Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm trying to run a hotel here

This is typical. Absolutely typical... of the kind of... ARSE I have to put up with from you people! You ponce in here, expecting to be handwaited on hand and foot while I'm trying to run a hotel here! Have you any idea of how much there is to do? Do you ever think of that? Of course not! You're all too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking around for things to complain about, aren't you? Well, let me tell you something - this is exactly how Nazi Germany started! A lot of layabouts with nothing better to do than to cause trouble! Well, I've had fifteen years of pandering to the likes of you, and I've had enough! I've had it! Come on, pack your bags and get out!
-Basil Fawlty
Last weekend, Mrs H decided to take me away on a romantic weekend as an early celebration of my birthday. We went to one of Romania's top spa hotels, which has 4 stars (how do these star rating work? Is it self-assessment, or something more complex? I'm never really sure).

Anyway, the whole weekend was very enjoyable, and romantic, and celebratory. Though sadly this was despite, rather than because of the hotel itself, which was, to be honest, utterly farcical rather like a 4 star, large chain, Fawlty Towers. Much of the weekend was spent laughing about the whole incompetence of the experience.

We were booked in on a special Valentine's Day weekend package (though we actually went a week after Valentine's Day, but the package was still available). This included a number of extras. Chocolate, champagne and a rose in the room, romantic aromatherapy bath for two, breakfast in bed, etc etc

Some "highlights" of this experience:
  1. The rose in our room was dead. And I don't mean it had been cut and put in a vase, I mean that it had been cut and put in a vase some days (possibly weeks) earlier.
  2. The breakfast in bed involved extremely cold coffee, the wrong food, and no cutlery. We called to ask if we might get a knife and fork, perhaps, and a little while later there was a knock at the door, and when I opened it, the apologetic waiter bustled past me and handed the cutlery to Mrs H - who was sitting, naked and uncovered, in bed. (He did have the presence of mind to apologise and say "I'm not looking")
  3. The special romantic aromatherapy bath took place in the "wellness centre". the room was absolutely brilliant and I wish I had got a picture. It was in a curtained off area of the treatment area. I think I've mentioned before that "spas" here are not into all that relaxation stuff that tends to be part of the "spa experience" in the US and increasingly other places, rather they are the sort of health concentration camps beloved of Victorian Britain. So this romantic bath took place in what was basically a hospital room, with a large plastic tub in the middle. To make it a bit more conducive for its Valentine inspired purpose, some strings of cheap red heart shaped balloons with "I Love You" written on then had been hung from the ceiling. And there was CD player with soothing music. That's it. It was still not exactly the most romantic place I've ever been, and in fact would not really make the top thousand. It would, however, probably make it in the top ten of most comical places I've been, and the top 50 of least romantic places I've ever been.
These problems were all, as you can see, actually pretty amusing in their own way, and as we're not exactly the world's sappiest couple, they didn't really dampen our weekend, as much as provide us with a selection of amusing stories to tell on our return to the real world.

One or two other things were a little bit more annoying, however. The hotel website clearly advertised that there was a swimming pool, something which we were both quite looking forward to. We looked everywhere for this mysterious swimming pool, but it was not to be found anywhere. When questioned, the staff looked a bit sheepish and confessed that actually there wasn't a swimming pool at all. In addition, it was all but impossible to get a drink of water in the whole spa area. This seemed a bit off to me since there were saunas, steamrooms, a hot salty bath, massages etc going on, and you'd think that water to drink was a fairly essential commodity. But no. Even the taps in the sinks in the changing rooms were turned off. The only real option was hanging around the "snack bar" for 15 minutes while someone was found to serve us, and buy a bottle of mineral water at (wait for it) a 2000% mark-up (from the retail price I pay for the same water in the shops).

It was, in short, the Eastern European customer care experience writ large. The hotel was nicely renovated, well decorated etc. but the details were, shall we say, not really taken care of. At all. The attitude often seems to be "We've done the place up, and it looks really good. Isn't that enough?"

So anyway, I complained, and received a couple of emails telling me how sorry they were (and they've now removed the phantom swimming pool from the website), but not really satisfied my complaints (in fact, each new email that arrives makes me more pissed off for what it doesn't say and the apparent lack of understanding why I might be a tad peeved about this).

[Since I often seem to be read as having some kind of nationalist agenda vis-a-vis Hungarian/Romanian issues, I'll point out here that while the hotel is in Romania, it's in a very Hungarian town, and is actually part of a large Hungarian chain of hotels. I wondered whether I ought to keep the actual name of the hotel out of this, but in the end, have decided that there is really no reason why I need to protect them from anything, since I am increasingly regarding them as a bunch of dishonest chancers who really couldn't care less, so I feel my message of (extremely) limited reach can go ahead and warn people away from the Danubius Hotel Sovata/Szovata. Based on this experience, I'd go as far as to warn people off any of the hotels in the Danubius chain]

3 comments:

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

The worst holidays are the best - last week we went to North Carolina and nearly got killed by a crazed motorist, got a ludicrous speeding ticket from a zealous cop, and loudly sworn at by a busker because he didn't hear me apologise when I accidentally knocked his guitar case. All in sub-zero temperatures with a minus 100 wind chill that made going outside nigh impossible. But how we laughed.

It pays to complain, though - at Xmas we had another fun holiday courtesy of multiple United Airlines cock-ups. My four-page rant to their customer relations department yielded $1600 in flight vouchers, and a grovelling letter to boot.

Once had that eastern European spa experience too - a massage in Karlovy Vary from a robust, well-built woman who seemed intent on using my allotted ten minutes to tenderise me for her family's barbecue that night.

Laura said...

Hey Andy,
I have had to stay in a guest house for the last 4 weeks (and the next 4 weeks) as I can't afford 8 weeks of swanky hotels while I'm down in HCMC. Someone stole all my t-shirts from the hotel laundry last weekend. I can only imagine it's staff as other people don't have access. This is more annoying than you will ever imagine because I cannot get decent t-shirts to fit me (being much taller than the average Vietnamese lady.) The upshot is...the only t-shirts I can buy are for tourists and have things like 'Good Morning Vietnam' and 'Same Same but Different' on them. This, in turn, makes everything more expensive despite my efforts to haggle in Vietnamese. And all because someone stole my t-shirts from the laundry! I'm here for 4 more weeks and am too embarrassed to make a fuss. Ho hum.

Laura said...

Hey Andy,
I have had to stay in a guest house for the last 4 weeks (and the next 4 weeks) as I can't afford 8 weeks of swanky hotels while I'm down in HCMC. Someone stole all my t-shirts from the hotel laundry last weekend. I can only imagine it's staff as other people don't have access. This is more annoying than you will ever imagine because I cannot get decent t-shirts to fit me (being much taller than the average Vietnamese lady.) The upshot is...the only t-shirts I can buy are for tourists and have things like 'Good Morning Vietnam' and 'Same Same but Different' on them. This, in turn, makes everything more expensive despite my efforts to haggle in Vietnamese. And all because someone stole my t-shirts from the laundry! I'm here for 4 more weeks and am too embarrassed to make a fuss. Ho hum.