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TRAVEL TURKEYS

P.S. Don't ever write me back

It was chic, unique and so trendy, but the boutique hotel in London was a few Gucci belt notches short of adequate. When a guest tried to arrange a refund, the faux fur flew.

November 23, 2003|Anne Etheridge | Special to The Times

I recently stayed at a not-inexpensive London boutique hotel recommended by a national travel magazine. When I checked in I handed the desk clerk my credit card, which is the usual procedure. He immediately put through the entire cost of my six-day stay, which is not usual. When I questioned him, he mumbled something about hotel policy.

Although amusingly decorated, my first room had no shower curtain, no toilet paper holder, the tiniest bar of soap I've ever seen, and a mattress and box spring on the floor. The street noise was so loud that it penetrated Tylenol PM and earplugs. When I asked to be moved the next morning, I was given a room with a malfunctioning shower curtain, rock-hard twin beds and bathroom lights that would not turn off. There was more street noise.

I was so exhausted by my inability to sleep -- despite liberal doses of Tylenol PM -- that I left the hotel a day earlier than planned. Because I had paid for six days but stayed only five, I asked for a refund for that last night. The request was refused. I retreated to a hotel at Heathrow Airport to lick my wounds. It was luxurious by comparison.

When I got home, I wrote to the owner of the first hotel, detailing the problems. I requested a refund. The ensuing e-mail correspondence speaks for itself. (Names have been changed; grammar and spelling have not.)

June 9, 2003

Dear Ms. Etheridge,

Mr. Brown is in CANNES at the moment for the opening of his Hotel/Nightclub there. I have received your letter and will pass it on to him as soon as he returns to London.

Kindest regards,

Penelope Smith,

Personal Assistant to Mr. Brown

June 9, 2003

Dear Ms. Smith:

Thank you so much. I will wait to hear from you.

Anne Etheridge

June 16, 2003

Dear Ms. Penelope Smith:

Has Mr. Brown returned? I would like to get this matter resolved. Thank you.

Anne Etheridge

June 16, 2003

Dear Mrs. Etheridge,

No Mr. Brown is not back yet, running 2 famous hotels keeps him very busy. Would you like me to help you with your enquiry. I am Mr. Brown's PA.

Regards,

Penelope Smith

June 16, 2003

Dear Penelope Smith:

After the horrible experience I had at the hotel, what I need is a refund. Can you help with that?

Regards,

Anne Etheridge

June 16, 2003

Dear Mrs. Etheridge,

I'm afraid the Hotel does not give refunds on demand!!. I would however be interested to hear of your so called "HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE" and judge for myself your complaint.

Regards,

Penelope Smith

June 23, 2003

Dear Ms. Smith:

It has been approximately a month since I wrote to Mr. Brown regarding my horrific experience.

While I appreciate your kind response telling me he was busy opening another hotel, presumably someone there has been designated to handle business in his absence.

I am attaching a copy of the letter I sent to him. I must insist the matter of a refund be resolved by July 7; otherwise, as stated in my letter, I will have to notify those magazines and tourist agencies recommending the hotel.

Sincerely,

Anne Etheridge

June 23, 2003

Dear Mrs. Etheridge,

I am dealing with all Mr Brown's mail. I will look into your complaint and reply you shortly. In the mean time may I add that I do not take kindly to your blackmailing threats. They will bring you nothing apart from a serious law suit for libel. The Hotel has been featured by the highest quality magazines and newspapers in over 75 countries. It is famous around the world. You do not pay to get into these publications. They visit the Hotel "incognito" and write about their "wonderful experience". They are serious travel writers, not petty old women!

Regards,

Penelope Smith

June 23, 2003

Dear Penelope Smith:

Thank you for your interesting response.

I apologize if you misinterpreted my letter as threatening. It was not. I merely stated a series of facts. To recap:

1. I had a horrible experience at the hotel, which I detailed.

2. I made the perfectly reasonable request that I not be charged for the last night of the reservation because I didn't stay. I was driven out by noise and generally unpleasant conditions.

3. I am perfectly at liberty to share my experiences with other travelers via travel sections of newspapers and the publication that recommended the hotel in the first place.

As to your threat of a lawsuit for libel: I don't know what the procedure is in England, but in the United States consumers are well within their rights to lodge complaints about service.

Your crack about "petty old women" was not only inaccurate but exceedingly rude and uncalled for. For your information, on age alone, I do not qualify. And I hardly think expecting service in exchange for good money paid is "petty." Surely, your statement would not be something Mr. Brown would encourage in his staff. If your remark is indicative of the service philosophy, then I am not surprised at my experience there.

Sincerely,

Anne Etheridge

June 23, 2003

Dear Mrs. Aetheridge,

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