Unnamed Hotel – Prague, Czech Republic, Summer 1997
Unnamed for reasons I will explain!
Very tough one, as I tend to choose accommodation quite carefully before booking.
With that in mind, it has to be one I was sent to rather than picking for myself. In fact, my choice is one that I had to take a group to while working as a guide in Europe in the 90s. Unfortunately, I have blanked out the name (stayed in so many hotels around that time) and, although a bit of Internet research has revealed one or two possibles, I don’t want to mention one of them in case I have misremembered. Would not want to unfairly besmirch someone’s reputation. Could well be that the offending place has closed down, that would have been the best thing to do with it.
Suffice to say, they offered my groups such poor service that I told my boss in no uncertain terms that if this hotel appeared on one of my itineraries again, I would refuse to take my group there and tell them why. Strangely, I never had to stay there again.
On all occasions, the service was rudimentary, the rooms were basic and tatty and the food veered between acceptable and awful. Bear in mind that most of the group were Americans, who have certain expectations when it comes to hotels – they were expecting US 3 star, but got (at a push) Czech 3 star! While the standard was fairly typical of many tourist-class hotels in Eastern Europe at that time, something we had to make US clients aware of from the outset, it was a series of particular incidents that set this one apart. On the first of my three visits, I and my group saw a mouse running around in the dining room while eating our dinner. When we pointed this out to the staff, they seemed surprised that it bothered us and made no attempt to remove the offending animal or to apologise in any way.
On our second visit, the hotel water supply went down on the morning we were due to leave. So nobody could have a wash or shower, and there was no coffee for breakfast. Our itinerary that day involved driving from Prague to Vienna, then doing some sightseeing before getting to our Vienna hotel in the early evening. You can imagine the “interesting” aromas on the coach that day, especially when we got stuck in a three-hour tailback on the motorway following an accident. Maybe the water thing was the hotel’s fault, maybe it wasn’t, but when something like that happens, you expect a hotel to behave in a certain way towards its guests, giving apologies, and maybe even trying to arrange some kind of alternative facilities for them, but nothing. Just the normal indifference and surliness.
It was the third and final trip that finished me off. On our first night, I went to bed early as I had a bug of some kind. I was subsequently awoken by raised voices in the corridor late in the evening. It turned out that two of my guests had a problem. It was a man travelling with his elderly mother. She had gone to their room for a bath, while he went for a beer with other guests. She took their only room key and locked the door from the inside. When she finished her bath, she discovered that the bathroom door lock had broken. Trapped in a bathroom, in a locked room, she had to yell for help. Unable to use the master key due to the original being in the lock on the inside, the hotel had to call a locksmith to get them into the room and then to repair the bathroom lock that had caused the problems in the first place. Finally, we got it sorted and all settled down for the night. Imagine the guests’ surprise (and mine) when, the next morning at breakfast, they were presented with a substantial bill for the new lock and the locksmith’s call out and labour charges! When we spoke to the hotel staff and management, they were amazed that we thought it was their responsibility to pay for the faulty locks in their rooms, although a very firm refusal eventually did the trick. Perhaps they were ten looking for a way to get back at me and the group, or maybe it was just another example of their attitude and incompetence, but they had one final trick up their sleeves. As we were due to depart, cases loaded onto the coach, I went into reception to check all keys had been returned, to be told that the guests in one room had an outstanding bill for “missing towels”. Now I know it is not unheard of for people to wander off with towels from hotels, but if you had seen the ones at this place, you would understand how unlikely this sounded. Especially as I had got to know the people concerned and was happy to believe their protestations of innocence, particularly when they offered to get their cases off the coach and empty them as proof, an offer the hotel for some reason refused to follow up! That didn’t stop them insisting we paid though. In the end, I told my distressed clients to get on the coach, told the hotel manager exactly what I thought of his establishment (not sure if he would have understood every word but I am sure he got the gyst), threw two twenty US dollar bills on the desk to cover what they claimed was owed and told him in no uncertain terms where he could stick his towels.
Thankfully, that was my final visit to the hotel. By far the worst of any I have ever been sent to with a group, and probably part of the reason I now research thoroughly before booking any trips!