par, not to do with the fact we had been burgled. (As far as I'm aware, the police case being closed hasn't yet happened. I haven't heard anything from the police since the night of the burglary.) 

23 Sept: 
So, in mid-September, about a week after my TA review was posted, and the hotel had posted their standard reply along the lines of "we're sorry you didn't have an enjoyable stay", I tried to contact the Mercure UK twitter account in the hope that they would have a complaints policy I could work through. They sent me many DMs and tweets telling me that my concerns would be passed to a relevant department, but no actual reply about a complaints procedure. V. frutstrating, but their twitter feed seems to be full of the same, copy/paste replies. 

Sept 25: 
Finally an email from someone in a position of authority? Well, from the Jupiter Hotels head office anyway, who are the chain owning the hotel I stayed at. The email told me that my email to the hotel had been passed on for her attention. and mentioned how seriously the chain take the safety and well-being of their guests (which certainly doesn't seem to be the case from my experience), and finished up with: " Your comments with regards to the way this has been handled by the staff at the time have been very much noted and would like to assure you will be addressed accordingly."

So, that's useful. They'll address my comments and try not to let their guests be burgled in future? Or, if they are burgled, they'll try harder to look as though they care? Um. Naturally, I replied to say that was all very well but what use was that to me and that I would hope that the hotel would be prepared to refund my stay.

Sept 29: 
A reply to my email offering a 50% refund of my stay "because you didn't have any issues on the first night of your two night stay". 
Frankly, I found that even more insulting than the prospect of not offering anything at all. Suuuuper professional, or at least fully inkeeping with what I'd now come to expect from the company.

Oct 1:
My favourite email of the lot, as the company try to blackmail me.
"Further to our correspondence last week, thank you for taking the time to speak with me again yesterday and I am disappointed that I misunderstood your request with regards to refunding your stay.

Having reconsidered your request, I can confirm that we are able to meet this as a further gesture of goodwill on the proviso that the negative reporting is removed from 3rdparty and social media sites.....which will be posted under separate cover to your home address once I have your confirmation that this action has been carried out, and you should receive 7 working days thereafter." 
Honestly, I had no idea how to reply to that one. Since my review on Tripadvisor had been nothing but an accurate account of the facts of our stay, I didn't know whether this was something they could "force" me to remove. However, since I'd been told that the insurance claim would be limited to £100 payout, and the items which were stolen (including DSLR camera, iPhone and various other items) totalled a value of more than £700, we talked about this and decided that a refund of the stay, to put towards replacing the items we had lost, would be better than nothing. I'm ashamed to say that I was blackmailed by Jupiter Hotels into removing my account of my stay from the TA review site. 

Oct 2: 
TA review removed from the site, at the request of the hotel. 

Oct 7: 
Confirmation received from Jupiter Hotels that a refund would be sent out that day by cheque.

Oct 10: 
Cheque received. Frankly, I was amazed by this, as I'd been skeptical.

Oct 27: 
Email received from hotel's insurers to confirm that they had closed the claim on 14th Oct and had requested the hotel issue the settlement cheque.

Nov 4: 
Cheque and letter received from Mercure Brighton Seafront hotel in settlement of the insurance claim for items stolen during our stay.

Two months from the date we stayed at the hotel, they finally drew the matter to a close and I'll be happy never to have anything to do with them again. I'd certainly never stay at any Accor group hotel again in the future, which is a shame because all experiences with this chain have been great in the past.

I've put the combined money from the refund and the insurance claim towards replacing my camera, which covered a large part of that cost, although not all of it. But you live and learn, and I'll certainly remember to keep it with me at all times in future when I'm away.


  1. I am so sorry this happened, what a horrific ordeal. Thank goodness it's all over. Virtual hugs to you.

    1. I'm glad it's all over and we can draw a line under the whole thing and move on.

  2. This is awful. What a horrible experience. Is there anything to stop you reposting the TA review now that you have their money? Or having someone else post it on your behalf? It kind of only seems fair to warn people!

    1. I don't seem to be able to - TA when I took it down said that once removed, a review can't be reinstated. It's possible I could ask OH to post it from a new account.

  3. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAahgrh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Such a terrible situation and resolution with you being so out of pocket!x

    1. It's a nuisance, but things could have been worse. It saddened me at the time as it's been quite a rough time lately anyway. But I'm glad *a* resolution was reached, and I was able to put *some* money towards replacing it, at least.

  4. I'm absolutely speechless. It's disgusting how every one of these people treated you. How can anybody treat a paying guest / human being like in those circumstances? It's not your fault your room was burgled or that it didn't have a safe. The hotel should have taken responsibility, since your stuff got stolen on their property, and the least you expect from a hotel is a safe, secure room during your stay. You'd think they'd at least be concerned that their hotel had been burgled! I can't believe they wouldn't offer you a full refund or the full value of the items that were stolen, but I have heard of hotels threatening people who leave bad reviews online. Some even send ridiculously expensive fines to the bad reviewers if they won't take them down, or even take legal action! It shouldn't be legal. I'm so sorry you had to go through all that for two whole months, and didn't even get a good outcome. Hugs! There's a special place in hell for people like them, and I definitely won't be staying with that hotel next time I'm in Brighton. xx

    1. Honestly, these things happen, but the thing which upset me the most was the categorical lack of interest by anyone at the hotel at the time of the incident. It was as though they were all happy just to shrug it off and say "oh well" and that should be the end of it. The only thing which bothered them at all was having a negative review, and until that was posted, the hotel would have been happy to sweep the whole thing under the rug, which I guess shows how powerful review sites are.

  5. Sorry to hear about your experience at Brighton, Char.

    I think I will avoid using that Hotel Chain as well if that is how they treat people.

    1. One of my friend runs an annual conference which has always been at a Mercure hotel (although not the one we stayed at), and the bill is always in excess of tens of thousands of pounds and they've changed the venue for next year after this happened, too.

  6. I'm so glad that this is all sorted now, but two months? that's appalling.

    1. Yes, I'm really glad that I can put it all behind me now.

  7. Wow has it been that long?! Can't believe it Char. Glad things are sorted but can see you'd still be ticked off. I will be avoiding for sure x

    1. Yes, it seemed as though they were just ignoring it at the hotel's end. I had to chase them up every time I hadn't had a reply to an email, a week or so later, and then they'd reply. Weird.

  8. WOW, that's some absolutely appalling customer service. I cannot believe they blackmailed you into that, I would get in touch with Tripadvisor about that, because that is disgraceful. I'm glad to hear that it's sorted though. I'm also glad you posted about this because why shouldn't you warn people about a diabolical incident. Sure, it might not have been the hotel chain that burgled your room, but they could have handled it so much better and they should have ensured your room was adequately secure, otherwise it would never have happened.

    I can sympathise with you about how long this was dragged out; I went through a similar thing with Barclays when trying to get money back that had been taken out of my account fradulently. Their fraud team told me and their in branch staff different things which resulted in over £300 going in and out of my bank account three times before (I hope) it stayed in there over the space of 2 months. They keep sending emails and letters saying they're looking into my complaint, but I've still got no closure on it.

    1. Oh no, I hope you get things resolved with Barclays soon! I have let TA know why I was made to remove my review, but I'm not sure there's a lot they can do. I was in two minds as to whether or not to post about this, as I thought maybe I should just forget about it.

  9. It's so wrong that you had to go through so much with this company, Char. I think you were right to post this, it's balanced and accurately reflects your experience. You've certainly made me more cautious when I travel now, thank you. I'm glad that you have closure on this now. xx

  10. Grrr, this is so wrong. I'm thinking of the time you've spent dealing with this and I know we are seen as the 'sue everybody' generation but that's time spent that you shouldn't have had to waste, chasing people up and complaining and re-complaining and going over and over it. That in itself makes me mad, nevermind the fact they haven't been very accommodating (to put it politely). I bet you're glad the whole fiasco is over, not exactly the break you were hoping for though. I know it must feel like a cop-out, removing the review and accepting the money, but at the end of the day it was likely the only way you would be partly compensated and I guess it comes down to cutting your nose off to spite your face, if you're prepared to do that and you'd lost so much money anyway. I'm just sad the whole thing happened.