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Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005, 08:27 pm
Note to self:

As *some* of you know, I've been in Edinburgh since quite early on friday morning with Atomic Powered Girlfriend Brid (something else I've not mentioned here but thats filed under "my actual private life" as opposed to "the bits of my private life y'all are privy to"). We were up at the ridiculously early hour of 3am to get the bus out to the airport for our 6:40am flight to Edinburgh airport and it went pretty smoothly for once. There was only one hiccup when we were getting breakfast and half way into my coffee I was struck with an ALMIGHTY need to go sit down in the toilet for a little while and of course I couldn't find the damned thing anywhere - ten minutes and a lot of swearing later I got that need out of my system... as it were.

The flight went out on time and there was an appropriately short wait for our luggage and before long we found ourselves standing outside my choice of accommodation for the weekend - the City Centre Guest House. To say it wasn't *quite* as described wouldn't be unfair - the kettle and TV didn't work, the bathroom had an aggressive, tentacled case of rising damp (with an accompanying smell like that of a corpse) and for some reason the "private double en suite" had a bunk bed stuck in alongside the double. The shower lacked a door, instead opting for a distressingly sticky curtain that did nothing to prevent water flowing all over the place - but hey - it was the cheapest (at 70 sterling per night) private room I'd been able to find after much poking around on the web and making phone calls (the next best was 100 sterling).

Due to their obscenely early check out time (9:45) we were actually able to check in as soon as we got there and that left us with the entire day to explore the city, which as it turned out, was suffering the worst weather they'd had all year long. Torrential downpours and howling freezing winds did little to dampen my spirit but Brid was suffering a bit and had an unusually difficult time finding a shop that sold hats and gloves that were not made of cashmere and costing more than most kings would be comfortable handing out.
Happily Edinburgh offers many tours and trips that involve delving down into the bowels of the city and between that and some light shopping we managed to pass the day without much fear of death from exposure to the elements.

Day two began quite well with the exception of some dumbass trying our doorhandle for about ten minutes at 6am. The weather had cleared up and it was a little sunny so we were able to wander the town with our heads held high without fear of decapitation from the wind. I did my regular trip to the gaming store, we popped into forbidden planet and did plenty of touristy things, saw some sights and (pay attention, because this is where it gets interesting) at about four in the afternoon headed back to the hostel to freshen up for an evening in museums and doing another walking tour. We said hello to the manager on duty, had a shower and went on out again. That evening we did the very interesting Auld Reekie's ghost and torture tour, saying anything much about it would spoil the fun but I reccomend it highly. Afterwards we had a bite to eat and headed back to the hostel.

We arrived, said hi to the night manager and discovered something a little odd and disturbing when we got to the door - voices *in* our goddamned room. The keycard wouldn't work either and as we went downstairs to have a little "chat" with the night manager he came up to tell us that for some reason the day manager had taken it upon himself to enter our room, cram our stuff into our bags (without regard for what was wet, what was electrical, what was dirty and stinking, what was clean and not stinky) and dump them in the office. Its worth mentioning that my card was charged the full amount for the stay too. After a little yelling and a polite request that he go up there and get the things his dipshit co-worker had neglected to take from the room, like our toothbrushes) we got a cab to the police station and to find somewhere to sleep that night. The police were... well.. charitably I could say they were pretty useless - apparantly it isn't a crime to take folks' money, potentially damage their gear and then leave them without a place to stay, without even trying to contact us via the numbers we provided for emergencies. That said, they gave us some numbers of people who *could* concievably help. With that we went on our way with the mission of finding a room somewhere else. A lengthy taxi journey and several hotels later we found ourselves in Jury's Inn - the only goddamned place with a vacancy at 1am.

Lemme tell you this - those of you who have never stayed in Jury's Inn? you're missing *nothing*. The rooms are okay, some of the lights didn't work and the bathroom is only activated by entering your keycard in a wall mounted console (something not explained anywhere and only discovered by my tendency to stick things in other things to see what happens). It did provide one new experience though, I've never heard someone say with a straight face "No sir, the 120 pound nightly rate does not include breakfast".

Day three saw us trying to find anywhere else other than Jury's Inn and the City Center Guest House to stay and despite the fact that the Ibis had been full the previous night I decided to try again and this time noticed the sign outside that said "Double Rooms - £75 per night" - for those of you paying attention, thats a whole fiver more expensive than the shithole that had taken our money and dumped us out, as well as being right in the middle of the cool bit of the city and a damned sight nicer. So we moved in there, had breakfast and decided to see what was happening back at the aforementioned shithole.
The manager on duty was not the moron who turfed us out (as we were assured it would be by the dodgy looking night manager) and had no clue what we were talking about but looked up the information and discovered that the moron had decided we were a no-show (items in the room and the recipts in the paperwork to the contrary) and charged the full amount (as per their "terms and conditions" - a different "terms and conditions" to the ones I signed that stated only one night would be charged but enough of that). He called the owner and we were told that the owner would be around at about two in the afternoon. We left, did some wandering (and photocopying of relevant recipts) and came back at two - no sign of the owner. By three we'd had about enough and went off to see if the Police could do anything more in light of the new information - they couldn't. To be honest, I don't remember much about the rest of the day except that we were exhausted from the stress and went to bed early.

Day Four (today) involved another phone call to the manager who informed us that the money would be refunded (no sign on my card yet) and y'know... sorry about all that - oh and the owner would be in real soon. We went to see the Camera Obscura, something else I can highly reccomend to anyone who likes plasma balls, holograms and optical illusions. On a whim I called the CCGH again and got an entirely new manager who knew nothing about our plight and I'm not ashamed to say I got a bit stroppy with the line "So you've heard nothing about the poor bastards one of your moron managers kicked out after taking their money then?" at which point I was put onto the owner who assured me that the full amount would be refunded and some more as compensation - whoop de fucking doo - I'll believe it when I withdraw it and roll around naked in it for a while. We tried the council offices, the tourist board and the trade descriptions people hoping that ONE of them could do SOMETHING about a hotel that pulled this kind of crap and (by this stage at least) unsurprisingly they couldn't - the tourist board can only do anything if the hotel is registered with them, the council could only refer us to people we'd already spoken to and the trades description people could potentially, possibly do something about the kettle. Then we got on a bus to the airport, waited an extra half hour for the flight because some parent wasn't able to aim their kid at a sickbag (though from the look of the stains on the seats, the kid was possessed anyway) and got back safe and sound, though much lighter of wallet.

So the moral of my tale is - regardless of what Ibis say on their website, call them because its possibly wrong and you'll be staying with a hotel as opposed to morons and cockroaches.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 08:26 pm (UTC)

OH my God, that's beyond crap! That is totally unbelievable. There has to be someway of suing them. I mean, how the f*ck could he think you were a no-show when you'd been booked in for the *previous* night and all your stuff was there?!

Mind you, a hostel in Cork bunged all my stuff into a black sack over someone else screwing up the re-reservations and not letting me know what I needed to do, and there wasn't a thing I could do about it.

I stayed in a shabby but cheap place in Edi at easter, single room for £30 or £35, but it didn't have an ensuite.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 08:40 pm (UTC)

Its much the same deal here (or at least thats the story they've settled on), someone ballsed up the booking system and we suffered for it. We asked all those questions and more - how could we be a no show if the paperwork was there, how could we be a no show if we GAVE THE BLOKE THE KETTLE AND SAID "We're in room six, this don't work". I'm suspicious about the explanation and I'm not holding out much hope of the money ever being forthcoming.

We can (and will if the cash doesn't appear) pursue it as a civil manner but thats about it. I find it absolutely ASTOUNDING that there isn't some protection for people in that situation - I mean if I were renting the place then I would, but the more vunerable tourists have no such protection. My one comfort (in a sense) is that they thought we were australian when it happened, so if it IS a scam, they've made a mistake and chosen to try and cheat people who live close enough to follow up on it.

Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 06:20 am (UTC)

Heh heh heh >:)

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 10:18 pm (UTC)

Um. Wow. Write to the BBC or something, and have a right old moan. That is apalling stuff.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 10:39 pm (UTC)

I think its a measure of today's society that I already knew all the "right" groups and media to bitch to as soon as it happened. I have all the information though, so I'm (perhaps foolishly) going to give him the benefit of the doubt and wait a day or two.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)

As long as you know who to unleash fire and brimstone on :-)

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)

Might take a little bit of finding out - I have a first name but not a surname, though chances are he'd have to log that with Lonely Planet since thats where the booking went through. Thankfully I have the next two days off, which gives me plenty of time to be lazy about it and get the information at my leisure.

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)

As long as you get him - chances are you weren't the first and you won't be the last!

Mon, Sep. 12th, 2005 11:06 pm (UTC)

another place for reference that's clean and nice (tho non-smoking) with a good included breakfast.


Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 01:01 am (UTC)

Did you pay by credit card? If so, then I'm pretty sure you can call the CC company and register a dispute on that payment. In theory, if it hasn't already gone through onto your next bill, then despite having signed anything, you won't have to pay till it's all sorted (when, presumably, you won't have to pay anyway).

And coincidentally, I came across this the other day - definitely true, it would appear, but if you're tempted to do something similar, leave off your e-mail address (or create a new gmail one).

Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 10:42 am (UTC)

Yeah, it was paid by CC and I called the BoI to try and dispute/cancel it and they said it had already gone through and I had to contact some other company to dispute it, but good luck there. Not entirely unhelpful in a sense, but pretty much par for the course :)
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Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 10:38 am (UTC)

Well, that and pursuing the matter in a civil law case. Like I said, I find it quite amazing that no protection exists for those people who are most at risk from people (possibly, lets not judge *yet*) like them. I mean if we actually had been australian then following up on it would be pointless.

Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 02:36 pm (UTC)

I once encountered a horsie-riding establishment that sold itself on the strength of a good review in the Lonely Planet guide, which the touts quickly pointed out to passers-by (they even knew where to find the review to show people in their own copies, in a variety of languages). Only later did I realise that they weren't the place in question at all and were in fact a scum-hole named to PRETEND to be the favourably-reviewed place.

Hardly a parallel to your incident, but certainly an indicator of the power of the Lonely Planet. I know I certainly treat their books like some treat the Bible, and feel distinctly edgy being in a region without one (yes, I haul the Ireland one about when I'm there). Having had to try places once or twice they advise avoiding I believe what they say and strive to follow their recommendations if I want to sleep somewhere nice and good value. Point being, if the authorities can't help you, tell Lonely Planet your story and it could hurt their business. You don't strike me as the type of person who can draw inherent self-satisfaction from considering yourself too mature for petty revenge.
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Tue, Sep. 13th, 2005 10:35 am (UTC)

I'll add it to my list anyway - truth be told though I reckon its Ibis all the way from here on out. Maybe its that I know the place, maybe its just the contrast between their happy, helpful staff and the curmugeons in Jury's but the Ibis is getting a special "saved our asses" place in my heart :)
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