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Tales from Fawlty Towers

Now that I’ve been back home for over a week, I can look back at the several weeks I spent staying at Fawlty Towers during the equipment trial and laugh at the ongoing incompetence of the staff – but at the time it wasn’t so funny. It’s a real shame, because it could be a lovely hotel and has a lot going for it – but it needs someone to get in there and show a bit of leadership from the top……

A colleague was also booked into the same hotel, so we found it convenient to meet up for dinner in the evening to discuss the day’s experiments and do any hot planning we needed for the following day’s runs. At the start of each week I booked a table for dinner for each of the nights we were there, since the restaurant gets surprisingly busy and I didn’t want to risk just turning up. We also gave our room numbers when we ordered the food, since obviously the bill was going to have to be split between the two of us and two different expenses systems.

About a week into the trial we’d finished dinner and were about to adjourn as usual with the remnants of our drinks to the bar area, where it was easier to  talk. The maître d’ came bustling over and loudly, in front of everyone, said that we couldn’t go through to the bar without paying first, as “the bar is too close to the front door” – i.e. implying that we were about to make a run for it without paying! And this was despite the fact that we were both residents, had been doing exactly that for the past week with no issues, and the Reception had an imprint of our credit cards.  There’s no problem with requesting politely that we sign the chits before moving out of the restaurant, if that’s company policy,  but there was absolutely no need to be that staggeringly rude! My colleague saw red at the implication that we were about to do a runner, and made such a fuss at the aspersions cast on his character that we got a grovelling apology and a free drink each on the house. The maître d’, who was a complete fool, “hadn’t realised we were residents” – despite it clearly being stated on our orders. And even if we hadn’t been residents, there was no need to be so rude in front of all the other guests.  For the rest of the next week and a half we ostentatiously made a point of saying at the end of dinner “We’re moving to the bar now and will sign the bills there” – I think they got the point that we were not impressed!

So that was the standard of service in the restaurant. Reception wasn’t much better. My colleague works for a company with a rather less restrictive expense policy than mine. So while I was in a “standard” room, he was paying £20 extra per night for an “Executive” room. Except that when we compared notes, it sounded like his room for the middle week of the trial was pretty much identical to mine – no extra-big plasma TV, no upgraded toiletries, and certainly no complimentary mineral water. So he went to Reception to complain, and found that they’d put him in a standard room whilst charging him the extra for an executive room! Cue another major fuss, another apology, and  a discount on his bill to get it down to the correct price….

So with Reception and Restaurant staff both being less than competent, I decided I’d better check my bill extra carefully when it came to checking out.  There were lots of opportunities for mistakes. And I was right – there was one dinner missing entirely from my bill. I got out the copy of the chit I’d signed at the time and showed it to Reception, saying that they didn’t appear to have charged me for it. Turns out they’d charged that dinner to completely the wrong room! I said they’d better cross charge it back to me, but no they couldn’t do that. The person whose room they’d mistakenly charged my dinner to had already settled his bill and checked out and there was “nothing they could do about it”! I hope that whoever he is doesn’t get a nasty shock trying to justify that one through his own expenses system! Just shows how important it is to keep copies of everything and check your bill line-by-line…….

Funnily enough, my customer for the equipment trial was staying at a different hotel a few miles away, which he also referred to as “Fawlty Towers”. So I’m not convinced that the competition is any more competent. A shame, as there is a real need for a business-class hotel at a reasonable price with good levels of service in the area.