Travel

P.S. Don't ever write me back

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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,

I will be sending you a very detailed response to your letter which I considered extremly rude, offensive and have never seen anything like it before in my life. In the mean time let me add, you have every right to share your experience with anyone you choose, just as we have every right to sue your for libel and threatening blackmail. The point which I made is clearly stated in your letter, you say unless you get a refund you will tell these publications of your so called "horrible experience". The key word here is "unless". This is legaly a form of blackmail for which you can be sued. You have every right to send a letter to your President if you so wish to do, but when you say, unless it becomes threatening blackmail. I have already checked this with my boyfriend who is a lawyer. In response to the "petty old woman" comment, I found your complaints very petty, and after checking the Hotel's CCTV [closed-circuit TV] footage of your departure which has sound by the way and prooves you did not say what was said in your letter to the receptionist (another libel possibility) I saw you to be a woman of elderly age (old). Hence the term "petty old woman". If you are offended by this term I appologise but it is an honest description.

Regards,

Mrs. Smith

June 23, 2003

Dear Mrs. Aetheridge,

I have now spoken to Mr Brown, he says he never met you at the Hotel, but did meet your friend who was also staying in the Hotel at the same time as you. He says he remembers her being a very pleasant lady and after a chat toegther he gave her a little tour of the Hotel. He is quite shocked as he remembers your friend being quite happy and comfortable, and even taking a photo of his sports car. He is quite shocked that you both travelled together, stayed in the same Hotel and one of you was very comfortable, very pleasant and the other not so. I have faxed him your letter to his Hotel in Cannes, as he is still out there, and he has faxed me back a letter to reply to you, which I will do so later. He says that for the sake of your friend and as a gesture of goodwill for her sake only, he will authorise the Hotel to refund the one day which you left early. By the way I also checked with the Hotels reception, and found out that you in fact asked to pay your bill on arrival when your letter says you were told to pay by us, your friend paid in full when she checked out, why wasn't she asked??? (another libelous falsehood of yours). If you would have been honest in your letter instead of the many falsehoods, outright rudeness and laughable exagerations some of which I have prooved to you (like "you make people pay upfront when your friend did not and it was infact you madam who asked to pay upfront) you would have been able to sort this out long ago. Honesty is always the best option, please remember that the next time you visit this great city.

Regards,

Penelope Smith

P.S.: Mr. Brown sends his kindest regards to your friend.

June 23, 2003

Dear Ms. Smith:

While it would be mildly amusing to continue trading barbs across the pond, there really is no point.

My friend is indeed pleasant and loathe to complain. Nevertheless, her experience was similar to mine. She has told me she has no intention of staying at your hotel again.

Please thank Mr. Brown for the refund.

Sincerely,

Anne Etheridge

June 27, 2003

Dear Mrs Etheridge,

I have informed Mr Brown of your latest "whine". He finds it very odd that your friend was full of praise for the Hotel on her last day when she met him and remarked on how incredible that such a young person could achieve so much, and now behind her back you make false allegations about her, as she made absolutely no comments to him whatsoever in the faintest at her having a similar experience to yours. Either your friend was lying to Mr. Brown, or you Madam are lying. Going on your previous stream of false allegations which with the wonders of CCTV I prooved to be false, I know who I believe. You treat your friends like that? With friends like you, who needs enemys I ask myself. Anyhow I don't like to bother the elderly anymore, an official reply from Mr Brown has been posted to your billing address.

Please do not reply me again, we are very busy running 2 FULLY OCCUPIED world famous successful charming unique Hotels.

kindest Regards,

Penelope Smith

June 27, 2003

Dear Penelope Smith:

How interesting to hear from you with yet another tirade and slurs on my character. Indeed, the guest who dares to complain about the hotel should beware of your wrath, which seems to know no end.

I so look forward to Mr. Brown's letter.

Sincerely,

Anne Etheridge

Postscript: The refund arrived a month later.


Anne Etheridge, who lives in Orange County, emphasizes that she is not old.

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