Just say NO to Crowne Plaza Hotels

First of all, I must admit that some days I really think that our eldest daughter has a target painted on her forehead. She has been taken advantage of yet again. And again, it was while travelling. This time it was Crowne Plaza Hotel staff.

I may have mentioned it before, but she and her younger sister are pregnant. As part of her attempts to celebrate both the pregnancy and her thirtieth birthday, she decided to accompany Gail to England to visit her grandparents. Unfortunately, the pregnancy is not without its complications, and she was forced to return home early. The challenge was in finding a flight. She returned on May 15th.

This decision to return, and the date of the flight presented a logistics problem. The rest of the family (grandmother, grandfather, mother, aunt, uncle, uncle’s mother) were all booked onto a flight to Spain on the same day FROM A DIFFERENT AIRPORT! The family was flying out of John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, while J. would be flying out of Manchester. The solution to the logistics issue was that J. would spend the night at a hotel at the Manchester airport. They chose the Crowne Plaza, largely because breakfast was included.

Okay, we all got that? The Crowne Plaza, Manchester Airport.

One of the trials and tribulations of J.’s current status is that she does not possess a credit card. It was determined that Gail would go to the hotel to check J. in, and pre-pay the bill. At the time of check in, they did verify that breakfast was included, although at this point they don’t really know what the very inarticulate clerk really did say. Can you imagine putting someone on the front desk who is effectively unintelligible? Unthinkable.

During the course of the evening stay, for whatever reason, J. decided that she needed to call A., the friend who would be picking her up at the airport in Calgary. She contacted the front desk to discuss how they might accomplish this. The front desk said that if she would leave a deposit of 30 pounds (just shy of $60 CDN), they would ‘switch on’ her phone’s international call capabilities for ten minutes. J. went to the lobby desk to hand over the money, passing on her way, a British Telecom pay phone. Once at the desk, she asked instead for change for the pay phone, but the woman behind the desk went to great lengths to assure J. that the 30 pound hotel phone call was the better option. And besides, if the call didn’t last the 10 minutes, she would be entitled to a refund. J. went back to her room having paid the deposit. Once back in her room, she discovered that the phone wouldn’t work for outgoing calls. It took two trips from the onsite technician to make the darn phone work. Funny how they have an onsite technician… does that tell you anything?

J. is really quite frugal and careful about some things. She set the timer on her watch for 10 minutes, made the call and hung up when her 10 minutes was up. A.’s phone records can actually confirm the time spent on that call.

The next morning J. went to breakfast, then to check out. Now, because she had pre-paid, she could have simply dropped the key in the fast check out box, but being both frugal and honest, she decided to check at the desk to see if she could get some money back, or to pay in case she exceeded the 10 minutes by a minute or two. She was shocked to discover two things. First, she owed 15.95 pounds for the supposedly included breakfast (which was a yoghurt and some fruit), and 168 pounds for a 68 minute phone call. When you factor in the 30 pound deposit she paid, that is 213+ pounds, or $381.82 CDN for a phone call and a breakfast that was complimentary!!! (conversion rates are based on overnight rates: 1 GBP to 1.784 CDN. Thank goodness it wasn’t weeks ago when the pound was at 2+.)

It might be deduced that the broken phone that was repaired twice because it wouldn’t open an international line then held the line open after she had hung up for an additional 58 minutes. Although, if you assume that there is a ‘default’ setting on the phone lines (which most digital lines will have), it probably closed down after 60 minutes of inactivity, a nice round number, meaning that J. only used 8 minutes of her time.

There was no reasoning with the staff. There was even the threat that the police would be called. They held J. in a small room, browbeat her, threatened her, delayed her until she was at risk of missing her flight even though they themselves admitted that the phone was probably at fault. But they wanted her money. They scared J., making her ill, and in desperation, she wrote them a cheque. They continued to keep her confined until they could confirm that the cheque had cleared. Obviously they’ve done this sort of thing before, because they knew how to efficiently process an out-of-country cheque. Interesting for a chain that purports to only handle credit cards and cash.

Our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, we have received no response at all, not even a confirmation that they have received our messaging. J. has contacted the hotel directly; I have used the complaint form online and sent emails to various high level managers in the UK and North America. They obviously don’t give a damn about employees taking advantage of an honest, unwell pregnant woman travelling on her own.

Crowne Plaza Hotels should be ashamed of themselves for the behaviour of their staff. In fact, I suspect and consider this particular little group to be thieves, and definitely extortionists. Should we be concerned that this little cabal has proven that they can extract funds from J.’s bank account?

Please think twice about giving Crowne Plaza and IHG your business in the future. I will be making our corporate travel office aware. We, as a family, won’t be doing brunch at the local Crowne Plaza anymore, and I can assure you that the business meetings I have planned for the next quarter will no longer be at a Crowne Plaza, or an IHG subsidiary.

Bloody Crowne Plaza!

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