Pacific Island Beach

Holiday or Business Accommodation - Take Photos Before any Dispute

Here’s a handy, if not pretty darn obvious, tip should you be confronted with the same stuff-up as me when booking your holiday or business hotel room online: take photographs of everything that moves!

Here’s what happened – and what I didn’t do about it at the time.
I was rushing from Australia to Indonesia to write about the double disasters that had occurred there; the awful tsunami which claimed more than 430 lives and the eruption of Mount Merapi, during which at least 38 people were burned to death.
As I couldn’t decide which catastrophe to rush to (and what a terrible confrontation that was), I decided to head first for Jakarta, which was about half way between the tsunami-stricken Mentawai Islands and Mount Merapi, near the city of Yogyakarta.
At Sydney airport I searched online through bookings.com for a hotel that was close to Jakarta airport. The nearest was the Sheraton, which was fully booked. My next choice was an inner-city hotel and most of those were booked out, too – until I found a room at the Merlynn Park Hotel. I tapped in my credit card details and, with a confirmation number soon received, off I flew to Jakarta.
On arrival at the hotel I was informed by the reception staff that they had not received a reservation for me, that they did not recognise the confirmation number and that they have never dealt with bookings.com. And no, I couldn’t stay there anyway because the hotel was full. As I was up against a deadline for filing a story to London’s Daily Mail I asked the reception staff to help me find another hotel. This took a precious 45 minutes and, after a taxi ride across the city, I was finally dumping my bag in another hotel with another 45 minutes lost.
Worried that my credit card would be charged, I wrote to bookings.com the following morning explaining what had happened and asking them to assure me that no charge would go on my card. A series of back-and-forth emails eventually ended with the message that bookings.com had checked with the hotel and had been informed that as I had failed to turn up the night before I would be charged the full room rate.
What must have been a shock for everyone was my decision to zap around to the Merlynn Park and sort the whole affair out. It ended with an apology and the promise that ‘out of kindness to me’ the charge against my card would be refunded. But this did not come about easily. I found myself describing the night staff and saying no, I didn’t take names and no, I couldn’t remember the exact time I had arrived.
What perturbed me was the decision by bookings.com to accept the word of a hotel against the word of a customer. They did not bother to investigate the matter apart from simply asking the hotel if I had turned up or not. And the hotel management had presumably just looked at their books and found I hadn’t stayed there,  but failed to check whether I had actually arrived. Had they done so they would have found out that it was they who had turned me away.
So the moral of this little story is this: if you arrive at a pre-booked hotel and are told your reservation can’t be found, take photos. Take photos of the reception staff, the bellboy, the lobby and even of yourself standing there and the camera will do the rest, recording the date and time. Then let them argue against that proof.
I didn’t do it. But next time – if there is a next time – I’ll be ready!

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